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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a high level globally-recognised qualification that is rooted in original research.

The qualification is awarded for the outcomes of a period of advanced, individual study which demonstrates an original contribution of new knowledge or practice to your chosen discipline.

Studying for a PhD provides you with a unique and exciting opportunity to explore a research topic in real depth.

At the same time you will learn relevant research and professional skills. You will be expected to take the initiative and to develop your own ideas whilst guided and supported by your supervisory team.

The experience of undertaking a PhD will differ between subject areas. Some PhD projects are deliberately multi- or inter-disciplinary, exploring topics at the boundaries of traditional subjects, or applying approaches associated with a range of disciplines to a single research area.

Key facts

Full-time3-4 yearsup to 80,000 words 
Part-time5-7 yearsup to 80,000 words

All of our Academic Schools have PhD opportunities. Search our courses for a particular research area. Alternatively, if you’re not ready for a full PhD programme, we offer Research Master's degrees to prepare students for PhD study.

Types of PhD programmes

Practice-based PhD study is more commonly available in the creative and performing arts, where creative work forms a significant part of the intellectual inquiry.

The research investigation is undertaken partly by means of the creative process, while the thesis is formed of a piece of original creative work supported by a narrative and critique that places the work in an academic context.

We offer a number of practice-based PhDs including:

Designed for those who have already accumulated suitable published work demonstrating a coherent research direction (as much as a conventional PhD).

In addition to the published works, students provide a 5,000 - 10,000 word critical commentary evaluating their field and indicating the original contribution to learning they have made.

To be eligible, you must have:

  • graduated from Cardiff University six or more years ago, or
  • been a member of staff for six years, or
  • been the holder of an honorary title from Cardiff University for six years

If you meet one of these criteria and are interesting in finding out more, please contact your Academic School.

For many subjects the demands of advanced study and research for a PhD require a demonstration of relevant skills and understanding at Master’s level as a condition of entry.

For some PhD programmes there is the need for Master’s level training to be specifically tailored to the demands of PhD research in that discipline. This may be delivered as a linked package (e.g. the "1+3" model), or via a continuous PhD programme that has embedded within it a structured component of preparatory research skills and methods training.

We offer the following Integrated PhDs:

  • Integrative Neuroscience (4 year Wellcome Trust)
  • Cancer Studies (4 year)
  • Economics (4 year PhD including two years of teaching, coursework and research training)
  • Social Sciences (1+3 year PhD including 1 year MSc in Social Science Research Methods which is mandatory for ESRC funded students who do not meet the core training requirements)

While the majority of research degrees are taken at universities and other higher education institutions, there are also some opportunities for collaborative study with an external partner.

This may mean, for example, that the project is sponsored by a company, that you spend some of your time in the workplace of the partner or that the partner contributes resources or expertise to the project.

A collaborative PhD can allow you to benefit from the input of industrialists and policy-makers and to experience first-hand the direct impact of your research.

Collaborative PhDs can include: