Distance learning


What is a PhD by distance learning?

A PhD by Distance Learning allows you to undertake the majority of your research at an off campus location. You are therefore able to do the research required for your PhD in a location of your choosing; only making one annual visit to the University.

Why study distance learning?

The main advantage of studying by distance learning is the flexibility. Financial and practical implications of moving closer to the campus make distance learning a more feasible option and could allow you to combine study with other commitments, including work and family. Similarly, your research could be related to your area of residence and therefore moving would be detrimental to your capacity to carry out the research.

Is the distance learning route for you?

The distance learning route to PhD study is not for everyone. You have to have a very clear idea of your project and be able to motivate yourself. Undertaking PhD study off campus can sometimes be quite isolating, so the ability to proactively seek out connections from within relevant research communities is important. This route is well-suited to those who have a research project associated with their work or particular interests and where resources are available locally to support your research e.g. appropriate archives and data collections. 

Can I study by distance learning in the UK?

Distance Learning courses can be undertaken from anywhere in the world, including the UK. 

However, it is worth noting that supervisory sessions for Distance Learning students will take place via audiovisual communications, such as Skype or Facetime, rather than in person. 

While this 21st Century approach has proved effective, for those applicants who would prefer to visit the campus for face-to-face meetings with their supervisor, the traditional part-time study option would be more appropriate. 

What is the cost of doing a PhD by distance learning?

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for the PhD by Distance Learning are the same as our standard on-campus PhD (for the 2014/15 academic session, these will be: Home/EU students - £3,950 full-time, £1,975 part-time; International students - £12,565 full-time, £6,282.50 part-time*) but include:

  • One return economy flight per year for the required two-week campus visit in September
  • Accommodation at the University for the required two-week campus visit in September
  • One return economy flight at the end of the study period for the three-day PhD viva examination
  • Accommodation at the University for the three-day viva examination

* Music international fees are - £13,855 full-time, £6,927.50 part-time.

How will I be supported?

You will receive the same level of support and supervision as on-campus students. The only difference is that supervisory sessions will take place via audio and visual communication services such as Skype or Facetime, rather than in person.  

When would I start?

We encourage you to start your PhD in the month of September so that you can attend an induction along with other PhD candidates beginning their research at the same time as you.  However, other arrangements may be possible with agreement from your supervisor.

How often will I need to be on campus?

Although you may be able to undertake the majority of your study at an off campus location, you will be fully funded to make one compulsory visit to the University per year of study.  This will enable you to meet your supervisory team, undertake intensive research skills training and make a start on your doctoral studies. You will then be invited to attend the University for annual ‘in-person’ meetings which give you the opportunity to interact with other doctoral students both socially and academically, undertake important progress meetings and carry out necessary training. You will also generally be required to be present on campus for your viva voce.

Am I eligible?

Before we can offer you a place it is important that you have agreement from your potential supervisor and that they are satisfied that you will be able to undertake the PhD on an off campus basis. This may mean that slightly different entry requirements apply, such as English language and more extensive research skills training. Agreements will also need to be reached regarding some of the more practical aspects of undertaking the PhD in this way (for example attendance requirements, suitability of the chosen residency etc). It is important that arrangements are discussed early so that all parties involved know what to expect and to ensure you are able to successfully complete your studies.  

Distance learning student mentors

Due to the unique concerns of distance learning students, we have appointed three student mentors, all distance learning PhD students, who are available to answer any questions you may have, and to share their experience of studying via distance learning with the University of Birmingham. Find out more about Annette, Ghazala and Joshua (including contact details) on our Graduate School website.

Distance learning student mentors