Advice

Read the latest postgraduate news, along with essential course advice from universities, professors and former PhD students

Find Your Perfect PhD

Find Your PhD, Fast

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

Summary

  • When looking for PhD research projects, a great place to start is with our comprehensive and up-to-date database.
  • Speak with lecturers within your area of interest about potential PhD opportunities they may have.
  • Attend Postgraduate Events. Whilst there, speak to current PhD students and career advisors to get an awareness of what PhD projects are on offer.
  • Visit the postgraduate section of university websites and the PhD Research Council section of the GOV.UK website

Finding A PhD

Searching for PhD research projects can sometimes feel like daunting process. Often, it’s difficult to know where to find a PhD position or where to even start.

To make this searching process as easy as possible for you, we’ve curated a collection of the best places to search for PhD projects. By using our recommended collection, you should hopefully gain a greater insight into where your interests lie and which programme is best suited for you.

Our Comprehensive and Up-To-Date Directory

We can’t create a list of great resources and not include ourselves! At DiscoverPhDs, our primary aim is to connect great students to great PhD projects. To enable this, we provide a comprehensive database of PhD projects offered from universities all across the UK.

We regularly add to our database to ensure you’re getting the latest opportunities and the most relevant information and programme details. On top of this, we’ve created our database to be as easy to use as possible; all our PhD listings provide a direct ‘apply’ link or contact email address of the lead supervisor. This enables you to:

  • Request further information about any aspect of the position,
  • Enquire about the specific applications process,
  • Connect directly with the supervisor

Universities Websites

Search on the website of the universities you are interested in as some many only be listing PhD research projects internally or may link you to other opportunities such as Professional Doctorate Programmes. As examples, have a look at the research pages of The University of Cambridge, Cardiff University, University of Leicester, Sheffield University and The University of Glasgow.

Your Current Supervisor

If you’re currently undertaking a research project or dissertation as part of your undergraduate or master’s degree, it would be a good idea to speak to your current supervisor. Not only would you have already built a good rapport with them, but having worked with you they will have a good idea on what PhD positions would utilise your strengths or best interest you. In fact, a noticeable percentage of past and current PhD students came into their PhD programme because of being recommended by their undergraduate supervisor. Your supervisor will be well-connected – make sure you take advantage of these opportunities.

Tip: Don’t just limit your discussion to your own personal supervisor. All supervisors are within their field of work because they have a natural passion for research and teaching. As such, most supervisors will be more than happy to help any student who wishes to follow in their footsteps and make their own impact.

Postgraduate Events

Nearly all universities hold regular Postgraduate Fairs and Open Days. As part of these events, current postgraduate students may be on hand to share their experiences of their projects and university. This is a fantastic opportunity to not only find out what PhDs the university is offering but to find out more about their facilities, research labs and library collection, etc. Given that you will be heavily relying on these resources during your PhD, it’s important that you know what’s provided by each university. Hearing student stories about what PhD life is really like, what to expect from supervisors and some of the challenges that current students have encountered can be really useful in your decision making process.

Besides the above, career advisers may also be available at these events. Speaking to them will help you understand what you can do with a PhD, whether a PhD is right for you, what degree class you’re expected to hold and how best to prepare for research projects. Seeing as they would have helped many PhD candidates through the decision-making process before, they will provide you with some invaluable insight that you would otherwise be oblivious to.

To help bring all Postgraduate Fairs and Open Days offered across all universities together, we’ve created a helpful Postgraduate Events page which we highly recommend you check out.

Research Councils

Research councils are nationally funded agencies which offer sponsored PhD research projects (also known as a PhD studentship). Different research councils cover different areas of research, these include:

  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC),
  • The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC),
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC),
  • The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC),
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The GOV.UK website has a full list of nationally-funded research councils available online. You can find further details on these councils on the GOV.UK website.

Although our database includes PhD programmes offered by these research councils, it would be a good idea to regularly browse the website of the ones you are particularly interested in case they list some internal only. These councils play an important role in supporting and encouraging doctoral researchers and they regularly hold calls for applications for PhD funding. If you or your potential supervisor have a PhD project proposal defined but need funding, then applying to these calls may become a key first milestone in your postgraduate research journey.

For example, the EPSRC offers a Doctoral Training Partnership programme in which a research student is given funding to pursue postgraduate study with a research question that aligns with the Councils core engineering and physical sciences themes. These awards often have eligibility criteria linked to them, impacting which postgraduate research students can apply; an international student, for example, may not be able to apply to a certain UK based scholarship scheme but there are several other options that can still help you fund your doctoral research; this may involve taking out a postgraduate loan (or more specifically a postgraduate doctoral loan).

To make this searching process as easy as possible for you, we’ve curated a collection of the best places to search for a PhD. By using our recommended collection, you should hopefully gain a greater insight into where your interests lie and which programme is best suited for you.

Further Resources

As you continue your search of PhD research projects, be sure to check our our PhD advice articles, including how to prepare for your PhD application, and interviews with current and past doctoral students. Many of the people we’ve interviewed have completed degrees within a STEM discipline; they offer a wide range of advice on their individual approaches to applied research and independent study, as well as sharing some the impact their work has had. Many have continued the research of their projects within academia after finishing, whilst some have developed successful careers in industry and business sectors.

It’s worth noting that when you apply to undertake doctoral study, you may first be registered as an MPhil researcher, depending on the specific doctoral programme you apply for, officially become a full PhD student after passing an upgrade viva. At the upgrade stage, some students do decide to graduate with an MPhil research degree rather than pursuing further PhD study however this is less common.

We hope the above list will help you find the perfect PhD position and earn your doctoral degree.

If you have any recommendations besides these resources, please let us know at [email protected] so we can look to add it.

If you’re ready to start your search for your PhD, start now with our PhD database.

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