Faculty of Engineering

PhDs and other research degrees

What is a PhD

What is a PhD?

  • A PhD is a higher degree which leads to the award of Doctor of Philosophy. It can be in any subject.
  • It is a research-based degree where you investigate something new.
  • It usually takes around 3 years (full-time) to complete.
  • It requires a good honours degree, typically at least a 2.1 or international equivalent.
  • Some people finish their undergraduate degree and then complete a PhD. Others finish their undergraduate degree, then complete a postgraduate taught course (for example, an MSc), and then begin a PhD.
  • Once you have successfully completed a PhD you gain the title 'Doctor'.

What work is involved?

All PhDs are different, as each investigates a specific topic, but typically you would:

  • Spend 6 - 18 months exploring the subject
  • Spend 12 - 18 months developing and implementing tests, trials, or experiments
  • Spend 3 - 6 months writing up

You then submit your thesis, and attend a viva, which is an oral examination. During the viva you will discuss your work with experts in the subject area and explain your thesis.

Types of research degree (2)

Differences to undergraduate study

  • It is not like a first degree. You will need to be self-motivated, and manage your own work.
  • It is more like a job than a taught degree, but with freedom in the hours you work and the direction of your research.
  • You will have a supervisory team, who will offer you support and advice.
  • Some PhDs are funded by industry (see 'Funded PhD Opportunities' link, below)

Why do a PhD?

  • You can make a contribution towards your chosen subject, and make new discoveries in your field.
  • You could achieve something significant, advance understanding of your subject, and suggest innovative ways in which your discoveries could be applied in practice.
  • You can determine your own work, and pursue a topic that interests you.
  • With a PhD you can move into academia, become a researcher, or work in industry in a specialised role.
  • As well as demonstrating intelligence, commitment, and mastery of your chosen subject, you will develop excellent analytical and research skills, which are transferable and valued by employers.

What PhDs does Nottingham offer?

  • All PhDs in engineering and architecture are listed on our research courses webpage.
  • There are different entry points through the year, with start times in October, December, February, April, or July.

EngD page image

What is an EngD?

An EngD is an Engineering Doctorate. It is an alternative to the traditional PhD and provides a more vocationally oriented doctorate in engineering than the traditional PhD.

EngDs typically offer more in the way of training and professional skills than a PhD, with focus on commercial relevance. Engineers who have completed an EngD often have a better understanding and appreciation of how research and development works in an industrial context.

  • Completed over 4 years full-time
  • Encourages innovative thinking while tackling real industrial problems
  • Combines academic research in an industrial context, with taught modules in related subjects
  • All EngDs in the faculty we offer are listed on our research courses webpage.

Types of research degree



View our research groups

Funded PhD Opportunities

Available to UK, EU and international applicants

Self-funded PhD opportunities

Self-funded PhD opportunities

Available to UK, EU and international applicants



Faculty of Engineering

The University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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