Published: 05 March 2019

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

Applying for doctoral study is a big commitment. We’ve gathered some of the most frequently asked questions we’ve encountered to help you make your decision.

How long will it take me to complete my doctorate?

This will depend upon the course and the funding period, but usually they take between three to four years. Part-time doctorates will take around six to eight years. The workload involved is unlikely to allow you to complete a doctorate in less than this time.

Will I be able to live on campus?

If you are an international postgraduate student from outside of the EU and have not previously studied here, then you will be guaranteed accommodation as long as you have met the following criteria by 1 August of your chosen year of study:

  • You have applied for accommodation
  • You have met the conditions of your formal academic offer
  • You have paid the requested academic fee deposit.

If you’re a new postgraduate student who is paying UK or EU fees, you can still apply for accommodation, but you can’t be guaranteed a room.

Will I have exams and oral presentations or is it just research and a dissertation? 

Ultimately, your doctorate will be assessed through peer review, examination of your written thesis and your ability to discuss and defend your research in a viva voce examination.

There will also be other formal reviews to assess your progress throughout your studies. This will include six-monthly progress reviews and a confirmation examination after your first year of study. You will also be expected to present your work to a range of different audiences and write about your work in a number of forms while you are studying here.

Do I need a supervisor before I apply for a doctorate?

You don’t need to arrange a supervisor before applying, but it is highly recommended that you contact any academics that you think might be interested in working with you. That relationship will be really important to you during your doctorate so you’ll need to make sure you find someone who shares similar research interests and who you can work with.

Will I be able to teach while at Surrey?

Yes. You will receive an email outlining which modules require doctoral researchers as part of the teaching team before each semester. Dependent upon the requirements, you can choose one which interests you and attend an interview. If successful, you will have the opportunity to teach.

Can I work as a research assistant?

There are sometimes opportunities for researchers to help research groups with projects. These are published by email through our on-campus recruitment agency, Unitemps.

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