Regulations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes ("the Regulations and Code") apply to this degree, except where separate provision is made below.

The relevant sections of the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes, will apply to the assessment of any taught components of these degrees.

Candidature for the degree of PhD shall either be by dissertation or by published work.

1. Candidature by dissertation

1.1 Qualification for admission

Candidates should refer to the general statement of admissions requirements contained in Section 4 of the Regulations and Code.

1.2 Qualification for the award

A candidate qualifies for the PhD by:

(a)   pursuing research for a period as specified in 1.3 below;

(b)   submitting a dissertation embodying the results of this research;

(c)   passing an oral examination on the dissertation conducted by examiners appointed by the University; and

(d)   satisfying any formal requirements set by the faculty or a sponsor for a curriculum of advanced study, or for satisfactory performance in any other prescribed work, during the period of PhD registration. Such requirements will be specified before admission.

1.3 Period of study

The normal minimum period of study is three years full-time or six years part-time.

The normal maximum period of study is four years full-time or seven years part-time.

Full-time PhD students who are funded by an official sponsor for longer than the normal minimum period may be granted, prior to registration, an extension to their period of study of up to twelve months. Requests for such an extension may only be made by the candidate's Head of School and can only be granted by the Graduate Education Director of the faculty in which the candidate is registered.*

All other suspensions of study and extensions of period of study should take place as set out in Section 6.4 of the Regulations and Code.

* The offer letter should clearly set out the period of study.  Additionally, some funding bodies have rules regarding length of study which may influence decisions.

1.4 Submission of dissertation

A candidate may submit their dissertation up to three months before the end of the minimum period of study. Any submission earlier than that requires prior approval by the Graduate Education Director of the faculty in which the candidate is registered.

Early submission will not affect tuition fee liability.

The dissertation must normally be submitted for examination by the end of the maximum period of study. A candidate whose period of study has been extended must submit their dissertation by the end of the extended maximum period of study.

1.5 Length of dissertation

Dissertations should not normally exceed 80,000 words, excluding references, appendices and lists of contents. Faculty-specific guidelines on references are available.  Unnecessary length of a dissertation may be to a candidate’s disadvantage.

1.6 Transfer of registration

The PhD programme may include opportunities for candidates to transfer registration to an appropriate Masters level award, as permitted by faculty regulations.

1.7  Exit awards from PhDs with a taught component

Where a PhD programme includes an integrated taught component, a candidate may be eligible for a taught exit award if they choose to leave before completing the doctoral programme, fail to satisfy the examiners in the research component, or if a student’s registration is changed to that of an alternative degree by a Registration Review Panel (see Annex 3). In such cases, a candidate may be recommended for the award of a Masters, a Postgraduate Diploma or a Postgraduate Certificate, provided they have satisfied the requirements on total credits and the minimum number of credits required at the highest level, in accordance with the University’s Credit Framework.

Candidates must have:

a) For the award of a taught Masters, 180 credit points with at least 150 credit points at level 7;

b) For the award of a PG Diploma, 120 credit points with at least 90 credit points at level 7; and

c) For the award of a PG Certificate, 60 credit points with at least 40 credit points at level 7.

2. Candidature by published work

2.1  Criteria for candidature by published work

A PhD by published work must be of an equivalent standard to a PhD by dissertation.  A candidate’s published work must therefore:

a)    relate in a coherent way to the field of knowledge and represent a significant and original contribution;

b)    show evidence of the candidate’s capacity to pursue independently original research based on a good understanding of the relevant techniques and concepts; and

c)    make a contribution to research at a level and scope equivalent to the dissertation route.

The published work submitted may range over a number of different topics, but these must relate in a coherent way to a field of knowledge. The treatment of these topics should be substantial; greater weight will be attached to a few substantial publications than to a larger number of brief notes, and the rate at which the work has been done will be considered in the light of the circumstances under which the research was carried out. It is not normally possible to form an adequate judgement of the candidate’s eligibility unless the amount of work submitted is considerable, having due regard to the nature of the discipline.

2.2 Eligibility

Subject always to the criteria set out in 2.1 above, candidature for the degree of PhD by published work may be granted to:

a)      a graduate of the University of Bristol of not less than 6 years standing,

b)      a graduate of another university of not less than 6 years standing, who is a member of academic staff of the University of Bristol and has spent at least 3 years in the University.

2.3 Application

The final decision on whether or not to permit a candidate to register for a PhD by published work rests with the Graduate Education Director of the relevant faculty, who must ensure that the candidate has published enough appropriate material to have a reasonable chance of being awarded a PhD.  The GED will inform the relevant Head of School.

An application must include:

a)    a synopsis of approximately 500 words outlining the extent, range, quality and coherence of the work to be submitted;

b)    a list of the publications the candidate intends to submit; and

c)    a curriculum vitae, including details of the candidate’s employment at the University of Bristol where relevant.

A candidate should not assume that permission to register for a PhD by published work will automatically result in the award of a PhD, as they have to pass the final examination in the same way as any other candidate.

2.4 Registration

If approved, the candidate will be required to pay the relevant registration fee as part of the registration process. The candidate, once registered, will be assigned an advisor to support and guide them during the preparation of the work for submission. The advisor will be a senior member of academic staff at the University who is familiar with both the standard required and with the candidate’s field of work.

It is the responsibility of the Head of School (or nominee) to ensure that suitable advisors are appointed, that they have appropriate knowledge and skills, and that they have the time to carry out their advisory duties.

2.5 Submission

Candidates must submit their published work within 12 months of the initial registration, unless an extension has been granted by the Graduate Education Director. The relevant submission fee must be paid by the candidate.

Candidates may include publications beyond those in their application portfolio as long as all publications are at least in press at the point of submission. The submission must be in accordance with Section 9.2.3 of the Regulations and Code and should consist of:

a)    the published work (which may include some papers in press);

b)    a substantial commentary that states the aims and nature of the research, that links the published work and its coherence, and that indicates the significance and the original contribution to the field made by the work in the opinion of the candidate;

c)    a signed statement advising how far the work submitted is based on the candidate’s own independent study, making it clear, for each publication, how far the work was conducted in collaboration with or with the assistance of others and the conditions and circumstances in which the work was carried out; and

d)    a curriculum vitae, focusing on the candidate's research career and on the circumstances under which the research work leading to the publications submitted was carried out.

2.6 Examination

The criteria for the appointment of examiners must be in accordance with Section 9.3 of the Regulations and Code, where references to supervisor should be read as advisor. 

The oral examination must adhere to Section 9.4 of the Regulations and Code.