Application process

The application process is different for taught programmes and research degrees.

Examples of postgraduate taught programmes include MA, MBA, MSc.

Steps to follow:

  1. Identify the programme you wish to apply for via our postgraduate study webpages.
  2. Check that you meet, or are expecting to meet, the academic and English language entry requirements. These can be viewed within individual programme pages.
  3. Check any deadlines associated with your chosen programme.
  4. Apply online, or if you are a current University of Exeter student you can apply using our Fast Track system.
  5. Await decision. We aim to provide a decision in 20 working days for postgraduate taught applications, or 5 working days for Fast Track applications.

The following guidelines are designed to help you submit a successful research degree application to Exeter. The information applies to PhD, Masters by Research and MPhil applicants. We also strongly recommend that you view our online resource Considering a UK PhD: Your Next Steps, which not only provides details of what it is like to study for a UK PhD, but what the PhD experience is like at Exeter.

1. Pinpoint your research area

As part of your application you will need to construct a research proposal. This will need to be detailed enough to show that you’ve selected a well-defined research question.

2. Investigate whether this research area is available at Exeter

You will only be able to pursue a research degree with us if we can offer appropriate supervision. Your supervisors will provide the necessary support and guidance and so need to have expertise in your chosen research field. You may join a research team or work with specific members of staff.

In order to identify whether your research specialism is offered, use the research degrees index to find your particular topic of interest. Research opportunities and specialisms are outlined within each of the subject areas in this site.

3. Construct and refine your research proposal

In addition to references you will also need to supply a research proposal with your application (see supporting documents required for further details). The research proposal should demonstrate to your potential supervisors that you have identified a piece of research which is well thought out and achievable. Every research proposal will be different dependent on your chosen topic, subject area and type of research degree, but there are some common guidelines.

The perfect research proposal:

  • follows any guidance on the department’s webpages
  • is refined a number of times before submission
  • contains a strong sense of project direction
  • has clear objectives, rationale and methodology
  • indicates how the anticipated findings will be novel
  • demonstrates planned time scales and project management skills
  • identifies potential challenges and seeks ways to overcome these

Further information on how to write a successful research proposal can be found on our Guide to writing a research proposal (pdf).

4. Apply online

The simplest and quickest way to apply is online. See our apply pages for details.

Teaching starts for most programmes in late September. We may be able to accept late applications but if it is within a month of your programme you will need to ensure that: 

  • the application is fully completed;
  • any requests for further information are responded to immediately.

2015/16 academic year

Application deadlines 

Exceptions to general application deadlines are detailed on individual programme pages.

If there are spaces available, you can apply up to the start of your programme. If you are applying for a postgraduate taught programme from June onwards, please ensure you check there are spaces available as some programmes fill up much earlier in the year. If you are applying for funding you will need to meet any required deadlines which may be well in advance of the start of your studies.

There are no specific deadlines for research students, although the majority of students start in October.

Advisory deadline for international students: 8 May 2015 (due to visa processing requirements)
Advisory deadline for home/EU students: 24 July 2015

Applications received after these dates may be considered for 2016 entry.

Email acknowledgement of receipt of your application

Within 2 working days of receipt.

Notification of our decision via email

Please note, hard copy letters are not routinely sent.

Taught programmes: we aim to make a decision 20 working days from receipt of required supporting documents. During peak periods, if an application has to be referred to an Academic College or if you apply after the advisory deadlines a decision may take longer.

Research programmes: all applications have to be referred to Academic Colleges for a decision. The Colleges aim to make a decision within 8-10 weeks depending on supporting documentation required but during peak/teaching vacation periods this may take longer.

Deadline for all required supporting documents

Within 2 months of your initial application. Please see supporting documents for information on the minimum documentation we need to make an initial decision. Your application will be withdrawn if these documents are not received in this time.

Deadline for responding to your offer

As specified in your offer letter.

Deposit payment deadline

As specified in your offer letter. Deposits are required for full-time postgraduate taught programmes.

Accommodation application deadline

Please contact the Accommodation Office. You must hold a firmly accepted offer before you can apply for accommodation.

