Postgraduate Research: How to apply?

We accept applications for Postgraduate Research courses at any time throughout the academic year. When submitting an application for any postgraduate programme, you are required to submit supporting documentation to accompany your application form. Here's some helpful tips on the application process, and what you will need to consider:

Step 1: Which degree?

In the College of Medical and Dental Sciences (MDS), Postgraduate Researchers can undertake research work leading to the award of a Master of Science by Research (MSc by research), Master of Research (MRes), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or Doctor of Medicine (MD). 

  • PhD: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time
  • MSc Research: 1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
  • MRes:1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
  • MD: 2 years full-time and 4 years part-time

PhD: this is the most advanced research degree;  it  will generally comprise a thesis of up to 50,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff. 

MSc by Research: this programme generally requires you to prepare a thesis of up to 30,000 words on a topic of your choice under the expert guidance of an academic member of staff.

MRes: this programme combines taught modules with an extended thesis of 15,000 words. The taught content will provide a foundation upon which to build your research, which you will complete under the expert guidance of an academic member of staff. These degrees involve taught elements that vary across the College, and as a result not all research areas are available to study at this level.

MD: A supervised research degree for students already registered with the General Medical Council and working within a Birmingham based hospital trust

Step 2: Do you meet our Entry Requirements?

You must hold a 2:1 honours degree in a subject relevant to the research area you applying to. 

If you are applying for a PhD then you may also need to hold a good Masters qualification. Any academic and professional qualifications or relevant professional experience you may have are normally taken into account, and in some cases, form an integral part of the entrance requirements. If your qualifications are non-standard or different from the entry requirements stated here, please contact us

International students:

Learn more about international entry requirements. We accept a range of qualifications from different countries; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English Language Requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

Please note IELTS requirements for Postgraduate Research programmes in MDS is 6.5 overall with no less than 6.0 in any band.

If you need help with your English language skills then support is available. Find out more about the English for Academic Purposes Presessional course.

Step 3: Identify a Supervisor

How to Identify Potential Supervisors:

Identify at least one member of staff within MDS who might be your supervisor by looking through the Institute Staff Lists and looking at their Research Interests and Postgraduate Supervision areas. 

Consider whether your chosen field is relevant to the member of staff.  If it is, then it may be worth contacting them to express your interest and to explain briefly your ideas for a proposal.

Make a connection

When you are ready to contact potential supervisors, approaching them by email is a good initial step. Ensure that your messages are tailored to each supervisor, not generic. You must catch the interest of the supervisor quickly and make a good first impression. State why you are approaching this particular supervisor, and why your research interests and goals are a good match. State why you are interested in Postgraduate Research (including career goals) and emphasise any research or leadership experience. If you already have funding, state the amount, duration and source.

There are also existing research opportunities offering specific topics and projects on which you can complete your PhD. Search our Doctoral Researcher Database to find out about our latest vacancies and scholarship opportunities.

Step 4: Prepare your application

Research Proposal

If you are applying for any of our research courses - MSc by Research, MD or PhD - you will need to supply a research proposal with your application.

Your proposal should include information about your chosen area of research and your proposed research question(s) so that we can understand exactly what you’re hoping to study. Each discipline requires slightly different things in a research proposal, so you might find it useful to seek advice from your potential supervisor before you apply but the following guidelines give a sense of what is often included.

Your proposal should normally be around two pages (double spaced) and will often include:

  • Overview: an outline of your chosen topic or overview of your research.
  • Background: some background on the topic (what’s already been done) and an indication of why your research will be important and interesting (what questions will it answer?).
  • Aims: your research question(s) or a clear description of your area of study with an indication of the literature you will be drawing on, for instance, primary works or thinkers.
  • Methodologies: in addition some disciplines will also require an indication of appropriate methodologies and of any specific resources (such as archives) you propose to use. 
  • Timescale: provide a timescale for the conduct of your research.
  • References: provide a list of references to the sources which you have mentioned in your application.

Research proposals are not expected to be a finished document, and you may wish to refine or change your research focus in negotiation with your supervisor at a later date.  It is important that it is your own work so that if you are asked about it at interview you can explain your arguments clearly.

CV and Personal Statement

An up-to-date CV (approximately two sides of A4 paper) demonstrating clear evidence of academic, personal and professional achievements (including prizes received or papers published) and a personal statement, approximately 5000 characters, explaining why you are interested in studying on your chosen programme.


Two academic references (or if appropriate to the programme applied for, one could be from your employer). These must be in official letter headed paper.

Degree Transcripts

Degree transcript(s) - originals or certified photocopies. (Your qualifications must have the original certification stamp and should be certified by either the institution where you studied, a notary, the British Council or a University of Birmingham Overseas Representative).

English language requirements 

International applicants are required to provide evidence of your proficiency in the English language, if English is not your first language or you are from a country not on the UKVI list of English speaking countries.  All research programmes within MDS require an overall score of IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each individual component.


All shortlisted candidates will be interviewed, either in person or by conference call/telephone.

Step 5: Apply Online

When you have decided on the Research Programme you wish to study from our Postgraduate Doctoral Research programme listings, have identified a Supervisor and you have your documents ready you will be required to submit your application online.

On the course profile page of your chosen Research Programme click on the 'Apply Now' button under Course Details tab and you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for, where you will create an account with the University application system. 

Once you've completed your online application and submitted it electronically, it will be checked by staff in the Postgraduate Admissions team before being sent to staff within MDS for consideration. Selection processes differ depending on the type of application you have made.

International applicants

We encourage you to apply early, so that you have plenty of time to prepare the necessary travel, study and immigration documents. In some cases, it may be a time-consuming process to apply and receive the necessary travel and study documents. We recommend that you apply well in advance of the start date for your chosen programme.