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Studying at PhD level – University of Reading

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  • How our PhD programmes can work for you

Studying at PhD level

Modes of study

Both full-time and part-time variants are available for study in Reading, as well as PhD by Distance.

PhD by Distance students spend the majority of their time at another location and normally have a supervisor/mentor at that location. There must be an academic or financial rationale for this status to be granted and the University assesses each application on an individual basis.

Additionally, some of our PhD students are involved in interdisciplinary projects or projects with an external partner. In these cases they may be supported by a supervisor from outside the University, and interact with a wider range of staff.

We encourage students to write part of their thesis as research articles to develop their publication skills and get a head start in career opportunities.


In the Geography & Environmental Science Department, you will be provided with a desk in a shared office. You will have access to a wide range of training and state-of- the-art facilities and research collections.

As a postgraduate research student at Reading you will have access to the Graduate School. At the heart of this is Old Whiteknights House, a dedicated facility that provides space for doctoral researchers to work and network with others. Old Whiteknights House is a beautiful Victorian building that has been carefully modernised to provide a range of excellent resources and amenities. It also houses a number of support staff who deal exclusively with doctoral research matters and administration at Reading.


Training is an intrinsic part of your development as a researcher. In your degree course, you will benefit from a programme of relevant postgraduate training and have access to specialist modules agreed between you and your supervisor/s as well as a programme of transferable skills organised by the Graduate School. You will be required to undertake courses on the Reading Researcher Development Programme (RRDP). Depending on the respective funder for your PhD, further training via attendance at advanced courses, meetings and workshops may also form part of your PhD programme. You can apply for doctoral training and studentships from the NERC SCENARIO Doctoral Training Partnerships and the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Programme in Climate Justice that include a wide range of opportunities for placements and training with external partners.

There are opportunities for participation on established research projects run by our experienced staff. For more information on our current projects, please view our research pages.

The Graduate School's Reading Researcher Development Programme (RRDP) offers a rich array of training sessions and workshops that have been especially designed to help you gain the additional skills that will enable you to carry out your research professionally and effectively. The RRDP is delivered primarily using the expertise of academic and specialist staff within the University and complements any subject-specific training that we provide. The RRDP includes training sessions on research methods, writing academic papers, getting published, public engagement and career planning.

In addition to the RRDP, doctoral researchers will also have the chance to access the following development opportunities:

  • Preparing to teach – A programme focused on the skills needed for teaching and learning activities.
  • Developing your potential as a leader – This leadership programme is jointly run with the triple accredited Henley Business School.
  • Academic English Programme – Supporting international students to develop their academic English skills with a range of classes and services.
  • PhD Plus – A scheme specifically for international doctoral researchers who are lecturers in their home country.


Over the course of your PhD you will also be involved in opportunities to communicate your work and network with other researchers, present a seminar, speak at conferences and workshops, and visit or host researchers from elsewhere. The School of Archaeology, Geography & Environmental Science holds an annual Postgraduate Research Students Conference, where first year students are expected to prepare and present a poster outlining their research and in your final year you will give a podium presentation.

The Department encourages you to attend conferences and other events to widen your network of contacts. To this end we assist with arranging travel and accommodation. The Geography & Environmental Science Department holds a regular research seminar series (comprising external speakers and internal "work in progress" seminars) and PhD students and staff organise regular reading groups to discuss current papers. You may also have to chance to develop your teaching skills, both by taking courses run by the Centre for Quality Support and Development (CQSD) and by teaching on undergraduate courses.


Expert interdisciplinary supervision and training are provided by specialist supervisors, a biannual Advisory Panel, the Reading Researcher Development Programme and, by application, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) SCENARIO Doctoral Training Partnerships.

The Department can also provide special needs support, which you find out more about using the contact details on this page. You will have also have access to the Doctoral Research Office.

You will have also have access to the Doctoral Research Office. Located in the Graduate School, the Doctoral Research Office provides advice and support for current and prospective students. It is a key point of contact for any doctoral researchers who have questions relating to registration, student status, immigration, studentships, University policy and procedures.


You will join a vibrant doctoral community within the Department of Geography & Environmental Science, working alongside postdoctoral researchers and academic staff.

Within the department, we hold a fortnightly Postgraduate Discussion Group which provides an informal peer support network and which invites visiting speakers to discuss themes relating to personal and career development and wellbeing (e.g. working with the media, achieving a good work-life balance). Other social activities are also organised by and for PhD students, for example yoga classes and socials.

