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Research Degrees

Completing a PhD or a Master of Science by Research (MScR) with us is an exciting and fulfilling experience, and will become a defining period of your life.

We integrate our PostGraduate Research (PGR) programmes into the broad Research Challenges of the Department of Engineering: Advanced Materials, Electronics & Communications, Future Energy Systems and Sustainable Infrastructure. You will work at the cutting edge of engineering knowledge, developing novel methods, equipment, ideas, and solutions to some of the most important problems in your chosen research area, supported by a fantastic range of research facilities, collaborations and services.

Research degree students in the Department of Engineering are supported by a supervisory team of academics, internationally recognised experts in their fields, to guide their training and research direction throughout their programme.  You will also be part of one of our Research Nodes – thematic groupings of academics, researchers and PGR students providing critical research mass.  More information about our Research Nodes can be found here:

To develop a breadth of understanding within a General Engineering department, you will contribute to Departmental research activities, such as seminar programmes and discussions, and improve your general skills through the Department’s PGR training programme. All students present their work at events such as our annual Engineering PGR Conference, providing excellent experience of presenting to an audience of peers and academics. You will also receive opportunities to contribute to teaching in the Department and develop skills of use beyond your research focus.

Our Programmes

Masters of Science by Research (MScR) Course Code H1A209: One year of full-time or two years of part-time research and writing, at the end of which students produce a thesis of up to 50,000 words. If your topic is suitable and you demonstrate an aptitude for research, the MScR can lead to research at the PhD level and the option to transfer is available following a successful progression review at the 9 month mark.  Your first nine months of study would count towards the PhD programme.  

PhD Course Code H1A201: Usually three and a half years of full-time or six years of part-time research and writing, at the end of which students produce a thesis of up to 100,000 words. This programme is particularly suitable for students who wish to pursue a career in research in an industry or academic setting.

How to apply and entry requirements

Admissions decisions are based on your suitability for postgraduate research, fit within our areas of expertise and meeting the necessary entry requirements. We ask prospective students to consider staff research interests and make contact with an appropriate member of staff (Staff – Department of Engineering, Durham University) or contact one of our Node Leaders to discuss research plans before making a formal application.

Our minimum entry requirements for PhD study are masters-level qualification at 65% or higher, from a UK university or an equivalent degree qualification from an overseas university.  Evidence of research skills and/or experience is useful. For the Masters of Science by Research, at least a UK 2:1 honours degree (60% or higher) or equivalent from an overseas university is required.

We encourage potential applicants with queries about entry requirements, the suitability of your topic, or any other queries, to contact our Postgraduate Research Coordinator,

A formal application to study for a Postgraduate Research Degree should be submitted through our online application process, using the Durham University Postgraduate Application Portal

You will need to provide the following documentation:

  • A research proposal, which is no longer than 2,000 words in length (excluding bibliography), which specifies a topic of study, aims and objectives, proposed research methods and ethical considerations. A research proposal may not be requested if applying for an advertised studentship and not required by the considering supervisor. You should discuss this research proposal with your potential supervisor before submitting your application.  
  • A current Curriculum Vitae/Resumé.
  • Transcripts of previous degree(s), including a professional translation if not in English.
  • Two letters of reference
  • English Language evidence (if applicable) such as IELTS, TOEFL - Direct Entry Band E - Durham University

English language requirements

We welcome applications from both home and international applicants. To ensure you can benefit fully from your chosen course, the Department has English language requirements in place.

For international applicants whose first language isn’t English, we require a UKVI/IELTS score of 6.5 (with no component under 6.0). Applicants who have not reached this level, can be admitted to a 6-, 10- or 20-week pre-sessional English Language course, with the course length depending on your current UKVI/IELTS score (which must be over 6.0, with no component under 5.5). The Department’s English language requirements are in Band E: full details can be found here for Direct Entry and here for Pre-sessional Entry.  Direct Entry Band E - Durham University

Learn more about Durham’s English language requirements.

Applicants who cannot evidence the English language requirements at the time of application, may still be considered for a conditional offer, however applicants should be aware that an unconditional offer is required to secure a UK Visa; and many funders/scholarships also require an unconditional offer to be in place. We therefore encourage applicants to provide English Language evidence at the point of application or as soon as possible after this.

Start Dates

Our main intake of new students takes place in October. However, it is also possible to start your course in January or April.

What happens after I have submitted my application?

All postgraduate research applications are forwarded to us and will be considered as quickly as possible. We usually process applications within four to six weeks of receipt, although in some cases we do need to request further information. Candidates will receive official notification of the outcome from the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office. Successful candidates should ensure that they provide us with the required supporting documentation as soon as possible.

Visiting Research Students (Course Code YAH130)

Visiting Research Student applications are welcome following direct contact and agreement with suitable academic staff. Visiting students must submit an application as above and meet our standard entrance requirements, as well as providing supporting evidence in relation to the benefits to be gained from the visit. Visiting student applicants should be aware of Visa requirements and any applicable fees. We encourage potential applicants with queries about entry requirements, the suitability of your topic, or any other queries, to contact our Postgraduate Research Coordinator,

Fees, Funding and Studentships

Many students fund their studies privately, but there are opportunities for financial support from the University, and through partnerships with external organisations or through generous donations from alumni and friends of the University. Funding/studentship decisions are handled separately from academic offers, and it is a requirement to hold an academic offer from the University before applying for a University-administered scholarship programme.  

Learn more about University Postgraduate Scholarships

Thanks to a partnership with the China Scholarships Council (CSC), there is a comprehensive studentship package available to applicants from Mainland China wishing to study a full-time PhD at Durham.

Learn more about the Chinese Scholarship Council

If you are a graduate of Durham University you may be eligible for a 10% Alumni Fee Scholarship, see here for more information:

If you wish your application to be considered for one of these Scholarships, you should give particular attention to the specific requirements of the competition. You should also indicate which scheme you wish to apply for on your application form and pay special attention to key dates and application deadlines.  Note that applications requiring concessions/pre-sessions English programmes are ineligible for University scholarships.

Information about tuition fees can be found here:  Tuition fees - how much are they? - Durham University

Contact Email Addresses

Postgraduate Research Coordinator –