Postgraduate research

Whether you are interested in pure or applied mathematics, we are the right place to undertake your studies for a PhD in Mathematics.

Course overview

The Mathematics Department at Surrey offers a wide range of research opportunities at the forefront of current investigations in pure and applied mathematics. Our staff are engaged in research projects in fields ranging from analysis, nonlinear partial differential equations, geometry, and dynamical systems to quantum field theory, general relativity, string theory, fluid dynamics, multi-level systems, statistics, data assimilation and modelling in the life sciences. On visiting the department you will immediately notice a friendly and welcoming atmosphere with a high-energy buzz coming from the many research posters lining the walls. As a PhD student at Surrey you will be strongly encouraged to play an integral role in this engaging research culture.

Many of our staff are involved in extensive collaborations with other scientists. This ranges from collaborations within the University of Surrey for example with the Surrey Sleep Centre, the 5G Centre, and the Veterinary School to collaborations with other institutions from around the globe. Our national and international collaborators include Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, and the ETH Zurich as well as leading industries such as Pfizer, Offshore Wave Energy Limited, and government agencies such as the Animal & Plant Health Agency.

In addition, many of our research projects are funded by large-scale grants from the public and private sectors. This includes grants from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the London Mathematical Society, the Leverhulme Trust, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the European Union, the Natural Environment Research Council, and the Met Office.

In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), all of our research was recognised internationally with 75 per cent of our research rated internationally excellent in terms of originality, significance, and rigour.

Research funding

Many of our research projects are funded by large-scale grants from the public and private sectors.

This includes grants from:

As a Surrey PhD student, you will work as part of a vibrant and supportive community of early career researchers who collaborate and exchange ideas with each other and the wider mathematical community. You will be extensively trained for a career as a professional mathematician, which will set you on the right track for a future in academia, industry or government. It usually takes between three and four years to complete our PhD Programme. You will work closely with one or two supervisors, who you will meet with on a frequent basis, to discuss your research and your career development. They will oversee your progress and offer advice throughout your PhD studies.

During your PhD studies, you will critically study your chosen field to reach the forefront of current research, then you will propose and develop a novel solution or approach to the problem you are investigating, and finally you will analyse and communicate your solution. You will prepare research posters, give research talks, and publish your results in high impact research journals. You will also attend international conferences and visit other research groups to stay abreast of developments and to present your findings. The Department provides financial support for such exchanges and sees them as an integral part of your PhD. Finally, you will conclude your PhD studies with the defence of your dissertation in your viva examination.

Apart from your mathematical training, you will also receive a comprehensive training in transferable skills such as project management, communication and time management through our Faculty Graduate School and the Postgraduate Skills Development Programme. The Graduate School provides a friendly social environment within the Faculty for our postgraduate research students to exchange ideas and experiences. In addition, the Department is part of a wide range of training networks such as MAGIC which offer a large selection of PhD courses in many areas of mathematics that will help broaden your horizon in a variety of fields.

How to apply

Our PhD programme requires a good MMath, MPhys or MSc degree or a first class honours degree in mathematics, physical sciences or engineering. If your qualifications are of a slightly lower standard, but you have a lot of enthusiasm for your chosen research topic, please contact the PhD Programme Leader at Initially all PhD students are registered on a probationary status, with progression to full PhD registration following satisfactory progress within the first 15 months.


Funding is available for outstanding candidates. In particular, the Faculty has a number of fully funded PhD studentships for UK and EU nationals who can demonstrate the appropriate residency requirements. These studentships will include the tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. The Department has also a few scholarships for partial funding for overseas fees. However, funding for overseas students is limited and overseas students are in encouraged to find suitable funding themselves.

Some suggestions for potential funding sources (UK/EU and overseas) can be found on our fees and funding page.


Possible start dates of our PhD Programme are the 1 of October, 1 of January, 1 of April, and the 1 of July. 

To apply, please complete the application form by clicking 'Apply now' on the Mathematics PhD course page. The application must include all of the following: 

  • Cover letter (one A4 page maximum)
  • CV including names of at least two academic referees (two A4 pages maximum)
  • Personal statement. This should include a discussion of your favourite research areas, such as from undergraduate courses or from a Master’s thesis for example, and any research experience you may have. You are not expected to outline your own PhD topic at this stage, but if you have your own ideas then you can add these here. This should be submitted in place of the `Research Proposal' on the application form. (one A4 page maximum)
  • Copy of certified transcript including expected or actual degree class (no page limit)

The Department of Mathematics does not have any strict deadlines, however, funding meetings tend to take place around December, February and April, so applications before these dates are encouraged if you are seeking funding for an October start date. Other funding and scholarship organisations have their own deadlines so in order not to miss out any opportunity, please see our fees and funding section for details.

Your PhD journey

Being a PhD student is a full-time occupation and you will spend the majority of each working day undertaking your research or engaging in training. PhD students are `professional Early Career Researchers’ and as a PhD student, you will be fully engaged with the research culture in the Department.

The following sketches a typical journey for a PhD student at Surrey and highlights some key landmarks on route. The time scales apply to full-time PhD students. Those who are part-time should adjust these times as appropriate.

