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:

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.

Student working in a lab. Bristol Doctoral College

‌The Bristol Doctoral College is a home for all postgraduate research students, offering a dedicated research hub, training events and space to socialise.

Be More Empowered (BME) for Success Programme

An initiative that recognises the unique challenges Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students navigate in postgraduate research.

Part-time programmes

Many programmes can be studied part-time. Check your programme webpage for study options.

International applicants should consider visa requirements as these are not generally issued for part-time study in the UK.

Edit this page