Applying for a Research Degree

This information will help you with the application process to become a research student.

Application Deadlines

The admission points for research degree applicants are October and February of each academic session. Please note that the application deadline for February 2018 entry has now passed.  If you select the February option on either application or submission, the system will default your application to 1 February 2019 entry. The next entry points are:

  • If you wish to be considered for October 2018 entry, you must submit a complete application by 31 May 2018.  
  • If you wish to be considered for February 2019 entry, you must submit a complete application by 30 September 2018.

If you are applying as an International Applicant, please ensure that you meet the University's minimum English language requirements prior to applying.  See web link below.

If you are applying for the DPT, both Home/EU and International applications must be submitted by 1 July 2018, if you wish to be considered for the January 2019 cohort.

Information on our English language requirements

Doctorate Routes Available

Masters degree (MSc/MRes): 

Full time research

Normally 12 months full-time or 24 months part-time to completion

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Full time research

Normally 36 months full-time or 60 months part-time to completion

Professional Doctorate (PD)

Combination of taught modules and research project

Normally 36 months full-time or 60 months part-time to completion

Thinking About a Research Degree?

Undertaking a research degree is a fantastic opportunity.


A research degree is a large commitment and you may find the following information useful in helping you decide if you want to apply to become a research student. There are many reasons why you may want to undertake postgraduate study in the form of a research degree.  For example, you may require a postgraduate research degree to progress in your chosen career or you may simply want to continue study in an area which interests you.

Before you apply it is important to consider carefully the area and type of research you wish to undertake as this will form the basis of your application.  It may be helpful to contact an academic member of staff to discuss your research proposal as they will be able to advise you on its merits and whether or not the University could possibly support you. 

Finding Further Information

Prior to applying, you can search individual School's web pages within RGU to help you identify similar research strengths as yourself as well as potential supervisors.

Frequently Asked Questions on Applying/Submitting an Application

Who Can I Contact for More Information?

If you want more information before applying or if you can’t find the answer online you can get in contact with us by emailing

Alternatively, if you want more information on a research area, or details on a member of staff's research interests, this can be found searching the University home page.

What are the Entry Requirements?

Normal entry requirements are a Masters degree or a first or upper second class honours degree from a University of the United Kingdom, or from an overseas University.  

Applicants holding qualifications other than those above shall be considered on their merits and in relation to the nature and scope of the proposed research programme.

Any applicant whose first language or language of previous University-level instruction is not English must normally demonstrate competence in English: English Language Requirements

In order to study successfully for research degree, it is essential that you can speak and write English fluently and that you are able to apply this in an academic setting (eg writing academic essays).

Application is normally to MSc/PhD or MRes/PhD with transfer to PhD dependent on satisfactory progress at around 12 months or Professional Doctorate.

Do You Provide Accommodation?

The University’s Accommodation Service provides practical information and advice on all matters concerning accommodation.  However, you can only contact them once you have accepted an unconditional offer letter.

Can I Undertake a Research Degree Part-time?

Yes.  However, it will take longer.  The minimum period of part-time registration is 21 months for MSc or MRes and 42 months for PhD.

Important Information for Part-Time Applicants (PDF 25KB)

How Much Are the Fees?

The specific details of Tuition Fees are in the relevant subject area: 

Research degrees

For more information visit:

Finance & Scholarships

Alumni Loyalty Discount

Do You Offer Studentships?

Research Studentships will be advertised on individual School web pages and our Funded Studentship Opportunities web page.

What Skills Will I Gain by Doing a Research Degree?

By completing a postgraduate research degree you will develop a number of skills.  In the main you will have the ability to demonstrate research skills through conducting and managing your programme of research.  However communication, the ability to write with clarity and purpose as well as your employability will be major skills which you will develop during your postgraduate study.

Will I be Able to do Other Courses While I am doing My Research Degree?

