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How to apply

1. Is a PhD at the University of Reading right for you?

Before applying for our PhD programme, please read our What to expect during your PhD guide.

Criteria for the award of research degrees 

It is important to reflect on these criteria when considering applying for one of our PhD programmes.

At the end of your PhD, you are expected to demonstrate each of the following: 

  • the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, through original research or other advanced scholarship, of a quality to satisfy peer review to extend the forefront of your discipline, and to merit publication in an appropriate form
  • a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge which is at the forefront of the discipline or area of professional practice
  • the general ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the generation of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline, and the ability to adjust the project design in the light of unforeseen problems
  • a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to your own research or advanced scholarship. 

2. Check our entry requirements

To be accepted on our PhD programmes, a master’s degree is desirable. We will also consider candidates with a 2:1 and above in a bachelor’s degree that includes a research component.

If you are from outside the UK, you will also need an IELTS score of 7.0 or above, with at least 6.0 in the four sub-sections or equivalent.

3. Select a topic

You should first determine whether your proposed project is suitable for study at PhD level. The project must 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.

To study a PhD with us, your proposed project should relate to the research interests of a member of staff in the School of the Built Environment. Please contact any member of staff via email if you are interested in studying for a PhD or MPhil with them.

To find out more about our areas of expertise, please view our Research page and our staff profiles in the School of Construction Management and Engineering or the School of Architecture.

You can also apply for advertised PhD projects. Take a look at our PhD opportunities.

4. Writing a research proposal

Unless you are applying for an advertised project, then your application should include a research proposal.

The School of the Built Environment has specific requirements about the structure of your proposal that are detailed here. Please ensure that your proposal meets with these specific requirements, or your application may be delayed or rejected.

The research proposal outlined below applies to all PhD applications: full-time, part-time and by distance. Please note that you should not submit a "generic" proposal you may have written previously for application to another university.

We expect a research proposal to the School of Built Environment to typically contain:

  • Cover Page –  it should include:
    1. title of research proposal
    2. name of the applicant
    3. name of the proposed supervisor, if applicable.
  • Introduction (200-350 words)  a summary of the proposed research, including reasons why it may be relevant or of interest.
  • Literature Review and Academic context (300 - 500 words)  this text should:
    1. position your study in its wider context through an examination of key contributions relating to the area of research in question
    2. identify gaps in, or problems with, existing research to justify why further or new research is required
    3. briefly discuss historical or recent developments that explain the importance of your research within your field of study
    4. contextualise your research in relation to current (or historical) issues to explain why it may be relevant.
  • Research problem or question (200-250 words)  a brief statement that outlines the problem to be addressed or the question that will be answered by your research. Include three to five research objectives that describe the key elements of the research.
  • Research rationale (200-250 words)  explain how your research will advance knowledge of the subject in the field.
  • Methodology (200-250 words)  explain and justify your approach to research design in relation to the research question and research objectives of your study. The general components to consider should include a choice of methods, data collection and analysis.
  • Contribution to knowledge and proposed outcomes (100-150 words)  this text should provide a brief description of the expected academic contributions and a statement of its relevance and proposed outcomes. Include possible contributions to professional practice and/or policy, if applicable.
  • Research Plan  a timetable that demonstrates the feasibility of the research within the assigned timescale (i.e. 3 years of full-time study).
  • References  a list of references formatted using the Harvard referencing system. Your research proposal must demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the subject that you propose to research by having read (and cited) various core academic contributions from the relevant field(s).

5. Identify a supervisor

You may contact a potential supervisor if you have someone specific in mind. If you would like assistance with identifying a potential supervisor, please contact the School's Director of Postgraduate Research Studies by emailing or calling +44 (0) 118 378 5219.

You can find out more about areas we supervise on our staff profiles in the School of Construction Management and Engineering and the School of Architecture

6. Make an application

Once you have identified a research area of interest with a potential supervisor, 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.

If you are not applying for an advertised project, it is essential that you submit a research proposal. You should also include a personal statement of no more than 500 words, that explains your motivation and suitability for our PhD programme.

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

Sources of funding

A number of funding opportunities are available to PhD applicants. Allocated on a competitive basis, these opportunities are funded from a variety of sources and range from smaller regional bursaries to full international PhD studentships.

A complete list of details regarding eligibility, available finance, application methods and closing dates is available through the Doctoral and Researcher College. If you would like to apply and be considered for the University International PhD Studentship Competition, please submit your application at least 3 weeks before the closing date.

Assessment of applications

Once we receive your application, it will first be reviewed by the School's Director of Postgraduate Research Studies.

If the application complies with the guidelines, is of the required standard, and fits within the research profile of our School, it will be sent to one or more potential supervisors for a more detailed review.

If a potential supervisor wishes to move forward with your application, then you will be invited to an online interview (usually using Skype or Teams), to further discuss your proposed research and fit for our PhD programme.

Successful applicants will then receive a formal offer of a place.

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