PhD application information

How to apply and entry requirements

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So you've decided what and how to study and now it's time to make it happen. We'll walk you through how you apply to study with us and the documents you'll need to send us.

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Applying to Essex is simple and straightforward. We'll give you all the important information you need to make your application. Our online application takes about 20 minutes to complete.

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Entry requirements

Full details of entry requirements, including English language requirements are given in each of our course listings.

Necessary documents

When you apply to study with us, you'll need to provide a number of supporting documents - we can't process your application until we have these. Some of these documents you will have to upload with your application, others you may be able to upload at a later date. We may ask to see original documents if you are offered a place.

English language

If you have received your test results you may include a copy with your application. The main tests we accept are IELTS, TOEFL or Pearson, and the test must be less than two years old at the time of admission. The IELTS requirement for your course is listed on our Postgraduate Research Finder.

You can also see more detailed information about English language requirements here (.pdf)


Official transcript(s), in English or a certified translation of your academic results to date, showing marks or grades, must be provided at the time you make your application. (Transcripts are not required from current or previous University of Essex students, or from students who have previously completed a degree at Colchester Institute awarded by the University of Essex).


A CV is required for some research degrees at the time of application.

Research proposal

Requirements vary across departments but two references and a research proposal are required for all research degrees. 

A research proposal is required at application stage for most research degrees.

Think about your research idea - during your PhD you will conduct and present the results of your original investigations and research. You need to ensure that your research topic will be interesting enough for three or four years. Start to research your topic by reading around your subject area and begin to think what you might like to include in your research proposal.

Get in touch with a suitable department by contacting the Graduate Director - you might still be developing your idea at this stage, but it would be great if you could send a short description of your research area and a copy of your CV. This does not need to be longer than one A4 page. You can search for a department or supervisor through our Postgraduate Research Finder.

Writing your proposal

Your research proposal is an important part of your application for a research degree. Use it to explain your personal and academic goals in undertaking an extended period of research, and reflect on the contribution you will make to the development of new knowledge, ideas and solutions. Also comment on how your research interests fit with the academic focus and expertise at Essex.

Your research proposal needs to demonstrate that you have, or are able to develop, the competencies and skills needed to complete your project, within the time and resources available. The quality of your writing is important and a good research proposal may be rejected if it is poorly expressed or badly presented.

Many of our departments, schools and centres offer more detailed guidance on preparing a research proposal on their web pages. If you are applying for funding, ensure your proposal fulfils the requirements of your preferred funding body.

Your research proposal should include:

  • a working title and key words
  • a summary of the aims and objectives of your research
  • an outline of the ways you meet these aims and objectives, referring to research methods and specific resources you use
  • evidence of your awareness of relevant literature and theoretical approaches
  • an overview of the expected outcomes and the original contribution your research will make to existing bodies of knowledge
  • a brief statement on how your research interests tie in with those found in the department, school or centre

Personal statement

If you are applying for a taught course and you need a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, then a personal statement (no more than 500 words) is required at the time you make your application, and this should refer specifically to your reasons for wishing to study in the UK, and why you have chosen your area of study. Please remember to include details of any relevant work experience, why you think your academic strengths are suited to your area of study, and how this study will assist you to realise your career objectives.


We require two references from you at the application stage.

References should be recent and verifiable, on official institution paper, signed and dated by the referee. If a referee wishes to provide an email reference, it must be sent from an official email account (for example, not Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail).

Application deadline

There is no deadline for applications. For students requiring a Tier 4 visa we advise you to apply by 1 July for a course starting in October however, applications are welcomed after this date. You should also take into account any deadlines for funding applications, such as scholarships, or time needed to obtain a student visa, if required.

After you apply

We aim to respond to applications within four weeks once we have received all the relevant documents from you and your referee(s).

When you create your application, you will be issued with an application number (DE number), which is your unique reference number with us. You can use this to create your account on our myEssex for Applicants.

Accepting your offer

If we offer you a place, we send you our decision electronically. You will be able to view and download your offer letter from myEssex within 24 hours of a decision being made. We will send you an email with instructions on this. You should use myEssex to accept your place and to keep us informed of any changes to your contact details by updating them online.


Before starting your course you need to consider how you are going to fund your studies. Depending on your course, funding deadlines will change.

Disability, dyslexia, and health issues

Applications are considered against the same academic criteria as those from other candidates. If you are disabled, state this on your application form so that we can give early consideration to any support requirements you may have. Please contact Student Support if you would like to discuss this in more detail before you apply.

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Research training

Proficio is our innovative doctoral training scheme that you can use to book courses and to check your funding. You'll have the opportunity to develop skills and articulate them confidently and professionally. Proficio also enables you to network with other postgraduate research students, it's designed to provide you with the resources to maintain the highest levels of research skills.

Get in touch
Get in touch
Graduate Admissions Team If you have any questions about your application, please email our friendly admissions team.