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How to Apply

We look forward to receiving applications from everyone who has the ability to benefit from our programmes.

Our aim is to make the application process as simple and efficient as possible for you. Please read the descriptions of our two PhD programmes carefully, so you know which one is the right one for you and then apply to only one of them. Once you've decided, please apply online using My Applications.

Research Proposal

You will need to submit a research proposal with your application. Please complete the appropriate document for the programme you want to apply for and include it with your online application:

PhD Linguistics (by Research only)

PhD in Applied Linguistics by Thesis and Coursework

You must download and save the proposal form to your computer before completing, you will not be able to save changes to the form if you open with the browser.

If you have any queries please contact our Faculty Postgraduate Admissions team:

Postgraduate Admissions 
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences 
Lancaster University 

Telephone: +44 (0)1524 510880
Fax: +44 (0)1524 510857


You are responsible for ensuring that your application form and the confidential reports from your referees reach us as soon as possible. We need both references before we can begin to consider your application, so it is important that you ask your referees to write your references promptly. We will begin to process your application as soon as we receive both of your references, and will try to reply as quickly as possible.

Deadlines for Applications

In order to allow for processing of relevant documents and for applicants from abroad to obtain visas, it is necessary for our Department to make recommendations for acceptance to the University Postgraduate Admissions Office well in advance of starting dates.

PhD Linguistics (by Research Only)

Most students start their period of registration in October, though a January start date is also possible. You should aim to have your complete application with us no later than 31 July for an October start and 16 November for a January start. Students wishing to start at any other point in the academic year must have this approved by the department before an offer is made.

You will be asked to send us two documents:

  • an application form and
  • a research proposal form including a proposal of about 2000 words

If you wish to study part time, you should advise us in your application of the periods in each year when you will be able to come to Lancaster to have regular meetings with your supervisor and devote time to an intensive period of work. It is normally expected that a part-time student who wishes to study away from the University should attend Lancaster for a period of time at the beginning and end of their studies and with appropriate visits during their studies. Another pattern is to spend one year full-time at Lancaster, followed by shorter periods in subsequent years.

PhD in Applied Linguistics by Thesis and Coursework

Most students take this programme on a part-time basis however it can be taken full time.  There is one intake per year, in January. Part-time students will need to be in Lancaster, approximately 2 weeks in early July during the first two years of the programme.

You should aim to have your complete application with us no later than 16 November for a January start.

General Advice

These notes are intended to help you make the best possible application when you fill in your application form. Please fill in the forms carefully and provide all information requested. The more information we have about you, the easier it is to come to a decision. In particular, please complete "reasons for application", carefully, and in detail.

If you do not provide us with the following it may lead to delays:

  • The degree classification (class of pass, grade or GPA) of your degrees
  • A clear indication of how you intend to support yourself during the period of study
  • Evidence of proficiency in English if you are not a native speaker: see English Language below.

Personal Statement

We would like to see a clear statement, in your own words, telling us in as much detail as you can about why you want to take the course or undertake the research that you have chosen and what you hope to achieve by doing it. You should think very carefully about this statement and treat it as an opportunity to show what your interests are and how you will be able to benefit from postgraduate study in our department.

Additional Evidence

If you have written an essay or dissertation that received a high mark, or have published a paper on a topic relevant to the degree for which you are applying, you can send us one copy of one such item as part of your application. If you are sending a piece of coursework or a dissertation, we would prefer to have a copy which includes the mark given and the examiner's comments (if available). This will help us in deciding whether or not to offer you a place. This is particularly likely to be helpful if, for example, you have difficulty finding suitable referees or if your English Language scores are borderline.

English Language

If your first language is not English, you will be asked for a recognised English language qualification. Certificates need to be valid on the date you start your PhD programme. This may mean that even though your certificate is valid at the time you apply, you may need to take the test again before you take up your place. IELTS certificates are only valid for two years. If you are unsure whether your English language qualifications are acceptable, please contact us.

