Doctor of Philosophy PhD - University of Sunderland

Course overview

A PhD is “probably the most internationally transferable qualification” according to the Higher Education Policy Institute. The programme is based around your personal interests and research passions rather than any pre-set curriculum. It’s an opportunity to develop your own agenda and do what you find interesting every day.

Once you have negotiated the topic with your supervisor, you will develop mastery of research methods that are appropriate to your chosen field. You will also critically investigate your topic in great depth, with support, guidance and encouragement from our supervisory team.

Crucially, your investigation should result in the creation and interpretation of knowledge which extends the forefront of your discipline. It should make an original contribution to knowledge. Postgraduate research course page images 2

Increasingly, a doctorate is an essential requirement for recruitment and promotion in university teaching roles. A PhD is highly advisable if you are considering a career as an academic.

More broadly, a PhD is a life-changing programme that trains you to think at a deep level while you become an expert on a particular topic. It is quite possible that you will end up knowing more about that topic than almost anyone else in the country – and will discover things that no-one else has ever discovered.

You have the option to study this programme at our Sunderland campus or via distance learning.

Regulations for the Award of PhD

Entry requirements

The normal entry requirement for a research degree is a UK honours degree (first or upper second class) or a Masters degree or an equivalent qualification.

We will consider candidates with other qualifications, looking at evidence of academic ability such as published work.

If English is not your first language, you will need a British Council International English Language Testing System (IELTS) overall score of 6.5, with at least 6.0 in each component: reading, writing, listening and speaking (or equivalent).

Research proposal

We ask applicants to write a research proposal which should be 2-3 pages in length and which should specify:

  • Aims of your research
  • Statement of the original contribution to knowledge which you can expect to emerge from the research
  • Rationale for the research question(s)
  • Proposed methodology and techniques for analysis
  • Provisional time plan for the research

Fees & finance

Annual fees

We charge annual fees while you are studying and researching for your degree. These costs vary depending on whether you are a candidate from the UK/EU or from a country outside the EU.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or International candidate, please see the International section of this website.

Fees for UK/EU candidates

  • On-campus full-time: £4,330 per year
  • On-campus part-time: £2,600 per year
  • Distance learning full-time: £2,600 per year
  • Distance learning part-time: £2,600 per year
  • Write up fee: £2,600

Fees for International candidates

  • On-campus full-time: £12,000 per year
  • On-campus part-time: £7,430 per year

Please note that part-time courses are not available to international students who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

  • Distance learning full-time: £7,430 per year
  • Distance learning part-time: £7,430 per year
  • Write up fee: £6,930

Write up fee

When you have completed your study and research you will spend additional time writing up your thesis. The write up fee will be charged during this period.

International scholarship

All full time self funding international candidates at postgraduate level are awarded a £1,500 scholarship per year of study. You do not have to apply for this scholarship; it is automatically applied to reduce the annual fees specified above.

For more information on fees or to enquire about applying, please contact the Graduate Research Support team:

Elisabeth Knox
Tel: +44 (0)191 515 2073

Lynne Fenwick 
Tel: +44 (0)191 515 2272


Employment & careers

If you are considering an academic career, a PhD is increasingly an essential requirement for roles in research-intensive institutions. Doctorates are now held by at least eight out of ten full-time teaching staff in top institutions, based on data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

More broadly, a postgraduate research degree enables you to stand out from the mass of graduates who have a first degree. In 2011/12 in the UK, for every 100 people who gained a first degree, only 6 people gained a postgraduate research qualification.  

By achieving at doctoral level, you can demonstrate your ability to make major contributions to the development of new ideas, techniques and approaches. This ability is highly valued by employers in all sectors. According to the Higher Education Policy Institute, postgraduate study is strongly associated with professional employment.

Given the scarcity value of postgraduate research degrees, it is no surprise that more people are undertaking them in order to gain an advantage in their future careers. The number of people who completed such degrees rose by nearly a quarter in the four years up to 2011/12, according to the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

HESA has looked at the salary increases of people who gained different levels of qualifications. Among those who gained a first degree in 2006/7, 2.3 per cent were earning over £50,000 within four years. But among those with postgraduate degrees, that percentage was nearly five times higher, at 11.3 per cent.

Of course these figures are based on averages. But it is safe to say that the demanding nature of postgraduate research degrees is an excellent way to develop your high-level thinking and critical skills – and to demonstrate these skills to future employers in the academic sector or any other sector that you choose.


Supervisory team

Our supervisory team will keep in regular and frequent contact with you, particularly your Director of Studies (first supervisor). Contact will be via face-to-face meetings as well as email, telephone and Skype.

In addition there is an Annual Monitoring Review meeting. This provides a formal opportunity for an in-depth review of your progress and your work plan for the months ahead.

Support staff

Graduate Research support staff will be available to help with admission to the programme and administrative processes. Each Faculty also has a Research Student Manager who will provide a further point of contact for any queries about developing research proposals, funding, facilities and training.

Postgraduate Research Development Programme (PGR)

We provide high-intensity workshops to train you in transferable research skills that will be valuable both during and after your research degree. The workshops also allow you to form a network of peers. This could prove useful in future collaborative research projects.

You will be eligible to attend training courses for postgraduate research students at Newcastle University, Northumbria University and Teesside University. This is through the North East Collaboration Group for Postgraduate Researcher Development.


The University offers modern, purpose-built accommodation within 1.5 miles of the city centre. All postgraduate students are guaranteed a single study-bedroom in one of our accommodation centres. All-male and all-female flats can be made available, depending on application date and availability. Sunderland is one of the best value places in the UK to be a student.

Extracurricular activities

The University supports student-led initiatives that enhance the extracurricular activities available to you. Some of these are related to particular subjects while others allow you to pursue interests and social activities. It’s all part of the vibrant and life-changing atmosphere at the University of Sunderland.

"The PhD is a way of making sure that there's always impetus to keep pushing forward on creativity."

Joanne Mitchell case study image

Joanne Mitchell

Glass designer and business owner

Self-employed glass designer Joanne Mitchell wants to push herself creatively and she feels that her part-time PhD programme is just the thing. It provides the right mix of structure, supervisors and support.

Joanne started her own glass design business at the age of 24 and she is also a partner in a creative company called Juo.

"The PhD provides a structure of around 12 hours a week, separate from the pressures of day-to-day production schedules," says Joanne. "At the same time there is some flexibility, which is useful as my business is particularly busy in the run up to Christmas.

"The PhD offers me creative satisfaction and more besides. The portfolio of work that I'm creating is, I hope, going to be shown in exhibitions and eventually for sale. And the techniques that I'm developing will help open up new directions for my business and for glass practitioners everywhere."

Apply for this course

Apply online for 1st February 2017 (full-time)

Apply online for 1st February 2017 (part-time)

International application deadlines - February intake:

The closing date for applications is 1st December 2016.

Contact Sunderland

Graduate Research Support team:

Elisabeth Knox
Tel: +44 (0)191 515 2073

Lynne Fenwick 
Tel: +44 (0)191 515 2272


The details

Course Name Doctor of Philosophy
Classification PhD
Course Mode Full-time/Part-time
Course Level Postgraduate research
Duration 3 - 6 years
Study Location On-campus (Sunderland)
Starting 1 February 2017
UK/EU Fee £See entry requirements page
Intl Fee £See entry requirements page

Entry requirements

A UK honours degree (first or upper second class) or a Masters degree or an equivalent qualification

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