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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Thinking of a Masters?

This page will give you lots of information about applying for a postgraduate research degree (such as a PhD), but if you're actually thinking of studying a postgraduate taught course (such as a Masters), check out our taught course page here.

Entry requirements for research degrees

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 three 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

A personal statement (no more than 500 words) is required at the time you make your application. This should refer specifically to your reasons for wishing to study at Essex, and why you have chosen your area of study.

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.


Don't worry if you can't provide your reference when you make your application, as if we make you an offer you will be able to provide this at a later stage. We will require one academic reference during the application process. References should be recent and verifiable, signed and dated by the referee and on official institution paper if a document is provided. Alternatively, email references are generally accepted when emailed directly to the University by the referee.

If you haven't studied for over five years, and aren't able to obtain an academic reference, we can normally accept an appropriate reference from an employer. This will need to be emailed directly from the referee’s official work email address, or be on company headed paper, signed and recently-dated.

Application deadline

There is no application deadline for 2019, but we recommend that you apply before 1 July for our taught courses starting in October. You should 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.

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.


The Graduate Admissions Feedback Policy provides information on how to request feedback if your postgraduate application is unsuccessful. Please note that feedback is not available for all postgraduate courses, and this is explained within the policy.

Other things to consider

Transferring to Essex from another university

If you are currently studying at another university, either in the UK or elsewhere, and it’s not working out, you may be considering transferring to the University of Essex.

We welcome enquiries and applications to transfer to the University of Essex and recommend that you read the guidance below before making an application.

Before applying for transferred entry

Transferring to another institution is a big decision, and can take time to complete. We would recommend speaking with someone at your current university (such as your personal tutor, supervisor or academic support services) who can provide advice and guidance on the possibility of transferring.

You should also discuss with them the impact that a transfer might have on your funding or visa arrangements.

If you decide that you wish to transfer to the University of Essex, we recommend emailing our Postgraduate Admissions Office before making an application. 

How to apply for transferred entry

Please email stating that you intend to transfer from your existing institution, stating your course choice and preferred point of entry at Essex. You should then make your application for the course via the University’s Postgraduate application form and attach the following supporting documentation:

  • CV
  • Personal statement (which might include your reasons for moving institution)
  • Research Proposal
  • Two references (to include one from your current supervisor)
  • Undergraduate and Postgraduate Transcripts

Upon receipt of your application, the relevant department may invite you to interview and will assess your suitability for transfer to the University of Essex.  The following information may also be requested for consideration as part of your application:

  • Formal release of all Intellectual Property (IP) from your original institution
  •  Data use and/or ownership information
  •  Ethical approval information
  • Studentship/scholarship funding transfer arrangements

All suitable applications for admission are then submitted to the relevant Deputy Dean (Research) for final approval.

Tier 4 students

If you require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK, the above information will apply. However, in addition, we will consider whether you would be able to meet all Home Office requirements when determining whether or not you are eligible to transfer to the University of Essex.

Transferring from a partner institution

You may be looking to transfer to the University of Essex from a partner institution in the EU or overseas under one of our link agreements, which support the admissions of students to study with us through progression arrangements.

Transferring credit for individual modules

If you wish to transfer credits for individual modules from your current or previous university study or work experience, you should discuss the matter with the relevant Admissions Office in the first instance. Your request may be considered under the University’s Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning – AP(E)L procedure. This procedure may need to be completed in addition to submitting a standard application to transfer to the University of Essex.

Please refer to the University’s AP(E)L policy and procedure for further information.

Disability and health

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.

If you require an application form in an alternative format please telephone Graduate Admissions on +44 (0) 1206 876587 to discuss your needs.

Accreditation of prior (experiential) learning (AP(E)L

Policy and procedure for the accreditation of prior (experiential) learning (AP(E)L)

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