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Academic milestones in your doctoral study

This guide sets out the academic milestones of your doctorate.

Flowchart of the different academic milestones
The typical milestones of a doctoral degree programme

A Guide to doctoral academic milestones

There are many different routes towards the final goal of submitting a thesis or portfolio and securing your doctorate. However you choose to study, there are several key milestones, or formal progression points, that you will have to navigate.

These milestones are:

  • registration and induction
  • taught phase (if on a Professional Doctorate or Integrated PhD programme)
  • approval of candidature
  • confirmation (not required for Professional Doctorates)
  • writing up
  • notice of intention to submit thesis or portfolio
  • submission of thesis or portfolio
  • examination (Viva Voce)
  • final submission of thesis or portfolio
  • graduation

The specific requirements and timing of these milestones will vary according to the particular research programme that you are registered on. Your department and/or supervisor should provide you with further specific information about what is required at certain points for progression through your degree.

Registration and induction

Your registration period, when you first join the University, includes:

  • induction period
  • establishment of supervisor expectations (if on a PhD programme)
  • training needs analysis (if on a PhD programme)

We have developed this guide to give you more information about starting your research programme outlining what is required of you and what support is available to help you start your programme effectively.

Approval of Candidature

Candidature is the period leading up to Confirmation, which is the point when your PhD registration is confirmed. The purpose of Candidature is to:

  • clearly define your research topic and supervisory arrangements at an early stage
  • identify relevant issues, such as ethical ones, raised by your proposed research
  • detail the professional development activities that you will undertake in your first year
  • set out specific attendance requirements
  • set a date for your first attempt at Confirmation

Candidature is usually within one month of initial registration for full-time students or three months for part-time students. If you are registered on a research degree with a taught element the deadline is adjusted to start from the date you enter the research phase. You will be asked to complete a Candidature form with your supervisor soon after you start at the University.

In addition to completing this form, during the Candidature period you must:


The Confirmation process is one of the principal ways in which the University determines that you are progressing well with your research and that your project is appropriate for a PhD. It is a key milestone; obtaining Confirmation can be a condition of continued funding for researchers in receipt of studentships.

At Confirmation, the Progression Board of Examiners will assess:

  • your Confirmation report or other written work produced in support of your Confirmation application
  • your performance in an oral examination which may involve a presentation
  • your progress to date as described in a statement from your supervisor
  • your skills training record

Confirmation normally happens 12 months after initial registration for full-time students or 18 months for part-time students. Students have a maximum of two attempts at Confirmation.

After obtaining Confirmation, you will continue to have regular supervision, skills training and development. You will also have a formal review of your progress every six months.

Writing up

Once you have completed the minimum period of study required for your particular degree, and you have completed the specified amount of work, you may be able to apply for transfer to 'writing up' status. You need to submit your application in writing and your eligibility must be confirmed by your lead supervisor and Director of Studies. You will decide whether to have continued supervision and access to the Library at this stage.

Finishing your doctorate

Here is a quick overview of the main milestones as you come to the end of your doctorate. If you are approaching this stage then you may find our complete Guide to Finishing Your Doctorate helpful.

Notice of intention to submit

This notifies to your Director of Studies and lead Supervisor that you intend to submit your thesis or portfolio. It must be done this at least two months before your intended submission. Once you have given notice of intention to submit, the internal and external examiners for your Viva Voce will be nominated.

Thesis submission

Depending on the nature of your research degree, you may be submitting a thesis or portfolio for the final examination. You will need to submit an electronic copy to Moodle. The Doctoral College will forward it on to the examiners - at least one internal and one external.

Your thesis or portfolio must be submitted in a particular format, for example, in some cases, you may be able to submit a thesis in traditional chapters or in an alternative format which integrates academic papers as a substitute for chapters. You should discuss the format at an early stage with your supervisor. You should allow plenty of time for the process and for any necessary corrections as your submission must take place before the registration date expires.


All doctoral students are required to undertake a final examination called the Viva Voce, or Viva. The main purpose of the Viva is to ensure that you are the author of the submitted thesis or portfolio. It is also an opportunity for you to discuss your ideas, show that you understand the relevance of your findings to the broader field of knowledge, defend any shortcomings and demonstrate your ability to communicate your research.

Your Viva will take place within three months of your thesis submission and you will be given at least one week’s notice of the exact date. If you need any reasonable adjustments to enable you to participate fully in the viva, it is your responsibility to notify the University at the earliest opportunity so that appropriate arrangements can be made. Members of your supervisory team are not normally present but will be there at the end of your Viva when you are verbally informed of the examiners' recommendation.

Examiners' report

After the Viva, the examiners complete a joint report recommending one of several outcomes. You will receive written notification of their recommendation, along with details of any additional work required and the deadline to complete it in, within two weeks. Once you have submitted any corrections or revisions to the satisfaction of the examiners, they will recommend a final outcome. If the award of a degree is recommended you will need to submit the final version of your thesis/portfolio before a Board of Studies meeting at which the outcome is finally approved.

Final submission of thesis / portfolio

You will need to submit the final version of your thesis in hardbound copy as well as uploading an electronic copy online. Your hardbound thesis/ portfolio will be deposited in the Library. The electronic copy will need to be made publicly available by being uploaded to the University’s research information system Pure


The University holds its award ceremonies twice a year, in winter and summer.

Please contact the Doctoral College to determine which ceremony you will be eligible to attend. This will be dependent on when your viva outcome is approved by the Board of Studies (Doctoral) and when you submit your hard-bound and electronic copies of your final thesis.

Contact us

If you have any questions about your academic milestones please contact your Doctoral Programmes Administrator.

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