Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

How to apply for postgraduate research programmes

Professor Stephen Gough and Professor Danae Stanton Fraser provide an overview of the Graduate School and research activity that takes place within the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.

Application checklist

Step 1: Find a research degree that you are interested in (identify the department in which you would like to study)

Please carefully read the information regarding the particular research degree, including the entrance requirements (such as Academic Qualifications and English Language), as well as any programme-specific requirements. You can also follow links to find out more about individual departments and their research interests.

Please note: in considering your application, if we feel that you do not have the necessary qualifications, as part of your offer of admission we may ask you to successfully complete one of our Masters of Research programmes prior to commencing your PhD studies (this is known as the 1+3 model).

Step 2: Identify a possible supervisor and develop your research proposal

Most of our applicants develop their own research proposal as part of their application.  The best applications are from those applicants who have identified one or more potential supervisors whose own work is directly relevant to the applicant’s research ideas. It may be possible to obtain feedback on your draft proposal from one of them. However, given that many academics receive a lot of such requests, this may not always be possible - and so whilst it is preferred, it is not an essential requirement. 

When searching for a potential supervisor, check the departmental research pages as staff are often grouped by research theme or cluster. You can also check the profiles of individual staff members from staff listings on the departmental pages.

It may also be worth referring to the lists of current research students (see the 'Current student projects' heading on each of the programme pages) to identify those who may be working in an area of interest to yourself. Supervisors for these projects are linked on the right hand side of the page.

As an alternative to developing your own proposal, some of our academic colleagues have developed a range of specific PhD projects.  Applicants are encouraged to view these and contact the relevant academic should any be of interest. You can find further details by checking out relevant PhD Project opportunities.

(As part of the comprehensive list of other documentation required – see Step 4 Apply On-line (below)) You must provide us with a thorough, comprehensive Research Proposal containing the following:

  • Your name
  • Proposed programme of study
  • Tentative title of thesis
  • Possible supervisor(s) (if known)
  • Aims and objectives - set out the central aims and research questions that will guide your research. What questions are you trying to answer or hypotheses do you wish to test? When outlining your questions, prioritise one or two central questions from which you can derive secondary ones.
  • Rationale - contextualise your questions/aims in a broader field of study, identifying the main literature or authors that you are addressing. You need to explain your research motivation: why these questions are important and topical?
  • Methodology - explain how you are going to conduct your research; what information you would need, how you would collect it and how you are going to analyse it. This need only be indicative at the moment.
  • Timeline – You don’t need to produce a detailed time plan, but it is helpful to provide a summary of what you are planning to do and when. You will be expected to submit your PhD thesis within three years (six years for part-time students) so it is important to think through whether the research project is feasible within this period (three years full-time, four years part-time for MPhil).
  • Bibliography - a short bibliography of key publications related to your research question.

Your proposal should typically comprise up to 2,500 to 3,000 words (up to six pages). Please check the specific programme requirements.

Step 3: Identify two Referees

Two Referees are required, specifically:

  • At least one must be an academic reference (if you are studying, or have studied, a postgraduate qualification, at least one reference should be from this institution).
  • Second reference may be a second academic reference or someone who knows you in a relevant work context.
  • Character or personal references are not accepted.
  • If you have not been in academia in the past seven years then we may accept an appropriate work reference.
  • All references must be a scan of the signed and dated letter, on official letter headed paper.
  • It is your responsibility to ensure that referees submit their references in time for any application deadlines or funding deadlines. See guidance in step 4.

Step 4: Apply to study Online

  1. All applications MUST be submitted on-line – the 'Apply Online' link can be found from the relevant programme page found via the list of PGR programmes. It is essential that you read the guidance on the relevant programme page in case you have to include in your application form specific additional information e.g. which cohort you wish to join (most programme have September one cohort starting in September but a few have start times -  in January or April).