All Doctorate Students must undertake the Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) Research Methods course at the same time as their research degree studies. To submit for any research degree award, you must have successfully completed the PgCert Research Methods course. However, this course helps to underpin your research degree by assisting with the registration process, transfer application to PhD (if appropriate), as well as strengthening key research skills. 

How Does a Supervisor Support My Studies?

The main way you are supported as a research student is through your supervisory team.  Your supervisory team will be led by a Principal Supervisor who has responsibility for supervising and supporting your research on a regular and frequent basis.

In addition to the Principal Supervisor, the supervisory team will normally include 1 or 2 other individuals who will provide you with a range of expertise and knowledge to support your studies. Sometimes an individual external to the University is appointed as a supervisor in order to give advice and assistance on specialised aspects of the project.

Your Principal Supervisor is responsible for establishing a satisfactory framework for the supervision of your research programme including making arrangements for meetings between you and your supervisory team so that you can review your progress and discuss your support needs. The supervisory team will also be there to assist you in defining the topic of research and preparing a detailed programme of study.  At an early stage, there will be opportunities to discuss your training needs and a suitable programme of supporting studies will be identified. Your progress both in your research and in developing academic skills is monitored throughout the research programme via regular meetings and contact with your supervisory team. When you begin to write-up your findings your supervisory team will also be there to offer support and guidance in the preparation and writing of your thesis by commenting and discussing drafts with you.

As the likelihood of a successful project depends to a large extent on the help and guidance which the supervisor can offer, the University takes steps to ensure that the members of the supervisory team combine specialist expertise in the particular research topic and experience in supervision of research degree candidates.

What Training Opportunities Are Available?

The University also offers a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) Research Methods which is undertaken by all research students during the early part of their studies. This course provides you with essential tools to begin your research degree. As part of the assessment for the first module, students undertake a presentation and prepare coursework.  This work is assessed by both the Module Team and Principal Supervisor and helps the student prepare for the registration stage. The module is delivered by a combination of seminars and private study, and provides students with an excellent opportunity to network with fellow peers. To submit for any doctoral award, students must successfully complete this course.

Both the Graduate School and your host School will offer a number of relevant training events during the course of your studies. If you are based at a distance, this may be offered via Wimba Classroom.

Additional training opportunities are available through the Department for the Enhancement of Learning, Teaching and Assessment (DELTA).  Courses are offered on teaching and demonstrating as well as viva preparation and are available to enrolled/registered research degree students of the University.

Why do I have to provide two academic references?

It's important that you submit two academic references as part of the application, to ensure that we can independently assess your academic strengths and weaknesses in relation to your proposed topic.  Ideally, these references should relate to the most recent academic qualification you have acquired and should be from academic staff who taught and/or assessed your work.  This is particularly important if you have previous UK study.  They should not be references which you have used for a previous application and should be from people who have actually taught you or supervised your work at Masters/Honours level.  For Professional Doctorate applications, it is acceptable for one of your academic references to come from the workplace.

My transcript is in a language other than English. Is this ok?

If your transcript is not in English don't worry. We are able to accept it so long as it is accompanied by an official English translation.

What happens to my application once it's submitted?

Once we have received your application it will be checked and if complete, it will be forwarded to the appropriate School for consideration. Candidates are assessed on the basis of their academic fitness and general suitability to undertake research, and the relevance of their previous studies and experience to the proposed research topic.

If you are applying for a studentship you may be shortlisted for the vacancy. Shortlisting will be based on academic fitness and general suitability to undertake research, and the relevance of any previous study and experience.

If shortlisting does take place interviews will normally be held, either in person or by the telephone if you are based at a distance.

How long will it take for you to get back to me?

After submitting your application to the University, it may take up to 4 weeks before you will be contacted. This is to allow the School time to forward your application to an appropriate academic member of staff to consider your application and to also identify potential supervisors. Please be patient during this time.

If your application is successful, an offer letter will be issued to you via your online application and you will be sent an email advising that your offer is ready to view/print. You are requested to follow an online link within your offer letter confirming your acceptance of the offer or declining the opportunity to study at the University.

