School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science

Research degrees

student working in library

Mathematics is the language that underpins science

We provide an active and stimulating environment to carry out your doctoral research. 

Members of our school are active in research across a range of topics from the disciplines of applied mathematics, pure mathematics, data science, mathematics education, and operational research.

Explore our postgraduate research degrees

Our research degrees

Our school offers three types of research degrees. Some of these can be done on a part-time basis, allowing you to fit your research around other commitments. More detail will be available on research degree course descriptions.

All of our research degrees include a viva once you have completed your thesis write up. A viva is an oral exam, in which you will discuss your findings with at least one academic from your school, and an external academic from another university who has relevant expertise.

Your options

Master of Science by Dissertation (MSD)

A Master of Science by dissertation (MSD) is a one year postgraduate research degree. An MSD is ideal for a candidate who wishes to improve their research skills, without undertaking the 3 or 4 year commitment of a PhD.

An MSD does not exclude you from doing a PhD in the future. Rather it can help you make a decision about your future plans for a research career.

During your MSD you will meet regularly with your supervisor. If your research is progressing well then you can apply for your MSD to be "upgraded" to a PhD.

See our MSD options


All research students who wish to carry out a PhD are originally enrolled on an MPhil pathway.

In the first term of your second year your progress will be assessed by the school and confirmation that you can complete a PhD will be confirmed. Alternatively you can remain on an MPhil track, and complete your research and write up at the end of your second year.

View our MPhil courses


A PhD is typically a three or four year postgraduate research degree. During your first and second years you will develop your research skills, and write up your results in your final year. You are expected to meet regularly with your supervisor to discuss your work.

During your PhD you will have opportunities to attend conferences and publish papers in relevant journals, with support from your supervisor.

When you start at Essex you will be enrolled on an MPhil pathway, which will be changed to a PhD in your second year if your progress has been satisfactory.

Explore our PhD courses

Part-time options

Many of our research degrees can be undertaken on a part-time basis.

A part-time research degree can be a good option if you have other life commitments, such as family or caring responsibilities, or need to continue employment while undertaking your research.

Explore our part-time research degrees

Our research

What do we offer you?

Expertise in Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science

Our academics supervise postgraduate research degrees across a range of areas of expertise, including pure and applied mathematics, actuarial science, bio-statistics, and operational research. Academics in our school have individual specialisms within these areas, and carry out research with other departments around the university. This gives you an opportunity to have co-supervision in an interdisciplinary area of research.

Our school operates an open door policy, meaning that members of staff will always endeavour to see you if they are available in their office. This enables you to have ample contact time with your supervisor.

Research topics and supervision

You can use PGR Finder to search for courses and potential supervisors for your area of interest. You do not have to choose a supervisor before you apply, but it may help speed up the application process if you do. If you indicate your research topic or area of interest on your application form then we can match you with a suitable project supervisor.

However, please do feel free to browse our staff profiles and e-mail individuals to discuss your proposal. You can also contact our Graduate Administrator, who can put you in touch with potential supervisors as well as help with application, visa and general enquiries.

Funding and opportunities

The University of Essex offers a unique professional development funding programme called "Proficio". All postgraduate research students are automatically enrolled on Proficio when they start at Essex.

Proficio allocates each PGR student funding (from £1000 for an MSD to £2500 for a PhD) which is used for professional development. This money can be spent on training courses run by the University, giving you the chance to learn additional skills. Part of this funding will be ring-fenced for conference attendance, a key part of your research degree journey.

Our school is part of the MAGIC Consortium, enabling you to remotely attend a wide range of PhD-level Mathematics courses delivered by researchers in universities across the UK.

We regularly advertise scholarship and studentship opportunities for postgraduate research degrees. This includes interdisciplinary projects that we are undertaking with other departments in our Faculty.

Students studying with phone
Fund your research studies

Committing to research study can be a really big decision, especially if you need to work out how to pay for tuition fees and other expenses. We have a range of financial support options that you should consider, from loans to scholarships, and you may even be able to get an Essex loyalty discount.

Find funding
Get in touch