Deadline for meeting any outstanding offer conditions

31 August 2015 for programmes beginning 22 September 2015. 4 weeks before the official start date for all other programmes.

Taught programmes

1. A transcript (in English or a certified translation) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.

Please send scanned or certified copies of transcripts and not the originals*; however, in order to apply for a UK student visa and register at the start of your programme, you will need to produce your original certificates and transcripts. 

*The University cannot guarantee the return of original documents, We therefore request that you do not send original documentation during the admissions process and should you choose send originals you do so at your own risk.

2. English language proficiency results

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and University's required standards.

3. One completed reference:

The following forms can be used but endorsed references will also be accepted (see below):

Reference form (pdf)

Reference form (Word format rtf)

Check whether one or two references are required for the programme for which you are applying.

You should supply at least one reference from an academic referee who is in a position to comment on the standard of your academic work and suitability for postgraduate level study. Where this is not possible, we will accept references from other sources that provide evidence of your ability to undertake postgraduate study and suitability for your chosen programme (for example an employer or colleague). We cannot accept references from family members, partners or spouses.

Once you have your reference you can either upload via the online application system (if you have not yet submitted your application or the reference can be posted to us or sent via email to the Admissions Office directly. If your referee emails your reference to us we can only accept this if it is sent from a university or company email address. Paper reference forms should be endorsed by an appropriate institution/company official stamp. Alternatively we can accept a letter of reference on official institution/company letterhead.

Essential documentation required for an initial decision on taught programme applications

We understand that you will want to receive a decision from us as soon as possible after sending your application but may not yet have completed all your academic and/or English language qualifications at the time of application and will also need time to contact your referee(s). Please send as many of the required supporting documents as possible with your application; as a minimum to enable us to make an initial decision on your application, you will need to:

(a) complete the Module Information section of the application form giving details of any outstanding modules and your expected date of completion;

(b) send any interim transcripts that you have to support your application.

If you have not yet completed your academic or English language qualifications, if your academic profile meets our requirements, we will normally be able to make you an offer which is conditional on completing these qualification/s and supplying a reference. You will need to provide evidence that you have met these conditions before your offer can be considered unconditional. For further information see ‘Once you have an offer’.

Research programmes (MbyRes/MPhil/PhD)

1. A research proposal (1,000-2,000 words).

Your research proposal should cover the preliminary ideas of your research area, indicating the general area of study, objectives and hypotheses, methodology, sources of data, etc. For Science and Engineering applications a shorter outline of your topic may be sufficient. You are advised to contact the relevant Department for further guidance on the appropriate format for your proposal, and to watch the section about writing a suitable research proposal in our online module Considering a UK PhD? Your Next Steps.

This information will assist us in considering your application and in determining whether we can offer supervision in the area you wish to study. If you have not identified a single research topic, you should outline several subjects which interest you and which could serve as a basis for further discussion. Your prospective School or Department may ask you to provide a more detailed research proposal before we can make a decision on whether to offer you a place.

2. At least one completed reference:

The following forms can be used but endorsed references will also be accepted (see below): 

Reference form (pdf)

Reference form (Word format rtf)

Check whether one or two references are required for the programme for which you are applying.

You should supply at least one reference from an academic referee who is in a position to comment on the standard of your academic work and suitability for postgraduate level study. Where this is not possible, we will accept references from other sources that provide evidence of your ability to undertake postgraduate study and suitability for your chosen programme (for example an employer or colleague). We cannot accept references from family members, partners or spouses.

Once you have your reference you can either upload via the online application system (if you have not yet submitted your application or the reference can be posted to us or sent via email to the Admissions Office directly. If your referee emails your reference to us we can only accept this if it is sent from a university or company email address. Paper reference forms should be endorsed by an appropriate institution/company official stamp. Alternatively we can accept a letter of reference on official institution/company letterhead.

3.A transcript (in English or a certified translation) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained.

Please send scanned or certified copies of transcripts and not the originals*; however, in order to apply for a UK student visa and register at the start of your programme, you will need to produce your original certificates and transcripts.