If you are unsuccessful you will by informed by email.

I still have unanswered questions, where can I get help?

If you would like further clarification, before deciding to apply or not, you can contact us at, or alternatively contact an academic member of staff within your preferred School. If you are enquiring about your current application, please remember to quote your application ID number, issued to you when you originally submitted your application.

Application Procedures

An application will not be considered complete unless it includes:

  • Two appropriate academic references;   
  • copy of degree certificate(s) together with a transcript or mark sheet for each degree qualification;
  • certificate of English Language competency score of IELTS 6.5 in all aspects of the test or equivalent for applicants whose first language is not English;
  • Completion of Academic Progression Form as well as provision of previous Tier 4 study visas, if you are applying as an International applicant and have previously studied in the UK; 
  • please note that applications should also include a draft proposal, or at least a short summary to indicate the potential area of research.  Each School reserves the right to process any draft proposal through Turnitin, as part of the process in considering your application.

Applications are assessed on the basis of their academic fitness and general suitability to undertake research, and the relevance of their previous studies and experience to the proposed research topic. Once complete, the relevant School is informed that an application is ready to be considered.

Apply Online - Research Degrees

Duration of Study

If studying full-time, the recommended period of registration for an MSc by Research/MRes is 1 year, an MPhil 2 years and a PhD/Professional Doctorate 3 years. If studying part-time, the recommended period of registration for an MSc by Research/MRes is 2 years, an MPhil 3 years and a PhD/Professional Doctorate 5 years. In your final year of study, it is important that you aim for a timely completion, post-viva and by the end of your registration period.

There are several conditions attached to students based outwith Aberdeen studying for a research degree part-time, one of which is that a student must attend the University's PgCert Research Methods Course plus any other commitments agreed between the Student and your host School. 

Before you Arrive

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

An ATAS clearance certificate will be a mandatory requirement for some Postgraduate Research and some Postgraduate Taught Masters students in Science, Engineering or Technology disciplines.

You do not need an ATAS Certificate if you are a UK/EU/EEA national.

You do need an ATAS certificate if:

  • You require a student Entry Clearance or Visa to commence study in the UK.
  • You wish to study within certain subject areas (list provided at the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) website) at a UK University where the exit award will be a Doctorate Postgraduate Masters Degree by Research or a Masters Degree.
  • You are applying for a visa extension and your subject area falls within the list provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - see  ATAS Scheme - Flow Chart for list of eligible subjects.

Research Degree Students

Before you apply for an ATAS certificate, you must have an conditional offer letter from Robert Gordon University. If you are a current RGU Research student and require a student visa extension, you will also need to apply for an ATAS certificate. 

To prepare for your ATAS certificate clearance, you should write a short proposal with your Principal Supervisor. 

Your offer letter from the University will explain if you have to apply for an ATAS clearance certificate before applying for your Visa. Application for the certificate is done online on the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) website.  Please note, if you attempt to apply for a Visa without an ATAS certificate, the UKVI will refuse your application automatically.

Masters Taught and Enhanced Undergraduate Degree Students

Before you apply for an ATAS certificate, you must have a conditional offer letter from Robert Gordon University. If you are a current RGU Masters student and require a student visa extension, you will also need to apply for an ATAS certificate.

Your offer letter from the University will explain if you have to apply for an ATAS clearance certificate before applying for a Visa. The admissions office will issue you with an electronic support letter. This email letter will provide you with the course information text and core modules for your chosen programme, required as part of the ATAS application process. Application for the certificate is done online on the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) website, however, we highly recommend you wait for the formal ATAS letter before attempting to apply. Please note, if you attempt to apply for a Visa without an ATAS certificate, the UKVI will automatically refuse your application .

Additional Information

Further information about living in Aberdeen for International Students can be sourced via the International Office: After you Apply

Contact the Research Degrees Office

For more information:

+44 (0) 1224 262209

Apply Online - Research Degrees