During your first few months of your PhD you will enrol and attend a series of induction events organised by both the Department and the wider University, including a `Welcome to your PhD’ workshop. In your first week you will also meet with supervisor/s and agree initial work schedule. They will normally suggest a series of research articles for you to read, ideas to work on, and you will begin to think about research questions that you hope to answer during the PhD.

During your PhD you must complete 100 hours of taught courses, including assessment, to broaden your mathematical knowledge. The majority of these hours will be done in the first year with the remainder in year 2. These taught courses are a combination of MAGIC taught courses, courses from the London Taught Course Centre, courses from the Academy for PhD Training in Statistics or departmental Master’s level courses.

Training will also come by attending Department research seminars which are aimed at both staff and PhD students. Attendance is compulsory for the Friday Colloquia, and all research groups have regular seminars. On average, you will be attending approximately one or two research seminars a week.

Other Year 1 activities include:

  • Meeting regularly with your supervisor/s (usually about once a week) and undertaking your research as required.
  • Producing a review of the current literature.
  • Completing bi-annual reviews at 6 and 12 months.
  • Attending the Surrey Postgraduate Conference.
  • Identify and attend appropriate workshops or conferences such as the British Applied Mathematics Colloquium (BAMC) or the British Mathematics Colloquium (BMC). It is not expected that you present your work at this time, but it is an opportunity to network with other PhD students and academics.
  • Undertaking a few hours of supporting Undergraduate teaching to enhance your transferable skills. This is not compulsory, but many PhD students appreciate the opportunity to get involved in the teaching in the department (and it provides some extra income).

In year two you should find that your research begins to advance more rapidly, and you begin to take ownership of your PhD. Training will still occur via regular supervisory meetings and regular attendance of the Department research seminars, but you will begin to formulate your own ideas and begin to `train’ your supervisor/s on your research topic.

An important landmark in Year 2 for all PhD students is that they have to complete a PhD Confirmation report, and pass an internal viva examination. The postgraduate Skills Development Programme runs a `Confirmation’ workshop to help you prepare for both aspects of this process. Confirmation has to occur before 15 months and consists of a report of approximately 30-40 pages which demonstrates that you have reached an appropriate level and that you are expected to be able to produce a final PhD thesis. The Confirmation report is often expanded into one or two draft thesis chapter. In the unlikely event of a failure at this stage students are encouraged to complete an MPhil qualification. 

Other Year 2 activities include:

  • Give a presentation in your research group seminar series. (The Research Development Programme offers a courses on giving oral presentations)
  • Produce a research poster for display in the Department. (There are poster templates on the Maths Intranet and the Research Development Programme offers a poster presentation course.)
  • Present a talk or a poster at the Surrey Postgraduate Conference.
  • Present a talk or poster at a national conference such as the BAMC, BMC or an international specialist conference. Network with other PhD students and academics.
  • Aim to produce at least one research publication. (Note this is an aim and depends upon the progress of your research). Usually this is also associated with a further chapter in your thesis.
  • Complete bi-annual reviews at 18 and 24 months.
  • Finish the compulsory 100 hours of broadening mathematical training.
  • Use the opportunity to get involved in public engagement or take some further courses from the Research Development Programme.
  • Discuss future career path with supervisor/s and/or Careers Centre.
  • Undertake a few hours of Undergraduate teaching.

The final 1-2 years of your PhD is focused on advancing your research and completing your PhD thesis. (A thesis template is available on the Maths Intranet and the Researcher Development Programme offers a course on academic and thesis writing.) This can be a challenging aspect of the PhD and as such regular meetings with your supervisor/s are paramount in helping you to stay on top of the writing. Your supervisor/s will give feedback on your draft thesis chapters to help you to critically reflect on the research you have undertaken.

Within 1 to 3 months of submitting your thesis you will undertake a viva examination in which you will be examined on your thesis.

Other Year 3/4 activities include:

  • Continue to attend Department research seminars.
  • Aim to produce at least one more research publication.
  • Complete the extended bi-annual review at 30 months, which includes a time line for the completion of your thesis, and continue with reviews every 6 months after this.
  • Present a talk or poster at an international conference. Network with other PhD students and academics.
  • Discuss your next careers steps with your supervisor, the Careers Office and other people. The Department's network of industrial and academic contacts might be useful in this.
  • Undertake a few hours of Undergraduate teaching.
  • Attend the `Viva Preparation’ workshop.
  • Submit your thesis within 4 years.
  • Give a `Pre-Viva’ presentation to the Department.
  • Celebrate the completion of your PhD.

Most PhD funding is for 3 years (sometimes extensions for a few more months can be obtained). However, it is possible to go beyond this date on an unfunded basis, but ALL PhDs must be submitted before the end of 4 years. Extensions beyond 4 years will only be given by the University in exceptional circumstances.

The course

Take a look at our PhD course.


Mathematics, fluids, meteorology and symmetry

Funding information:
Competitive departmental funding.

Mathematics of life and social sciences

Funding information:
Competitive departmental funding

Mathematics, fields, strings and geometry

Funding information:
Competitive departmental funding.

Contact us

Find us

Department of Mathematics
AA Building, floor 4
University of Surrey