Research degrees are the highest degree awarded by UK universities. They allow you to take an in-depth study of a particular topic. You'll conduct a piece of independent and original research, which you'll write up in the form of a thesis or a dissertation.

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Research degrees include the following qualifications:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
  • Master of Arts (MA) by research
  • Master of Science (MSc) by research

They're all qualifications in their own right with a different duration and requirements for a thesis or a dissertation.

All our research students are supported by the York Graduate Research School. The School co-ordinates training and development, careers and administrative support. It ensures your supervision and training is of the highest quality, and that you receive fair and consistent treatment.


  • Full-time: typically three years
  • Part-time: six years

Undertaking a PhD allows you to explore a specific area of your chosen subject in depth. A PhD is the highest research degree-level qualification and therefore takes the longest to complete.

Your PhD culminates in a research thesis of around 70,000 to 100,000 words in length. Depending on how your research progresses, you may be permitted extra time to write up your thesis, usually at the end of the third year. A supervisor will help you to navigate your topic, offering expert advice on the direction of your research.

Completing a PhD can give you a great sense of personal achievement. You'll develop high-level transferable skills and contribute to the development of knowledge in your chosen field. Our research students present papers and posters at conferences in the UK and abroad. Many have the satisfaction of seeing their work published in specialist journals.

PhD by distance learning

We now offer some PhD degrees by distance learning:

NEW Doctoral loan scheme: you may be entitled to a government-backed loan of up to £25,000.


  • Full-time: two years
  • Part-time: four years

The MPhil may suit you if you can't commit to the longer PhD course. It puts less emphasis on developing original knowledge, but still promotes skills in research, writing, analysis and critical thinking. Most research students enrol on an MPhil course and transfer to a PhD at the end of their second year. However, the MPhil is a qualification in its own right.

Research for the MPhil is carried out in a similar way to the PhD, but the final thesis is normally shorter; between 50,000 and 75,000 words in length.

MA/MSc by research

  • Full-time: one year
  • Part-time: two years

The MA/MSc by research involves little or no coursework. You will spend most of your time working on a dissertation of around 15,000 to 20,000 words. Your assessment is based wholly on the quality of your dissertation.

You can choose a specific research project and work with a greater degree of independence than on a taught masters course. You'll work with a supervisor who will advise you on your project. Your department will provide research training and support.

Postgraduate loan scheme: you may be entitled to a government-backed loan of up to £10,609.

Continuation of studies

Depending on your course, you may be permitted extra time to write up your thesis after ending your formal enrolment at the University.

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