Back to Research degrees

Use our online resource to find about the PhD experience at Exeter and what a UK PhD involves.

What is postgraduate study?

Research degrees

A research degree involves carrying out an in-depth study of a particular topic.

At the University of Exeter we offer a range of research degrees: MA or MSc by Research; Master of Philosophy (MPhil); Doctor of Philosophy (PhD); Engineering doctorate (EngD); Doctor of Medicine (MD); Master of Surgery (MS); and professional doctorates.

If you're considering a research degree in the UK, we recommend viewing our online resource which provides lots of useful information and advice:

Considering a UK PhD: your next steps

Follow the links below for further information:

Masters by Research (MScby Res; MAbyRes)
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Engineering doctorate (EngD)
Doctor of Medicine / Master of Surgery (MD/MS)
Professional doctorates

You may also be interested in our frequently asked questions about research degrees.

Masters by Research (MScby Res; MAbyRes)

The MA or MSc by Research offers the opportunity to obtain a research degree, without the commitment of a longer-term PhD. Not to be confused with the taught MRes degree, it’s ideal for those in employment interested in pursuing a specific shorter-term research project. Students who are interested in extending their studies have the option to apply to transfer registration to an MPhil or PhD.

Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Research degrees involve an extensive investigation of a particular topic. The MPhil, although a qualification in its own right, is often used as a route to the longer PhD. The latter is only awarded when the results make an original contribution to knowledge in the field, which is normally assessed by a written thesis and oral examination. If you already have a portfolio of suitable quality published work which demonstrates a coherent research direction, you may be eligible for the PhD by Publication. This option reduces the study duration and you will work with a supervisor to produce an integrating chapter explaining how the publications form a coherent whole.

A research degree usually involves the completion of a written thesis, however alternatives to this may be allowed where it is deemed suitable, this may include the presentation of part or all of the thesis in an alternative format, eg as a multimedia document or by means such as a piece of art, or a record of professional practice in the form of a series of case-studies, which must be accompanied by a commentary. If you might be interested in completing a thesis by alternative submission please contact the appropriate department to discuss whether this would be appropriate during the application process. If you publish research you have undertaken during your studies, it may also be possible to include such work in its published form in your thesis.

There are opportunities to study for a University of Exeter PhD without residing locally: in some circumstances it may be appropriate for you to study with us whilst registered as a distance-based student, or if you have access to appropriate academic facilities, as a split-site student. All off-campus students receive supervision and support from our staff and are normally expected to attend the University for limited periods.

A PhD is the highest qualification that a university can award and offers a challenging and exciting opportunity to work at the cutting-edge of research: if you have these qualities we can offer a very supportive environment in which to pursue research. At Exeter, students are also given support through our Researcher Development Programme.

Engineering doctorate (EngD)

An EngD is a four year research degree awarded for industrially relevant research. The degree provides a more vocationally oriented approach to obtaining a doctorate in engineering commensurate with that of a PhD. You can find out more about the EngD degrees we offer on our College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences webpages.

Doctor of Medicine (MD) / Master of Surgery (MS)

These professional degrees contain no taught element and like a PhD, are only awarded if an original contribution to knowledge is made. The degrees are normally completed in 2-3 years full-time (4-5 years part-time), and require a clinical degree or equivalent. Please see our Medical School webpages for further information.

Professional doctorates

Professional doctorates combine a significant taught element with production of a research thesis, and are designed to help members of specific professions develop both their academic and professional knowledge (eg educational psychologists, clinical psychologists, teachers and lecturers).