An Integrated Masters with a PhD (iPhD) is a four-year postgraduate level programme that combines a one-year Masters course with a three-year PhD course. They allow students to familiarise themselves with their chosen topic, research methods and academic writing techniques before embarking on their own independent research project. An Integrated Masters with a PhD is particularly popular with international students and students who initially lack specialised knowledge or research skills.
An Integrated Masters with PhD, also commonly referred to as either just an Integrated Masters degree or an Integrated PhD, offers a relatively new way to undertake postgraduate training. They maintain the depth and focus of a conventional PhD but offer a more comprehensive doctoral training experience.
Due to their growing popularity, both the number of universities offering these newer forms of PhD and the number of students applying to them has steadily increased.
This page describes what Integrated Masters with PhDs are, who they are for, their advantages and disadvantages, how they differ from conventional PhDs and how they are structured in terms of programme, eligibility and costs. This page is for you if you are considering applying for an integrated course, or simply want to know more about them.
What is an Integrated PhD?
An Integrated PhD is a four-year postgraduate programme. They involve undertaking a one-year Masters degree (MRes or MSc) in your first year, followed by a three-year PhD programme in your second to fourth year. Although the courses run back-to-back, a student can only progress to the second year if they show satisfactory performance in their first year. The one-year Masters and the three-year PhD are considered separately in terms of qualifications; therefore, a student who completes an Integrated PhD will receive both a Masters degree (MRes or MSc) and a PhD as opposed to a single postgraduate qualification.
The aim of an Integrated PhD is to provide a structured approach to doctoral studies, combining advanced PhD research with formal teaching in relevant subjects, research methods and communication skills.
As Integrated PhDs are relatively new compared to more regular doctoral pathways such as stand-alone or MPhil-upgraded PhDs, some professors informally refer to them as ‘New Route PhDs’.
Difference Between Integrated PhD and Regular PhD
The most significant difference between an Integrated PhD and a regular PhD is the addition of the one-year Masters degree at the beginning of the programme. This results in an Integrated PhD typically lasting four years, as opposed to the three years as with regular PhDs.
Integrated PhDs are structured in such a way that they provide students with a broader range of foundational skills than a regular PhD. The first year introduces you to a combination of taught elements, practical experience and advanced research skills. In a regular PhD this mode of teaching is missing as it is assumed you already have this level of knowledge.
The last significant difference between the two types of doctoral programmes is the ‘group’ aspect associated with the Integrated version. Since the Masters programme also includes other students enrolled in Integrated PhDs, you will have a small cohort with whom you will work closely alongside during your studies.
Who are Integrated PhDs suitable for?
Integrated PhDs can be an effective pathway for any student, but they stand out in two situations:
Scenario 1: International Students
The Higher Education system differs across countries, although not by a large amount, enough to where an unfamiliar student may struggle, especially when working independently. An Integrated PhD allows you to adapt to the UK education system by offering a more guided and hands-on approach to your learning and research process before you embark on your three-year research project.
It also has visa benefits. If an international student seeking a Masters degree in the UK already knows they want to follow it up with a PhD, enrolling in an Integrated PhD will save them from having to leave the country and re-apply for a visa after completing their initial postgraduate degree.
Scenario 2: Lack of undergraduate research experience or a relevant Masters degree
An Integrated PhD is useful for students who have academic abilities but lack the necessary background to be considered for a standard-route PhD. This usually occurs under one of three scenarios:
- The applicant is currently an undergraduate student or only holds a Bachelor’s degree,
- The student has a Masters degree, but in a subject only loosely related to the discipline they wish to pursue at doctoral level,
- The student has a relevant Masters degree, but the programme lacked a research focus, leaving the student with underdeveloped research skills.
Advantages and Disadvantages of an Integrated PhD
The advantages of an Integrated PhD are strongly linked to the international and inexperienced students they cater for. They offer students an effective means of gaining more confidence, knowledge and research skills in their field before starting a doctorate, and also provide visa benefits to international students who will be undertaking prior postgraduate study.
Integrated PhDs also enable students the possibility of receiving funding for the Masters phase of their programme, as will be explained in more detail in the ‘Funding Opportunities’ section.
