Studying for a PhD

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As a research student you will be assigned two members of the academic staff as supervisors to guide and support your research. All supervisors are selected for their expertise and involvement in the appropriate field of study. The relationship with your supervisors will form a most important aspect of your work. There will be regular meetings to discuss ideas and progress, and a close working relationship will develop. The department also has a PhD tutor who will act as your advisor on general non-research matters.

Year 1

During the first year of your research you are likely to spend some time reading the literature on the area you have chosen to study. You will also be required to participate in the University's Doctoral Development Programme. For those whose first language is not English, courses in English geared towards research needs are also available.

At the end of your first year you'll be required to undergo a confirmation review in order to determine whether your project has the potential for successful completion at doctoral level.

This involves submitting a piece of written work and undergoing an oral examination, both assessed by a panel comprising of a minimum of two academic members of staff who have not had any previous close association with your research project. Upon successful completion of the confirmation review you will have your status as a doctoral researcher confirmed.

Years 2 and 3

After the first year it usually takes a further two years full time on your research topic to complete a PhD.

'Full time' does not, of course, mean that there is no time for other activities and interests. In particular it is important for research students to broaden their knowledge and experience of the subject beyond their particular research field.

Attendance at research seminars and meetings both within and outside the department is encouraged. Some funding is usually available to help you attend meetings at other places in the UK.

The Doctoral Development Programme

The Doctoral Development Programme is a flexible programme of training for research students. The aim is to give students the skills they need both to complete their thesis and also for their longer-term career and personal development goals.

The programme is adapted to each student's needs, assessed by completing an annual Training Needs Analysis. Once we've identified your training needs, your supervisors will help you choose the right modules to study, from the wide range on offer across the University.

The type of training undertaken can be divided into three categories:

  • subject-specific training; for example, advanced econometric techniques
  • more generic research training; this might mean developing literature searching or thesis writing skills
  • personal development training, such as developing communication skills or teamworking skills.
  • students record their achievements in an e-portfolio, which can be shown to future employers.

PhD workshops

Each year you will also participate in the annual round of PhD presentations. These presentations are like a small conference where you present your work to an audience of staff members and other PhD students. This gives you the opportunity to clarify your thoughts by presenting your work to others in a supportive environment. It also gives you the opportunity to develop your professional skills in the presentation of work to an audience.


The department teaches a wide range of undergraduate courses, each accompanied by problems classes or tutorials. Many PhD students act as tutors in the department during their studies, in return for payment at an hourly rate. Though the work gives valuable experience, the amount of time that can be spent on it is limited, in order not to interfere with your main research activities.

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