Before you Apply

 What is the difference between a research degree and a taught postgraduate degree?

A taught Masters degree (normally an MA, MSc or MEd) is an award granted on the basis of a taught course offered by an institution as a common experience.

A research degree is awarded on the basis of an individually initiated and registered research programme. The programme is built around a supervised thesis on a substantial piece of work, which has to show evidence of originality (PhD only) and contain material worthy of publication. It also involves an element of research training through generic courses and taught modules and/or courses.

 What is the difference between the degrees of MPhil and PhD?

For both degrees candidates are expected to critically investigate an approved topic and to demonstrate an understanding of research methods appropriate to the chosen field. For MPhil candidates, they will be expected to show originality in the application of knowledge, and understand how the boundaries of knowledge are advanced through research. 

For a PhD candidate, the investigation should result in the creation and interpretation of knowledge which extends the forefront of a discipline and makes an original contribution to knowledge. 

The average period of study for an MPhil is 2 years full-time or 3 years part-time and the length of an MPhil thesis is between 20,000 and 40,000 words, depending on the subject area.

The average period of study for a PhD is 3 years full-time or 4-5 years part-time and the length of a PhD thesis is between 40,000 and 80,000 words, depending on the subject area.

 How long does it take to obtain a research degree?


Mode of Study




Full Time

2.5 years

4 years


Part Time

3.5 years

6 years


Full Time

1.5 years

3 years


Part Time

2.5 years

4 years

Prof DocPart Time3 years6 years
 What are the fees?

All fee information can be found on the University Website .

 Do I need to have completed a masters before applying for a Research Degree?

No. Our entrance requirements are a good first degree for PhD entry and relevant professional experience for studying for a Professional Doctorate. A good first degree is an honours degree with a minimum 2.1 classification.

 Can I study part-time?

You can.  The Professional Doctorate and PhD by Existing Works run in part-time mode only.  PhD and MPhil programmes are available in both full and part-time.

As a part-time student, we recommend you study for 18.5 hours per week - although this can fluctuate at certain times during your programme.

 What are the English Language requirements?

All entrance requirements can be found by following the links to each course page on the University Website.

 Is it possible to carry out a research degree by distance learning?

The University has, for a number of years, registered candidates for the degrees of MPhil and PhD by distance learning. A distance learning programme is one where the candidate concerned is not based at the University, and is undertaking their research from a distant (normally overseas) base.  This can be on a full- or part-time basis.

 Distance learning students will be required to be in keep in contact with their supervisory team. This will entail regular and frequent communication by email, telephone and skype.  The student must visit the University to attend the Postgraduate Development Training programme, to meet with the supervisors and to take part in the Annual Monitoring Review meeting.

 Is there any funding available?

We offer a 20% discount off your course fee to eligible University of Sunderland graduates who return to study with us and enrol on a full-time postgraduate programme.

More information on the scheme, including eligibility, can be found on the Alumni Association Website.

Information relating to postgraduate loan schemes can be found here.



 How do I apply?

You can follow the ‘Apply Now’ link which is available on the course overview page:

Professional Doctorate
PhD by Existing Published Work

 What information do I need when making an application?

For all programmes you will be required to submit evidence of your qualifications. Additional information for the various programmes is outlined below.


For MPhil/PhD you need to submit a 2-3 page research proposal that specifies the:

  • aims of your research
  • rationale for the research question(s)
  • proposed methodology and techniques for analysis
  • provisional time plan for the research


For the PhD by Existing Published or Creative Works, you will need to submit details of published or creative works and a Statement of Authorship (only required if all or parts of the work are the result of collaborative research)

In addition, in the 'personal statement' section of the application form, you will need to provide a statement of no more than 100 words outlining:

  • how and in what respect the work has made a sigificant and coherent contribution of knowledge
  • the impact within its discipline
  • the methodologies used
  • an appropriate contextualisation of the research
  • clear indication of any parts of the work which may have been carried out in collaboration with other parties/authors


For the Professional Doctorate you will need to submit a 2-3 page research proposal that species the:

  • aims of your doctoral project
  • project's relevance to your workplace and profession
  • proposed methodology and techniques for analysis
  • outline of a potential research plan

In addition you must write your personal statement addressing the following points:

  • your professional experience and standing
  • the recognition by your peers as a leading professional in your field
  • the level at which you are operating within your organisation or profession and the extent to which you can provide significant influence or drive substantial change
  • the opportunity that you have to make a significant contribution to professional practice and/or how you exhibit your powers of creativity and innovation
 What is the deadline for applications?

