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What Are Research Degrees?

Research is at the core of our University. Ranked seventh in the UK for research excellence in the last government Research Exercise Framework (2014), we aim to become an undisputed world leader in research and scholarship.

A doctorate (research degree) is the highest degree awarded by universities in the UK. Candidates for the qualification are required to submit a thesis or dissertation consisting of sufficient original material to be deemed publishable. In most cases the candidate is required to defend their thesis before a panel of expert examiners appointed by the University. Types of research degree include PhD, EngD, MD, EdD, and Master by Research.

Doctorates have changed over the last decade. In addition to developing their research skills, candidates are now given the opportunity to develop additional transferable skills which are of invaluable help in ensuring future employability. As there are several routes to a doctorate (see below) there is now much more flexibility in how the qualification can be achieved.


Becoming a Research Student

To be accepted for a research degree in all subjects at Warwick, a good honours degree (at least an upper second or equivalent) is essential.

You need to identify the general area in which you would like to work and present a well thought-out research proposal. This may be best done when you have identified the Warwick department that most matches your chosen field of study and contacted it to discuss a possible supervisor.

Your supervisor will give you advice, support and guidance throughout your research project, and it is important that you find a supervisor with similar research interests to your own. You will receive training in methodology and techniques and in any special requirements of your academic discipline. You will also be encouraged to present your work in public at seminars and conferences at home and abroad. Regular research seminars are an important feature of departmental life at Warwick and give you an opportunity not only to present your own work but also to keep abreast of the latest developments in your area.

Completing your Research Degree

To complete your research degree you are required to complete a thesis or dissertation. This should contain original research and be considered as suitable for publication. Usually, you have to defend your thesis before a specially appointed panel of experts.

The three professional doctorates in Engineering, Education and Clinical Psychology (EngD, EdD, DClinPsych) combine taught postgraduate courses with a significant period of independent research and professional development.

The Time Factor

The standard duration of a full-time doctoral degree at Warwick is three years (unless a different timeframe is specifically stated by a research funding body or sponsor). Where programmes are of a non-standard duration (for example, three and a half years, as is the case in some science areas), you will find this information in the faculty and departmental pages that follow.

You can also study on a part-time basis which takes five to seven years. Over half of Warwick’s doctoral students are studying part-time, which, of course, requires a careful balance between academic work and other commitments. We are keen to support you through part-time doctoral study. However, before deciding on this route, please discuss with your proposed department the arrangements for research training and your access to research resources.

If you are an overseas student, the ability to study part-time is subject to the conditions of your visa. You should consult your local British embassy or the University’s Immigration Team before submitting your application to Warwick.

Pathways to a Doctorate

Traditional PhDs

This is the path most commonly followed by PhD candidates. Candidates for the qualification are required to submit a thesis or dissertation consisting of sufficient original material to be deemed publishable. This thesis is usually between 30,000 - 80,000 words. In most cases the candidate is required to defend their thesis before a panel of expert examiners appointed by the University. Under normal circumstances, a doctorate would take 3 years by full-time study and around 6 years if studying part-time. As well as research, the programme involves taught modules and personal development activities.

PhDs by Published Work

A PhD by published work is awarded for the submission of a portfolio of published research to the standard of a regular PhD. It differs from the more traditional format of a PhD by giving candidates the opportunity to gain formal recognition of the research they have undertaken during their career.

Professional Doctorates

Professional doctorates appeared in the UK in the late 1980s and are gaining in popularity. Although, they involve a significant taught element, candidates are also required to undertake a thesis or dissertation as with the more traditional PhD. The University of Warwick offers the following professional doctorates: EngD in Non-destructive Evaluation, EdD (Doctor of Education) and DClinPsych(Doctor of Clinical Psychology)

PhD in 60 seconds

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Watch videos of some of our previous PhD students explaining their research in just 60 seconds.