How distance learning works

As a distance learning research student, you can access the University’s research environment through remote links and scheduled visits. Support and a wide range of opportunities are also available - summarised on this page.

For more detailed guidance, please read the Policy for Research Degrees by Distance Learning, which sets out the University’s principles and obligations.

Please note, also, that not all disciplines at the University of Bristol offer research degrees by distance learning. If you're thinking about applying to study by distance learning, please contact the relevant school in the first instance to explore whether this is possible.


As is the case with any research student, your supervisor is there to provide guidance and support.

In a distance learning situation, supervisory interactions are typically held by video link, telephone and email. Scheduled visits to the University provide opportunities for face-to-face contact.

Scheduled visits

As a distance learning research student, your scheduled visits to the University are a mandatory part of your studies. These visits offer opportunities for you to:

  • have focused interactions with your supervisor(s)
  • engage with researchers more broadly
  • complete relevant training.

The aim is to complement and build on the work undertaken at a distance.

If you are an international student, there are visa requirements to consider when visiting the UK. You can find out more about these on the International Student Visa and Compliance pages.


Your school or faculty can provide specialist training on research skills and approaches relevant to your research topic.

The Bristol Doctoral College also curates a Personal and Professional Development programme that's designed to support you during the different stages of your postgraduate research degree. Many of these sessions and workshops are held at University venues in Bristol — however, some sessions, such as Business Basecamp, can be undertaken online.

Visit the Personal and Professional Development section to see what’s available.

Online resources

Most of the library’s electronic resources — including journal archives, e-books and library catalogues — are available to use both on-site and at a distance.

For guidance on accessing these materials, please see the library's guidance page.

Progress and review

All research students are required to participate in an annual progress review. For distance learning research students, this can form part of a scheduled visit or can be conducted through electronic means.

The requirements for annual progress review requirements are detailed in section 6 of the Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degrees.

The oral examination

The assessment process for all research degrees includes the submission of a dissertation and a subsequent oral examination. This examination is normally held at the University — although, in exceptional circumstances, it may be held elsewhere.

Studying by distance learning is by itself not deemed to be exceptional circumstances. You can find detailed information on the assessment process in section 9 of the Regulations and Code of Practice for Research Degrees.

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