How to Apply

Entry Dates

The PhD Programme intake is in October and April. Applications for the October intake should be submitted by 15th August at the latest and for the April intake by 15th March at the latest.  Any application after this date may not be processed in time for the October or April start.

Please note that there may be earlier closing dates for your application should you wish to be considered for funding.

Please refer to the Fees and Funding section for further information. Successful applicants will receive a formal offer letter.

Application Procedure

You can apply online using http://www1.aston.ac.uk/study/postgraduate/apply/apply/.

The following supporting documents are required as part of the application:

  • Research proposal (please refer to the Research Proposal information for further information);

  • Copies of your qualification;

  • Two letters of recommendation;

  • Confirmation of your TOEFL/IELTS results for those applicants from non-English speaking countries (please see Entry Requirements for language proficiency).

Student Profile

Student Profile

Daniel Wright

'I chose to pursue my PhD at Aston Business School because I was really impressed by the level of expertise of my supervisors.'


Before you submit an application we recommend that you refer to our Entry Requirements to make sure you are eligible to apply.

Contacting a Supervisor

Finding an appropriate supervisor who is an expert in your chosen area of research is essential to success on the RDP and is an important part of the application process.

As part of the application process we recommend that you look into those Academic Groups and individual academic members of staff who specialise in your intended area of research.  This will enable you to determine whether there is a good match between your research interest and ABS. 

The research interests of all members of academic staff can be found via the Academic Groups or by using the “Supervisor Search Engine” (currently under development).   If there is a member of staff whose research interest matches your own, we recommend that you contact them directly with a copy of your research proposal and discuss this further with them.  This will allow you to develop and strengthen your proposal and may lead to the academic offering to supervise your doctoral research.  In addition to contacting a prospective supervisor you also need to submit a formal application to the RDP office.  If you are successful in identifying a supervisor through this method it is essential that you indicate this on your application form.  Please be advised that a formal decision on your application can only be made once the application is received and processed by the RDP office.

Registration Options

The usual period of full time study for the PhD is three years and for the Masters Degree is one year.

A good research proposal is one of the most important aspects of your application to the Research Degrees Programme.  When the RDP office receives your research proposal we use it to confirm the quality of your ideas, your ability to think originally and critically, to ensure that you really have understood the depth of investigation that your doctoral research will entail, and that you have a good understanding of the key theories and literature.  We would normally expect your proposal to be a minimum of 1,500 words and a maximum of 2,500 words in length (excluding references). 

When writing a research proposal, you need to demonstrate that you have gone beyond generally thinking about an issue to the stage where you can begin to systematically and rigorously investigate it. In your research proposal you should clearly specify the area in which you wish to research, questions you wish to look at, and your intended approach. A good research proposal will include the following:

  • A proposed title of the research topic

  • Overview of the research area

You should provide a brief abstract of your intended research topic.  You might also refer to the way in which your own research topic fits in with the research priorities of ABS.

  • Development of research problem 

Theoretically demonstrate the practical importance of your research design and provide a brief but focused review of the literature.  In your review, highlight what is known and what is important but not known as a motivation for your study.  This section should conclude with a statement of your research objectives and potential contributions of your study.

  •  Theoretical framework

This section should detail the theory that underpins your research and a justification of its appropriateness for the issues you intend to examine.

  •  Extended literature review

In this section you should demonstrate your awareness of the debates and issues raised in the relevant literature and how they inform your research problem.  

  • Methodology

This section should demonstrate preliminary ideas about design and how you intend to implement your research. You should specify and justify the approach you feel will be most appropriate.

  • Research planning and timelines

You should demonstrate an awareness of the need for planning and provide rough timelines for your intended research.

  •  Bibliography

When approaching an academic, remember to articulate your own research interests and show a willingness to further develop your proposal, as well as convincing them that your research will be in their area of expertise. Not all academic members of staff will have vacancies for doctoral researchers and whether you are taken on by the academic for supervision will depend on the quality of your proposal and how closely your proposal fits with their own research interests. Of course, the more effort you put into your proposal the greater the chances are that you will create an interest amongst our academics.

What to Avoid

All too often what would be strong applications to the RDP are let down by a weak research proposal.  Some common weaknesses, and things that should be avoided, are:

  • Submitting a research proposal in a discipline that does not fall under any of ABS’s Academic Group subject areas.

  • Vague research proposals which are not grounded in the extant literature.

  • Poor referencing.

  • Failure to articulate the added value or potential contributions of the intended study.

Useful Resources

You may find the following resources useful when writing your research proposal:

  • Bentley, P. (2006): The PhD Application Handbook, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes)

  • Philips, E. and Pugh, D. (2005): How to Get a PhD: A Handbook for Students and Their Supervisors, (Open University Press, Milton Keynes)

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