Find the answers to frequently asked questions about studying as a researcher.
What is a research degree
We are regulated to award the following research degrees:
- Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Master of Law (LLM) (by research)
- Doctor of Music (DMus)
- Doctor of Psychology (DPsych)
- Doctor of Professional Practice (DPP)
- Doctor of Practice and Services Development (DPSD)
- PhD (Practice and Services Development)
Duration of Study
The following table summarises the minimum and maximum periods of study as you progress during your research degree:
|Degree||Period of Registration||Period for Transfer to PhD||Minimum period before transferring to writing-up|
|FT||2 years||4 years (including writing-up)||2 years|
|PT||3 years||7 years (including writing-up)||3 years|
|PhD (by prior publication)||PT||1 year||2 years|
|MPhil/LLM||FT||1 year||3 years||1 year|
|MPhil/LLM||PT||2 years||5 years||2 years||4 years|
|DPsych (top-up)||FT||18 months||4 years||1 year**|
|DPsych (top-up)||PT||30 months||4 years||2 years**|
FT = Full-time PT = Part-time
* Professional doctorates do not have the equivalent of a MPhil programme. Students will register directly onto
the doctorate programme.
** The minimum period specified above for DPsych degrees represents the time spent on the DPsych degree
itself. This is in addition to a minimum of six years’ full-time study in Psychology (or its part-time equivalent),
including three years’ full-time (or its part-time equivalent) postgraduate study in Psychology.
|MPhil/LLM||Not normally expected to exceed 50,000 words.|
|PhD||Not normally expected to exceed 100,000 words or 20,000 words for the award of PhD through the submission of portfolio prior publications.|
|DPsych||Not normally expected to exceed 40,000 words plus 5,000-6,000 words on each case study and critical literature review.|
Admissions and enrolment
City offers a range of MPhil, PhD and DPsych programmes that reflect City's research strengths; you can find out more information on our course pages.
Once you have an idea of the research project you would like to undertake, we recommend you contact the City academic with the subject expertise to discuss your project. If they feel you would be a suitable candidate to study at City you will be invited to complete an application for your course.
Most of our research degrees can be studied on a full-time or part-time basis; part-time researchers are expected to spend the equivalent of two days per week on their research (not normally exceeding 15 hours of organised study per week).
Most doctoral researchers are based at City with two City academics as their supervisors; in some circumstances you may also study for a City degree but be based at a partner University or research organisation, you will have at least one supervisor from City and a supervisor or consultant from the partner institution.
You will be required to re-register each year, typically on the anniversary of your first enrolment. Your ability to re-register will usually be contingent on satisfactory progress with your research project, usually assessed through the Annual Progress Review process.
The current tuition fees for each of our courses can be found on the individual course pages.
You must attend a Doctoral College induction at the start of your studies. Your School will also deliver a local induction.
Doctoral College inductions are held at least twice per year, in October and February.
The sessions are designed to provide you with essential information to help you while studying for a research degree and provide a great opportunity to meet your fellow doctoral researchers.
You will also be introduced to the Doctoral College and to key members of staff, including our President Professor Anthony Finkelstein.
COVID-19 guidelines dependent, we anticipate running the October 2021 induction on campus on 12 and 14 October. New students will be sent an invitation by the Doctoral College. We anticipate publishing a schedule for the day shortly.
New students will receive invitations from the Doctoral College.
Please contact Mandy Instrell at the Doctoral College should you have any queries regarding induction.
Our student progress platform Research Manager is used to record, monitor and report on doctoral supervision and research student progress across the institution, and is where our researchers:
- record details and notes of supervisory meetings
- complete research degree milestones such as annual progress reviews and transfers
- request any changes to registration, for example changes in mode of attendance or interruptions to study
- book onto researcher training and development sessions
- can view progress and upcoming deadlines.
Appointment of Supervisors
During the initial stages of your application, you will be appointed at least two supervisors. One member of the supervisory team will be identified as your first supervisor and will be your main point of contact during your period of candidature.
Your supervisory team will ensure that your research project is within the scope of the department’s resources. They will guide you so that your topic is not so large that it cannot be completed in the maximum period of candidature nor so restricted that you are unable to demonstrate research ability and critical judgement or to make an original contribution to your field of research.
It may be necessary for a change in supervisory arrangements to be recommended during your period of candidature. This could be because:
- Your supervisor is on sabbatical leave
- Your supervisor has left City
- You are experiencing difficulties in the relationship between you and your supervisor(s).
If you need to discuss a change in supervisors please do so with your supervisors and your Senior Tutor for Research at the first available opportunity. City will support you as far as possible and if necessary a change of supervisors may be arranged subject to the availability of research expertise.