In addition to offering training and support to doctoral researchers, the Graduate School co-ordinates a range of activities that bring students together from across the University. These include the annual Doctoral Research Conference, an event that showcases the variety and excellence of postgraduate research taking place at Reading. The conference features a number of competitions and presentations including the PhD researcher of the year award.

Another event that celebrates academic excellence is the Graduate School's annual public lecture – the Fairbrother Lecture – delivered by a current or recent postgraduate research student. This is a fantastic opportunity for a wider audience to hear about high quality doctoral research taking place at Reading.

Graduate School homepage regularly promotes the achievements and success of doctoral researchers through the Graduate School Bulletin.


You can find out more about fees for University of Reading PhD programmes by clicking on the link below.

Sources of funding

A range of doctoral studentships are available each year for UK, EU and international applicants. For further details please see the Graduate School's Funding and fees page.

University of Reading Regional PhD Bursaries

The University of Reading is delighted to announce a new scheme aimed at supporting local residents to achieve their highest academic potential, as well as enhancing their professional prospects. Our Regional PhD Bursaries are designed to give candidates within the region the chance to study at an institution that is among the top 30 UK universities in world rankings (the University is ranked 29th out of 84 UK universities featured in the QS World University Rankings 2020) and benefit from the all round training on offer to our doctoral researchers.

Find out more about University of Reading Regional PhD Bursaries.

Rob Potter Memorial Travel Award For Overseas Fieldwork

The School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science offers a bursary of up to £1000 per year to support a postgraduate research student with their fieldwork, in honour of Professor Rob Potter.

Find out more about The Rob Potter Memorial Travel Award for Overseas Fieldwork.

International (non-EU) students

The University offers a number of Studentships for international applicants each year in addition to providing information about other potential funding opportunities available for international students.

International students are strongly encouraged to explore the funding opportunities offered from within their home country in order to maximise their chances of securing funding.

Alumni fee discounts

If you've previously completed a degree with us, you’ll automatically receive our alumni discount (£1,500 off the cost of your tuition fees).

English Language Support

The University's International Study and Language Institute can help you develop your academic English skills and offers a range of courses and programmes to suit your specific needs, if English is not your first language.

English Writing and Language Practice programme

This six-week programme has been specifically designed for postgraduate researchers. It is supplemented by one-to-one advisory sessions, helping you to apply what you have learned to your thesis writing.

Academic English Programme

The Academic English Programme (AEP) features courses aimed at building your confidence in spoken language situations, developing your accuracy in the English language and improving your writing skills.

Life at Reading

The University of Reading offers the peace and tranquillity of an award-winning parkland campus, just a short bus ride from a vibrant town centre. Our thriving community is made up of students from around the world, and our range of clubs and societies offer many opportunities to meet like-minded people.


1. Check our entry requirements

To be accepted on our PhD programme, you will need an Bachelor's degree of at least 2.1 level (or equivalent), or a master's degree, in a subject related to your proposed PhD research topic.

If you are from outside of the UK, you will also need to demonstrate you have a certain level of proficiency with written and spoken English.

For more information on entry requirements, visit our Graduate School website.

2. Select a topic

There are different routes for selecting a PhD research topic:

  • If you are interested in a broad area of research, advertised projects covering specific research topics can be found on our Research Opportunities
  • If you have a clear idea about a research project of your choice, you should first determine whether the project is suitable for study at PhD level. The project must also be feasible within the resources and time frame available to you; it should also address a perceived 'gap' in the literature and, most importantly, be of interest to you. You can receive feedback by contacting the department.

3. Identify a Supervisor

Please contact the Department's Director of Postgraduate Research Studies by emailing or calling +44 (0) 118 378 8132.

You could also get in touch with the potential supervisor if you have someone specific in mind, but this should be in addition to contacting the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies.

It is not essential to communicate directly with the Department before submitting your application, but many candidates find it helpful.

4. Make an application

Please apply using the PhD and professional doctorate online application programme. This allows you to complete the necessary information and attach copies of relevant documents, including the details of two appropriate referees. Although you will be working with a specific department or supervisor, all PhD applications have to be made centrally.

We will acknowledge your application and then pass it on to the appropriate school or department.

Although most new students join the PhD programme in October, it is possible to start your studies at any point during the academic year.

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