*The University cannot guarantee the return of original documents. We therefore request that you do not send original documentation during the admissions process and should you choose send originals you do so at your own risk.

4. English language proficiency results

If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English to the UKVI and University's required standards.

Can I send my supporting documentation in after my application?

We recommend uploading all supporting documents with your application as this makes the process much quicker and enables us to make a faster decision on your application.

You can apply before completing all of your academic qualifications but you will need to provide any interim transcripts that you have to support your application.

International students

If you are an international student and you have not yet completed your academic or English language qualifications we will normally be able to make you an offer on condition on completing these and supplying any required references. You will need to provide documentary evidence that you have met these conditions before your offer can be considered unconditional.  

We do not require original copies at the application stage and would not recommend that you send these during the application process. Please note that ALL international students will need to show original or certified copies of academic qualification/s and (if applicable) an English Language qualification at registration along with your current passport and (if appropriate) student visa. 

For all postgraduate degrees, both taught and research, you will normally be required to have obtained or expect to obtain a first degree equivalent to at least a UK 2:1 Honours degree. You will need at least a 2:1 or its equivalent in order to be considered by any of the main funding bodies. For some programmes we also consider evidence of relevant personal, professional and educational experience.

Where an applicant has taken or is taking, more than one academic qualification that meets our entry requirements, the University reserves the right to make an offer on the most recent academic qualification.

Specific requirements for programmes

Entry requirements for taught programmes can be found in individual programme webpages.

Entry requirements for research programmes vary and are dependent on your previous academic qualifications, experience and personal qualities. Please see individual research subject programme pages and also contact your college of interest to discuss your suitability.

International qualification equivalencies

For information on the equivalence of international qualifications, please see the International Students website.

Receipt of application

We will acknowledge receipt of your application via email within 24 hours. If you do not receive this email within the stated timeframe please contact us at pg-ad@exeter.ac.uk. We would strongly recommend that you check your email settings before applying to ensure @exeter.ac.uk email addresses are not blocked or sent to your spam or junk mail folders.

If you have not sent all the required supporting documents we need to make a decision, we will email you to provide you with information on the documentation we require. Please send this information to us as soon as possible so we can make a decision on whether to offer you a place. Please see supporting documents for information on the minimum documentation we need to make an initial decision. You should ensure you quote your Exeter reference number in all correspondence with us.

If you have not yet completed your academic or English language qualifications, if your academic profile meets our requirements, we will normally be able to make you an offer which is conditional on completing these qualifications and supplying any required references. You will need to provide evidence that you have met these conditions before your offer can be considered unconditional. For further information see once you have an offer.

Our decision

Taught programme applications

For postgraduate taught applications, once we have received all the necessary supporting documentation, we aim to notify you of our decision within 20 working days from the date when we acknowledge receipt of your application. However, this can take longer at peak periods or if you have not supplied an email address.

Research programme applications

For postgraduate research applications, we aim to make a decision within 8 to 10 weeks, as your application will need to be reviewed by potential supervisors, depending on the additional information we require (for example, further details of your research proposal).

You will receive either a conditional or unconditional offer from us, or we will inform you that we are unable to offer you a place. We will notify you of our decision by email (or by letter if you have not provided an email address).

If we are able to make you an offer, your offer letter will be sent via email.

Can I appeal a decision?

If your application has been unsuccessful you can appeal the decision by emailing the Admissions team. This must be done within a maximum of three months of receiving your decision. You need to include details of the programme for which you applied, your Exeter Reference Number, and your grounds for appeal. You can only appeal against a decision once.

The majority of programmes do not require an interview as part of the selection process. If an interview is required, the purpose and format will be communicated to you clearly in advance so you know what to expect and what role this plays in the overall selection process.

Where programmes include interviews or tests as part of their selection criteria we will make this explicit to candidates, provide details on how the interviews will be conducted as well as the criteria used to select successful candidates. We have a PDF which provides further information on our Interview Policy (pdf)

We do not normally require candidates to provide additional written work to supplement an application, although in individual cases we may request this and will explain the reasons for such a request.