About postgraduate research

Applying to study at research level brings new considerations. This page covers the key topics you will need to know about before applying.


All postgraduate research students have a main supervisor who is your primary point of contact for academic guidance. You will also be allocated a second academic contact and may have other supervisors. Supervisors meet with you at regular intervals to support your research studies throughout the period of the research degree.

If the research is student-led and the topic is proposed by you, you will identify a suitable supervisor based on your research focus, and you can search our research database to help identify potential staff.

It is good practice to email potential supervisors before applying, to check they are available and suited to supervise your work. If you are unable to find a suitable supervisor, contact your prospective school or research group, who will point you in the right direction.

If your programme involves a set research project, these usually have set supervisors who will be stated on the programme page.

The supervision relationship varies depending on your subject and will last the duration of your studies. You can find out about the supervision arrangements in your department on the programme web page.

Search for research programmes

Programme duration

The time it takes to complete a research degree depends on factors such as programme type, funding terms and whether you are studying full or part-time.

Generally a PhD degree takes up to four years full-time or up to eight years part-time. Full-time MPhil and MSc research students usually take between one to two years, with MMus programmes taking up to three years.

Before you begin your programme, you will discuss and agree the programme duration with your supervisor, and research sponsors if you have one. Supervisors can also provide advice about extensions or early submissions if your circumstances change during your studies.

Distance study options

A Research Degree by Distance Learning offers flexibility for individuals wanting to pursue a research degree at the University of Bristol from anywhere in the world. Some of our schools offer this option.

The programme webpage for your course states if studying by distance learning is available under the heading 'Location'. You can search for courses using our programme finder.

Visit our distance learning page for more information.

Studying part-time

Part-time study is available on the majority of our research degree programmes, with some courses designed to be flexible so you can balance your research degree alongside other commitments. Each programme web page states whether the research degree can be studied part-time. If you're not sure, please contact your prospective department.

Doctoral Training Centres

Some of our PhD programmes are offered in collaboration with other UK Higher Education Institutions, charities and businesses through Doctoral Training Centres and Partnerships. These focus on cohort-based training in areas defined by funder priorities and usually offer students a full fee waiver and a stipend to cover living costs.

Each Centre has its own annual application deadline, so it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with these early.

More information about Bristol's Doctoral Training Centres

Collaborative PhDs

Some PhD programmes are designed in collaboration with partners from outside of the University and are advertised individually with defined themes or project topics. These usually include funding, which covers the cost of fees and a living stipend. The studentship also offers enhanced supervisory and project opportunities and, where the partner is a UK or international university, can sometimes be awarded as a 'Dual' or 'Joint' PhD qualification.

Collaborative PhDs will be advertised on the faculty funding webpages, which are listed on our scholarships page.

Apply now for 2024 scholarships

We welcome applications for the Bristol Postgraduate Research Scholarships. For 2024 entry there are 80 available, which cover full fees and a living stipend.

You will gain amazing knowledge and experience at Bristol — plus you will be able to find a lot of different activities in which the University is involved. Studying at Bristol means you have a chance to work at an internationally renowned institution with experienced academic staff.

Gozde Burger (4th year PhD, Social Work)

Explore our Research

Discover a strong research community, innovative culture and collaborative environment. 

Research Council funding

Each discipline belongs to a specific Research Council. PhD funding competitions are run by Doctoral Training Centres within each Research Council.

Search the Doctoral Training Centres Bristol is involved with.

Further Information

Students about to undertake postgraduate research study should read the University's Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes. This includes the policy for maternity, paternity and adoption leave and the policy for medical absence. 

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