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How to apply for a research degree

Step 1: Find and contact your potential supervisor

At the core of your research studies will be the relationship with your supervisory team consisting of a Principal Supervisor,Secondary Supervisor, and the Research Development Advisor. You can propose the academic you wish to work with as part of your application procedure. We encourage you to contact them before submitting your application to discuss your proposal.

Step 2: Prepare your research statement 

You can explain your proposed areas of research in a statement of 500-1000 words. This is an important part of your application and you can contact your proposed supervisor for feedback to  help you finalise your statement. We  recommend that you include the following:

  • Your area(s) of research interest: your proposed research topic(s) together with your draft research question(s), if you have thought about them;
  • Your reasons for research:  a summary of the factors which prompted you to conduct research in your chosen topic(s);
  • How your research will advance knowledge: try to summarise what you see as the most important problems or issues in your chosen topics and how your project(s) could advance the knowledge in your chosen field.  You may wish to reference to any prominent research findings or relevant literature, as you feel appropriate; Data and methods (if applicable): if you intend to use a secondary data, please describe the source, how this data was collected, sample size, a list of key variables, and whether you already have or will have access to this dataset. If you plan to collect your data, please describe the target population including sampling unit and geographical location of participants. In addition, briefly describe how you plan to analyse the data to answer your research questions as identified above.
  • Your research location: where you will conduct your research from (for example at Brunel University London), including data collection.  If you will be located overseas for all or part of your studies, please state where you will be based;
  • Bibliography: a list of any relevant literature you have referred to in developing your research aspirations and motivation.

Your outline will not bind you to a specific research topic or project.  If you are accepted to study on a PhD/MPhil programme with us, you may refine the scope of your project, hone your research question(s), your hypotheses and the research methods with the help of your designated supervisory team.  It may also be the case that your research questions and/or focus will change as your studies progress.

Step 3: Complete the research degree online application

The online application link is available on each programme page. For a full list of PhD programmes click here. While completing the online application please make sure you have the following information to hand:

  • Personal details
  • Academic qualifications (level, subject, where studied, results, year taken)
  • Work experience details (name of organisations, start and end dates)

When you access the online application, you will be given the opportunity to submit electronically the documents required as part of your application, shown in the table below. These supporting documents can alternatively be posted to the Admissions Office (clearly referencing your application reference number, which will be emailed to you when you save or complete the online application).

Documents required with research degree application
Document  Description Notes
Transcript  An academic transcript for each previous degree you have completed We can accept a scanned copy of your transcript if applying online, however you must bring the original with you when you register. If your transcript is not in English you will also need to provide a verified English translation..
 Reference 1 An academic reference from the academic institution you most recently attended  References should be on headed paper and signed by the referee.
 Reference 2  A second academic reference or a reference from your current or most recent employer  See above.
Sponsorship details   A copy of paperwork confirming the award of sponsorship Only applies to those in receipt of sponsorship or other grant. Examples might include a letter from a Government agency or an employer
English language qualification  Any relevant certificates for language qualifications (eg IELTS, TOEFL) English language requirements for each course are listed on the Entry Requirement page
Passport    A copy of your passport  Only applies to applicants from outside the EU we need a copy of details page of your passport, (including personal information and date and place of issue)
 Personal statement A brief personal statement in support of your application Typically this will be a brief explanation of why you want to pursue a research degree at Brunel University London. It can be uploaded as an attachment if you already have an electronic copy or it can be typed directly into the online form later in the process.
Certificates   Any relevant certificates This includes any certificates you consider relevant to your application (not already submitted under transcripts or language qualifications).
 Other documents Any other relevant documentation This includes any additional information which you consider relevant to your application, for example a Curriculum Vitae.
Research statement  A description of your proposed research  See guidance on preparing your research statement above.

Start dates

We accept applications for research degrees all year round, unless the programme is directly linked to specific funding, when the start dates will be set. While there are no formal start dates for self funded students and you can join most months, many research students find that it is most benefitial to commence their studies at the start of October or January, since that's when the University hosts the main induction programme for students across all its services (such as accommodation, Student Union, etc). The exception is degrees with a substantial taught component (for example the Brunel Integrated PhD) where you may be required to start in October (or exceptionally January) in order to fit around the taught programme delivery.