Information for Applicants

The following information is provided for applicants interested in studying for a research degree at the University of South Wales. The guidance will assist you as you prepare to apply and will outline how your application will be considered, what will be expected of you and what you can expect from the University.

The specific information included will assist you in:

  • Deciding which research programme to apply for
  • Preparing your research proposal
  • Making your application
  • Understanding how your application is processed
  • Understanding why your application may be unsuccessful

Deciding which research programme to apply for

The University offers several different types of research programme and you should consider these carefully before applying to ensure you are selecting the right one for you. You will need to demonstrate to reviewers of your application that you have done your research and are aware of what to expect.

If you are interested in a particular research area or working under the supervison of a particular member of staff, it is often worth discussing your research ideas with them before submitting an application.

Preparing your research proposal

A research proposal must be submitted unless your application is for a pre-defined funded studentship (in which case you should instead explain your particular interest and experience with respect to the topic to be investigated).

Your research proposal should give as detailed as possible information about the research you wish to undertake. This should be no more than 2,000 words, including references and should enable the reader to obtain a clear understanding of the research that is to be undertaken and the context in which it sits. Essentially, the reader will be given answers to the questions “what?”, “why?” and “how?” i.e. what is the research, why is it being undertaken, how is it going to be carried out and how the MPhil or PhD submission is going to be presented. The description of the research should not be written in such a way that it is inaccessible to the non-specialist (i.e. specialist language should be kept to a minimum).

In the case of an MPhil/PhD or PhD application, the proposal must indicate the anticipated contribution to knowledge. You must also state whether you have considered any potential ethical issues associated with your proposed research project.

A typical proposal will contain:

  • An introductory section which sets out the research question and/or the context in which the research sits. This should include a brief description of relevant previous work with key literature references, or information sources if appropriate. A major function of this section of the proposal is to justify why the research is worth carrying out and hence should include a statement of aims and objectives. This part of the proposal addresses the “what?” and “why?” questions.
  • Information about the work that is going to be undertaken. The level of detail in this section should be such that the reader understands the methodologies that are being used and why they are being used. If aims and objectives can be defined, these should be included and if it is possible to attach a provisional timescale to a project which naturally breaks down into a series of sections, this is always helpful. (NB: It is essential to indicate, for an MPhil/PhD registration, where transfer would be expected to take place.) This part of the proposal addresses the “what?” and the first of the two “how?” questions.
  • A statement as to the nature of the MPhil or PhD submission if this is not going to just be a thesis. It is expected that all submissions will include a substantial piece of written work but for certain subjects, such as creative writing, drama, media or film, the submission might include other outputs, such as a documentation of creative practice on DVD, or a live performance, or a script, or a novel, or a film, etc, etc. It is accepted that the nature of the submission may change as your research progresses, but you should be able to indicate your current thinking on what the nature of the MPhil or PhD submission is going to be.
  • A list of the references or information sources referred to in the text.

The above layout is not meant to be prescriptive and different disciplines may structure proposals differently (e.g. by addressing the “what?”, “why?” and two “how?” questions as separate sections). This is perfectly understandable and acceptable. In addition, lists of references and/or a reading list may not be appropriate in some areas of research and should therefore be omitted.

Experience has shown that applications that are not agreed because the proposal is deemed to be insufficient have fallen down on one or more of the areas shown above. For example, in a scientific or technological project a particular quantity is proposed for measurement but it is not clear how it will be measured or why this quantity is of importance. This is just a question of getting the level of detail right. The same is true of projects involving questionnaires, where it is often unclear as to how many people will be surveyed and the anticipated response rate. For creative projects, a good indication of the number of artefacts and their complexity may be appropriate. If in doubt, include more detail. Including an appended reading list and/or a project management sheet such as a Gantt chart is perfectly acceptable.

Making your application

Research degree applications are only considered at certain time points during the academic year:

October admissions: Closing date for applications — 1st May, notification of decision — 1st July.

January admissions: Closing date for applications — 1st October, notification of decision — 1st December.

April admissions: Closing date for applications — 1st January, notification of decision — 1st March.

It’s very important that you provide all the relevant information when you apply as incomplete applications will not be considered. Details of our entry requirements can be found here but there are some general points that you should also consider:

  • All applications are submitted via an online application form.
  • When completing the online application form, you should select your research programme of choice from the available course list. Please choose the programme that best fits the subject area of your research proposal and the level at which you wish to study. For a full list of our available research degree programmes please click here
  • A single research proposal must be uploaded as a supporting document.
  • Applications that do not include a research proposal will be rejected as will applications that include multiple research proposals.
  • All applications must include two references on headed paper from your referees which should be uploaded as a supporting document. Applications that do not contain references will not be processed. At least one referee should be able to comment on your academic/professional ability. References provided by relatives are not acceptable.
  • All applicants from countries where English is not the first language are required to provide evidence of English Language proficiency e.g. IELTS or TOEFL certificates which must be uploaded as supporting documents. A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required (with a minimum of 6.5 in reading and writing). Some faculties may require an IELTS of 7.0.
  • Evidence of qualifications e.g. degree certificates and transcripts must be submitted at the time of application.
  • If you are applying for a PhD direct and you hold a relevant Masters degree you should submit as a supporting document an outline of the title and content e.g. an abstract of your Masters degree and one of your referees should be an independent academic referee who can comment on your performance on the Masters degree.
  • If you are applying for a PhD by Publication / Portfolio please consult the appropriate guidance documents”: before applying and submit all required information as a supporting document.

Understanding how your application is processed

Your research degree application will initially be considered by two members of academic staff within the Faculty who will make recommendations to the Faculty Research Programmes Committee (FRPC). The reviewers will consider the quality of the research proposal and in the case of MPhil/PhD and PhD applications, the proposed original contribution to knowledge.

If the reviews are positive, you will be invited for interview. This will be conducted by your proposed Director of Studies and an independent member of the FRPC. Interviews may be held either face to face, by telephone or by Skype / video-conferencing facilities.

The FRPC approves all research degree admissions, notes new registrations and ensures any ethical issues have been considered and approved where required. In approving admission for any research degree programme, the FRPC considers several important criteria.

What happens next?

If your application is successful, you will be issued with an offer letter. This will contain the following information:

  • Start date
  • Title of your programme
  • Names of your supervisors
  • Information regarding fees
  • Enrolment and induction information
  • Progression and annual monitoring information
  • A link to our Research Degree Regulations and Codes of Practice
  • A link to the University’s Terms and Conditions for International Students

You will need to formally accept your offer to confirm your place.

Additional Information for International Applicants

If you are an International Applicant please note that by accepting your offer you are also accepting the University’s Terms and Conditions for International Students. You should also visit our International student support web pages for information on visas and immigration
When you have formally accepted your offer and we have recieved the appropriate deposit as specified in your offer letter, the University will issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) form. You will need this in order to apply for your visa.

Depending on your programme of study, you may also need to obtain an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate prior to applying for your visa. We will advise you of this in your offer letter if this is the case.

Understanding why your application may be unsuccessful

It is important that you are aware of the criteria for approving research degree applications. If any of these are not met, your application may be rejected.