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Studying at PhD level – University of Reading

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  • Everything you need to know

    Find out more about studying for your PhD with us

Studying at PhD level

We offer flexible modes of study designed to fit with your needs. Our PhD is available for study on a full-time basis over three to four years and part-time over four to six years.



Before you arrive in Reading you will be assigned a primary supervisor based upon the research proposal that you submit as part of your application. They will provide guidance and support throughout your time as a postgraduate research student. The precise working relationship between supervisor and student can take many forms: this is something for you to work out with your supervisor as your project develops.

You will also be assigned a second supervisor. The role of the second supervisor again varies considerably. In some cases, particularly where your project spans the expertise of two staff members, you may in effect be co-supervised. In other cases, your second supervisor may be a more detached advisor whose independent opinion you can draw on at key moments.


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.

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.


During your first year (for full-time study) you will complete our research training modules. These give an overview of different methods of and approaches to research in politics and international relations. This is important both because it will help you to choose which approaches and techniques are appropriate for your own research, but also because it gives you an overview of, and enables you to be conversant in, methods and approaches from across the discipline. The training covers quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as critical and historical approaches. There is also training in philosophical issues in the social sciences.

In addition to the training within the department, you have full access to research training provided by the Graduate School and any necessary language training. Research students receive an annual research allowance.

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 Department has a weekly student-run PhD seminar and an annual conference, both of which provide students with the opportunity to present work-in-progress. All our PhD students are also encouraged to attend the weekly departmental seminar in which visiting academics present world-leading research. There are also more specialist reading groups and seminars organised within research clusters.

The Department also encourages you to attend conferences and other events to widen your network of contacts. To this end we assist with arranging travel and accommodation.

Doctoral research community

You will join a vibrant doctoral community within the Department of Politics and International Relations, working alongside postdoctoral researchers and academic staff. PhD students within the Department arrange a weekly seminar session for all students, with the aim being that each student presents twice during the course of their doctorate.

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.

Fees and funding

Our PhD students are eligible for a range of scholarships.

The University of Reading is a member of two UK research council-funded doctoral training programmes which fund work in politics and international relations: the ESRC SeNSS Doctoral Training Partnership and the AHRC South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.

The Department also hosts the Leverhulme Trust Doctoral Programme in Climate Justice.

Each year, the School of Politics, Economics and International Relations funds one politics PhD studentship, which pays home/EU fees only. Applicants are automatically considered for this award.

Information on other studentships available at the University can be obtained from our postgraduate fees and funding pages. See also: funding opportunities for research students.

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.

How to apply and entry requirements

If you are interested in joining us, please look at the webpages of our individual researchers to help you identify a potential supervisor. Feel free to contact them directly to discuss your ideas for research topics.

You can also contact our Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, Professor Alan Cromartie. He will advise you about entry requirements and the application process.

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