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Research Degree Programmes - How to Apply

Applying Online

We strongly advise you to use our online application form because it is the quickest and easiest method for applying for admission to our courses. If you are unable to apply online please contact apply@aston.ac.uk

For information on completing the form view the Online application guidance notes.
If you are experiencing technical difficulties with the online application form please see the Online application guidance notes - Technical Problems, alternatively email: isa_helpdesk@aston.ac.uk

Please note: When progressing through the application form please use the hyperlinks/buttons at the bottom of each page and not your web browser back and forward buttons.

Start your application by going to the online application form and selecting a start year and Degree Programme.

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Entry Requirements

Academic Entry Requirements

You should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a first or upper second class Honours degree or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution). Please provide transcripts of the marks you have already achieved with your application.  If your qualification is suitable and your grades are good, we would normally accepted this as providing evidence of your research potential.

We also consider applicants who have substantial and significant work experience in a relevant field.  These applicants will normally conduct their research in their work environment.

English Language Entry Requirements

Non-native speakers of English are normally required to satisfy the following minimum English language requirements:

TOEFL IBT: 93 (23 in Writing, 19 in Speaking, 18 in Reading and 19 in Listening)
IELTS:   6.5 (6.0 in Writing Speaking, Reading and Listening).

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course.

For applicants from non-English speaking countries, it is necessary to have taken either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the British Council IELTS test. However, if the Candidate holds a Master's degree from a U.K. University, this requirement may be waived.Please contact the school for further information.

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Research Project Proposal – Your Research Interests

There is a section on the application form asking about your research interests. This enables us to match you with potential supervisors or research groups more easily. You will also be required to submit a research proposal on a project you are interested in, however your research activity will be defined in consultation with your supervisors.

When writing your proposal you should consider the following points:

  • A proposed title of the research topic
  • Overview of the research area - You should provide a brief abstract of your intended research topic. 
  • Development of the research problem – Theoretically demonstrate the practical importance of your research design and provide a brief but focused review of relevant literature.  In your review, highlight current thinking and research relating to the project, the gaps within this research and how this acts 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 - Here you should demonstrate your awareness of the debates and issues raised in relevant literature and how they under pin your research problem. 
  • Methodology - This section should demonstrate preliminary ideas about the project 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 - demonstrate your understanding of the need for planning and provide rough timelines detailing how you intended to structure your 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.
You are welcome to contact one of our academic to discuss your proposed project before making an application.  The research interests of all our academic staff can be found with each Research Group.


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When should I apply?

You can apply for a place at any time of the year, unless you are applying for a specific studentship or scholarship with a deadline. Research students can commence their studies on one of four dates: 1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October in any year. Please apply as early as possible before your preferred start date to enable us to process your application in good time for your start date. This is particularly important for international students who need extra time to apply for a visa.

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Supporting Documents

Please include the following supporting documents with your application form:

  • Transcripts of degrees and copies of certificates
  • Two academic references from your most recent academic institution, or details of two referees that you are happy for us to contact. If arranging your own references, please provide your referees with this Reference Form
  • If English is not your first language, your IELTS or TOEFL score (or test date if you have yet to sit the examinations)

We may not be able to reach a decision on your application if any of these documents are missing.

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Successful Applications

Once we have all your references and associated documents, your application will be forwarded to possible supervisors in relevant research groups. At this point, a potential supervisor may contact you either to discuss your application, request more information, or even invite you for an interview. 

If you meet our criteria for admission and a supervisor in your chosen area of research is available, an offer letter will be sent to your correspondence address. If your offer is conditional, you will be required to fulfil these conditions prior to your enrolment.

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Unsuccessful Applications

Applicants that are unsuccessful will be notified by letter. The most common reasons for an applicant to be unsuccessful are that either you do not meet our entry criteria, or no-one suitable is available to supervise you at this moment in time. You may reapply at a later date if you have improved your qualifications, English Language ability, or your research interests have changed.

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University Admissions Policy

A copy of the University Admissions Policy, Guidelines and Procedures can be found here.

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Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research