How to apply for a research degree

A step-by-step guide

In order for us to consider your postgraduate research (PGR) application, we will require you to provide information so we can assess your suitability for the course.

What to do first

Before you submit an application, we would like to speak to you to discuss your research proposal.

We recommend that you contact the relevant College Research Committee Chair or nominated representative for guidance:


For MPhil/PhD programmes, we normally expect you to have a first or second class honours degree, preferably a masters degree from a UK university or qualifications that we consider to be equivalent.

Language requirements

The College must also be satisfied that you have the necessary command of the English language to undertake a research investigation. For research programmes, a minimum of IELTS (International English Language Testing System) 7, with 7 writing and a minimum 6.5 in other elements (reading, speaking and listening) is expected. Other English language certificates accepted are listed in Application Documents section.

Please note that you do not need to supply an IELTS certificate if you have completed a degree from a predominantly English-speaking country, as defined by the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) or if you have citizenship of a predominantly English-speaking country, as defined by the UKVI.

The purpose of a research degree is to advance human knowledge. Your PhD or MPhil will be your original contribution to knowledge in the field.

Before applying, you should be very familiar with the important literature in your subject area. For example, you should be familiar with the key authors and understand the key concepts and areas of contention.

If you have a specific topic of interest, you should know the literature that is critical of that topic. Out of this literature should come a research question that you want to investigate.

When you have a research question based on your reading, write an outline proposal (a minimum of 1,000 words) summarising the literature (provide references), the methodology and raising the critical issues you wish to address. The proposal is not fixed and may change after discussion and as your research develops.

You will need to provide:

  • Copies of your degree certificates and transcripts
  • A copy of your research proposal
  • Two signed academic references in support of your application – you can use the reference template
  • A copy of your passport
  • Your current visa/BRP (biometric residence permit) card if you are currently residing within the UK and you are not a UK national
  • An IELTS (International English Language Testing System) certificate as required showing that you meet our entry requirements (overall score 7 overall, 7 writing and a minimum 6.5 in other areas of learning). Please note that English language certificates are only valid for two years.

         Due to COVID-19 many IELTS Test centres are closed, so during this period, we will also accept:

    • IELTS Indicator.
    • TOEFL 100 overall, minimum 25 in writing and minimum 23 in each of the other skills
    • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 69 overall and minimum 62 in each communicative skill  
    • Cambridge Advanced Certificate (CAE)/ Cambridge C1 Advanced overall 185; minimum 176 in all skills
    • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE)/ Cambridge C2 Proficiency overall 185; minimum 176 in all skills
  • ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) - if you are a non-UK/EU/EEA citizen, you may require an ATAS certificate to study at the University of Derby depending on your subject area (for more information, take a look at the list of disciplines on the website)

As part of your application, we may ask you to complete a Tuition Fee Assessment form, to help us determine your fee status. If this is required, we will contact you directly.

The University of Derby is committed to equal opportunities and our policy on Disability and Learning Differences aims to ensure that individuals with disabilities and learning differences receive fair treatment, in accordance with the Equality Act 2010. Our admissions policies can be read on our website.

Students should apply directly to the University.

Agents and representatives

The University of Derby has a network of agents and representatives in different regions. For Postgraduate Research degree applications, depending on your country of origin, you may need to apply through an agent.  You can see a list of our agents and regional representatives on our website. You can contact any of our agents and apply to study with us through them.  Some agents may charge for provision of services so please check this directly with the agent.

Please be aware that, if you apply directly to the University without going through an agent, we may contact you and you will be required to re-apply through an agent or representative before your application can be considered.

We accept equivalent international qualifications for entry on to our postgraduate courses.

UK visa

Please be aware that, in order to enrol onto a postgraduate research programme, you must have obtained a valid UK visa. The process to obtain a visa can be lengthy and, if not obtained in time for your desired intake period, your enrolment may be delayed. Please bear this is mind when considering your proposed intake period.

Find out about visa and welfare support.

Annual fees for our MPhil and PhD courses range from £2,204 for part-time UK students up to £12,446 for new international students. More details are available on our postgraduate research tuition fees page.

Alumni discount

Students who have previously graduated from a Higher Education programme at the University of Derby are eligible
for a 10% alumni discount (this amount is subject to annual review).

Doctoral loans

You may be eligible to apply for a doctoral loan. Guidance on eligibility, the application process, payment and repayment details are available on's student finance pages

Alternative funding

We have subscribed to the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Online so it’s free for all students and staff to use. The guide is an a database that identifies alternative sources of funding (charities, foundations, and trusts) who can grant awards to any student regardless of subject or nationality. 

The database contains:

  • funding opportunities
  • comprehensive guidance
  • grant application writing tools
  • guidance for personal and financial statements

Please be aware of the following application submission deadline dates if you wish to be considered for a particular intake period:

Available intakes for 2019-20

  • June 2020 intake - application deadline 29 February 2020

Available intakes for 2020-21

  • September 2020 intake – application deadline 30 June 2020
  • January 2021 intake – application deadline 30 September 2020
  • March 2021 intake - application deadline 30 November 2020
  • June 2021 intake - application deadline 28 February 2021

Please note that, while we will always aim to process applications received by the deadline stated in time for the desired intake period, this may not always be possible.

Once you accept the offer of a place of study, you will be advised of the next enrolment period.

Assessment and interview

The Admissions Team will initially assess your application to ensure that it is complete and that all documents and information that we require has been submitted.

