Applying for a PhD

So, you’ve decided that study at PhD level is right for you. 
What next?


Approach prospective supervisors

Identifying the best supervisor for you is key to your PhD search. If you are planning a PhD in the sciences, then it is more likely you will be applying to carry out your research with an advertised project, and will need to research those leading that project. In arts, humanities and social sciences, you’ll need to identify an area of research you’re interested in and draft a project proposal before researching the experts in the field who could act as supervisors. Look at the publications of potential supervisors to see what they have published in your area of interest. It’s also worth finding out about any PhD projects they are currently supervising, or have done in the past.

You will then need to get in touch with these supervisors. If they are in your institution, you may be able to see them face-to-face. If they are elsewhere, send them an email telling them a bit about your research interests, how your ideas match with their expertise, and why you would like them to supervise your project.


When to apply

Most PhD studentships start in September/October.  Deadlines for applications to studentships vary, but many open around January and close around April in the year the studentship will start. However, other funded and self-funded PhDs can start at any time of year.  You should begin the process of applying as soon as you have identified potential supervisors and have a clear idea of your research proposal.



Around 15% of PhD students have a full scholarship, usually from one of the UK Research Councils or research charities.  These opportunities are usually advertised on sites such as and


Further information

Check out FindAPhD for a in-depth guide to current postgraduate research and studentships.

If you are a University of London student, take a look at Careers Tagged - our online careers library where you can access information sheets written by leading career consultants alongside other useful resources.

Attend the next Postgraduate Study Fair and speak to admissions staff from leading UK and international universities to explore their PhD studentships.