Queen’s University Belfast PhD

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Queen’s University Belfast PhD

Undertaking a PhD is a highly rewarding experience and you will have the opportunity to work with some of the most passionate researchers in their field.  Our Doctoral Centre has over 175 full time and part time research students from 25 countries worldwide, and therefore enjoys the many benefits that this brings to its research community.

We run regular School research seminars which often attract leading researchers in the field and an annual doctoral conference which is organised by research students in education at University College Dublin (UCD) and Queen’s University.

You can learn more about the School’s research activities, our facilities and internationally recognised research centres by visiting our Research page.

Further Information

Do I apply for an MPhil or a PhD?

You will normally register, in the first instance, as an ‘undifferentiated PhD student’ which means that you have satisfied staff that you are capable of undertaking a research degree.  The decision as to whether you should undertake an MPhil or a PhD is delayed until you have completed ‘differentiation’.
Differentiation takes place about 9-12 months after registration for full time students and about 18-30 months for part time students:  You are normally asked to submit work to a panel of up two academics and this is followed up with a formal meeting with the ‘Differentiation Panel’. The Panel then make a judgement about the your capacity to continue with your study. Sometimes students are advised to revise their research objectives or to consider submitting their work for an MPhil qualification rather than a doctoral qualification.
To complete with a doctoral qualification you will be required to submit a thesis of approx 80,000 words and you will be required to attend a viva voce [oral examination] with an external and internal examiner to defend your thesis.

An MPhil programme runs for 2 years full-time or 3 years part-time. A PhD programme runs for 3 year full-time or 4-6 years part-time. Students can apply for a writing up year should it be required.

Who should study for an MPhil or PhD?

The research degree is open to both full and part time candidates. The PhD is often a useful preparation for a career within academia or consultancy.
Full time students are often attracted to research degree programmes because they offer an opportunity to pursue in some depth an area of academic interest.
The part time research degree is an exciting option for professionals already working in the education field who are seeking to extend their knowledge on an issue of professional interest. Often part time candidates choose to research an area that is related to their professional responsibilities.

What is the course content?

There is no specific course content as such.  You are expected to take research training modules that are supported by the School which focus on quantitative and qualitative research methods.  You are also expected to carry out your research under the guidance of your supervisor.

Over the course of study you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School, carry out a piece of independent research and complete a thesis of 80,000 words. The thesis is awarded after a successful oral examination with an internal and external examiner.

What do I need to think about before applying?

Before applying, you should ensure that you:

  • Have or expect to have a relevant first degree at 1st class or 2.1 standard or a first degree 2:2 standard and a relevant Master’s degree, or equivalent for overseas degrees.
  • Have a commitment to and demonstrated some ability in research. Often your previous experience and performance, such as in an undergraduate or a Master’s research project, will show whether research is right for you and you are right for research.
  • Overseas applicants also need to satisfy the English Language requirement [IELTS 6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in all four elements of the test or equivalent qualification acceptable to the university].

If you meet the above criteria, the next step is to check whether we can supervise research in your chosen area. We only take MPhil/PhD students to whom we can offer expert research supervision from one of our academic staff. Therefore, your research question needs to engage with the research interests of one of our staff.

How do I contact potential supervisors?

Select one potential supervisor from our list of Academic Staff and send them an email containing:

  • a brief CV (1-2 pages maximum)
  • a concise statement that you are interested in studying for a PhD/MPhil, stating when you would start, and how you would plan to fund the research
  • a brief statement of the research question or interest, and how you think the question could be investigated

Our academic staff are very happy to receive approaches like this, in order that they can liaise with you to develop a research proposal of mutual interest.

The potential supervisor should get back to you within a couple of weeks. They may invite you to meet with them or they may invite you to apply formally.

If you have difficulty identifying or contacting an appropriate supervisor, please contact Dr Kathryn Higgins who will be happy to help.

How do I apply?

Applications to study for an MPhil or a PhD are handled centrally by the University’s Postgraduate Admissions Office.
To apply, you should use the online application system.

What documents do I need in support of my application?

To make an application you will need to complete or provide the following:

  • An fully completed online application.
  • A research proposal of not more than 2000 words (excluding bibliography), drafted according to our guidelines on proposal writing.  You must contact a potential supervisor who will provide feedback on your draft. You should not submit an application and proposal unless you have received feedback on your draft from a potential supervisor within the School.
  • Two references [including at least one academic reference]. Please choose your referees carefully, since we shall be contacting them for an opinion as to your suitably for research.
  • If your first language is not English, a language certificate (IELTS  6.5 with a minimum of 5.5 in all four elements of the test or equivalent qualification acceptable to the university, or other proven expertise in English writing and reading e.g. undertaking a higher degree through the medium of English]

Also, take care to describe clearly the level of your primary degree. If you obtained your primary degree from a university outside the UK it can speed up the application process if you can relate your qualification to the UK system.

Is there a Closing Date?

Our MPhil/PhD can be studied for on a part-time or full-time basis.

For part-time study – the closing date for this option is 31st August each year.

For full-time study (self-funding) – for those full time candidates who do not wish to compete for a studentship or who are not eligible to compete for a studentship the closing date is 31st August each year.

For full-time study and application for an studentship/award –  awards are only available to full time students.   Candidates wishing to apply for scholarships available within the School  must apply for full-time study at the same time. Discover our current studentships and closing dates on our Scholarships page.

For more information please contact:

Mrs Lara Sittlington

PhD Programme Secretary

Tel:  (028) 9097 5961