Guide on How to Apply for PhD Application

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Guide on How to Apply for PhD

PhD study applications are quite different as compared to other university courses. The thing to keep in mind is, it wouldn’t be like other courses you have previously done. The program would require extensive research, and generally prepares you as a professional researcher. It allows you to explore potential research career, either in industry or at university, and helps to explore new knowledge within academic discipline.

The doctoral programme application process is different in UK such that there is no centralized application system. Not only it varies according to the institution, but it also greatly depends on the programme type you are applying for. Usually there are two main patterns of application, which is by applying for a funded doctoral program, and applying for a doctorate program which is ‘yet-to-be funded’.

So, acquiring all sort of information from one site can limit the knowledge you get on the process, yet an educational consultant at this point can be of great help. Over years of experience in this field, they know that what it takes to apply in UK for doctorate program and cover all; from selecting niche of your interest to finalizing the application form.

Choosing a specialization field

When planning to pursue doctoral degree program, be clear in what you are passionate about, your interest in research area, skills and abilities to accomplish the research project in chosen area. For example; marketing, finance, management, business, economics, psychology, information technology, health care, and medical science etc.

Listing down the Universities

Narrow down the list of universities you want to apply in.

  • Firstly, look at the area of specialization offered by the university.
  • Secondly, make sure to apply in more than one university, as every time there are equal chances of being accepted or rejected. Applying in various universities can save you from delaying your studies also if accepted, it give you an opportunity to select the best one from all.
  • If you have a plan to seek scholarship, then make an extensive research on scholarship offered by university, the funded projects, or studentships.


Below-mentioned is the list of UK universities which are known for their quality education, research facilities and funding for research:

Preparing for English Language Test

As an international student, when applying for any academic level, there is a requirement to submit an English Language Test. The level of score for acceptance is set by the institution according to the discipline. There are various English Language Test such as GMAT, GRE, CAE, SAT, TOEFL, PTE, IELTS and other. IELTS is the commonly approached test by students, as it is relatively easier than other test. At postgraduate level, the minimum score for IELTS is 6.5 overall and 6.0 each (listening, reading, writing and speaking), TOEFL of at least 92 (only internet based iBT), PTE of at least 62, and CAE with overall score of at least 60. In Pakistan, the preferred test centers are AEO, British Council, Pearson | PTE etc.

Identifying Scholarships

There are various types of PhD related scholarships, such as PhD funded projects, studentships and yet-to-be funded scholarship.


PhD Funded Projects

Funded projects are mostly university or government owned projects that need proper skilled researcher to complete it.


PhD Scholarships

PhD studentships are funded by institutions, government or funded bodies and non-profit organizations. Many universities offer extensive grants, allowances and other PhD funding prospects at the doctoral level. Additional way to finance a PhD is to receive a PhD position, often referred to as a PhD student or an Assistant. These are basically PhD-related occupations, including work in teaching, study or both.

Most PhD studentships, such as those provided by universities, professional associations or organizations, trusts and institutions, includes three years of support paid at a rate close to that of the Research Council grant: student-only payments-which pay student fees, plus any related project and training expenses. Several doctoral students are extremely competitive and, as a reason, they will typically need to show excellent academic success if they obtain funding. Most studentship is also limited by location.


Yet to be funded Scholarships

This doctorate program funding entail two stage process;

  • Firstly, the candidate should apply to the university.
  • Secondly, after acceptance as a potential doctoral student, h/she should then look for funding.

Expectedly, this way to get the program fund is pretty complex and takes longer time than typically applying for other funded program.

Writing an Effective Research Proposal

A PhD proposal clearly outlines the proposed research project which varies in length as per the university requirement and subject discipline. Generally, the word count of the research proposal lies between 1500-3000 words. Research proposal is particularly designed to:

  • Establish a research question and use an approach to answer it.
  • Highlight the research originality and significance in the field of study.
  • Examine how the research challenges, develops and contribute to the existing literature studies.
  • Easily influence the potential funder or supervisor of the significance of work; also give evidence of why you are the potential individual to undertake it.