You should agree with your supervisors how frequently you should meet both formally and informally, for full-time students this should be a minimum of a monthly formal supervision meeting, for part-time students once a term.
You should maintain up to date records of what was discussed and agreed in your meetings in Research Manager, as well as actions/progress to be completed before the next meeting.
You may also wish to hold separate or joint meetings with your second supervisor or external consultant on a less frequent basis to get their advice.
International students should note that supervisory meeting records are used as part of monitoring your engagement with your degree programme, and failure to keep records up to date may risk your student visa becoming invalid.
Research ethics and information assurance
The consideration of whether planned research has any ethical implications and addressing any issues arising are key aspects of good practice in research.
All research undertaken at City University of London must be conducted according to the principles of integrity, academic excellence, accountability, inclusiveness and professionalism.
It is vital that ethical approval is sought where required and that staff and students abide by the terms of any approval given.
No research participant should be recruited or contacted until all necessary approval has been obtained.
Guidance on City’s ethics policy and the approval process can be found on our Research Ethics pages.
First year of study
You will normally meet with your first supervisor within two weeks of registering. At the first meeting, the following points will be clarified between yourself and your supervisors:
- Your research topic
- The plan and project outline for your research
- The methodological skills required for your research and whether additional training will be required.
In some disciplines your research topic will already be agreed before you have registered (for example, if you have been recruited to work on an already defined research project).
It is crucial that you and your supervisory team agree your research topic early on in your first year in order to ensure that your progress is managed appropriately.
An outline for the first year of study may include:
- Agreement on the frequency of meetings between yourself and your supervisor(s)
- Agreement between you and your supervisor(s) on the expectations of undertaking a research degree with City
- Agreement on attendance of courses, conferences or seminars and research methods and skills training, as well as the completion of a Training Needs Analysis on Research Manager
- Tasks relating to literature reviews, pilot studies or research techniques
- Meetings with other researchers.
The frequency with which you meet your supervisor(s) will vary as you progress through your research. It is anticipated that you will meet more regularly with your supervisor(s) in the earlier stages of your research and during the examination stage.
As a full-time student you should expect to meet with your supervisor(s) at least twice each term while part-time students should expect to meet with their supervisor(s) at least once each term.
International students should meet with their supervisor(s) at least once per month and record these meetings on Research Manager.
Please review the frequency with which you and your supervisor(s) meet as you progress through your research.
The objective of these meetings is to review your progress, ensure your aims and objectives are still relevant and that your progress reflects these aims and objectives.
Your supervisor will want to ensure the next stages of your research will progress well and will review this with you to ensure you understand the expectations they have.
Annual Progress Review
Your progress in your first year of study will be reviewed formally after six months of registration. Your progress will also be reviewed annually.
The purpose of these reviews is to ensure that you and your supervisor(s) are content with your progress and to allow you to raise any difficulties that you think might be inhibiting your progress or for you to both discuss ways in which your progress could be improved.
You are reminded that all students are required to re-register each year subject to satisfactory annual progress.
Transfer from MPhil/PhD to PhD (or equivalent)
You will normally register as an MPhil/ PhD research student before proceeding to doctoral stage.
You will not normally proceed to doctoral stage until you have fulfilled the statutory minimum period of candidature for the completion of an MPhil and satisfied the specific criteria agreed by the School for transfer of registration to be recommended.
Transfer from MPhil/PhD to PhD is to show that you are capable of carrying out research at doctoral level.
You will not be awarded the degree of Master of Philosophy should your application to transfer to doctoral stage be successful.
The examiners also reserve the right to recommend that you be awarded the degree of Master of Philosophy rather than the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the viva voce examination should you not meet the requirements of a doctoral degree.
You will be assessed for transfer from MPhil/PhD to PhD according to the particular requirements agreed by your School, Department or Research Centre.
You should discuss what is expected of you with your supervisor(s) at the earliest opportunity.
You will normally be asked to:
- Provide a piece of written work
- Attend an oral examination and/or
- Present your research to peers within your department.
You will normally be assessed by your supervisory team and one other member of academic staff but you should discuss the arrangements with your supervisor(s).
Subject to satisfactory progress, your supervisor(s) and the Senior Tutor for Research may make a recommendation to the Doctoral College Board of Studies that you be permitted to transfer registration from MPhil/PhD to PhD (or equivalent).
Your supervisors may also recommend that you consider submitting material for the degree of Master of Philosophy should you not meet the criteria for transfer to Doctor of Philosophy.
