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We want to make applying for our postgraduate research degrees as simple and straightforward as possible. Your first step is to decide what research degree is right for you. Our most common research degrees include MRes, MSc/MA by Research and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

If you decide on a PhD, there are two options to consider:

  • An advertised PhD is part of an established research project and is usually funded by us or another funding body.
  • If you want to pursue your own research project, you can apply to our research programmes to propose this. This is self-funded.

Apply for an advertised PhD

You can search for advertised PhDs through the PhD database. You’ll find full details on courses and staff research interests and can start your application from the course page.

Propose your own research

We have a simple application process to support you along the way.

  • Start by choosing your research degree – whether that’s a PhD, MA/MSc by research or MRes. Think about the research area and themes.
  • Begin your search for a supervisor. Get in touch with potential supervisors and departments through the contact details provided on supervisor profiles. They’ll be able to advise and consult on your proposal.
  • Explore funding options.
  • Write your research proposal. We’ve got lots of advice, hints and tips to support you with this.
  • Submit your application. You’ll need to upload supporting documents including your research proposal and potential supervisor’s name.

Good to know

  • All doctoral researchers have a lead supervisor. Our supervisors give academic support and research mentoring throughout our doctoral researchers’ time with us.
  • You can search for the right supervisor for your research area through our supervisor search. You can also use our course finder which shows research leads by subject area.

Next steps for research degree applications

Whichever research degree or PhD route you decide on, there are steps and important information that apply to both.

Check the entry requirements

There are different types of entry requirements for postgraduate research programmes:

  • General requirements for postgraduates
  • International entry requirements if you were educated outside of the UK
  • English language requirements if you’re not a native speaker
  • Course entry requirements

Good to know

  • For our advertised PhD degrees, you can find the specific course entry requirements on the course page.
  • For our PhD degrees, you’ll also need a good Honours degree for both routes and usually a Masters degree. Alternative equivalent qualifications and experience may also be considered.

Apply through our online portal

The quickest and easiest way to apply is online. To start your application, click ‘apply now’ on your chosen course page. You’ll then complete an application form. This will ask for your personal information as well as details on your education, work and experience, references and how you’ll fund your studies.

Supporting documents

We’ll ask for specific documents to support your application. These include academic certificates, two references and proof of English Language skills. If you apply for your own research programme, you’ll also need to include a research proposal.

  • On your application, you will have been asked for contact details of one or two references. For some courses, you will need the references before a decision to be made eg. School of Education courses.

    Please make sure you tell your references to expect contact from the University of Birmingham via email, requesting their reference. Please note that the contact email address of the referee must be an official email address and not a personal one (for example, gmail). We recommend that the referee sends back the reference in a PDF format as it is preferred if:

    • The reference is on official headed paper with the organisation or university’s logo and address
    • It includes the date, your details and the details of the referee
    • A summary of how they know you and confirm your suitability for studying on the course you have applied for
    • It should be signed by the referee with their official contact details.

    If both your referees send back references which are not on official headed paper, you may be asked to send in additional references.

    If you already have a written reference(s) and want to upload it on behalf of your referee(s), make sure the reference is a scanned copy of the original and that it is on official headed paper.

    If you input your referee details, your referees will receive a reference request email from us as soon as you submit your application. When a referee provides the reference by clicking on the link in the reference request email, it will be automatically uploaded to your application.

    A referee can also provide a reference by emailing it to us directly via pgadmissions@contacts.bham.ac.uk, it should be sent from their official email address and contain their full name and role. Once the email has been received, it will be sent for processing so that it can be uploaded to your application.

    Your online portal will be updated when a reference has been received and processed but please allow at least 15 working days for this. If your portal has not been updated, this does not necessarily mean that the references have not been received as there can be a delay with the processing of references.

    Please note that for the vast majority of our programmes, we do not require references in order for a decision to be made and your application will still be processed as usual. If an offer is made and the references are still outstanding, they will form part of the conditions of the offer.

  • If you have graduated

    You will have been asked to upload a scan of your original or certified copies of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s) on the Postgraduate Application Portal.

    If you have not done so already, you can go back into the portal to upload your documents. Otherwise your application cannot be considered.

    Please be prepared to send in your original or certified copies of your documents if the Admissions team requests to verify them.

    If you don’t have certified copies of your documents and would prefer not to send the original, you can get copies certified by either the institution where you studied; a notary; or the British Council (students outside of the UK).

    If you are an EU or International student and submitted your application with a University of Birmingham Overseas Representative, they will be able to verify your documents and there will be no need to send in copies by post.

