Graduate School Handbook part three

Information about the admissions process for postgraduate research degrees at UWE Bristol.

Regulations about applications and admissions

PGR3.1 Consideration of applications

PGR3.1.1R Applicants must submit a complete application, according to the University’s process.

PGR3.1.2R Proposed research can be in any field of study in which the University has the expertise and resource to offer supervision. The proposal must be capable of leading to scholarly work, and the production of a written thesis or other agreed outputs.

PGR3.1.3R Applications will be reviewed in the appropriate faculty. Research proposals are considered according to academic merit.

PGR3.1.4 The following factors will be considered: suitability for research degree study, alignment to the faculty’s research priorities; availability of supervision and other resources; mode and place of study; availability of funding; any related accredited studies and research training; research governance including ethical approval requirements and confidentiality; intellectual property rights; arrangements with any collaborators.

PGR3.2 Entry requirements

PGR3.2.1R Applicants for the MPhil, PhD, DPhil or Professional Doctorate are normally expected to have a UK 2:1 honours degree or above, or a UK Masters qualification (or comparable standard, if outside the UK).

PGR3.2.2R Applicants must meet minimum English language proficiency requirements. For international applicants wishing to pursue research at UWE Bristol these are IELTS 6.5–7.5 overall or accepted equivalents. Faculties may vary their requirements within this range. Any such variation will be detailed in the postgraduate research study eligibility criteria available on the Graduate School website.

Note: Applicants who require a student visa must apply at least three months in advance of the proposed start date in order to obtain an offer in time to apply for a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), visa and ATAS certificate (if applicable).  More information can be found later in this chapter.

PGR3.2.3R Applicants for Professional Doctorate programmes are also expected to have experience of relevant professional practice, and may need to demonstrate that they have access to a suitable professional context in which to conduct their research.

PGR3.2.4R To be eligible to apply for the MPhil or DPhil by publication, applicants must:

a. be employed by the University or an affiliated academic institution for a minimum of one year, with at least six months remaining on their contract, or

b. have a close association with the University as agreed by the Executive Dean of the relevant Faculty, or the Vice-Chancellor.

In either category, applicants must also comply with the relevant published criteria at PGR3.7.

Registration for DPhil or MPhil by publication is on a part-time basis.

PGR3.3 Offer of a place

PGR3.3.1R Successful applicants will only receive a formal offer with Terms and Conditions after a successful formal interview. Interviews may take place by video conference, using software approved by the University, where it is not possible to hold a face-to-face event.

PGR3.3.2R The appropriate Faculty Research Degrees Committee will approve any offer of a place on a research degree programme.

PGR3.3.3R The formal offer will name an appropriate Director of Studies.

Procedures for postgraduate research degree admissions

PGR3.4 Responsibilities of the applicant

  • To submit a completed application form with all supporting documents, including a research proposal, evidence of how the English language requirement is met, evidence of previous qualifications and references, as detailed in the postgraduate research study eligibility criteria available on the Graduate School webpages.
  • Before submitting their application, the applicant must discuss their research proposal with their potential Director of Studies. If no potential Director of Studies has been identified, they should contact the Faculty Director of PGR Studies for advice.
  • If the applicant’s work forms part of a larger group project or collaboration, it is their responsibility to show how their individual contribution will contribute to the overall project.
  • If the application is viable, and passes the review process, the applicant must attend a formal interview in person, via video link or by telephone.
  • If a subsequent formal offer is made, the applicant will receive an offer letter and terms and conditions document, which must be signed and returned to the Graduate School to accept the place.

The terms and conditions document will include, but is not confined to:

  • start date
  • award details
  • Director of Studies
  • fees and funding (including any project fees, bench/lab fees or other costs)
  • research degree progress milestone deadlines
  • regulations and policies including requirements for data management and storage
  • requirements for students who need a visa to study ((student visa or Tier 4 visa)
  • Intellectual Property ownership requirements
  • any specific conditions relating to the applicant’s offer
  • international applicants should also familiarise themselves with the University’s web pages for international students, and read the further information and guidance section for international applicants below.

Applicants who need a visa to study should also familiarise themselves with the University’s webpages for international students, and read the further information and guidance section for international applicants below. 

PGR3.5 Responsibilities of the application reviewers, potential Directors of Studies and interview panel members

  • Faculties are responsible for the selection and admission of applicants.
  • Reviewers and potential Directors of Studies must consider the viability of the research proposal in relation to the faculty’s existing research priorities, availability of suitable supervision and resources before inviting an applicant to interview.
  • A member of the faculty’s Research Degrees Committee (FRDC), who has received the relevant interview training, must act as panel chair at interview.
  • The potential Director of Studies, or another member of the potential supervision team, is normally on the panel.
  • The panel chair must complete the Graduate School interview form to record the interview and its outcome.
  • Where the panel decides that an offer should be made, a suitable and qualified Director of Studies must be named. Other supervision team members may be considered at this point, but it is not essential to name them until the project registration (RD1) stage.
  • The panel must provide clear information about any additional project fees, lab/bench fees or other costs for which the applicant will be liable.
  • The faculty’s PGR director must approve any offer before it is sent to the applicant.

