How MPhils/PhDs work

For an MPhil/PhD, you need to undertake independent and original research that makes a contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.

Finding an MPhil/PhD

If you want to study for an MPhil/PhD at Derby, there are two options available to you:

  • We have funded MPhil/PhDs, called studentships, where you research a predefined project
  • We offer self-funded research projects where you would fund the project yourself. These projects can have a predefined focus like studentships, or if none of the advertised opportunities are right for you, you can propose your own research project. To do this, you would need to write a research proposal which will form part of your MPhil/PhD application. You will need to speak to a potential research supervisor in your area of interest before submitting an application. Take a look at our list of researchers. This is to check that your research proposal aligns with our research projects and expertise. You would need to fund the MPhil/PhD yourself or find external funding

Find out more about funding for your MPhil/PhD

Start dates

You can enrol on an MPhil/PhD at four points during the academic year:

  • September
  • January
  • March
  • June

You will need to apply at least four months in advance of your intended start date. If you are an international applicant and you need to apply for a visa, you will need to apply for an MPhil/PhD earlier.

Find out more about applying

Campus-based or online study

You can now choose to study for an MPhil/PhD through on-campus study or online study. However, online study may not be possible for all projects, for example, those that are lab-based. The training, support and qualification you receive at the end of your study, will all be the same. If you would like to undertake an MPhil/PhD online, please make it clear on your application.

Academic guidance

When you undertake an MPhil/PhD, you are allocated a supervisory team who will support you. This team consists of at least two academics who are experts in the field your research focuses on. They will also be experienced in supporting postgraduate research students.

You will meet regularly with your supervisors - at least six times within each academic year, but often much more than this. In the early stages of your MPhil/PhD, your supervisors will help you to refine your research project and produce a realistic research plan. In the latter stages, they will provide feedback on what you have written, help you prepare for your viva voce (final oral exam), and help you disseminate your research.

You can also meet with a research-active member of staff from outside your supervisory team twice a year, for additional support and guidance.

research active member of staff supporting a PhD student

The structure of a traditional MPhil/PhD

Preliminary phase

You will develop your initial research project idea, either by yourself or with your supervisory team. You will look at the main literature and authors on the topic, identify potential aims and objectives for your research, and consider an appropriate methodological approach, taking into account ethical and resource implications.

Phase 1

In this phase, you will work closely with your supervisory team to clarify your initial research ideas, refine your research question and identify the scope and boundaries of your project. You will begin to develop your project methodology and critical reading and writing skills.

You will form a good working relationship with your supervisory team, who will help you to take an effective approach to record keeping. They will also help you identify development opportunities to support your progress.

Phase 2

In this phase, you will be collecting data and undertaking critical reading and writing around the literature associated with the project, to build up your references. You will be in regular contact with your supervisory team, either face-to-face or online and should be receiving regular feedback on your writing. 

You will be taking part in development activities, such as skills sessions or conferences, both to improve your subject-specific knowledge and to improve your general skills e.g. presentation.

Phase 3

In Phase 3, you will be completing an analysis of your research findings, writing this up into a thesis, proofreading it and polishing it, and then submitting it towards your MPhil/PhD.

You should now begin to look for opportunities to disseminate your research while working with your supervisory team to prepare for your viva voce an oral exam, in which you will give a verbal defence of your thesis. There are normally two examiners who will ask you questions about your research and how it has made an original contribution to knowledge.

Phase 4

After your viva voce exam, you may need to complete some revisions to your thesis before you can graduate. You will also review the project dissemination strategy with your supervisors, to ensure all outcomes are disseminated and the potential impact of the research is realised.

An MPhil/PhD by Published Works

An MPhil/PhD by Published Works is a shorter, alternative route for those that already have a published body of work, which could include creative works. It usually takes one year full-time or two years part-time. This route is designed to provide doctoral recognition for your previous research achievements. You need to provide a critical appraisal of these works, similar to the thesis requirements for a traditional MPhil/PhD.

If you would like to apply for a MPhil/PhD by Published Works, you should first discuss your suitability with a relevant member of academic staff (as with all research degrees.) You can then apply using the normal application process.