Key Information

For non-UK students it can be unclear what studying for a PhD involves. By "Independent Study Mode" we mean studying a PhD by supervision, with a single supervisor advising and overseeing your work. There are no courses involved1, and no requirement to attend at specified times: you and your supervisor determine together when you will meet, and whether you will always meet face-to-face, or in addition use telephone, Skype or other technology to discuss your work.

So, when you register and arrive at Lancaster2, you will meet your supervisor and the Postgraduate Research Students’ Administrator, as well as meeting other PhD students and other staff in the Department.

Soon after you arrive the Postgraduate Research Students' Tutor will explain some of the key information you need to know about studying for a PhD in the Department of Educational Research, and - together with the Postgraduate Administrator - will answer any questions you have. You will also be given the department’s postgraduate research students’ handbook for the year in which you start.

Some of the key things you need to know are as follows:

  • The Department has a set of expectations of progress, and each year in June, you will be appraised on your progress by academic members of the department other than your supervisor.
  • In the second year of your PhD you will prepare for the "confirmation" process, that is, submission of a document up to 5,000 words and a panel interview; your progress is checked to ensure that you are operating at PhD standard. This process leads to the ‘confirmation’ of working at PhD level.
  • The Department ensures that postgraduate research students are fully involved with the Department and opportunities include: participating in research seminar programme on Wednesdays; having a "work in progress conference" for all PhD students in June where they talk about their research; a reading group to talk about relevant journal articles; and a research students’ group, run by the students, which meets regularly and sometimes invites a member of academic staff.

The key thing about undertaking a PhD by the traditional route in the UK is that you are an independent researcher, not a doctoral programme course member. You are assisted by your supervisor, whom you will meet at regular intervals, but the responsibility is yours.

Your task is to create an 80,000 word thesis based on your research which is an original contribution to knowledge3. Two examiners will assess this, and you will undertake an oral examination (a viva voce) when you have completed your thesis after three years of full-time research (or part-time equivalent).


1 You may, however, need to undertake research training modules or English-language tuition, depending on your needs.

2 It is possible, also, to study for a traditional route PhD part-time at a distance from Lancaster.

3 “A successful candidate for the degree of PhD shall show convincing evidence of the capacity to pursue scholarly research or scholarship in his or her field of study on a scale which should be completed during three years of full-time research. The results of this research shall then be embodied in a thesis which makes an original contribution to knowledge and the completed thesis must contain material of a standard appropriate for scholarly publication.” Extract from Lancaster University Regulations (MARP).