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Are you ready to develop yourself personally and professionally by becoming a doctoral researcher at Reading?

When you've decided which programme is right for you, this guide tells you everything you need to know about the application process.


When to apply

You should plan to join us at the start of an academic semester. Most of our doctoral students join us in September for the start of the first semester; a smaller number start in the second semester.

In order to give us sufficient time to process your application, we recommend submitting your application by the following deadlines:

Type of applicant  Application deadline 
UK applicants At least two months before the programme start date
International applicants  At least four months before the programme start date

You will need to have received a formal offer of a place from us before you apply for some scholarships. Therefore, make sure you allow enough time for us to process your programme application so that you can still meet the scholarship application deadline.


Find the right School or Department for you

Once you have a suitable research topic in mind, you will need to find the most appropriate academic School or Department that could support your area of research. The best place to start is to visit the dedicated web pages for our Schools and Departments. Here you will find information about:

  • the main areas of research for that School or Department
  • entry requirements
  • English language requirements
  • specific fee and funding arrangements.


School and Department web pages can easily be found via our list of doctoral research areas.


Make an initial enquiry

We recommend that you get in touch with us before you make a formal application. This will give you the opportunity to discuss your ideas, get advice about the most appropriate type of research degree for you, and find out about potential supervisors.


Will I need to submit a research proposal?

If you have qualified in the arts, humanities, social sciences or in business, you will most likely identify your own research topic and will therefore need to submit a research proposal. You may be asked to write an outline of your research proposal and submit this with your application, although this is not required in every case.

With a background in science or life science, you may be applying for a project that has already been devised by a supervisor, in which case you will not need to submit a research proposal, or you may be bringing a research proposal you have developed, in which case you will need to submit a research proposal with your application.

If you are applying for an advertised project/studentship, then a research proposal is not required as the research topic is already set.


How do I write a research proposal?

If a research proposal is required, in general, this should include:

  • the main research question(s) that you want to address
  • what makes this of interest and importance
  • how your thinking builds on any previous work
  • what research methodology or techniques you may need to use
  • what facilities you are likely to require
  • how the research can be completed in the time available.

General guidance on how to write a research proposal

To maximise the likelihood of a successful application, we strongly recommend that all applicants read the following guidance before finalising their research proposal and submitting their online PhD application.

How to write a research proposal for an MPhil/PhD (PDF, 1.02 MB)

Watch our webinar on how to write a strong PhD research proposal (Youtube)


Please check the 'How to apply' section of the relevant department's website for any department-specific requirements for the research proposal.

If you have specific questions, then you can contact the School or Department that you are applying to. Please visit our directors of postgraduate research studies page to find contact details.


Academic requirements

To be accepted to study for a PhD, applicants will normally need to have an undergraduate degree of at least a 2:1 (or equivalent) or a master's degree, in a subject related to the proposed PhD topic.

In some areas of the University (particularly in the arts, humanities, social sciences and business) applicants are normally only accepted if they have a master's-level qualification.


English language requirements

The majority of PhD programmes require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5, however some areas require a score of 7.0. These are:

  • Henley Business School
  • School of Arts and Communication Design
  • School of Humanities
  • School of Languages and Literature
  • School of the Built Environment
  • Institute of Education.


The specific English requirements relating to your PhD programme will be specified on your offer of admission.

Submit your application

Once you are ready to make a formal application, you can apply through our online application service. This allows you to include electronic copies of your academic transcripts, certificates and other supporting information. It also enables us to contact your referees directly.

Apply for a programme

What happens next?

We will confirm that we have received your application and let you know when you are likely to hear whether it has been successful or not.

If your application is successful, the Admissions Office will send you a letter offering you a place on your chosen doctoral research programme. The offer may be conditional, for example, on:

  • academic criteria, such as your degree result
  • your English language proficiency, for international students.


Further information

To make an enquiry about your application, please contact

Further information is also available in our Postgraduate Research Programmes Admissions Policy (PDF, 3.15 MB).

Download our comprehensive guide to PhD study