Types of research degrees
We offer traditional PhD and research master’s degrees, as well as professional and extended doctoral programmes. This page explains your options.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This is the most common qualification pursued by research students and is available in all our faculties. It normally represents three to four years of full-time study depending on the discipline, but many programmes are available to study part-time or by distance learning.
You will undertake supervised research, either independently or as a member of a team. A PhD is awarded for the outcomes of advanced study, usually written up as an 80,000-word thesis, which demonstrates an original and significant contribution to knowledge.
Professional doctorates (EdD, EngD, DEdPsych, MD, DDS)
These qualifications are typically suited to professionals already qualified to an advanced level in their field, who wish to deepen and challenge their understanding. Students will combine directed study with substantial research to develop an original contribution to knowledge in a professional context.
We offer the following professional doctorates:
Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS)
The DDS is often for practising clinicians who wish to develop their research skills and apply their research to clinical problems. This advanced qualification will demonstrate your ability to design, undertake and apply research to clinical practice. The programme is broadly divided between academic modules, the treatment of patients under close supervision and a research project. Our DDS programme is offered in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Doctor of Education (EdD)
The EdD is for education practitioners who wish to stimulate and transform their professional thinking and practice, while also developing a deep understanding of how cutting-edge academic research tackles real-life challenges and issues. Our EdD programme is offered within the School of Education in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law.
Doctor of Educational Psychology (DEdPsy)
The DEdPsy is the entry qualification for professional practice and employment in educational psychology and is accredited by the British Psychological Society. It has been designed to meet the professional training needs of educational psychologists and reflects a shift in orientation in professional training that is implicit in a research degree. This programme is available within the School of Policy Studies.
Doctor of Medicine (MD)
The MD is a doctoral research degree undertaken by medical graduates. It is usually laboratory-based though it focuses on a specific clinical research topic. An MD project is of a narrower scope than PhD study but is of comparable depth and the work should also make an original contribution to medical knowledge. Practising clinicians may undertake a part-time MD to work on a research question relating to their clinical duties and interests. MD programmes are available within the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences and the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Engineering Doctorate (EngD)
The EngD is a professional doctorate, equivalent to a PhD in its intellectual challenge, but with the Research Engineer (EngD student) pursuing a research project while based within a company on an industry-specific project. Various EngD programmes are available within the Faculty of Engineering.
Master's degrees by research
A master’s by research includes a structured research project where you explore research themes through critical analysis and in-depth study.
These programmes can be a valuable foundation for starting a PhD.
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
The research and study experience of an MPhil is similar to a PhD but the project is more tightly defined to allow it to be undertaken in one or two years’ full-time study. An MPhil dissertation is shorter than a PhD thesis, and the programme is often used as preparation for a PhD. For more information about the difference between an MPhil and a PhD, visit this FindaPhD blog. We offer MPhil programmes in the Faculty of Arts and in Social Sciences and Law.
Master of Science by Research (MScR)
An MScR is a research-led masters programme. It enables students to pursue a masters-level degree while having dedicated time for your own research. It is a great option if you are considering a PhD but would like experience of a research-led degree first.
Many MScR degrees can be upgraded to a PhD after one year, depending on funding and performance. MScR programmes are offered in the Faculties of Life Sciences (biomedical), Engineering, Health Sciences and Science, as well as a cross-faculty MScR in Global Environmental Challenges led by Cabot Institute for the Environment.
Master of Music (MMus)
An MMus involves research defined in advance - normally by the student. MMus degrees typically incorporate composition or performance as a major part of the research process and submission. Full-time MMus students complete in a maximum of two years, with part-time students taking three or four years to complete. MMus programmes are available in the Department of Music within the Faculty of Arts.
International dual PhD
Bristol offers dual PhD opportunities for doctoral students. These lead to separate but linked awards from two partner institutions within a co-supervised research degree programme.
Candidates are registered at the two universities for the full period of their study, write one thesis that is examined independently by each institution, and spend approximately 50% of their programme at each location.
The Bristol Doctoral College is a home for all postgraduate research students, offering a dedicated research hub, training events and space to socialise.
An initiative that recognises the unique challenges Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students navigate in postgraduate research.