Distance-based Doctoral study

We offer the opportunity for some students to undertake Doctoral study off-campus provided they meet certain criteria. This web page aims to answer some of the common questions about what is involved in distance-based learning.

How to apply

If you would like to apply for a distance-based programme please complete the relevant application form available online at the Postgraduate Study pages. As part of the application you will need to submit a research proposal. In order to help us make a decision on whether to accept you as a distance-based student you will need to provide some extra information as part of your personal statement. This should include what your motivation is for studying in this way, how you would manage your studies, how you will access the resources you need and how you envisage communicating with your supervisors.

What is a distance-based Doctorate?

Distance-based students undertake the majority of their research at an off campus location. There is no fee discount associated with studying in this way but it does mean you are able to be more flexible regarding location of study. You are therefore able to do the research required for your Doctorate in a location of your choosing and may mean visiting campus at just a few keys times during your studies and for no more than four months a year.

Why might I consider studying?

People choose to study distance-based for a variety of reasons. Research being undertaken could be related in the student’s area of residence and therefore moving would be detrimental to their capacity to carry out the research. Financial and practical implications of moving closer to the campus make distance study a more feasible option and could allow the student to combine study with other commitments including enabling them to continue to work. There are many other reasons to study in this way. You may have different reasons to do so but if you are considering studying on this basis there are some things you may want to consider. 

Is the distance-based route for you?

The distance-based route to Doctoral study is not for everyone. You have to have a very clear idea of your project and be able to motivate yourself. A great deal of commitment is needed in order to study in this way as you may be combining doctoral research with your other commitments. Undertaking Doctoral study can sometimes be quite a solitary undertaking and working off campus can be quite isolating, so the ability to proactively seek out connections from within relevant research communities is important. This route is well-suited to those who have a research project associated with their work or particular interests and where resources are available locally to support your research.

How will I be supported?

We are developing support for our students who are not based on campus in a number of ways: 

Supervision - communication via email and using VoIP technology such as Skype will allow you to discuss your work. You will still get detailed feedback on your work and guidance to support during the course of your studies.

Attendance - although you may be able to undertake the majority of your study at an off campus location, it is important to attend the campus for certain key aspects of the programme. Attendance for induction is strongly encouraged as you will get a chance to meet your supervisory team, undertake an initial skills audit and make a start on your doctoral studies. The School holds a Postgraduate Student Week in the third term. This includes opportunities to interact with other doctoral students both socially and academically, a chance to present at and attend the student conference, attend departmental seminars, undertake important progress meetings and carry out necessary training. Students are also generally required to be present on campus for their viva voce.

Research environment - being away from the campus does not mean you cannot be involved in the research environment but it may mean putting in some extra effort to ensure you remain actively involved. This may mean making connection with other distance-based researchers who live more locally to you and becoming involved in discussions through virtual environments. Taking advantage of time spent on campus is important, making connections through associations and seeking out opportunities at other organisations are all examples of ways of enriching your experience of doing a Doctorate.

Research training - although some online research training may be available in your area of research, this is an area which we are currently developing and therefore to study off campus you may be required to have significant research skills already. You may be able to undertake some research training during study visits to the campus. It is important to discuss your training needs early on with your supervisor to ensure that these can be met.

Skills development - there are a number of skills development courses available online from the University's Researcher Development Programme. These currently include Preparing for your Viva and Starting your Doctorate and a further eleven online courses are also available. There are also most focused social science skills workshops organised by the College, and a regular Training and Events Newsletter is sent to all research students to inform them of upcoming events.

Am I eligible?

Before we can offer you a place it is important that you have agreement from your potential supervisor and that they are satisfied that you will be able to undertake the Doctorate on an off campus basis. This potentially may mean slightly different entry requirements such as English language and more extensive research skills training. Agreements will also need to be reached regarding some of the more practical aspects of undertaking the Doctorate in this way (for example attendance requirements). It is important that arrangements are discussed early so that all parties involved know what to expect and will help to ensure you are able to successfully complete your studies.