Postgraduate research admissions policy

This policy relates to all postgraduate research applicants and visiting postgraduate research applicants whose duration of study is six months or more.

Postgraduate Research Admissions Policy

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1. Principles

The Admissions Policy provides the basis for the admission practice across the University and sets out a framework for how the University selects and admits students.

The University of Surrey offers a high quality learning and teaching environment, which supports students to achieve their full potential in the academic discipline and prepares them for professional life. It is University policy that all applicants are considered primarily on merit and their suitability and aptitude for carrying out doctoral level research, and the availability of appropriate supervision.

The University’s Admissions Policy is committed to:

  • Providing transparent, consistent and efficient information
  • Selecting applicants who are considered likely to be able to complete the programme within the expected registration periods as judged by their achievements and potential
  • Using reliable assessment methods, including consideration of evidence provided and interviews
  • Minimising barriers to access postgraduate research programmes

Initially, applicants will be considered for entry on to our programmes based on the following criteria:

  • Review of prior academic achievement of the applicant
  • Review  of future examinations where results are not yet known
  • Review of the referees’ assessment of an applicant’s ability
  • Availability of appropriate supervisory arrangements
  • Interview

In addition, the following may also be considered where applicable:

  • Review of the personal statement in support of the application
  • Review of relevant work experience
  • Review of a research proposal
  • For visiting PGR student, the agreement in principle from the academic department and potential supervisor is also taken into consideration

See Sections 3 and 4 for full details of the admissions and selection criteria.

2. Roles and responsibility

The role of the University of Surrey Admissions Office is to ensure that policies and procedures are carried out in a fair and consistent way in line with relevant legislation and University strategy.

3. Admissions criteria

The Doctoral College Board has ultimate responsibility for setting the entry criteria for the admissions of postgraduate research students in conjunction with the University’s Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Communications Committee. Applicants should consider the following points:

  • We would ordinarily expect an applicant to be in possession of the required academic qualifications. Academic requirements specific to the programme are published on the programme pages.
  • All applicants must provide evidence that they possess at least the minimum level of English Language proficiency as set by the University Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions & Communications Committee. Details of the required English Language requirements are published on the programme pages or on the Doctoral College website for visiting students. For further details, please refer to the English Language Policy
  • Applicants, who have non-standard qualifications or have work experience they wish to have assessed, may be considered on an individual basis, in line with the general aims and principles of the Admissions, Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) or Recognition of Prior Credit (RPC)  policies.
  • Entry on to some programmes of study requires applicants to meet additional non-academic conditions. These conditions usually apply to programmes that have professional requirements and may include Disclosure & Barring and Fitness to Study clearance. Where such clearance is required, information will be provided in programme literature and advice given to applicants.

4. Selection

The University’s aim is to select those applicants who are likely to succeed academically and gain from the provision available. Aptitude for an individual programme is the primary criterion for selection and an academic decision will always be reached on an application before other factors are taken in to account.

Our selection criteria ensures:

  • Decisions are fair and consistent in relation to the published entry criteria
  • We consider evidence of a candidate’s potential to succeed on the programme
  • We operate a transparent selection process. Selection is normally on the basis of an application form and, where applicable, a research proposal, and an interview conducted by two trained members of academic staff. Candidates will be informed of the process in advanced
  • We endeavour to communicate in a timely way with the applicant, advising them on the outcome of their application.  The University will communicate via email and Surrey Self-Service
  • The University of Surrey will take into account compliancy requirements in regard to external legislation (such as the UKVI requirements) when reviewing an application.

5. Applicants with disabilities

The University of Surrey is committed to equality of opportunity for all of its students and encourages applications from students with disabilities or specific learning difficulties. The University’s policy of equal opportunity ensures that all applicants are considered on the same academic grounds. It is important, however, that applicants with a disability make this known to the University so that appropriate arrangements for reasonable adjustments to support their education and learning can be made. A procedure for exploring all possible reasonable adjustments with the participation of the applicant will be followed. In exceptional cases, the University may require further advice from health professionals.

Occasionally, other criteria may need to be considered, such as the requirements of professional, statutory or regulatory bodies. Any additional criteria will be specified on the PGR programme pages.

6. Applicant conduct

Applicants and their representatives should note that the University will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour or language towards its employees or other applicants during the admissions process. Hostile or otherwise inappropriate behaviour or language, whether expressed verbally or in writing, will be viewed seriously and may adversely affect the consideration of an application, appeal or complaint. Such action may include the withdrawal of an offer or the rejection of an application.

7. Applicants with criminal convictions

Having a criminal conviction will not necessarily prevent an applicant from gaining admission to the University of Surrey but it is important that applicants disclose all unspent convictions. It may be necessary for specific programmes that in addition to spent convictions, all cautions and warnings are also declared.  In reaching decisions on those with criminal convictions, the University will consider not only its own responsibilities and duties to the academic community at large but also the safety and well-being of the individual and its ability to provide any appropriate support arrangements.

The test the University will use is whether any criminal conviction disclosed by an applicant gives reasonable grounds for considering that the admission of the individual:

  1. Poses a real threat to the safety or property of staff, students, visitors, those coming into contact with the applicant during their studies or others involved in University business
  2. Would be contrary to the law or to the requirements of any relevant professional or other regulatory body. Failure to declare this information at the point of application could result in the place being withdrawn.

8. Deposit

In order to firmly accept a postgraduate offer of admission at the University of Surrey, applicants are required to pay a deposit of £2,000 towards the fee. If the total fee for the year is less than £4,000, applicants are required to pay at least 50% towards the tuition fees.