A Master of Philosophy is an award of considerable distinction in its own right and part of your assessment will be by viva voce examination on the subject of your thesis.
You should familiarise yourself with the qualification descriptors in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As a research student, it is likely that you will spend time away from City in order to carry out field work.
You must discuss and agree any time spent away from City for any period longer than two weeks (either within the UK/EU and/or overseas) with your supervisor(s) in advance of leaving City and agree, using the relevant form in Absence section of Research Manager, how your engagement will be monitored while you are away.
Engagement monitoring must take place at least once a month and can be through any type of contact such as a Skype meeting or email correspondence.
Please note: research students on a Student visa will receive notification from City’s Visa Compliance Team confirming that the Home Office has been advised of a temporary change of location and to remind students of their ongoing responsibilities while spending time away from the institution.
Transfer to writing-up
We advise you to begin writing sections of your thesis as you progress through your research and as soon as you are in a position to do so.
You may reach a stage in your research, however, where you no longer require regular and frequent supervision but do require additional time to finish writing-up your thesis.
Your first supervisor, at this stage, may recommend to the School Board of Studies that you transfer to writing-up.
You will need to have met the following criteria before transfer to writing-up may be recommended:
- You have served the minimum period of candidature
- You no longer require supervision.
Transfer to writing-up is an academic judgment and will not be permitted for financial reasons.
Neither will you be transferred to writing-up at the end of the maximum period of candidature for the degree on which you are registered should it be judged that you still require supervision.
Please be aware that in some subject areas the period of writing-up is not utilised and you may be expected to proceed direct to examination instead.
The role of your supervisor at this stage is restricted to reviewing draft copies of your thesis.
You will be required to pay a nominal registration fee and will be expected to provide your supervisor(s) with regular reports on your progress in Research and Progress (RaP) until you present your thesis for examination.
You will normally be registered as writing-up for a maximum period of 12 months as a full-time research candidate and 18 months as a part-time research candidate.
You are advised that you will normally be reverted to full registration if you not have submitted your thesis for examination within the normal time-frames.
Please note: The Home Office requires that students continue to engage with City while they are writing-up.
Before transferring to writing-up, research students who are studying in the UK on a Student visa must meet with their supervisor(s) to discuss and agree where the writing-up will take place, how they will continue to be monitored and whether a Student visa is still required.
City’s Visa Compliance Team will advise the Home Office if there has been a change of circumstances or if a visa is no longer required and will inform the student once this report has been made.
All Student visa students are advised to discuss any visa implications due to a change of circumstances with the International Student Advice Team in the Student Centre.
Thesis submission and examination
Three month notice of intention to submit
Your supervisors will help you decide the date for submitting your thesis. City requires three months' notice of this in order to ensure the right examiners are available and to arrange your viva voce examination.
While it is advisable for you to follow the advice of your first supervisor, you can indicate your readiness to submit your thesis without the support of your supervisors. In such circumstances, your first supervisor is asked to indicate in writing why they do not support a submission at a given time.
Appointment of Examiners
When you have given three months' notice of your intention to submit, you and your supervisor(s) will discuss who might be an appropriate external examiner to assess your thesis. While you are not permitted to choose or contact the examiners, you may be invited to suggest people who you think may be suitable for the role. Your first supervisor will consider your nominations, along with other suitable academics, and make a recommendation to the Senior Tutor for Research and the Board of Studies.
For student research candidates, one external examiner and one internal examiner is usually appointed. In some circumstances it may be necessary for two external examiners to be appointed. Your supervisors may not act as examiners. For staff research candidates, at least two external examiners are appointed.
For your examination, a Chair will also be appointed, and their role is to make sure the examination process runs smoothly and in line with the University's policies and regulations. They are not involved in the examination of your thesis. This person will usually be your department's Senior Tutor for Research or a deputy, who must have previously examined at City.
Submission of thesis for examination
You may submit your thesis at any time between the completion of the prescribed minimum and maximum period of registration unless you have been permitted an extension of candidature. The thesis must be written in English.
Your initial submission before examination should be soft bound and two copies should be submitted to your Department administrator. You will be provided a thesis receipt, signed by you and your first supervisor. It is signed by you to testify that the thesis is your own work and it is signed by your first supervisor to testify that it is suitable in presentation and in content to be submitted for examination.
If you are submitting your thesis without the approval of your first supervisor, you must still sign the thesis receipt form to confirm that it is your own work.
Please note: students submitting material for Doctor of Philosophy by publication are reminded to provide a Statement of Co-Authors of Joint Publications for each co-authored publication submitted as evidence towards the degree.
