2020 applicants
Postgraduate Research

Postgraduate Research application information

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How to apply and entry requirements

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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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

If you are applying for a research degree at Essex and you need a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, then a personal statement is required.

Your personal statement should be no more than 500 words, and should refer specifically to your reasons for wishing to study in the UK, and why you have chosen your area of study.


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.

For research degrees we will require one academic reference during the application process.

If you are currently studying at Essex, or have just completed a course here, and are now progressing to further study in the same or next academic year, you won’t need to provide a reference.

Academic references should be recent and verifiable. If a document is provided, this should be signed and dated by the referee and on official institution paper. Email references are generally accepted when provided directly to the University by the referee.

Alternatively, we can normally accept an appropriate reference from an employer. This will need to be provided directly from the referee’s official work email address, or be on company headed paper, signed and recently dated.


Application deadline

Our deadlines for applications for October 2020 entry are:

  • Where applicants will need a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK: 14 August 2020
  • Where applicants will not need a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK: 28 August 2020

We recommend that you apply as soon as you are able to. You should also take into account any deadlines for funding applications, such as scholarships.

Visit our page on Tier 4 visas if you are not sure whether you need one to study in the UK.

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 (PG number), which is your unique reference number with us.

You will also be able to create an account on our myEssex for Applicants portal to manage your application.

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. We will ask you to reply to your offer within 30 days.


Before starting your course you need to consider how you are going to fund your studies. If you will need to hold an offer for a course to become eligible for funding, you’ll need to allow time to make your course application and get an offer in place before the funding deadline. 


The Graduate Admissions Feedback Policy provides information on how to request feedback if your postgraduate application is unsuccessful. 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 pgquery@essex.ac.uk 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. Visit our Tier 4 visa page to find out more information.

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.

Extenuating circumstances

We understand that sometimes circumstances beyond your control may have impacted your studies. The Admissions Selector may take into account any extenuating circumstances which have affected an individual applicant when deciding whether an offer should be made, or if an applicant’s place may still be confirmed where degree results miss the entry requirement. 

We will automatically consider information provided within the personal statement and reference about any extenuating circumstances which may have affected your academic performance. If you wish to inform us of any extenuating circumstances not disclosed in your application, such as illness or any other serious difficulties during study, these should be emailed to pgquery@essex.ac.uk or the Postgraduate Admissions Adviser named on your offer letter. You should inform us of any extenuating circumstances as soon as possible. If further information or evidence is required regarding any extenuating circumstances before a decision can be made, we will contact you. Any extenuating circumstances provided should only be those not already considered by an examination board prior to your results being issued.

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)


This procedure applies to former postgraduate students who are requesting permission to be readmitted to study, having previously left voluntarily or having been required to withdraw from the University.

It does not apply to:

  • students who want to be admitted to study at a higher level after having successfully completed an award at a lower level
  • students who have successfully completed a degree and want to start another degree in a different subject area

Readmission policy

It is our policy, and part of national HESA rules, that you cannot normally be considered for readmission to the same programme from which you have been required to withdraw, or a similar programme which contained modules you have already taken, for a minimum of two years after you left (with the exception of students who have been required to withdraw for debt).

You can be considered for immediate readmission to a completely different area of study if there are good reasons to indicate that you chose the wrong course originally and there was evidence that you could be successful in a new area. This is subject to the University’s rules relating to the maximum period of study.

How to apply

In order for your request to be considered, please complete the application form for former postgraduate students.

Supporting documents

Your personal statement should cover the reasons why you wish to be readmitted; what you have been doing since leaving Essex; and why you believe you will be successful if you return to your studies at Essex. If you have studied elsewhere since leaving Essex, please give full details of the course(s) you studied and the dates of your study.

If you are a recent Essex student and you have not studied elsewhere since leaving Essex, then you will not need to supply a new reference with your application.


The deadlines for the submission of a readmission request are set well in advance of the relevant course start date, as the process can be a lengthy one, especially if a student requires a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

  • Start date: September/October 2019 - deadline: 15 July 2019
  • Start date: January 2020 – deadline: 28 October 2019
  • Start date: April 2020 – deadline: 03 February 2020


Your application will be considered by several departments within the University, so please don’t be concerned if you don’t hear from us immediately. Depending on your case, it may be a number of weeks before you receive a decision. If you have any concerns about the progress of your readmission request please contact: pgquery@essex.ac.uk

Complaints against decisions

There is no right of appeal against selection decisions made by the University, including decisions about readmission. Complaints will normally be considered to be valid only where there is evidence of procedural irregularity. In the event that you are dissatisfied with the University’s readmissions process, you can submit a complaint in line with the complaints policy for applicants (.pdf).

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Research training scheme

Our innovative research training scheme, known as Proficio, awards each of our research students up to £2,500 which can be put towards training courses and attending conferences. This funding will enable you to curate your own tailored training plan, developing the skills and knowledge you need to create an outstanding piece of research.

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