The purpose of research proposal

Research proposal is a source to appraise your expertise in the selected research area. The supervisor uses it to assess your work originality and quality of ideas, critical thinking skills and research project feasibility. Specifically, UK doctoral programs are designed to be completed in three years if it is taken as full-time, or six years if taken as part-time. Carefully think about the research scope and then get your self ready to explain how it can be completed in time frame. If you have discussed your work with the potential supervisor, and is interested in h/her research area – be sure to include this in your proposal.

Before making a formal application, identify the potential supervisor, get in touch and then discuss the proposal informally to ensure that the interest matches.  Also, it can help to gain input on design, feasibility and scope of research project.

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Communicating potential PhD supervisors

In the process of applying for a PhD program, it is necessary to contact a potential supervisor in order to discuss the suitability of your research interests with them.


Finding a PhD Supervisor

The first stage for doctoral program application is to identify potential supervisors. This can be done by looking at the publication of supervisors and their research area which matches your interest.



  • Firstly, select a research subject or area that interests you. It is crucial in postgraduate study, to show the research area you’re passionate about if you want to be successful in applying and completing it.
  • Secondly, reflect on where you want to study. Is there a particular institution or lab group you would like to study in?
  • Lastly, consider the potential supervisor. The relationship between the supervisor and student is critical to the success of a postgraduate degree. So, this must be someone who has a good reputation for teaching, inspire you in your area of research, and has a compatible personality for you.

These considerations can be helpful in drawing up a list of potential supervisors. 



Once potential supervisors are identified, make sure to read their research thoroughly and become familiar with it. This is significant to understand the research field better and to ensure that it matches your interest area. It could prove useful when contacting them. Supervisors have their own academic profile page on university website which allows candidates to find more about their research interests, publications and previous work. There you can get their email address.


First email

In most of the cases, the best way to contact potential PhD supervisor is through email. It should be formal email, somewhat similar to an application cover letter.


Email etiquette

  • As a formal email; make it polite, assertive, respectful and most importantly well-informed on your research interest.
  • Use the supervisor’s correct title and sign off with “Kind regards” or “Yours sincerely”.
  • Make sure that there are no grammatical errors, it is consistent and have proper formatting.

There should also be a clear but brief subject title to the email. This should concisely explain your enquiry in a succinct manner. For example: “Role of Customer Relationship Management in Hotel Management; A case study of UK”.

Along with the research proposal, it is important to send supervisor your SOP (that dictates the reason of interest) and Resume. This is because, the supervisor easily get influenced seeing previous research experiences, publications, work experience, concerned research area and purpose of study in the particular field.

Personal Statement

International Universities offering post graduate degree in different fields require PhD personal statement during the admission process. The research proposal helps to define the main objective of the research study; whereas the proposal validates the student’s suitability of graduate work. It is quite difficult to write a PhD personal statement but it is also an important opportunity for the graduates to represent themselves as a potential PhD applicant.


What is the purpose of PhD personal statement?

A PhD personal statement provides an overview of a specific research title that defines its objectives, provides an overview of the academic articles and methodology. PhD is an extraordinary personal project; so, the personal statement written for it highlights that you are the type of extraordinary person who possess the ability to successfully complete a research project. There are various forms, universities might entail a space for the statement in their application form or they could ask to submit as a distinct document or cover letter.


Is it important to write a personal statement?

It is not always necessary to write a personal statement at all level. But, at PhD level great importance is given to personal statement in many universities. The personal statement is required when you are applying to a project that already has some pre-defined goals and aims. If that is the case then this is your opportunity to present yourself as the best candidate for a PhD.

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Academic Resume

An academic resume is necessary for PhD candidates during the application process for universities. An academic resume is quite different than a general one, the resume required for PhD includes:

Research Interests

This is a short synopsis of the candidate's experience in research, also what are the particular interest of the candidate. The candidate should provide a list of h/her total publications.


