What is a research degree?

A research degree is the highest degree awarded by UK Universities. There are several varieties of degree and we have outlined the differences below. If you still have a question, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

The aim of a PhD (also referred to as 'Doctorate'), DM or MPhil is to make an original contribution to knowledge in a specific field by refining understanding and developing new ideas.

Students will be required to manage a research project, based on their area of interest, with the support of a dedicated supervisory team.

Supervisors will provide comments on their student's work which will ultimately form a written thesis consisting of 100,000 words (maximum) for PhD or 60,000 words (maximum) for MPhil.

The thesis must then be defended in a viva voce (spoken) examination and support and training is provided, to help students prepare for this.

How long does a PhD or DM take?

Full-time

Students normally complete their active research over a three-year period. A fourth year can then be used to write the thesis and prepare for the spoken examination.

Part-time

Students normally complete their active research over a six-year period. The seventh/eighth year can then be used to write the thesis and prepare for the spoken examination.

How long does an MPhil take?

Full-time

Students normally complete their active research over the first year. The second-year can then be used to write the thesis and prepare for the spoken examination.

Part-time

Students normally complete their active research over two years. The third/ fourth year can then be used to write the thesis and prepare for the spoken examination.

In some instances, students complete a PhD or MPhil degree in less time and guidelines for the minimum study periods can be found within the Code of Practice on Postgraduate Research Degrees (PDF, 158KB).

When can I apply?

We offer year-round entry on to our PhD, DM and MPhil programmes.

Professional doctorate programmes are increasingly the choice of professionals in a number of fields, particularly health and education.

A Professional Doctorate award represents an original contribution to knowledge but in a professionally focused context. It has similar demands and timescales to that of a PhD, but is notable by the title which relates to the students profession or area of work. 

The programmes are delivered using a blended approach as students are usually in full time work whilst on programme. The first stage is devoted to taught modules with assessments. The second stage focuses on research with students managing a research project usually based on their professional practice. The final degree is awarded on the basis of a thesis discussing said research project, in the same way as for a PhD.

We offer Professional Doctorates in:

How long does a Professional Doctorates take?

These programmes are usually offered on a part time basis and are usually completed in 2-6 years with provision for 8 years.

When can I apply?

Professional doctorate programmes have a single entry each year, usually October. Please visit the course pages for additional information.

 

A large proportion of UK Research Council funding for postgraduate research studentships (PGRs) is now awarded to institutions via Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) and Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs). These are flagship doctoral training programmes which combine cutting-edge doctoral study with a dynamic, innovative and interdisciplinary research culture that aims to develop future research leaders. Keele is involved in the following CDTs and DTPs. View our centres and partnerships here.

Distance learning research degrees enable you to benefit from our excellent reputation for research opportunities and high-quality supervision whilst studying remotely. As a distance learning postgraduate research student, you will also benefit from research training, rigorous assessments and community engagement and support. 

We remain committed to delivering the highest student experience for our student community. Alongside our robust academic delivery, our provision of student services remains in place for distance learning students. This includes our Student Support team, the Language Centre, counselling and disability support. 

Admission to a distance learning research degree will be subject to meeting the admissions criteria for the programme, in addition to a compulsory interview to ensure that distance learning is a suitable option. 

We encourage interested students to discuss the feasibility of distance learning PGR study with the PGR lead for the area of interest as well as directly with potential supervisors. 

Distance learning students will only qualify for UK Government doctoral loans if they are already living in England or Wales at the start of their programmes and will continue to do so, or if they are serving in the armed forces or a spouse, partner, or dependent parent living with a serving member of the armed forces. 

Facts and Figures