Make sure that you upload supporting documents which will include:

  1. A formal Research Proposal with name of intended supervisor (if applicable) – see Step 2 (above)
  2. Scan of Transcript(s) - both undergraduate and postgraduate (if applicable);
  3. Scan of Degree Certificate(s) already awarded, or, a Scan of final transcript which must state that the qualification has been awarded - both undergraduate and postgraduate (if applicable).
  4. Scan of English language result (unless you are a native English speaker) – no older than two years from the proposed start date of your programme. For guidance on English status due to residency in an English-speaking country, or having studied in English, see the FAQ guide.
  5. References - either:
    • if you supplied contact details (including email) for your referees when applying on-line, an automated request will be emailed to them.  We strongly recommend that you advise your referees when you have applied and that, if they do not hear from the University, that they should check their ‘spam folders’ and, if necessary, to provide you with the reference for you to upload or:
    • if you have received copied of the references then you will need to upload these yourself.
    • Please note that it is the applicant’s responsibility to chase their referees to ensure that references are provided.
  6. An up to date CV of approx. two sides A4 (1,000 words) including clear evidence relating to academic, personal and professional achievements (including any prizes that you may have received).
  7. For all applications who are also seeking funding - please complete and then upload the separate Funding Request From. (See step 5 below).

Step 5: Do you wish to apply for funding?

It is essential that you have sufficient funding in place before you start your degree to cover Tuition Fees and Stipend (living expenses).

If you do not have sufficient funds available then you can apply for funding. HOWEVER, please note that there are a limited number of schemes and so the process is extremely competitive and so please read the guidance very carefully. See the Graduate School funding pages, including the Terms & Conditions for each of the awards.

If you wish to be considered for any Graduate School funding it is a requirement that you complete and upload a Funding Request Form to your online application by the relevant funding deadline.

Step 6: Track your application

We will provide you with a username and password so you can upload further supporting documents if necessary.

You can follow the status of your application through our Application Tracker. Please make sure you check this regularly.

The Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences Graduate School admissions staff will check your application. We will send you an email to ask for additional documents if required. Once your application is complete, we will send circulate it within your chosen department or send it to your named supervisor for a decision. You should expect to have a decision within six weeks of your application.

Ensure your references are submitted

If you are waiting for your referees to upload the references, we strongly recommend that you check to see if they have completed this.

Withdrawing your application

We appreciate that sometimes circumstances change which might mean that you no longer wish to study at the University of Bath. We would very much appreciate it if you could inform us as soon as possible if you no longer wish to study at the University of Bath and/ or that you wish to withdraw your application.

Step 7: Accept or decline your offer

We will inform you of the decision on your application via the Application Tracker.

If made an offer, you must accept or decline it through the Application Tracker.

Step 8: Meet your offer condition

If your offer is conditional, you will need to supply evidence that you meet these conditions as soon as you can.

Upload any additional documents via the Application Tracker.

Step 9: For international students only

Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS)

Once you hold an unconditional offer, and you have formally accepted this offer via your online applicant tracker, the University's Central Admissions Office will send you a pre-CAS check by email. You must reply directly to this email.

Please ensure that all details are correct as this will be more difficult to change later and could affect your visa application.

Once your CAS is issued you will be able to view it through the Application Tracker ‘in tray’.

Please note that it is not possible to issue a CAS more than three months prior to the start date of your programme.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

You may also need to apply for an ATAS certificate before applying for a student visa.

Please be aware that these can take in excess of 20 working days to process.

You should apply for ATAS clearance no more than six months before the start of your programme.

To check whether you need an ATAS certificate, consult the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS).

Upload your visa

When we can see that you have used your CAS, the University's Central Admissions Office will contact you to see if your visa application was successful and provide you with further instructions.

You can find advice about your student visas on the University's International Office.

Step 10: Register online and pay your tuition fees

UK, EU and part-time international applicants will be asked to register online before the start of the programme, providing the offer has been formally accepted.

Full-time international applicants who need a visa will be invited to register on-line once we know you have successfully obtained your visa for the University of Bath.

The final stage of the online registration for all UK, EU and International students will be the payment of your tuition fees through Student Finance.

Step 11: Enrolment and document review

UK/EU students will need to bring originals of their qualifications as listed on their Application Tracker.

International students will need to bring originals of their qualifications as listed on their Application Tracker as well as their passport and visa.

Once you have completed your University registration, you can go to the University Library and collect your Library card.

The Library card will give you access to the Library and other University services and facilities.

Welcome to the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences.