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Research Degrees (PhD / MPhil)

Key Information

Registration dates: Four registration dates: October / January / April / July.

Fees (2014/15 on campus programme):

  • UK/EU students: £3,996 (part time £1,998)
  • International students: £12,316 (part-time £6,158) 

Home/EU fees are subject to a slight increase each year. International fees are fixed for the duration of the programme.


Distance learning available:



Aston University Admissions Policy:
The admissions process follows Aston University's Admissions Policy

Research Degree Regulations:
The Research Degree Programme is governed by Aston University's General Regulations for Degrees by Research and Thesis

During year one of the programme (or years one and two for part time students) research students
attend the Research Methods and Skills Course and work towards submission of the Qualifying Report examination. The Qualifying Report is between 6,000 and 10,000 words and is a summary on the progress of a student’s research. Assessment is conducted through a viva voce examination
whose purpose is not only to ascertain a student’s academic potential but also to provide independent advice on a student’s research that students usually find very helpful.

Students who are successful in the Qualifying Report examination then follow the full PhD programme route through to submission of the final thesis. PhD students have three years full time or six years part time from their research start date in which to submit the thesis. Examination of the
thesis is via viva voce examination and successful students after this stage receive Aston’s ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ research degree.

The School of Languages and Social Sciences offers the following research degrees:

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

The degree of Master of Philosophy may be awarded to a student whose postgraduate research work represents a contribution to knowledge and shows a critical appreciation of existing knowledge in the field. The work must be communicated coherently in a thesis presented in a critical, literary and orderly way and, where appropriate, must show evidence of adequate analysis and discussion of results.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy may be awarded to a student whose postgraduate research work represents a substantial original contribution to knowledge and shows a critical appreciation of existing knowledge in the field. The work must be communicated coherently in a thesis presented in a critical, literary and orderly way and, where appropriate, must show evidence of adequate analysis and discussion of results.

The School of Languages and Social Sciences has funded a number of research degrees. Details of any future funding opportunities will be made available through this webpage. 

Applicants should:
  • Possess a Masters degree (awarded by a UK university) or an equivalent qualification. An overall merit or equivalent, with merit in the dissertation is normally required. 
  • Have the required skills and experience
  • Submit a detailed research proposal (typically 8 to 12 pages) on a relevant subject. (Please note that applicants for the following programmes are only required to submit a research proposal outline): 
    Research - Applied Linguistics by distance learning 
    Research - Languages and Translation Studies by distance learning 

Language requirements:

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

  • IELTS: 7.0 (minimum 7.0 in writing, and minimum 6.5 in speaking, listening and reading)
  • TOEFL iBT:  101 (minimum 28 in writing, 22 in speaking and 23 in listening and reading) 
  • Pearson Academic: 72 (minimum 72 in writing and 63 in speaking, listening and reading)
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade B
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): Grade A
Apply by completing the Postgraduate research application form including:
  • A substantial outline of your proposed research (see below).
  • 2 written references
  • Photocopies of your first and Masters degree certificates and a transcript of your grades
  • Evidence of an approved English language qualification (if required)
Your application and proposal will be reviewed by the School’s Research Committee - you will then be notified of the outcome.


The Research Proposal (8-12 pages)

You are required to:

(Please note that if you are applying for the following programmes you are only required to submit a research proposal outline:  
Research - Applied Linguistics by distance learning  
Research - Languages and Translation Studies by distance learning)  

  1. Outline an area of (possibly cross-disciplinary) study and demonstrate a familiarity with that area in bibliographical terms 
  2. Specify a focus for research which may be expressed in various forms, e.g. hypothesis, question and problem. You must provide details of:  
  • Your understanding of the subject at an appropriate level and highlight the scope for doctoral research
  • Your expected outcome (e.g. descriptive, explanatory, pedagogic) 
  • Which field the research will contribute to
3. Demonstrate an awareness of an appropriate research tradition (or paradigm) which will provide a focus for your project
4. Show a basic understanding of at least one appropriate theoretical model that will be used to analyse data for your study
5. Draft a plan (in line with 3 and 4 above) of how the research will be carried out over the time allowed.

Organisation of the Proposal:

  • Title 
    Identify the precise topic and  indicate the approach you plan to take, if possible. 
  • Introduction 
    This should identify the relevant research area, show why the research is worth doing and indicate what you hope to achieve.
  • Aims and Objectives 
    This expands on the first of the above topics.  In this section you should clearly set out the aim of your research, providing you with an opportunity to develop your research question and hypothesis and specify the intended outcomes.  This should be done with reference to relevant literature.  Where appropriate, there should also be reference to your individual and institutional situation in which you intend to carry out the research.
  • Orientation to Previous Research 
    This builds on the previous section and sets your work more explicitly in the context of previous work and wider issues. You should set out a justification for your own research in the context of other studies, showing how it builds on and/or orientates to these.  The section should demonstrate to the reader that you have familiarised yourself with the subject and are acquainted with current debates related to it. 
  • Data 
    This section should indicate on which data the research is planned to be carried out.
  • Methodology 
    In this section you will need to provide a justification for your methodological approach and you should expect to include the following:
    • A statement of the paradigm and tradition(s) within which you will work, a description of the data collection and procedures to be used, including work to be done in archives and a justification for these (showing why alternatives were rejected)
    • A consideration of practical issues (e.g. permissions, gaining entry, ethics) showing that data collection is possible
    • The analytical approach that you plan to adopt.
  • Timetable 
    Present a realistic timetable for the research, including research visits abroad, corresponding to the time available for the project (usually three years for a full-time and 4-6 years for  a part-time PhD, including writing-up).
  • References 
    All references to academic works should be presented consistently, in a standard format.

Dan Thomson, LSS Research Manager

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research