PGR3.6 Non-standard applications

PGR3.6.1 Professional experience

If the faculty wishes to consider an application on the basis of professional experience rather than previous academic qualification, then equivalence must be clearly demonstrated. Faculty reviewers must consider references from two sources that are independent of the proposed supervision team which endorse the applicant’s suitability to complete a research degree. The applicant may also be required to submit a portfolio of work to evidence their application, if necessary (eg publications, written reports, or other evidence of accomplishment).

PGR3.6.2 Studying mainly outside the UK

If the faculty wishes to consider an application where the research degree will be completed substantially outside the UK, the following criteria must be satisfied:

  1. Satisfactory evidence of the facilities that will be made available for the research and to support the PGR researcher at the main location of study.
  2. Supervision arrangements must enable frequent and substantial contact between the Postgraduate Researcher (PGR) and their Director of Studies (DoS), and with the full supervisory team when appropriate.
  3. Arrangements must be in place to meet professional development and accredited training requirements, including attendance in person at a UWE Bristol campus site where required.
  4. The proposed supervisors and interview panel must be confident that the applicant has the capability to study effectively at a distance.
  5. Arrangements for the review of ongoing progress must comply with requirements detailed in Part 11 and Part 12 of the Graduate School Handbook, the Progression Examination and Progress Review. The applicant and DoS must be clear that the Progression Examination viva and Final Assessment viva will normally take place at a UWE Bristol campus site.

PGR3.7 Applications for MPhil or DPhil (by publication)

Applications for the DPhil/MPhil (by publication) may be considered according to the following criteria:

  1. It is expected that applicants will already be research active, having experience of publishing their research outputs in recognised journals or other professional publications within the field.
  2. Where the applicant is employed part time or full time by UWE Bristol, they must be either engaged on a permanent contract, or on a fixed-term or temporary contract of a minimum of one year, with at least six months remaining at the PGR’s start date. Staff on a fixed-term or temporary contract must be contracted for at least ten hours per week.
  3. Where the applicant is from an affiliated academic institution, they must be employed by that institution on a full or part-time permanent contract.
  4. Where the applicant claims eligibility for the DPhil/MPhil programme due to close association with UWE Bristol, this can include staff members who have retired from employment at UWE Bristol within the calendar year directly preceding the proposed start date.
  5. Any invitation to apply extended to external applicants by the Faculty on the basis of close association with UWE Bristol must be made to an individual rather than on a solely corporate basis.
  6. All successful applicants must follow the admissions, project registration and progression processes for doctoral or MPhil awards published by the Graduate School.
  7. The eligibility criteria for external applicants (ie not current or former UWE Bristol employees) applying on the grounds of close association with UWE Bristol will normally include the following:
  • The applicant must already be research active and have a significant body of published research eg in recognised journals in the field (named sole and/or joint author).
  • Where the association is via an employer’s partnership with the University/faculty, applicants must have personal involvement with the resultant collaborative research activities, and this should be ongoing, or at the least recent (ie within the last 12 months). This may include involvement in joint research projects or initiatives leading to significant joint outputs in which the applicant should be able to evidence the level of their individual input (eg project manager, named author etc.).
  • There is an expectation that the individual’s DPhil/MPhil by publication registration will give rise to further collaborative research and joint publications/outputs, and this should be factored in to the research project registration proposal (RD1).

The Executive Dean of the faculty will have final authority to decide the eligibility of individuals to apply where not specifically covered in the above criteria, but all successful applicants must comply with published processes as per point 6 above and are expected to have discussed their proposal with the relevant faculty/school prior to application.  

Additional note: Speculative applications from external applicants will not normally be accepted. All external applications made on the basis of close association should normally be accompanied by an email of support or other communication from the relevant faculty/school to the Graduate School.

Further information about applying

Find out about available research degrees at UWE Bristol

Everything you need to know about research degrees at UWE Bristol, from finding out if a research degree is the right thing for you, to start dates and fees, and how to apply, can be found on the postgraduate research study application pages.

Guidance for international PGR applicants applying to study in the UK for the first time, or those already studying in the UK

Visa applications

  • Candidates applying for research degree programmes from overseas should refer to UWE Bristol's guidance on visas and immigration.
  • The Home Office rules on immigration and student visas change frequently, so applicants should stay up to date on issues which may affect them. Please refer to the Home Office website for the latest information on immigration rules and student visas.

