What is a PhD?

What will I be doing during the course of my studies and what is involved in a research degree?

As a full-time research student, you are required to spend at least 35 hours a week on your research programme and as a part-time student at least 15 hours a week. Activities will include:

  • meetings with your supervisors
  • meetings with other research students and staff
  • library work
  • field work, where appropriate
  • attendance at University-level training sessions, including training for teaching, and training delivered by your college and/or school
  • additional English language training, where appropriate
  • attending Masters-level modules, as advised by your supervisors
  • attendance and presentations at seminars at Westminster
  • attendance at colloquia organised by Westminster and outside agencies
  • attendance and presentation of papers at conferences
  • other activities in your college
  • possibly teaching on various modules offered by your college

You won't have 'classes' as such every day but as you can see from the above, your time will be more than filled by the activities required to be undertaken by research students at Westminster.

If you are considering undertaking a doctoral degree, Vitae contains useful information to help you decide whether research is right for you.

How do distance learning PhD’s differ from normal PhD study?

The Research Degree by Distance Learning scheme allows candidates to enrol for a University of Westminster research degree, eg an MPhil/PhD (PhD Direct entry will not normally be permitted under this scheme) or a Professional Doctorate, for which a substantial period of study takes place away from the University research environment found on-campus.

The entry requirements, amount of work required and academic quality and expectations are the same as for PhD students studying at the University.

It is expected that the distance-learning student will have appropriate local support, eg via a HEI and/or sponsor, for the whole duration of their study away from the University of Westminster, to provide necessary access to resources such as library, archives, computers, laboratories, virtual learning environments and any other facilities required by the area of research.

All formal intermediate and final assessments requiring the presentation of written work and a defence by viva voce will normally take place at the University of Westminster and attendance at elements of the University’s Doctoral Researcher Development Programme (DRDP) are mandatory – eg University and School Workshop 1.1, with other elements offered through online delivery. Therefore researchers studying by Distance Learning who are without a right to reside and study in the UK will need to comply with the University and UK Visas and Immigration Service requirements for obtaining an appropriate visa when planning visits to the UK.

Please note that Research Degrees by Distance Learning are not offered in Westminster Business School and the Faculty of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages.

What teaching opportunities are there and is there any teacher training available?

We believe that experience of teaching and associated academic work forms an important part of your professional and academic development and we seek to provide opportunities to engage in teaching wherever possible. We provide a range of education courses to support you in this and depending on the route you take, you may be eligible for the award of University Certificate in Supporting Learning in Higher Education and Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy.

Do I have to attend classes?

Yes, elements of the University's Doctoral Researcher Development Programme are mandatory. However, you will not be required to attend regular seminars and lectures as you would be expected to on a taught course. Find out more about distance learning attendance.

Entry Requirements

Can I apply if I don’t yet have my Bachelor or Masters results?

Yes, you can. When you make your application you should include a transcript of your marks so far and let us know when you will be receiving your results.

Can I apply if I don’t yet have my English language test results?

Yes, you can. When making your application please let us know when you will be taking your test.

Can I apply if I don’t have a recognised English language qualification?

Yes, you can. If you do not hold a recognised English language qualification you should provide details of your English language skills in your UKPASS application.

Can you advise me whether I need an English language qualification?

Unfortunately, we are unable to provide guidance on this as we can only assess your English language skills in the context of your full application. You should ensure that you provide as much information as possible about your English language skills on your application.

How do I know what the equivalent of my qualification is?

You can obtain this information from NARIC

What are the closing dates for applications?

For September entry it's recommended you apply by June (April for overseas students), and for January entry by September (August for overseas students), to ensure your application can be fully processed before your desired start date.

Why are there earlier closing dates for applicants who require a Tier 4 Student Visa?

The process of applying and receiving a Tier 4 Student Visa can be very lengthy and that is why we want you to apply in enough time to be able to receive your visa in good time for the start of your programme. For essential information about what you need to do before applying for your visa, including obtaining the necessary University documentation, please see our visa page.

What happens if I miss the recommended ‘apply by’ for a particular entry date?

Your application will still be considered for a place at the University but we will be unable to guarantee, if your application is accepted, when you would be offered a place to start.

Application process

Do you have a form for referees to complete?

No, the University does not use a form. References should address your suitability to research study and any other information that is relevant to your application.

Who should references be written to?

The Research Administrator, Research Office.

What information should my reference include?

It should address your suitability to research study and any other information that is relevant to your application.

What should I do if I cannot obtain two academic references?

We will accept references from your employer or someone who can comment on your ability to undertake research study.


Can I apply for a scholarship?

All funding opportunities at the University are advertised on our Studentships page. If we are not advertising a studentship in your research area we are only accepting self-funded applications at this time, and we ask that you only submit an application if you can fund your research programme.

Applications for studentships are made at the same time as applying for a place on the research programme, so if you require funding you should wait until a studentship is advertised before submitting an application, otherwise your application will be considered for a self-funded place. You can find more information about funding on our Fees and funding page