Annex 1a - 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 be either 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 (assuming study on a half-time basis).

The normal maximum period of study is four years full-time or eight years part-time (assuming study on a half-time basis).

The part-time maximum period of study relates to part-time students who registered on 19 September 2022 or later. Part-time students who registered before 19 September 2022 have a seven-year maximum period (assuming study on a half-time basis) unless they have requested to change to the new maximum period of study. See Section 4.3.1 of the Regulations and Code for more information.

Full-time PhD students funded by an official sponsor who were registered before 24 September 2018 may have an addition to their maximum period of study of up to twelve months if this was agreed as part of their registration. Any new full-time PhD students, who are funded by an official sponsor and who register through a doctoral training entity on an established PhD programme that was set up before 24 September 2018, may also have an addition to their maximum period of study of up to twelve months if the addition was agreed when the programme was initially formed. Doctoral training entities set up on or after 24 September 2018, including those that have been re-established following a re-bidding process, are not able to allow additions to the normal maximum period of study. 

1.4 Submission of dissertation 

The dissertation must be submitted for examination on or before the final submission date (see Section 9.2.2). 

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.

There are separate rules for the PhD in Musical Composition and for combined PhDs in musicology and composition in Annex 1b. 

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:

In these cases, a candidate may be eligible for the award of a taught Masters, a Postgraduate Diploma, or a Postgraduate Certificate, if this is in accordance with the programme specification, the University's Credit Framework and with the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes


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.[1]  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. The candidate must have made a substantial contribution to any published work that has co-authors. 

Published works that have already been submitted by the candidate for any other award will not be accepted.

Candidature by published work relies on publications completed befroe registration and is not the same as the integration of publications as chapters within the dissertation (see Annex 5). 

2.2 Eligibility

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

a)    a member of staff with a contract of employment at the University of Bristol, either academic or professional services, who has been employed by the University for at least two continuous years,

b)    an honorary member of staff of the University of Bristol who has held this status for at least two continuous years, or

c)    a graduate of the University of Bristol of not less than six years standing.

2.3  Application

The final decision on whether to permit a candidate to register for a PhD by published work rests with the Faculty PGR 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.  In exceptional circumstances, the Faculty PGR Director can accept a candidate who does not fully meet the eligibility criteria. The Faculty PGR Director will inform the Head of School when a candidate has been accepted to register for a PhD by published work.

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, including (i) a statement on the candidate’s substantial contribution to any publications that have co-authors and (ii) a declaration that the candidate has not submitted any of the publications for any other award; and

c)    a curriculum vitae, including details of the candidate’s employment or honorary status 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 and submission fee. 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 Faculty PGR Director. The 12-month registration period does not equate to full-time study, as no new substantial research work is required. 

Candidates can 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, not exceeding 10,000 words, 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. The candidate must describe how they have made a substantial contribution to any published work that has co-authors.

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.

For examinations of doctoral degrees by published work, examiners can recommend any of the assessment outcomes set out in Section 9.5 of the Regulations and Code. For outcomes that require revisions, the examiners can only specify changes to the text in the commentary and not to the publications. Examiners can also require that individual publications are removed as part of the corrections process.

[1] It is also permissible for the Engineering Doctorate (EngD) and the Doctor of Medicine (MD) to be undertaken by candidature by published work.