Intakes are normally available in October, February and May for PhD and MPhil programmes.

October intake: Home/EU deadline is 6th September. International deadline is 1st August.

February intake: Home/EU deadline is 6th January. International deadline is 1st December

May intake: Home/EU deadline is early April. International deadline is early March.

Deadlines for DProf:

October 2020 Intake: All applicants - 23rd September 2020
February 2021 Intake: All applicants – 23rd January 2021

 What do I do once I've accepted my offer?

Once you have received and accepted your offer, you will need to:

Pay your deposit or provide evidence of any sponsorship
Apply for accommodation (if required)
Apply for Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) (if required)
Upload any evidence which you need to meet your offer conditions.

 When will I receive my Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) number?

In order to obtain a Tier 4 Visa, international students require a valid Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS). This provides details about you and your course, and is sent to you as part of the admissions process.

This will be issued when you have provided the required documentation and paid £3500 of your tuition fees, or supplied a sponsorship letter.

 How do I know whether I need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate?

Depending on the subject area, all non European Economic Area (EEA) applicants require an ATAS certificate.  If you need an ATAS certificate this will be outlined in your offer letter which will also include a form which you will need to complete and instructions on anything further you need to do.

 Please find here the link to the website for detailed information

 How do I get a student visa or visa extension?

Student visas (Tiers 4) are only issues once you have an unconditional offer of a place on a programme and you have accepted the offer.  This is evidenced by a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) which will be issued by the University.  It is important to allow plenty of time when applying for a visa. 

We advise that you check these websites for up to date information on visas:

Visa extensions are issued on the basis of evidence that you are still a student and require more time to complete your programme.  The best place to go for advice on visa extensions is International Student Support.

 How do I find out about accommodation?

We offer a great choice of accommodation for you to choose from and our rent prices are among the best value in the UK to include heating, lighting, water, fuel, Wi-Fi and personal possessions insurance.

You should apply for accommodation as soon as you have been issued an Unconditional place at the University, an accommodation pack will be sent to you.  Information about accommodation generally, including halls of residence and University managed houses can be found at on our accommodation website and at Student Pad which contains more details, photographs and specification details of all accommodation available, this includes the halls of residence; University managed houses; family accommodation; living with a family and private landlords.  

Home or EU students

Please email:

International students

Please email:

Get in touch

If you wish to meet with a member of staff, please go to The Design Centre reception desk at City Campus where an Accommodation Officer will be happy to talk to you:

Accommodation Office
Design Centre
City Campus
Chester Road
Sunderland SR1 3SD

Tel: +44 (0)191 515 2943

 Who do I talk to if I have problems about enrolment?

All research degree admissions are dealt with by the Graduate Research School, so if you have a problem with enrolment you should inform us first.  Enrolment is done online (eVision) and advice on enrolment can be obtained from Student Records

If you have a question about your degree administration please contact GRS in the first instance.


During your studies

 Who will be my supervisor and what is the role of the supervisory team?

You will be allocated a Director of Studies and Co-Supervisor to support you during your studies. You will be informed of the details of your supervisory team in your offer letter.

The role of the supervisory team is to guide you through your academic programme, giving guidance and advice on the standards expected and appropriate regulations and monitoring your academic progress. You will have regular contact with your supervisory team, including a formal progress meeting each month.

 If my contact details change, who do I need to inform?

You will need to make sure your contact details are kept up-to-date and you can do this via e:Vision.

 Will there be any training available during my period of study?

The University runs a Postgraduate Research Study Development Programme.  Further information can be found on Centre for Enhancement of Learning and Teaching website.

In addition, there is an 'English for Academic Purposes' course and access to library courses for some academic writing support. You can also access relevant Master's level Research Methods courses.

 What happens if I need to interrupt my period of study?

You can apply to take a Leave of Absence from your studies, providing suitable evidence to justify the request.

In exceptional cases, your period of study may be extended.  International Students will need to ensure you speak with staff in the International team to ensure there are no issues with your visa.

 Who do I talk to if I have a problem with my supervisor(s) or Faculty?

The first thing to do to resolve a problem is to discuss it with your supervisors.  If the issue is not resolved, then the Faculty’s Research Manager should be able to help. Finally, if all avenues have been tried with no result, then please contract GRS to discuss your options.

 How do I withdraw from my programme of study?

There are a number of avenues for support if you are struggling with your studies. You should speak with your supervisory team, or with the Director of Research Degree Programmes. If you still wish to withdraw from your studies, you will need to complete the withdrawal process through e:Vision.