Once the Admissions Team has processed your application, we will then forward it to the relevant College Research Committee Chair for them to consider your application from an academic perspective, including assessment of your proposal and ensuring that the University can offer appropriate supervision and facilities for your proposed research.

All students who are to be offered a place on a PGR programme will be interviewed. If you are invited for interview, you will be contacted directly by the College to arrange this. Please be aware that, once an application is sent to academic colleagues, it can take up to 12 weeks for a decision to be made.

If you have indicated that you consider yourself to have a disability or medical condition that may affect your study, and have returned a completed General Support Questionnaire, the College will liaise with Student Wellbeing prior to offer to ensure that a support plan is available if required.

Application outcome

The Admissions Team will contact you to let you know the outcome of your application based on:

  • Your research proposal
  • You meeting the entry requirements for your desired route and award (including English language requirements)
  • Your references
  • The University having the expertise and resources to be able to supervise you and support your research
  • Your interview

If your application is successful, we will send you an offer letter informing you that you have been offered a place of study.

The Admissions Team is responsible for sending out all correspondence relating to formal offers and acceptance, as well as sending information on visa requirements and other important issues.

If you are unconditionally accepted, an unconditional offer letter and information pack will be sent to you by email.

If you are conditionally accepted, a conditional offer letter and information pack will be sent to you by email, outlining the conditions you must fulfil before you can be enrolled on to the PGR programme. Depending on your conditions, whether this be completion of a previous degree or successful application for a visa, this may have implications on your intake period.

Please note that, if you require a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, then any offer made will initially be conditional.

Once you accept the offer of a place of study, the Research Student Office will be advised of the next enrolment period.

If your application is not successful, you will receive an email from the Admissions Team informing you of the College’s decision and the reasons why.

Before enrolment

Once you have received your unconditional offer, you will need to email the Research Student Office at to confirm your attendance date for enrolment.

Prior to enrolment, if you have any fees to pay, then please pay either online or over the phone before attending the enrolment session. The details you need to do this will be in the information pack included with your offer letter. If you are paying fees on the date of enrolment, please ensure you come in early to make your payment before the enrolment session as we won’t be able to process your enrolment if the payment is not completed.


If you are being sponsored, you must provide proof of sponsorship before you can enrol. This can either be an original letter of authorisation on company-headed paper or a purchase order. You should check with your sponsor that they have the correct information to give to the University.

If a sponsor letter or purchase order has been sent independently to the University, you must bring a copy to enrolment. Sponsors will be sent an invoice for each student sponsored. These should be paid promptly or the student could be suspended from their programme. Instalment payments are not available to sponsors.

Your sponsor can either produce a letter for each academic year you are enrolled on your programme or, alternatively, they can produce a single letter indicating that they are willing to cover your costs (tuition fees, bench fees and/or living expenses) for the full duration of your programme.

Please note that all such letters must be addressed to the University of Derby and signed, and must refer to you by name. The document must explain who is paying and the address invoices should be sent to.

The sponsor must pay the annual tuition fee within 30 days of your enrolment. If your sponsor is not resident in the UK or does not have a UK address then payment of the fees must be made in full at or prior to enrolment.

You should also be aware that, if your sponsor defaults on the payment of fees, liability for the debt will rest with you.

In addition to the payment methods outlined above, payment can be made electronically direct into the University’s bank account. If your sponsor prefers to pay electronically, please contact Finance Department +44 (0)1332 592742.

If fees are not paid or a sponsor letter is not provided, then this could result in you missing your desired intake period.

At the enrolment session

At your enrolment session, you will need to bring with you your original bachelors/masters degree certificates and your passport/birth certificate. If appropriate, please also bring the following:

  • Your BRP card/visa
  • Your original English language certificate
  • Your ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) certificate
  • If you have changed your name since receiving your initial award, eg through marriage or by legal process, please include a verified copy of the document which records this change (eg the marriage certificate, deed poll)

We will not be able to complete your enrolment unless you have provided this documentation.

Your enrolment session is where you formally enrol onto our PGR programme. This session will include

  • Confirming that your personal details are correct
  • An introduction to the PGR programme
  • A tour of the Kedleston Road site and facilities
  • Issuing your student card and network access details
  • An overview of our PGR Manager IT System.

We strongly encourage you to arrange to meet your supervisory team as soon as possible following your enrolment session.

Apply for a postgraduate research degree

Contact us

If you've got any questions about applying, please contact us:

The information that is supplied on applications will be held and processed in line with the Data Protection Act 2018, GDPR and subsequent legislation.

Information will be used by the University of Derby (as Data Controller) to assess applicants’ suitability to be accepted onto the course they have applied for, we may also use this data for consideration of an alternative course. In addition applicant data may be used for statistical analysis. We may contact applicants to request any additional information that we require to enable us to consider applications in full or to invite them to interview where applicable. We will contact applicants to inform them of the progression of applications and to provide additional information to support successful candidates through to enrolment and start on the programme of study.

We retain this data for 10 years on successful acceptance to the University when candidate information will be converted to create a student record, after such time it will be securely destroyed. Where candidates do not progress to study, their data will be retained for a period of 2 years; after that time it is deleted securely. It will be shared externally with other departments within the University to ensure fair assessment of applications and to provide relevant support services.

Our lawful basis for processing this data is contract. As a data subject you can request withdrawal of consent at any time by contacting Our Data Protection Officer (DPO) is James Eaglesfield on (01332) 591762. Our Deputy DPO is Helen Rishworth on (01332) 591954. Alternatively you can email Further information on how we handle your information can be found here on our website.