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How to apply for
our research degrees

Study for a PhD in the heart of Scotland at the University of Stirling. If you’ve got the drive and the potential to join our ground-breaking research community here’s how you can apply for a research degree at the University of Stirling.

Before you apply

To help your application process, our general entry requirements for our 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.
  • If your first language is not English you’re required to show English language competency equivalent to the minimum level of IELTS 6.5 (6.0 in all bands). Some subjects require a higher level of English language competency.
  • A research proposal that is appropriate for the degree and agreed with the proposed lead supervisor.
  • Your entry can also depend on the availability of suitable supervisory and resource arrangements.

We're here to help

The Institute for Advanced Studies is here to help prospective and current students with their postgraduate study at Stirling. For any queries, please contact us at

Ready to apply?

If you’ve met all the criteria above and have already spoken with a potential supervisor and have a final research proposal to upload, you can apply now.

Funding and scholarship opportunities

Find out more about scholarship opportunities for postgraduate research.

How to apply

Follow these steps to apply for a research degree at Stirling.

  • Step 1: Developing your research proposal

    Before applying for a research degree, it’s important to understand what you would like to research. Take a look at our PhD subject areas for more information and make contact with Faculties directly if you want any more information. 

    If you don’t yet know your subject area, you may find it helpful to look at our current funded opportunities or PhD projects listed on

    If you know what you want to research and would like to find a supervisor to support you, you will need to develop a research proposal. This will help to refine your ideas and think carefully about what you hope to achieve with your research. This document should include  a detailed background, rationale and context as to why you want to undertake this research, clear aims and objectives, your professional expertise, methodology and how you will approach this study. 

    It is important to have clear objectives – and being able to articulate them succinctly – will help you to create a more compelling proposal or research overview when you get in touch with potential supervisors.

  • Step 2: Choose a subject area and find a supervisor

    Once you’re confident you have a good core idea for the research you’d like to carry out, you should identify the subject area your research will fall under and find a supervisor who can support you in your work.

    If you already know your supervisor you can contact them directly. If you don’t know your supervisor, you can use our Find a Supervisor tool.

    The tool is simple: You’ll see a list of all the research areas we have expertise in, and names of staff working in those areas. Click the “More Info” button alongside a researcher’s name to see specific details of their work and find out if their interests align with your research proposal.

    Once you think you’ve found the ideal supervisor, it’s time to get in touch.

  • Step 3: Contact a supervisor

    After identifying someone you think would be a suitable supervisor for your research, click on the “Express interest” button beside their name in the Find a Supervisor tool.

    You’ll then have an opportunity to attach either a research proposal or research overview outlining your ideas. 

    If you don’t have a fully developed research proposal to submit, don’t worry – your supervisor can help you fine-tune your research overview and turn it into a final proposal. Your overview should cover the following details:

    • What are you trying to address with your research?
    • Key words associated with your research proposal.
    • 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 wish to use.
    • Any other relevant information – such as funding you may have applied for or been awarded.
  • Step 4: Submit your application

    Once you’ve spoken with a supervisor and agreed your research proposal, you’re ready to apply for a research degree.

    You can do this via our online application portal.

    The portal will show you a list of Available Programmes. Your supervisor will be able to advise you which of these programmes you should select when the time comes to make your application. You’ll also be able to choose from a variety of start dates. Select the date you have agreed with your supervisor and click “Apply Now”.

    During the application process, you’ll be asked to upload your final proposal, as discussed with your supervisor.

    You’ll also be asked to supply the following documents:

    • Personal statement
    • Proof of qualifications (copies of certificates or transcripts)
    • One academic reference
    • Curriculum Vitae/Resumé (if this includes additional information not provided in the online application form)

    EU and international applicants will also be asked to supply:

    • A translated version of your transcript (if necessary)
    • Evidence of English language proficiency (if relevant)

    And international applicants who require a visa to enter the UK will need to upload:

    • A copy of the personal details page of your valid passport
    • A copy of your current Tier 4 visa, if you are currently studying in the UK

    If you’ve already spoken with a potential supervisor and have a final research proposal to upload, you can apply now.

  • Step 5: Accept your place

    If you satisfy the entry requirements, we’ll write to you to offer you a place. We’ll let you know how to accept the offer and what you’ll need to know before starting at the University of Stirling. We look forward to hearing from you. 

When to apply

You can apply up to one year before you want to start your research degree. We can accept completed applications up to just before the start of semester, but we advise early application, particularly from overseas applicants, to allow sufficient time for our decision and to arrange visas and travel to Scotland.

There are no deadlines as we consider applications throughout the year. 

You can normally begin a research programme (PhD/MPhil) in October, January, April or July.

We recommend that international candidates who require a Tier 4 (General) student visa to study in the UK should apply at least 8 weeks in advance of your course start date. 

EU applicants

If you commence your studies in 2019/20 and 2020/21, the UK Government has confirmed that you’ll remain eligible to apply for Research Council PhD studentships at UK institutions to help cover costs for the duration of your study. The Research Councils UK (RCUK) currently provides fees-only funding.

Graduate admissions

If you have any questions about postgraduate study please contact us.

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