Viva Voce or Oral Examination
You are normally required to present yourself for a viva voce examination on the subject of your thesis. Your School, Department or Research Centre will make the arrangements for the viva voce examination. Your supervisor(s) may attend the examination as an observer at the discretion of the examiners and yourself.
The viva voce is an oral examination where you will defend your thesis. The examiners, a chairperson and usually the first supervisor are normally present. The chairperson will ensure the examination is conducted in a fair and academically rigorous manner and will advise the examiners and the student on regulatory matters.
Typically, the examination will last around two hours. Following the examination, the examiners will confer and decide on the outcome.
The examiners will make a recommendation drawn from clause 11 of City’s Regulations for Doctoral Programmes or Masters Degrees by Research, which may be found in the list of useful website addresses provided at the end of this Guide.
The examiners will normally tell you the outcome of the examination immediately. In exceptional cases the examiners will need to seek further advice before making their recommendation.
The examiners will normally recommend a time in which amendments are to be completed, which may be up to a maximum period of 12 months.
If the examiners have recommended amendments you will be required to submit your revised thesis to your School/Departmental research administrator who will forward the revisions to the examiners as appropriate for re-examination. Arrangements will be made for a second viva voce if required.
Please note: research students on a Student visa should discuss any visa implications during any period of extension because of the outcome of the examination with the International Student Advice Team in the Student Centre.
Re-submission and re-examination
Re-submission refers to those instances where you have already been assessed and are required to amend and resubmit your thesis (with or without the need for an additional viva voce) for further examination. Except in certain cases of appeal, re-examination is normally undertaken by the original examiners.
The examiners will make a recommendation drawn from clause 12 of City’s Regulations for Doctoral Programmes or Masters Degrees by Research.
If the examiners recommend that you are not awarded the intended degree or recommend you are awarded an MPhil where a PhD is sought you may have the right to appeal against the decision. If appropriate, you will be advised of your right to appeal in writing.
Written confirmation from your examiners of their recommendation will be sought before the degree is awarded.
Format and binding of the thesis
Upon written confirmation from the examiners that you have carried out the amendments to their satisfaction, you will be invited to submit one electronic copy of your thesis to be stored in our library.
You will also be asked to sign a thesis deposit agreement in order to permit the library to publish your thesis in our institutional repository and to agree to an electronic copy of your thesis being included in the British Library Electronic Theses On-line System (EThOS).
Once we have received written confirmation from your examiners confirming that the degree may be awarded you will be sent a letter of award which will include details of your graduation ceremony. Your research administrator will be able to provide you with further details regarding graduation.
Students registered on a validated research degree will graduate at the ceremony provided by the institution at which they studied.
Changes in registration status
Changes from full to part-time study (or vice versa)
A change in personal circumstances may mean you wish to switch from full to part-time study, or vice-versa.
City will support these changes where possible. Where your research fund degree is funded e.g. by a UK Research Council, the terms and conditions of your scholarship may not make this possible, and you are advised to contact them in the first instance.
Once your change is approved, your deadlines for thesis submission will be recalculated pro-rata.
Interruption of Studies
You may apply for an interruption of studies should you anticipate that your research will be significantly interrupted due to extenuating circumstances, such as:
- A period of persistent or lengthy illness of your own and/or your dependents
- Serious personal or domestic difficulties
- The opportunity to take up a temporary, short-term post which can be justified as being highly relevant to your thesis or research training
- Maternity, paternity or adoption leave.
- Financial hardship
In cases of illness, you will normally be asked to provide medical evidence from your doctor.
A request for an interruption of studies must normally be made in advance. You should discuss any need for an interruption of studies with your supervisor(s) initially.
When you have met your supervisory team and they agree that an interruption of studies is the best way forward, you will need to write to your supervisors and to your Senior Tutor for Research to request an interruption of studies.
You may normally interrupt your period of registration for a minimum period of three months and a maximum period of one year.
You are not normally advised to apply for an interruption of studies on more than two occasions during your overall period of candidature and usually for no more than a total of twenty-four months.
These time limits are designed to protect you and the currency of your research.
An interruption of studies will not be included in the calculations towards the duration of your candidature and you are not expected to carry out research while you are on an interruption.
Any research carried out during an interruption of studies will be deducted from the overall period of candidature. You will not be able to access the library or facilities during an interruption.
If you are in receipt of a sponsorship your funding may be deferred during any interruption of studies. You should contact your funding body immediately should you need to apply for an interruption of studies.
Please note: research students on a Student visa should discuss any visa implications during any interruption of studies with the International Student Advice Team in the Student Centre before applying for an interruption of studies.
