Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Design


The PhD was certainly a great experience. A PhD is not only about the topic that you are researching, but also about learning and research skills.

Yuqian ZhangPhD (2009) Print Specialist, Ricoh

Research Degrees


In this section:


Research degree programmes support your personal development as well as the development of subject knowledge and research skills. You will have access to a varied programme of formal training sessions designed to support personal development and competence in more general skills. Every student has at least one supervisor to guide their work and provide critical advice. Your supervisor will advise on appropriate training and the preparation and submission of the written thesis that presents your research and conclusions in detail. Your achievement will be assessed by the examination of the thesis and an oral examination.

PhD by Distance Learning

The School of Design now also offers PhD by Distance Learning, for further information please contact Dr Mic Spencer, Head of the Graduate School: m.spencer@leeds.ac.uk


For enquiries contact:

AHC Graduate School
University of Leeds
Leeds LS2 9JT
United Kingdom
e: designphd@leeds.ac.uk
t: +44 (0)113 343 3756

Dr Vien Cheung
Postgraduate Research Tutor
e: t.l.v.cheung@leeds.ac.uk
t: +44 (0)113 343 5590


Masters by Research (MAR)

Our Masters by Research (MAR) programme enables students to pursue their own programme of research in collaboration with a suitably qualified supervisor, within one of the broad range of specialist areas covered by the School. Candidates should have identified and, to some extent, already prepared a subject. Projects should be clearly defined and planned before study commences. The subject should be original and significant, as well as sufficiently specific for it to be researched and written up in the form of a thesis of around 30,000 words, within one year (or two years of part-time study).

PhD and MPhil

A PhD is the most internationally recognised research qualification. Studying for a PhD allows you to become an expert in your chosen specialist area, and gain high quality research training that will equip you to undertake subsequent research projects.

The PhD and MPhil research programmes can be studied on either a full-time, part-time or split-site basis. The PhD requires three years full-time study, undertaking a research project of originality, significance and scope. A thesis of approximately 100,000 words must be submitted within a maximum of four years from the date of registration. Part-time students study over a period of five years with a maximum time limit for submission of the thesis of seven years from the date of registration. The period of registration would normally be two years full-time or four years part-time for the MPhil.

For the first twelve months of study (or eighteen months if part-time) you will be enrolled as a provisional PhD student. During this period, with the help of your supervisor, you will develop your abilities through research training courses, prepare a detailed research proposal and write a literature review. This work is then submitted to a panel of examiners who assess it and provide you with feedback and advice on the progress of your research. This procedure is called ‘upgrading’ and is an important means of monitoring the progress of your work, assessing, amongst other matters, whether your proposal has enough weight to be accurately explored through a PhD research path. After successfully upgrading, you will be formally registered as a full PhD student, complete your research and write a thesis of approximately 100,000 words. The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded on the basis of this thesis, and your viva voce, where you present and discuss the rationale, methods and findings of your original study with an examining panel. The MPhil is awarded on the basis of a thesis of around 60,000 words and a viva voce.

Students are able to undertake alternative forms of PhD and MPhil submission for practice-led research projects within the School. Where students are accepted for study towards one of these alternative forms of submission, a written statement accompanies the submission, which provides an account of the research question(s) and indicates the manner in which the research is embodied in the practice.

Which degree should I take?

Degree Duration Assessment
MAR 1 year full time (2 part time) Research Thesis of 30,000 words
MPhil 2 years full time (4 part time) Thesis of 60,000 words
PhD 3 years full time (5 part time) Thesis of 80-100,000 words

The School of Design now offers the opportunity to undertake a PhD by Distance Learning.

For further information, please contact Dr Mic Spencer, Head of the Graduate School: m.spencer@leeds.ac.uk



For information about fees please email our PVAC Faculty Graduate School at designphd@leeds.ac.uk

Applications for studentships and bursaries may be made to the Arts and Humanities Research Board.

The University of Leeds also offers a number of scholarships and bursaries to both home/EU and international students.

To be considered for a scholarship applicants must have completed an application for PhD study and have received an official offer for a place of study from the University, secured in advance of the scholarship deadline.

Any scholarship application which does not have an official offer included will be automatically rejected.

Exceptions to this are as follows:

  • Missing one reference/document
  • Interview has taken place/imminent within a week of the deadline for school recommendations to the Postgraduate Scholarship Office.
  • Full supervisory team in place but missing documentation.

Exceptions can also be made with cold applications (no official offer, no contact with the school or supervisors prior to application) as follows:

  • Full application is received on the scholarship deadline, with no missing documentation
  • The application will go out to review but there must be a response from the school within 2 working days, this must include a decision and authorisation from the PGRT (Postgraduate Research Tutor) and the approved supervisory team.

It is also strongly recommended that you contact preferred supervisors before submitting an application and well in advance of scholarship deadlines. This helps the School identify potential scholarship candidates, recommending other funding opportunities that you may be eligible for. Supervisors will also be able to prepare school supporting statements that are well informed and tailored to each candidate and funding opportunity.

A scholarship application form will be required for each scholarship. The following paperwork will be required:

PhD Scholarship Application PhD Study Application
1. Scholarship Application Form 1. PhD Study Application Form
2. Transcripts, including Grading System, of your Undergraduate and Postgraduate Degrees 2. Transcripts, including Grading System, of your Undergraduate and Postgraduate Degrees
3. Certificates of your Undergraduate and Postgraduate Degrees 3. Certificates of your Undergraduate and Postgraduate Degrees
4. Two Academic References (on University template) 4. Two Academic References (on University template)
5. IELTS Certificate (where appropriate) 5. IELTS Certificate (where appropriate)
6. CV 6. CV
7. PhD Study Application Form 7. PhD Research Proposal
8. PhD Study Offer Letter

References must be submitted using the University template. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that references are provided within the deadline. 

AHRC doctoral studentships

The White Rose College of the Arts & Humanities (WRoCAH) is a Doctoral Training Partnership of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. It is responsible for the distribution of AHRC-funded doctoral studentships for these universities and for the coordination of a doctoral training programme.  WRoCAH is able to offer over 50 AHRC studentships per year to candidates with a place for doctoral study at the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield or York.

Applicants for an AHRC studentship must have applied for a place of study in an eligible School, Department or Centre and may only apply for funding at one of Leeds, Sheffield or York. The studentship application form and details of how to apply are only available from the WRoCAH website:


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