  • Either [Option 1]: An IELTS Academic (UKVI Approved) result of at least 6.5 overall (with no less than 6.5 in the reading and writing elements and 6.0 in the speaking and listening elements)
  • or [Option 2]: An internet-based TOEFL result of at least 93 overall (with no less than 24 in the reading and writing elements and 22 in the speaking and listening elements)
  • or [Option 3]: A Pearson PTE Academic result of at least 62 overall (with no less than 62 in the reading and writing elements and 55 in the speaking and listening elements)

IELTS certificates are valid for 24 months. Your IELTS certificate will need to be less than 24 months old on the start date of your study at Lancaster.

If applicants have either/both of the following, completed within the last 2 years they may not need to submit a test score:

  • 2 years full-time study at undergraduate level, in the UK or other majority English speaking country
  • 1 years full-time study at postgraduate level, in the UK or other majority English speaking country


We expect you to contact your referees and ask them to send a reference direct to us, preferably using the special reference forms that the university provides. The reference should be stamped with an official stamp where possible, to confirm its authenticity.

Please choose your referees carefully. Each referee should be someone who:

  • is familiar with you and your academic work
  • can tell us about your suitability for postgraduate work
  • can speak with authority about your abilities

The best referees will be your former dissertation tutors, department heads or senior colleagues. An academic reference from an employer or other person is usually only useful if they can speak credibly about your suitability for postgraduate studies - for example, if they have studied for a higher degree themselves. However, if you are applying to do research in language teaching you may find it useful if your employer or a more senior colleague can comment positively on your professional work, especially in the area of professional development.

It is usually helpful if your referee can mention some specific examples of relevant work that you have done, and comment on its quality. Please make sure that you tell your referees that a reference which is written purely according to a formula, or which only mentions that you are of a good character and perform your duties well, is not useful. We want to know in detail what relevant things are special and interesting about you. A reference which is an "open testimonial", rather than a confidential statement is also not useful. We expect referees to send us confidential references, and to send them direct to us.

Academic Career and Qualifications

We normally expect PhD candidates to have a good masters degree. However, we sometimes admit people who do not have masters degrees if we see evidence of other relevant academic or professional experience that we can count as an equivalent. We look at any certificates and transcripts you send to see how well you have done in your academic and/or professional career. Most of our successful applicants have above average grades. However, we realise that students’ learning changes over time and you will not be ruled out simply because of some low grades in the distant past. We will look especially carefully at your performance in areas related to linguistics and language study. We will also take into account anything your referees say about your academic performance and readiness for postgraduate work.

We accept people as research students primarily on the basis of clear evidence that they can work independently and thoroughly on a research question, which is within the field of interest and expertise of a member of the academic staff. You can only be accepted if a member of staff is available to act as your personal supervisor, and if there is an additional member of staff who can act as a support supervisor should this person be away from the university for an extended period. Therefore, before considering applying to us, it is useful to check whether the research interests of any particular staff in the department, at Lancaster, clearly coincide with your own.

We consider three sources of evidence of your potential to undertake independent research:

  • the information provided in your application form
  • the detail you provide in your research proposal form
  • the recommendations provided in support of your application by your referees

It is expected that you will have studied or worked in linguistics or an area of language related to your intended topic of research. It is also desirable for you to be familiar with basic research methodology and some of the research literature in your chosen field.

Research proposal

We cannot process your PhD application unless you include a research proposal, preferably on our research proposal form setting out what research you want to do, why you want to do it, and how you intend to carry it out.

We use your research proposal:

  • to help us assess your suitability for research
  • to see whether we have anyone able and willing to supervise you in your proposed area of research and
  • to assign you a supervisor on admission

Please make your research proposal as detailed and specific as you can. It does not commit you to doing exactly what you describe. Students often change their minds, at least to some degree, after discussions with their supervisor. For example, your supervisor might tell you about new research which will influence your own research.

You can find advice on how to write your research proposal, as well as the form which the Department requires, at the top of the page. Please complete the appropriate form for the programme you want to apply for and include it with your application when you complete it online.

Your application and your proposal form are considered by the PhD Admissions Committee of the Department. If they consider that your application is acceptable, individual members of academic staff, whose research interests relate to your own, are approached with a view to acting as your research supervisor.

Most students start their period of registration in October, though a January start date is also possible. You should aim to have your complete application with us no later than 31st July for an October start and 31st October for a January start. Students wishing to start at any other point in the academic year must have this approved by the department before an offer is made.

interview about language learning