Visa extensions

  • PGRs who have been accepted to study on a research degree award, and who are currently studying towards an undergraduate or Masters-level degree at a UK institution (including UWE Bristol) should allow enough time to apply for the new visa before their current visa expires. However, in some cases the applicant may have to return to their home before starting their research degree.
  • Immigration Advisers can be contacted for appointments and advice by email , or by tel: +44 (0) 117 32 83871 (Monday/Wednesday/Friday 09:00-12:00). You can also book a telephone appointment to discuss a query with an Immigration Adviser.
  • Part-time international PGRs whose study is based in their home country who need to attend UWE Bristol on a short-term basis will need to apply to the Home Office for an appropriate visa. Please note that it is the PGR's responsibility to arrange and to pay for the visa, travel and other expenses relating to the visit. Questions about visa applications should be sent directly to the University Immigration Advice Team.

Points Based System

  • Under the Student Visa Points Based System (PBS), UWE Bristol is responsible for ensuring students are undertaking their studies whilst in the UK. The University is required to inform the Home Office if PGRs:
    • do not arrive for the start of the course;
    • change their course, transfer institution;
    • defer or suspend their studies;
    • do not attend or engage with their studies for significant periods of time;
    • withdraw from a course.
  • Full information on the PBS and how it is implemented at UWE Bristol, including attendance requirements, can be found in UWE Bristol's guidance on visas and immigration.


  • The ATAS (Academic Technology Approval Scheme) applies to many new PGRs at UWE Bristol, and this approval process can add at least 30 working days before the application for a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) can be processed. Further information can be found on the ATAS guidance webpages. Please note that April to September are the busiest times to apply for ATAS.
  • PGRs should note that, even if ATAS clearance was not required at the start of the research degree, it is possible that it will be required if there has been a significant change to the research project, a change in the Faculty that you are based in, or an application for a visa extension is needed. It is likely that PGRs with ATAS will have to reapply if they need to extend their student visa, and should therefore allow sufficient time for the reapplication process.
  • PGRs who are usually based overseas in their home country may be required to obtain ATAS clearance prior to coming to the UK for study purposes, eg to attend your progression exam viva or final viva. You must allow sufficient time to obtain the ATAS certificate prior to arrival in the UK. You will need to apply for ATAS for each trip/visa you apply for. Please contact the Graduate School if you are unsure whether you will need to apply for ATAS for your particular research area.

Getting used to life in the UK

  • There are many sources of advice and help, depending on the nature of the query. For academic issues, your Director of Studies should normally be the first point of contact. For administrative queries or any other concerns, please contact the Graduate School Office by email to

Reviewing your application

All applications are received by the Graduate School, who check that all relevant information has been received before sending to review. Applications will be reviewed by an appropriate panel within the faculty or faculties within which your research would be located.

As applications are reviewed in detail by relevant and experienced faculty researchers, the length of time it can take to review an application can vary due to availability. We aim to complete a review within six to eight weeks of receiving all relevant documentation.

Interview panel and outcome

Interview panel

The interview panel will always include a Chair, who will be a member of the relevant Faculty Research Degrees Committee, acting on behalf of the Committee, and usually the potential Director of Studies. Another person can often be included if necessary – this will be someone with particular relevance to the project such as a potential supervisor, collaborator, or someone with subject-specific knowledge. It is the responsibility of the panel to make an academic and strategic decision on whether to recommend accepting the applicant.

Interview outcome

The Chair of the panel is responsible for contacting the applicant to notify them informally of the recommended outcome and give feedback if requested. This might be on the day of the interview for an individual application, or after all interviews have taken place if part of a competitive studentship process. Final offers are subject to approval from the relevant Faculty Postgraduate Research (PGR) Director.

Conditional offers

An offer might be conditional on confirmation of funding, or the completion of a qualification, such as a first degree or Masters. In some cases, an offer may be made that is conditional on the successful completion of an English language qualification, but please note that this is not possible for admission onto postgraduate research degrees in the Faculties of Business and Law and Arts, Creative Industries and Education. More information about English language qualifications is available in the postgraduate research study eligibility criteria.

Arriving late at UWE Bristol to start your research degree

If you are not going to be able to arrive at UWE Bristol in order to start your degree on the date specified in your terms and conditions, you should contact the Graduate School and your Director of Studies to let them know and, in some circumstances, to agree a deferral (approved delay) to your start date.

You should also discuss with your Director of Studies what initial work you can make a start on from where you are eg beginning your literature review, to ensure that you do not fall behind with your research and will be able to submit for project registration (RD1) on time.

Please note no extension to your RD1 submission deadline will normally be made due to late arrival.

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