Prospective postgraduate researchers
See things differently
Whether you’re considering starting a doctoral programme to further your knowledge, change direction, or start an academic career, here at Surrey, our supportive research environment will allow you to grow and make a difference in your area of interest.
The Surrey experience
You can launch your research career in our forward-thinking and supportive environment.
Our vibrant interdisciplinary community ensures our leading research continues to grow.
We offer a collaborative and nurturing community to support the Surrey research ambition.
Postgraduate research at Surrey
Get an insight on why you should choose Surrey for your postgraduate research.
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.
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 the first few months of your PhD you will enrol and attend a series of induction events organised by your 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 an 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 undertake taught courses, including assessment and research seminars, to broaden your knowledge. The majority of these will be done in the first year with the remainder in year two.
Other year one activities include:
- Producing a review of the current literature
- Completing bi-annual reviews
- Attending the Surrey Postgraduate Conference
- Identifying and attending appropriate workshops or conferences
- Supporting undergraduate teaching to enhance your transferable skills. This is not compulsory, but many PhD students appreciate the opportunity to get involved in teaching.
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 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 two for all PhD students is that they have to complete a 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 chapters. In the unlikely event of a failure at this stage students are encouraged to complete an MPhil qualification.
Other year two activities include:
- Present a talk or a poster at the Surrey Postgraduate Conference
- Present a talk or poster at a national conference or an international specialist conference and 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
- Use this opportunity to get involved in public engagement or take some further courses from the Researcher Development Programme
- Discuss future career path with supervisor/s and/or Careers Centre
- Undertake a few hours of undergraduate teaching.
The final one or two years of your PhD is focused on advancing your research and completing your PhD thesis. 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 one to three months of submitting your thesis you will undertake a viva examination in which you will be examined on your thesis.
Other year three and four activities include:
- Aim to produce at least one more research publication
- Complete the extended bi-annual review, which includes a timeline for the completion of your thesis
- Present a talk or poster at an international conference and network with other PhD students and academics
- Discuss your next careers steps with your supervisor, the Careers Office and other people
- Undertake a few hours of undergraduate teaching
- Attend the Viva Preparation Workshop
- Give a pre-viva presentation.
Most PhD funding is for three 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 four years. Extensions beyond four years will only be given by the University in exceptional circumstances.
Applying for a doctoral programme
PhD webinars and events
Our PhD webinars and events provide you with an opportunity to find out about Surrey, hear from our friendly academics, chat with students and explore all aspects of postgraduate doctoral life.
Why choose Surrey?
Surrey is a great place for you to launch and develop your research career.
A considerate community
Our postgraduate research community looks out for one another and we help each other become the best that we can be.
Research career support
We have a dedicated careers and employability team for postgraduate researchers.
An outstanding experience
We ranked 13th in the UK for overall experience*.
*2021 AdvanceHE Postgraduate Experience Research Survey
Find out more
Postgraduate research applicant guide
Support for postgraduate research students
At Surrey, our focus is on providing the best help that we can so you can get the most from a community and environment that could genuinely transform your life.