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Part-time study

The PhD programme in PAIS is designed to be taken on a full-time basis. However, for a small number of candidates, studying part-time offers a way to balance life and study commitments.

The part-time PhD: what it is

Studying a PhD part-time is a long-term commitment of around 7 years. This commitment includes attendance on training modules, undertaking research, and meeting with supervisors, as well as financial commitment as funding for part-time study is extremely rare. Part-time students are subject to the same framework of monitoring and progression as full-time students.

The PhD training module is an important programmatic element of the training we give; it has an important group/collaborative basis, particularly in term 2, and it is quite a limited commitment of circa 2 hours per week. While we do not penalise part-time students for sessions that they cannot make, we do ask that they make efforts to attend as many sessions as they can to enable them to have a realistic chance of attending, and passing, their first year upgrade within 12 months of their first day of registration; part-time candidates are only admitted on the basis that they can participate fully in much of the first year training module as possible and generally we ask them to attend all of this module in their first year. We have found that this gives the student the best possible chance of success and progression with their projects.

Each part-time student should have regular contact with their doctoral supervisor, just like full-time students. Some give and take is naturally required where the student cannot be on campus with the same regularity as a full-time student. Meanwhile, give and take is required in turn if the supervisor is off campus when the student is on campus. Skype, phone supervisions, and other techniques come into play here at the discretion of both parties.

The part-time PhD: what it is not

We actively discourage students from attempting to register part-time on the expectation that they will later upgrade to full-time study or find funding after they have started that they did not have before. There are fewer and fewer scholarships available to make this a realistic proposition, and there are also many highly qualified students competing for each scholarship. The part-time mode of study is also based around the student having chosen part time study because this fits their other commitments, working and other arrangements, rather than being a transition to full-time study.

Being a part-time researcher is not easy. While it can enable candidates to fit their study around family and job commitments, it remains an intensive programme of study over a sustained period of time. Indeed, the time-management and discipline required to complete a PhD part-time are greater than what is required to complete on a full-time basis.

Can I apply to study part-time?

If you have carefully considered the significant time and financial commitment required for part-time study and believe that tackling your PhD over 7 years is the right fit for your circumstances, it is possible to apply to do so.

Before you reach the stage of submitting your application, you should in the first instance speak with your potential supervisor(s) and ensure they are committed to overseeing your project for the full duration of your part-time study. If they give in-principle support to supervising you on this route, then you should prepare a few additional items to include with your normal application documents:

  • A detailed explanation of why you wish to study part-time instead of full-time; this should be around a page long and include your plan for balancing your PhD work against your other life priorities.
  • Confirmation of your commitment to self-fund your degree for the duration; in other words, confirmation that you can pursue the full degree on a part-time basis without depending on future funding applications.
  • An outline schedule of research/milestones across the 7 years of initial registration; this should also be around a page long.
  • Confirmation from your supervisor that they are happy to commit to supervising your research for the longer period; this can be as simple as an email uploaded as a separate document.
  • An explanation of your immigration status if you are not a UK/EU citizen. Since it is not possible to secure a Tier 4 student visa as a part-time student, we need clarification of how you plan to secure entry clearance to conduct your research (eg, perhaps will you be coming as a dependent on your partner’s work visa). Please note that you are expected to be physically present for your PhD—we do not offer the programme via distance learning, and it is not possible to enrol on this course using a Student Visit Visa.

If you have any questions about studying part-time or how to apply in this mode, please do not hesitate to contact the Admissions Officer Melissa Venables at