To apply for any of our research degrees, make an application through the University’s online application process.
How to apply for a PhD
Looking to apply for an MA by Research? View the application process.
As an applicant for a PhD degree, you should already hold a Masters degree in a relevant subject area.
For our practice-based research degrees (PhD/MPhil), you should already hold a Masters in Fine Art (or equivalent qualification or level of experience).
Initial research proposal
Before you submit your PhD application, consider how your proposed research fits with the research interests of staff.
In order for your application to be progressed, you will also need to identify potential supervisors on the application form.
We strongly recommend that you contact your preferred supervisors with a clear initial research proposal before submitting an application and well in advance of scholarship deadlines (see below).
What is a research proposal?
To demonstrate your suitability for higher-level study, you will also need to prepare a competent research proposal of 1,000 words minimum. We expect a research proposal to:
clearly outline your intended project;
map out where the project is located in its field (or overlapping fields); show who, to date, has contributed to the field (or to closely related questions); and thus can show an understanding of the contribution that your doctoral project will make to existing research;
show awareness of your intended methodological approach(es);
explain how the project relates to the supervisors’ area(s) of research expertise and/or our School’s broader research strands;
include a bibliography.
We will also require:
two academic references;
transcripts of your marks for your undergraduate and postgraduate degrees.
International students must provide a certificate of English language proficiency in IELTS (6.5 overall score with no less than 7.0 in writing and no less than 6 in any other skill area).
Pre-sessional English courses
You can improve your academic English level to the standard needed to study a postgraduate research degree by taking one of the following pre-sessional courses:
If you need to study for longer than 10 weeks, find out more about our postgraduate pre-sessional English courses.
If you have prepared your research proposal, made informal contact with your prospective supervisor/s about your topic and had it agreed, you can make an online application.
Early application is important, particularly if you plan to apply for a scholarship:
You need to allow time for interviews, discussion and agreement from supervisor/s, refinement of your proposal, as well as time for the application to be processed. Obtaining the supporting documents for your formal application – references and transcripts of former university study – can be a lengthy process. Applicants whose first language is not English may also need to allow time to take, and receive the results from, IELTS tests. Pre-sessional English courses are available from the University.
You must have a formal offer of a place from the University before you can apply for scholarship/s. Competitive scholarship applications benefit from discussing and refining your research proposal with supervisors, and the ability to articulate how your research complements our School’s research strands.
What are the key dates for applying for a PhD?
If you are ready to apply for a PhD, we advise that you begin your application process a year in advance of when you plan to start your degree, based on the typical start-date of 1 October:
October (if not earlier)
Contact prospective supervisors with your initial research proposal and an overview of your academic performance to date (eg. BA and MA grades).
Early December (if not earlier)
Submit your formal application online, along with supporting paperwork (references, transcripts, etc).
The first deadlines for scholarship competitions.
Competition for scholarships is very high. A First-class BA and/or MA Distinction are typically required to be competitive, although alternative experience can sometimes count in lieu. Details of PhD scholarships can be found on the funding and scholarships page.
Collaborative doctoral awards
We often have opportunities for PhD study via Collaborative Doctoral Awards, where you would work on your research project with an external partner. These opportunities are listed on the funding and scholarships page when they become available.
Advice to current MA students wishing to progress to PhD study
Scholarship deadlines tend to close between October and January, which means that it can seem difficult to apply for a PhD whilst still pursuing your Masters.
However, with the School’s support successful applications for funding are regularly awarded and we encourage all candidates to make submissions whenever they feel ready.
The quality of your proposal will be crucial to success, so working on this carefully, and with support, is essential.
In Semester one, you can attend the Postgraduate Research Open Day which will provide you with advice and details of scholarships, deadlines, the application process and framing your proposal.
If you wish to discuss progressing to PhD whilst still pursuing your MA, please contact the School’s Director of Postgraduate Research Studies, Dr Eva Frojmovic at E.Frojmovic@leeds.ac.uk.