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PhD in the UK

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A PhD is a research degree and also the highest academic degree at UK universities. Comprehensively, it’s a substantial research project under the supervision of a faculty member in the field of academic interest. It is submitted in the form of a thesis that is to be defended in oral exams and further assessed by a panel of experts. However, some research degrees include taught modules while others require student intervention and balance between work and study schedule.

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Why study PhD in the UK?

Lately, UK universities are carrying out research in major subject areas such as Machine Learning, AI, and related fields like Health Science and Bioinformatics. Besides, the UK government encourages, attracts, and supports eligible international students with favourable post-study work policies. These are strong reasons for a student to pursue studies in the UK besides:

  • Ancient universities: The British university and education system has evolved since the eleventh century and has taken up key developments in the field of medicine, western science, art, and philosophy

  • International reputation: A British PhD is respected globally and any student who successfully completes the same has a brilliant career waiting for them 

  • Innovation: UK universities’ PhD programs include structured doctoral training, additional academic opportunities, and a chance for professional development to equip candidates in a wide range of careers

  • Financial assistance: The country allocates huge investments in doctoral training, studentships from dedicated Research Councils and a government PhD student loans system combined with international support services

  • Priority fields of research: The UK has made provisions for PhD studies and additional funding that is presently available for ground-breaking work in AI and related fields 

  • New post-study stay/stay back policy: The new Graduate Route visa for international students allows them to stay in the UK and work (or seek work) for up to three years post the completion of the course

  • Nobel laureates: The UK is second only to the US in the list of top 10 countries that produce the maximum number of Nobel laureates every year

Types of research degrees

  1. MPhil (Master of Philosophy)
    It’s a qualification generally with thesis-only format for one year full-time or two years part-time. The thesis should exhibit the results of your study and research. It’s important that you take an MPhil to start with a PhD and gradually switch to a PhD after 12 to 18 months. Besides, it’s important to undertake MPhil if the proposed research doesn’t have sufficient scope for a PhD.

  2. MRes (Master of Research)
    This is an advanced postgraduate research degree that includes a dissertation in the field of art, humanities, and social sciences. Some universities ask for an MRes qualification before you get enrolled for a PhD. It basically tests if you enjoy researching any commitment of funds for a full PhD is made.

  3. Professional Doctorate
    Professional doctorates are quite similar to a PhD but are meant to advance professional practice instead of improving academic ability. These doctorates are available in the field of law, education, business, engineering, and medicine.

Admission criteria  

The UK universities have established some academic standards required for admission. Most universities need at least:

  • A lower second class (i.e., 2:2) in relevant master's degrees

  • Above-average English proficiency (such as a band of 6.5 in IELTS 6.5)

  • Commensurate professional experience

  • Academic transcripts and references

  • Research proposal after deciding on the area of interest

  • Personal statement

Note: Your proposal must be accepted by a panel of experts in order to start your program

Cost of studying PhD in the UK

In the UK, the tuition fees for a full-time PhD student is approx. £3,000-6,000 per academic year. However, this includes only those PhD students who are self-funded and solely cover all costs. 

Note: The UK Research Council also offers funds in the form of a grant to cover the tuition fees and another stipend of approx. £ £15,609 - 17,609 (in 2021) to cover the living costs. 


The duration of a PhD varies on the type of study method since a full-time integrated PhD includes all parts of the study program to be covered in four years. A professional doctorate can range between two to eight years. 

Career prospects

The most popular opportunities a PhD graduate in the UK may opt for include clinical psychologists, biochemists, biomedical scientists, medical scientists, higher education teaching professionals, medical practitioners, and university researchers.

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Updated on June 15, 2022

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