Types of research degrees

Research degrees or PhDs are also known as doctorates, they are the highest academic qualification awarded by UK universities. We’ve clarified some of the terms you’re likely to come across when applying for a research degree. Remember, there are a huge variety of projects available throughout the year, with new opportunities posted nearly every week.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

A PhD is a globally recognised doctoral degree whereby you will need to carry out research that makes a significant original contribution to, and shows a critical appreciation of, existing knowledge in the subject.

Although ‘PhD’ means ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, study areas range from management theory to scientific issues. A PhD is suitable for students who want to explore theory, push back the frontiers of knowledge, and pursue a career in academia or in industry. Read our PhD student’s stories to get a better insight into life as a postgraduate research student.

A typical PhD might involve developing a research question, reviewing existing research, conducting research, and finally, writing up a thesis (around 80,000 words). Subject to approval, you can also produce your PhD thesis in the alternative format of journal articles and/or other scholarly work in preparation, under submission, or published during the course of your research degree programme.


A studentship is another term for a funded PhD. It provides funding for postgraduate research students who are working on specific projects. The funding is usually provided by an organisation, the University or a combination of both.

Funded PhD projects will normally receive funding for tuition fees, a tax-free living allowance, and in some cases additional funding for costs of running the project and/or additional training. Please check individual PhD adverts for specific details on what the funding covers.

How long does it take to complete?

Our PhD degrees normally take three years full-time or six years part-time to complete. You will hold the title of ‘Doctor’.

If you are an international student considering studying part-time for a PhD, please contact our Admissions Team for details of eligibility.

Engineering Doctorate (EngD)

An Engineering Doctorate is an alternative to the traditional PhD for students who want a career in industry. It is available in some areas of engineering and applied science. EngDs involve collaboration with industry and combine formally assessed taught modules with innovative research related to real industrial problems.

How long does it take to complete?

Our EngD degrees normally take three years to complete although some funders may provide support beyond this, up to a period of four years.

PhD by Practice

At Loughborough, a PhD by Practice is available in Architecture, Design and Creative Arts, and Social Sciences and Humanities. It is a PhD that accommodates the communication of knowledge that may not be best represented and communicated in written form and allows for innovative practices of research.

How long does it take to complete?

Our PhD by Practice degrees normally take three years full-time or six years part-time to complete.

PhD in Creative Writing

The PhD in Creative Writing addresses an overarching research question through academic research and a creative component. This could be a cycle of poems, a novel, a section of a novel, a novella, a play script, or a collection of short stories.

How long does it take to complete?

Our PhD in Creative Writing degrees normally take three years full-time or six years part-time to complete.

Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT)

Centres for Doctoral Training are established to support doctoral researchers at a university or group of universities under a specific research theme to address a specific skills gap in the current market.

They bring together diverse areas of expertise to train researchers with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today’s evolving issues and future challenges. They also provide a supportive and exciting environment for students, create new working cultures, provide developmental and skills training opportunities, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry where possible. We are proud to be involved in several CDTs which are funded by Research Councils.