Research degrees at Stirling

Researchers at Stirling conduct high quality research that ranges from the strategic to the applied and that makes a vital contribution to the economic, social and cultural life of Scotland and beyond. 

The University’s performance in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) was outstanding, with Stirling enhancing its position as one of the top research-led universities in the UK. Stirling has moved up to 6th place in Scotland and 45th in the UK.  Our research expertise covers a breadth of subjects and disciplines in natural, social and health sciences, the arts and humanities and in business and management.

You too can be part of the endeavour to generate new knowledge by doing a research degree at Stirling.  Have a look at the types of research degrees that are available, the entry criteria and how to apply to study with us.

PhD – Doctor of Philosophy

Candidates for the award of PhD are required prepare a thesis, typically between 30,000 and 80,000 words long.  The thesis can be in the form of a traditional thesis or, for a PhD by publication, a suite of published papers presented with a substantive contextual narrative.  The thesis, an independent and original contribution to knowledge, is then defended at an oral examination known as the viva voce, or the viva.   Typically a PhD will take 3 full-time years to complete or 6 years if studying part-time.

The information below on how to apply refers specifically to Doctor of Philosophy programmes. 

Professional Doctorates

Professional doctorates involve a significant taught element followed by a period of research.  Candidates are required to present and defend a thesis in the same way as for a PhD.  The University of Stirling offers a number of professional doctorates (links below go to entry criteria and how to apply for each programme) :

Entry criteria

The general minimum admissions requirements for entry to research degree programmes are:

  • an upper second class honours Bachelors degree or higher qualification - for some studentships and programmes of study a suitable masters degree may be specified;
  • applicants whose first language is not English are required to demonstrate English language competency equivalent to the minimum level of IELTS 6.5 (6.0 in all bands). Some disciplines require a higher level of English language competency;
  • a research proposal that is appropriate for the degree and agreed with the proposed lead supervisor;
  • the availability of suitable supervisory and resource arrangements.

The application process explained

There are three simple steps to follow when applying to study for a research degree, including a PhD, at the University of Stirling.


Research overview and research proposal     

You should have a good idea of what you want to study – a prospective supervisor will want to explore this with you to determine if they will be able to provide appropriate supervision.

If you don’t have a research proposal please prepare a research overview which covers the following areas:

  • Overarching research question; what are you trying to address with this research?
  • Your experience in the area of study; a bit about how you came to be interested in your chosen topic
  • Any specific ideas about how you intend to approach your research or any techniques you would wish to use
  • Any other relevant information

You will need a full research proposal as part of the application process – your prospective supervisor will support you in refining and finalising your research proposal.


Identify a supervisor

You can search for potential supervisors using our Find a Supervisor Tool

Once you have found a potential supervisor please get in touch with them by email or phone.  They will be about to tell you if your area of interest is one they are able to supervise.  If you are unable to identify a supervisor then please contact Graduate Admissions who will provide further guidance.


Finalise your research proposal and apply

Once your supervisor has agreed to consider your research idea they will work with you to finalise your research proposal.

You will need to agree potential start dates - preferably 1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October. Remember if you will require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK then you must leave enough time to apply for and secure a visa before your chosen start date.

Apply online

The online application process starts with the selection of a programme of study - your supervisor will be able to give you guidance on this.  Our further application guidance outlines the information required for an application, including the documents that you will be asked to present.

Accept the offer of a place

If you satisfy the entry requirements (academic and English language competency) then you will be offered a place.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for research degrees are payable for three years for full time PhD programmes and six years for part time PhD programmes.  Fees are payable annually and may also increase annually.  The University offers a range of ways for students to pay their fees including by instalments.

Funded opportunities at Stirling can be found on our Scholarships Finder and there are a variety of other sources of funding available to home/EU and overseas students. 


© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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