It is recommended that you discuss resuming your studies with your supervisor(s) before you re-register. You should ensure you are fully able to resume your research prior to returning.
If you fail to re-register after an interruption of studies you will be deemed to have withdrawn and your candidature will be regarded as having lapsed.
You will be advised in writing that your period of candidature has lapsed and you may be required to re-apply for admission to candidature before being permitted to continue your research.
Extension of Candidature
You may apply for an extension of registration beyond the cumulative maximum period of candidature because of any one or a combination of the following extenuating circumstances:
- A period of persistent or lengthy illness of your own and/or of your dependents
- Death of a close relative
- Unforeseen events such as the theft of equipment
- Temporary unavailability of research facilities
- Other problems beyond your control (such as problems within the School, Department or Centre, departure of the Supervisor).
You may also request an extension to the time permitted to re-submit your thesis following the viva voce examination.
Your Senior Tutor for Research will be able to advise you if you think this might be necessary. You must normally apply for an extension of candidature at least three months before the end of your maximum period of study and may only apply for an extension of candidature retrospectively in exceptional circumstances.
You may normally apply for a maximum extension of candidature of six months initially although if necessary you may apply for a further extension of candidature later. No more than a maximum period of eighteen months extension of candidature will normally be approved.
An extension of candidature is included in the calculations towards the overall duration of study. You and your supervisor(s) should, therefore, consider any penalties that may apply if you choose to extend your period of study.
You may also wish to discuss with your supervisor(s) whether an extension of candidature will provide you with the additional time needed to complete your thesis. You may need to consider submitting material for the award of Master of Philosophy (or equivalent).
Should you agree, your supervisor(s) and the Senior Tutor for Research will make a recommendation to your School Board of Studies that your period of candidature be extended.
If you do not submit your thesis within the agreed extended period of candidature you will be deemed to have withdrawn from the degree and your candidature will be regarded as having lapsed.
You will be advised in writing that your period of candidature has lapsed and you may be required to re-apply for admission to candidature before being permitted to continue your research.
Please note: research students on a Student visa should discuss any visa implications during any period of extension with the International Student Advice Team in the Student Centre before applying for a period of extension.
Withdrawal of Candidature
You may initiate withdrawal of candidature for a variety of reasons. You are expected to discuss any difficulties that may be affecting your study with your supervisor(s) as soon as possible so that the best course of action can be agreed upon in view of your particular circumstances.
Should you wish to withdraw your candidature because you are intending to continue your research with another institution you may need confirmation from your supervisory team and/or City that they are content to release the intellectual property rights of your topic.
Please contact our Knowledge and Technology Transfer Team in our Research and Enterprise Team for further Information on our policy on Intellectual Property Rights.
You will also need to advise your supervisory team in writing that you wish to withdraw your candidature.
Your supervisors may also initiate withdrawal of candidature where there are concerns about your ability to continue or your academic progress. Your supervisor(s) and/or Senior Tutor for Research will discuss withdrawal with you initially beforehand.
If you have already transferred from MPhil/PhD to PhD (or equivalent) but your supervisor(s) recommend withdrawal because of lack of progress, consideration will be given to you being permitted to submit material for the award of MPhil (or equivalent).
You will be informed of your right to appeal should you be advised that your candidature has been withdrawn.
You are expected to discuss any difficulties you may be experiencing with your supervisor(s) at the earliest opportunity in accordance with our policy for managing student complaints.
Please note: research students on a Student visa should discuss any visa implications with the International Student Advice Team in the Student Centre in the event of a withdrawal of candidature.
We are committed to ensuring that you get the most out of your time at City and encourage feedback from our researcher community.
You can provide feedback on any aspect of our service provision either informally through your supervisors and your Senior Tutor/Associate Dean for Research, or formally through your doctoral researcher representative within your School, Department or Research Centre.
Doctoral researcher representatives form a critical part of our Doctoral College Board, representing the views and interests of doctoral researchers on matters relating to the academic experience, as well as the impact of the wider student experience on academic issues.
Please talk to your supervisors if you are interested in becoming a doctoral researcher representative.
You are also encouraged to provide feedback on our provision through the biannual Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES), developed by the Higher Education Academy, and through the Research Student Development Group facilitated by the Students' Union.
There's plenty of support available to help you to get the most from your studies and your time at City. Whether you need information about study, funding, or managing your health there will be someone at the University who can help.
Find out more about the services and support we provide to our researchers by visiting the Help and Support pages on our Student Hub.
International Doctoral Researchers
Our International Student Advice team provide help and support for international students at City, University of London. They can help you get the most out of your studies, and your time in London and the UK.