    If you are currently a student

    You will have been asked to upload an interim transcript from your latest exams.

    If you have not done so already, you can go back into the portal to upload your interim transcript. Otherwise your application cannot be considered.

    Please be prepared to send in your original or certified copies of your degree certificate and final transcript upon graduation if the Admissions team requests to verify them.

    If you don’t have certified copies of your documents and would prefer not to send the original, you can get copies certified by either the institution where you studied; a notary; or the British Council (students outside of the UK).

    If you are an EU or international student and submitted your application with a University of Birmingham Overseas Representative, they will be able to verify your documents and there will be no need to send in copies by post. Please note, if you did not originally submit your application through an agent representative, you will not be able to ask an agent to help you verify and upload documents at this stage.

  • For the full list of suitable documents which you can use as your proof of English proficiency, you can visit our English language requirements page.

    Make sure that your test results are no more than two years old from the start date of your course* at the University of Birmingham.

    You can scan and upload a copy of your results to the Postgraduate application portal. You do not need to send in a copy of this to the University or bring it when you are verifying your documents with our representatives in your country as the University can verify the certificate using the reference code.

    *If you are deferring your offer by one year, please make sure your test results will still be valid for when your course starts next year.

    Exemptions

    For those who have recently graduated from a University in the UK or majority English speaking country (e.g USA, Australia, New Zealand or Canada) you may be exempt from taking English language test. Please note that if your degree was delivered in English but not at a recognised university in the UK or majority English speaking country, our Admissions Office will require you to demonstrate your level of English with IELTS/TOEFL/PTE or alternative qualifications. You may also want to check our country pages as some countries may have certain exemptions, such as those who graduate from the University of Malta.

    You will still need to present evidence of your qualifications studied in English to meet our entry requirement. Our Admissions office will then review your application and if exempt you will not be required to provide evidence of English language proficiency.

  • If you have applied for a research based programme (MRes, MPhil, PhD, etc.) you will have been asked to submit a research proposal.

    If you have not done so already, you can go back into the portal to upload your interim transcript.

    You may be asked via email to redraft your proposal by request from the academic supervisor or to name an alternative supervisor if you have not done so already. Please do this as soon as you are able otherwise your application cannot be considered.

    For help on how to write a research proposal, please see our guidance page.

  • If you are required to submit a piece of example work— usually a short written piece (common for programmes such as Creative Writing or English Literature); music composition or performance for those looking to study music related programmes— you will be notified by the academic tutor before they can access and make a decision on your application.

    Please make sure you submit these as soon as possible and in the format requested by the academic tutor.

    • Certified – having your original documents copied and then officially recognised with an official institution’s stamp or watermark so you do not need to send off the original.
    • Verified – checked by the University or our representatives that the document is official and genuine.
    • Certificate – degree certificate stating your name and degree awarded from your previous university/universities.
    • Transcript – usually an additional document which comes with your certificate, detailing your grades achieved per module of your degree programme(s) and the overall grade.
    • Notary - A notary is usually a lawyer (though not necessarily so in the United States) or person with legal training who is licensed by the government to perform acts in legal affairs, in particular witnessing signatures on documents. The form that the notarial profession takes varies with local legal systems.
    • The British Council – has offices all over the world and support the educational and cultural exchange of students coming to the UK for university.
    • University of Birmingham Overseas Representative – The University has overseas representatives listed on the Overseas Offices webpage, who can offer advice and certify your documents as well as verifying your documents on site rather than sending to the UK.

Personal statement

You’ll also need a personal statement of approximately 5,000 characters, explaining why you are interested in studying on your chosen course. This can be uploaded to the personal statement section in PDF or Microsoft Word format. Alternatively, you can type this within the application portal.

Good to know

  • You don’t need to complete your application in one session. Simply save it and come back to it when you’re ready.
  • Avoid delays by checking all your information is accurate and complete.
  • Your application won’t be processed until you’ve completed all the relevant sections and submitted it.
  • If you run into any technical issues with your application, email us at directapplicationsystem@contacts.bham.ac.uk

What to expect next

Once you’ve submitted your application, we’ll send you details on how to access your applicant portal. You’ll be able to track the progress of your application, update your personal information, view decisions and accept offers.

Good to know

  • Your application will be ‘pending’ on your portal while we check your application.
  • You can add or edit some details or documents within your application after it’s been submitted through your applicant portal.
  • Or email pgadmissions@contacts.bham.ac.uk (include your applicant ID number) and we can add or edit for you.