Integrated doctorates have no obvious disadvantages, but are generally not suitable for those who already have a Masters degree or well-developed research skills in their chosen field. For these students, the additional costs and duration of an Integrated PhD can be avoided by opting for a traditional PhD for which they will already be suited for.
Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.
The programme of study is naturally divided into two parts, the first for your Masters studies and the second for your PhD studies.
Your Masters studies will usually be divided into 180 module credits, half of which will focus on taught components and the other half on research components.
The modules will be tailored to your course, but they will include a variation of:
- Subject-specific module – You choose one or two modules from a predefined list of topics within your subject area. Your selection should reflect the research area you want your PhD to focus on.
- English and Communication – Academic language and communication skills will be taught to prepare you for the ‘writing-up’ phase of your doctorate. A common misconception is that this module is similar to the English language requirement tests required to apply to a iPhD. In reality, the module will focus on learning how to critically evaluate research sources, write abstracts, literature reviews and conclusions, communicate in lab-based environments and present to audiences.
- Research Techniques – You’ll receive in-depth training to familiarise you with the different research methods and analytical techniques available to modern researchers.
- Research Proposal Development – You’ll work with your intended PhD supervisor to prepare a research proposal for your three-year PhD research project.
You will carry out one or two small laboratory research projects under supervision for practical experience.
If you complete these modules with satisfactory performance, you will be awarded a Masters degree and will be considered for the following three-year PhD programme.
Each university has its own process for making this consideration, but most invite you to an interview with the supervisor you wish to conduct research with. The interview is used to confirm that you have acquired the specialised knowledge and research skills expected at masters level, and beyond that of someone capable of completing doctoral study.
If your interview goes well, you will be enrolled in your PhD programme. From this point on, your path will be the same as a regular PhD student. During your doctoral phase, you will conduct independent research and laboratory work for two years, followed by a final year of writing up and formally submitting your findings as a thesis. Your thesis, expertise and research competence will be assessed in an oral examination known as a viva. Upon successful completion of your viva, you will be officially awarded a PhD, and your studies will come to an end.
It should be noted that aside from the above, your university may offer optional modules which can equip you with a wide range of transferable skills.
Entry requirements for an integrated masters degree in the UK will vary from university to university, but the typical requirement is an Upper Second Class (2:1) honours Bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject. Equivalent international qualifications are also accepted.
If you are an international student and English is your second language, most universities will require proof of your English language proficiency through an exam certificate. It’s best to check directly with the universities which certificate types they accept, but the most common English language qualification requirement is an IELTS certificate, with a minimum overall score of 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in each category.
The typical annual tuition fee for an Integrated PhD in the UK is £4,407 per academic year for home/EU students (or £2,203 for part-time study) and £19,596 per academic year for international students (or £9,798 for part-time study).
As with all doctoral programmes, there are likely to be additional costs associated with your studies, such as bench fees for lab work, travel costs for collaborating and potential write-up fees for students who need more time to submit their thesis. You can get more information about these additional costs on our cost breakdown page.
You can obtain funding for Integrated PhDs in the same way as for regular PhDs. Funding is usually provided by one of the seven UK Research Councils and research charity organisations such as the Wellcome Trust; grants, scholarships and funded opportunities can be found directly in our searchable database.
Funding can either be partial (tuition fees only) or full (tuition fees and living costs). Most funding providers also cover the tuition fee for the Masters degree programme due to being integrated with the PhD, however, you should confirm this on a case-by-case basis.
As with regular PhD funding, the fully-funded opportunities are generally limited to home and EU students.
It’s also worth noting that PhD programmes which include an integrated Masters degree are eligible for a Doctoral Loan, even if you already have a postgraduate Masters degree from a previous university. Applications for Doctoral Loans must be made directly to Student Finance England and you must first be registered for a full doctoral degree. Due to application restrictions, you won’t be able to apply for a separate Postgraduate Masters Loan for the integrated Masters phase of your degree.
You can search for Integrated PhDs in three ways:
- Our Search Page – Search for the term ‘Integrated’ in our comprehensive database of STEM PhDs.
- University Search Pages – Universities advertise their Integrated PhDs on their postgraduate search pages. You can find them by searching the name of the university followed by “search postgraduate courses” directly in Google.
- Funding Body Websites – Funding bodies which provide studentships for Integrated PhDs sometimes advertise the positions on their website. A list of the most common funding providers can be found here: PhD Studentships.