Careers and Entrepreneurship

PhDs and research

Find out about your PhD research options, including funding and applying

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Our Canvas site contains advice on postgraduate study, as well as finding part-time work, internships and experience, and graduate jobs.

If you're considering a PhD or further research, it may help to think about:

  • your career plans – are you thinking about pursuing a career in academia? do you have other motivations?
  • funding and cost – will you be looking for a PhD studentship? or self-funding with a loan or scholarships?
  • when and how you need to apply – what are the deadlines and course requirements?

Vitae has a useful guide for anyone thinking about doctoral research. It covers what it is, why do it, who does it, should you do it and how to apply.

Choosing your research options

Take some time to think about it. Three years is a long time to spend doing research, so make sure it's what you want to do. Think about what you want to research. Sometimes this can be dictated by your subject. STEM opportunities often come as advertised pre-determined projects that you apply for. These may come with funding (as a studentship), but your subject will have been chosen by someone else. For arts/humanities (and some social sciences), you may have to find your own topic and then approach a university and/or supervisor to have it accepted. You may have to look for funding through research councils, or elsewhere.

Look for opportunities:

  • FindAPhd - search for PhDs by discipline, type, location and keyword. Includes a country guide, if you are looking to study abroad
  • Jobs.ac.uk - search for PhD programmes

FindAPhD has more about finding the right PhD.

Finding a supervisor

Finding the right supervisor is key, as you will work closely throughout your PhD. This is true, whether you are applying for an advertised studentship or proposing your own research topic. It may be someone you know from your undergraduate/Master's degree, or someone new from a different university. 

FindAPhD has a useful guide to choosing a PhD supervisor.

Choosing a university

While your choice of supervisor may determine your choice of university, it is worth looking at how institutions are rated for your subject area. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) assesses research excellence in 36 subject areas at UK universities.

You will also find that universities have open days or evenings for PhD or postgraduate study. They may also attend postgraduate study fairs, where you can see a number of universities in one place.

Funding

Loans

  • Doctoral Loan - available for PhD study in England. Separate loans are available for Wales. From Gov.uk
  • PhD loan - useful guide to the PhD loan scheme, from FindAPhD

Other sources of funding and advice

  • FindAPhD funding - a series of guides, including loans, research councils, university scholarships and international funding. Download their PhD Funding Guide 2021
  • Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding Online - useful guide to finding funding, including a huge database of opportunities and detailed application advice (If you are a current Sussex student, register with your Sussex email address. Prospective Sussex taught postgrads should use 6789 as the PIN)
  • UKRI Funding - includes Research Council funding opportunities

Funding for doing a PhD abroad

Applying

Research when institutions are accepting applications, their deadlines and how you need to apply. Applications for PhD studentships, for example, can open at various times throughout the year and generally have set deadlines.

Most universities now have online application systems and will provide information on how to submit an application. However, sometimes you will need to apply with a CV. Here are some tips for writing a CV for PhD applications.

If you get an interview the School of Life Sciences has a very useful guide to PhD interview preparation

Check out our presentation on Applying for postgraduate study [PPTX 5.52MB]

Research proposals

Your research proposal is key to your application as it sets out what you want to research and why.

Postgraduate study at Sussex

Applying to Sussex

Sussex has an online application system and provides detailed guidance on each step of the application process.