Research degrees

At the University of Stirling, we truly believe that great ideas and ground-breaking research can transform our society and help to enhance economic, social and cultural connections across Scotland, the UK and the entire world. Research is a critical aspect of our learning and teaching. As a postgraduate research student, you’ll be given an insight into that research – and will also earn the opportunity to make key research contributions of your own.

Research with impact

Our world-leading academics are experts in their fields, whose work is centred on making an impact. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), 87% of the University's research was assessed as having an outstanding or very considerable impact on society.

Each of our faculties host sector-leading research groups. They serve as crucial information hubs for researchers from all over the world, and have evolved to establish strong and internationally recognised reputations. Whether it’s working to prevent cancer, advising governments on policy or improving food security, our researchers work together to be the difference and solve real-world problems. 

An enthusiastic student writing in a notebook

Which research degree is for me?

We offer Master of Philosophy (MPhil), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Professional Doctorates.

Find the right research degree for you
postgraduate journalism student

Institute for Advanced Studies

You’ll have access to the Institute for Advanced Studies: Postgraduate Research Zone which offers you 24/7 access to a range of valuable resources that will help you in your studies and research.

Institute for Advanced Studies

Why Stirling for your research degree?

Our aim is simple. We want our research to change lives and tackle the global issues of our time. So we provide the best conditions for our thriving community of 3,800 UK and international postgraduate students studying with us.

Collaboration is at the core of our approach – not just working across disciplines but also with business, other universities, the public sector and government. Our academics are experts in their fields, internationally-recognised and shaping research groups and hubs.

See what Stirling is all about.

Frequently asked questions

Is a PhD for me?

Postgraduate research degrees can open up a range of opportunities for graduates. It is a period of intensive training and intellectual challenge, which allows students to build upon their existing knowledge within a certain subject area, and push the boundaries of current research. Using this experience, our graduates have gone on to pursue successful careers in a range of sectors, including health and sport research and development, clinical and industry practice, the government, research councils, and further academia.

How long does a PhD take?

Typically, a full-time PhD course in the UK lasts between three and four years, but the duration depends largely on the funding stream. The University and Faculty have a number of initiatives to help you stick to your planned research timetable and meet your milestones throughout your study. There is an active postgraduate research community, where the level of peer and supervisory support is second to none.

What are the AHRC and ESRC Doctoral Training Partnerships and how will Stirling’s membership benefit me?

Stirling has developed strong relationships, and participates proactively, with the AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership Scotland and the ESRC Scottish Doctoral Training Centre, also known as the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) and the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS). The SGSAH and SGSSS offer additional training opportunities for postgraduate research students, allowing them to benefit from the latest learning and teaching in research, and connect aspiring researchers to a vast network of leading academics in their fields. These two national graduate schools are fully funded by two leading UK Research Councils: the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). For research students funded by the National Environment Research Council (NERC), Stirling also has established links with the IAPETUS Doctoral Training Partnership. In addition, our own Institute for Advanced Studies participates regularly in UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) events to ensure our students are up to date with wider postgraduate research sector developments.

What qualifications do I need?

Normally, a Masters-level degree – or international equivalent – is required to progress to a research degree. However, it can sometimes be possible to transfer directly from your undergraduate studies if you are interested in pursuing further study. Regardless of your subject preference, it is expected that you will have achieved at least an upper second-class bachelor’s degree in your undergraduate studies. For students who are keen to progress to doctoral study but do not have a Masters, we offer more than 100 postgraduate taught courses across a range of disciplines at Stirling to bridge the required knowledge gap. All of our taught courses include an element of research-based learning, but the Master of Research – commonly known as MRes – in particular offers students an intensive training in research methods, and will put graduates in good stead for PhD study.

How and when should I apply?

Read more on our How to apply for our Research Degrees page. 

How many papers am I expected to publish during my PhD?

There is no minimum requirement in order to graduate. Students may publish one or two papers during their studies, but there is a large variance in this area. Although it does not affect your ability to graduate, high-quality publications will make you more competitive in the job market, particularly if you plan to follow an academic career.

What is an integrated 1+3 studentship and how could it benefit me?

Students who do not have a Masters qualification but are passionate about progressing to PhD research can apply for an integrated 1+3 degree programme. This study option allows you to complete a full year of taught study and, providing you meet the necessary progression criteria, move immediately on to three years of PhD research. Securing an integrated Masters and PhD programme will not only provide you with an excellent route into doctoral research; it also gives the added security of knowing your research funding is taken care of before you begin your studies.

Are there opportunities to conduct research abroad?

Yes, lots! Many of our students travel overseas for training and research purposes. They go to Canada, Alaska, the Tropics; they participate in exchange programmes in Australia, Germany and Spain. The opportunities are endless, and the extent to which a student can travel during their PhD studies is very much up to the individual. You can apply for specific exchange programme grants, utilise an existing relationship between a supervisor here and collaborators abroad, or you could be a part of a specific joint project with another institution overseas. At Stirling, we encourage our students to think outside the box and explore as many different perspectives and contexts as possible, in order to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

Am I able to change supervisor if I want or need to?

Yes, and it is very much encouraged to ask for that if you feel you need it. Our job is to ensure that you come into a research environment that allows you to fulfil your research potential. So, if needed, we have made it very easy to change supervisors – although this rarely occurs. In an effort to ensure our students have the best guidance from the outset, all PhD students at Stirling are assigned two supervisors: one primary and one secondary. This gives you two points of contact at any time during your studies and should ensure all of your research needs are catered for.

I have a family who need to travel with me, is there support for this?

Absolutely, there are lots of students from around the world who choose to relocate with their families in order to pursue a PhD qualification. As this can be a big commitment for your loved ones, the University of Stirling aims to ensure the transition is as easy as possible. Staff within our Psychology department run a dedicated nursery programme, allowing young ones to integrate early on and make new friends. We also offer dedicated family accommodation on campus, allowing your family to relocate without the stress of finding a new home. There are regular coffee mornings and informal clubs – set up by partners of PhD students – which create a safe, friendly environment for you to quickly set up roots in Stirling and feel at home in Scotland.

PhD profiles

Viktoria Mileva

Dominance and prestige are two of the ways that we identify people with a high social status. But how does this judgement affect the way we behave towards them? This is a question that Dr Viktoria Mileva set out to answer during her PhD studies. 

Katherine Raines

PhD researcher Kat Raines spent three years investigating how damaging radiation is to bumblebees in Chernobyl – her findings have captured the attention of international policymakers, academics and media. 

Tom Di Virgilio

Former PhD student Tom Di Virgilio worked alongside fellow University of Stirling academics to help conduct research that featured in BBC One documentary 'Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football and Me'.

Contact us

If you have any questions about Postgraduate Research at Stirling, please contact us.