This should include a brief introduction of every publication the candidate has published; a book, article or a journal article.

Research Experience

Under this; the candidates should include the research project, conference and presentations. This is valuable as it can portray the candidate's technical and research skills.

Funding and Awards

This should include any scholarship, awards, fellowships or distinctions the candidate has received in h/her academic background.

Other sections are same as a general resume:

  • Title: Candidate's name
  • Education: Total years of education
  • Skills: Any other appropriate skills like languages, diplomas, public speaking and much more.
  • Referees: This comes at the end of the resume; and might include the candidate's advisors or teachers.
  • Photograph: In case of United Kingdom, Canada and America; photograph of the candidates must not be included but in some of the countries in Europe photographs are included at the top.

Selecting referees for PhD application

As a part of doctorate study application, you are required to provide up to two academic referees.

The references are essential as they either make or break the PhD application; also it gives you the best chance of being successful. So, think carefully and then choose your referees.


What actually referees do?

Applying for doctoral study is competitive; also universities in each semester receive a substantial number of submissions. As a result, this doesn’t allow them to meet every applicant in person.

References give an impression of students as a potential PhD researcher whilst both reinforcing academic history and personal statement.

They are specifically designed to:

  • Provide expert and personal opinion on your appropriateness to undertake postgraduate study.
  • Give sufficient evidence and confirm your abilities, skills and qualifications.
  • Shows how you are as a researcher: your strengths, the area of interest and goals.
  • Offer experienced and knowledgeable insight into how students and their research project would fit within research culture of the chosen university.


Who should be picked for referees?

Picking the right referees is an important part of the application process. For this purpose, you should consider:

  • Master supervisor – as they hold a better idea of their student as a person, their skills, abilities and research interests.
  • Academic staff from your university who may not be in contact with you at personal level but their work fits with your research interests.
  • Other academic staff members who have taught and marked your work.
  • An employer can be a valuable referee if you tend to seek for research in an area which is somewhat similar to your employment

Academics commonly have strong networks within their fields. This indicates that there is a good chance that your chosen referee will be known to your possible supervisor. A referee in subject area can thus be a good way of signaling that your interested research will find a place within a specific field. Think about who can offer personal and knowledgeable understanding of your interest, goals, and abilities as a researcher.

How education consultant can help you?

Often students at PhD level are well-aware about how the process goes, but stuck at stages of application. Some get confused with area of specialization, the others find it challenging to look for potential supervisor and few lack the knack of writing effective research proposal. To ease out their problems, experienced education consultant on Edvise Hub platform can be of great help. Today, education consultants are in great demand as they uncage boundary of unidentified career choice, influence students mind and most importantly guide them from research proposal to successful application submission. Edvise hub is one of the reputed and known consultants in the industry, for providing experienced education consultant who uses best effective approach to help students reach their goals. Our assistance includes:

  • Identifying institutions that match with students interest area and goals
  • Providing career counseling
  • Applying for admission process on students behalf
  • Advising on available scholarship and financial aid
  • Assistance on preparing research proposal, resume, cover letter and statement of purpose.

But, either of the way, to give oneself the best of opportunities and higher success chance; consider:

  • Planning at your earliest- almost a year before decide where, when and how to apply.
  • Be practical, proactive and start preparing do extensive groundwork yourself. Maybe you are the one who just doesn’t get satisfied from others work.
  • Be clear in your area of interest. Don’t ever direct yourself in the research area that you aren’t familiar with. Sometimes other random opinion may distract you from identifying your potential and hidden interest.
  • Choose the country at first (in terms of education, accommodation and living expense) and then list down the universities that offer doctoral program in your research area.
  • Research on how doctorates program are funded and how to apply for it.
  • Make a research proposal that matches your research area interest and supervisor previous publications and field of research.
  • Find the supervisor by looking at their previous publications and current research area.
  • Email the research proposal, resume and statement of purpose to the supervisor.
  • Upon acceptance, submit the required documents along with research proposal to the university, for admission.