The deadline to firmly accept your offer and pay your deposit will be highlighted in your offer letter which you can view on Surrey Self-Service. If you pay the deposit after this deadline you will still be considered for entry, subject to places being available on the programme.

For programmes starting at any other times of the year, the deposit must be paid no less than 10 days prior to the start of the programme. Applicants who require a visa to study in the UK are encouraged to pay their deposit as early as possible to allow time for the visa process.

9. Refunds

Once a deposit has been paid, it can only be refunded for the following reasons:

  • Refusal of a student visa for an overseas applicant

An applicant will be asked to provide proof that a visa has been refused and the University must be able to verify through the UKVI that the individual has been refused entry to the UK. An administration fee of £100 will be deducted from the refund. Any applicant suspected of submitting a visa application merely to obtain a refusal for a refund will not be eligible to have the deposit refunded.

  • Inability to meet the conditions of offer

An applicant will be asked to provide proof that they have been unable to meet the conditions of their offer.  An administration fee of £100 will be deducted from the refund.

  • Programme closure

In the event that the University can no longer offer a place on a programme, due to closure or substantial changes to the programme, a full refund will be given.

If applicants wish to request a refund they must complete and submit a refund form within two weeks of the original start date of the course. This form can be found here.

Should any applicant be found to use fraudulent documents at the time of application or at the time of applying for entry clearance, no refund will be due.

  • Covid-19

In addition, we will also refund your deposit if you are able to demonstrate that the Covid-19 pandemic means that you are unable to take up your place at the University of Surrey. This might be because you are unable to arrive in time to register due to travel restrictions. Requests will be looked at on a case-by-case basis and will be considered sympathetically.

If applicants wish to request a refund they must complete a refund form. This form can be requested by email

Should any applicant be found to use fraudulent documents at the time of application or at the time of applying for entry clearance, no refund will be due.

10. Applicants who require a Student Route Visa to study in the UK

To apply for a Student Route Visa, students must have a Confirmation of Acceptance (CAS) for the University they wish to study at. This is a unique number which will enable students to apply for their visa. The University is under no legal obligation to sponsor any individual and exercises caution with respect to issuing a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) to not risk its status as a Student Route sponsor.

Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) will be issued in accordance with the Student Route and CAS Issuing Policy (PDF).

11. ATAS

It is mandatory for some applicants who need entry clearance to study in the United Kingdom and who are applying to certain programmes, to have an ATAS Certificate. We will not be able to issue a Confirmation of Acceptance to Study (CAS) or register applicants on to the programme until their clearance has been received. For further details, please visit the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website.

12. Disclosure of information

Failure to disclose relevant information or providing false information may result in the place being withdrawn.

13. Feedback

The University may provide feedback on an application if requested. Applicants must be aware that feedback will only be given directly to them unless the University has received written permission that the applicant is willing for the matter to be discussed with another named individual. The applicant should also be aware that there may be cases where highly specific or tailored feedback may not be possible.

14. Complaints

The University of Surrey is committed to delivering a high quality, efficient and fair admissions service in line with its selection criteria and policy. In the event that an applicant wishes to make a formal complaint, the University will ensure that all complaints are dealt with fairly, promptly, consistently and with due regard to the Equalities Act. If a complaint is upheld, the University will take appropriate action. If a complaint is not upheld, the reasons for the decision will be communicated clearly to the applicant.

An applicant does not have the right to appeal against an academic decision not to offer them a place at the University, as long as the decision can be shown to have been reached fairly and in accordance with the University’s published entry requirement and selection criteria.

The University will only correspond with the applicant themselves, unless the applicant has provided written permission for the University to discuss this with another person.

Please refer to the full Complaint Policy.

15. Disclaimer

Information in this policy should be treated as a guide only and fee information is indicative only. You should seek up-to-date information from the University directly before applying and during the admissions process.

Whilst the University endeavours to ensure the information in this policy is accurate and up to date, it is presented without any guarantees, conditions or warranties as to its accuracy. The University disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the information contained in this policy.

The University undertakes a continuous review of its programmes, services and facilities to ensure quality enhancement. The University is also largely funded through public and charitable means and is required to manage these funds in an efficient and cost-effective way for the benefit of the whole of the University community.

The University, therefore, reserves the right if it considers it to be necessary:

  • to make reasonable variations to the content and syllabus of programmes of study (including in relation to placements)
  • to suspend or discontinue programmes of study or to combine or merge them with others
  • to make changes to its statutes, ordinances, regulations, policies and procedures which the University reasonably considers necessary. Such changes if significant will normally come into force at the beginning of the following academic year and depending on the nature of the change will normally be applied to all students regardless of the date of their enrolment
  • to make reasonable alterations to the timetable, location, number of classes, content or method of delivery of programmes of study and/or examination processes.

To the extent permitted by law, the University hereby expressly excludes:

  • All conditions, warranties and other terms which might otherwise be implied by statute, common law or the law of equity
  • Any liability for any direct, indirect or consequential loss or damage incurred by any user in connection with our site or in connection with the use, inability to use, or results of the use of our site, any websites linked to it and any materials posted on it
  • Any liability for direct or indirect financial or other losses arising from any discontinuations, changes to or mergers of any programme of study, service or facility.

16. Monitoring and review

The Admissions Policy is reviewed annually by the Recruitment, Admissions and Marketing Sub-Committee and Doctoral College Board for approval by the University’s Marketing, Recruitment, Admissions and Communications Committee. The next review date is August 2022.

Related policies

Explore the admissions policies page to see all related policies.