Types of research degree

There are a number of different types of postgraduate research degrees on offer at the University of Bristol. All research degrees involve an in-depth study of a specific field. The below guide explains the terminology and options available to you.


Doctor of Philosophy

This is the most traditional type of research degree pursued by doctoral students, and is available in all faculties and schools at our University. You will undertake supervised research, either independently or as a member of a team. A PhD is awarded for the outcomes of advanced study, written up as a thesis of up to 80,000 words, which demonstrates an original and significant contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.

Professional Doctorates

A Professional Doctorate programme makes equivalent demands to the PhD over a similar time-scale and signifies an original contribution to knowledge in a professional context. It is distinguished from a PhD by a title that refers to a particular profession or a professional area of work.

Professional Doctorate programmes are organised systematically in terms of length and structure of programme, supervision, support and assessment, and they combine directed study with substantial research components.

We offer the following professional doctorates:

Apply for a programme

Find out more about how to apply for a research degree, or search through available research programmes, on our Postgraduate Study pages.

Masters degrees by research

Master of Music (MMus)

An MMus is a masters degree by research involving a scheme of research defined in advance - normally by the student. MMus degrees normally involve composition or performance as a major part of the research process and submission. Full time MMus students complete in a maximum of two years, with part-time students taking three or four years to complete. MMus programmes are available in the Department of Music within the Faculty of Arts.

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

The research and study experience of an MPhil is similar to a PhD but the project is more tightly defined to allow it to be undertaken in one or two years’ full-time study. An MPhil dissertation is shorter than a PhD thesis, and the programme is often used as a stepping stone before starting a PhD. For more information about the different between an MPhil and a PhD, visit this FindaPhD blog. At the University of Bristol, MPhil programmes are offered in the Faculties of Arts and in Social Sciences and Law.

Master of Science by Research (MScR)

An MScR is a research-led Masters programme. It enables students to pursue a Masters level degree while having dedicated time for your own research. It is a great option if you are considering doing a PhD but would like a taste of a research-led degree before embarking upon doctoral-level study. Many MScR degrees can be upgraded to a PhD after 1 year, depending on funding and performance. MScR programmes are offered in the Faculties of Biomedical Sciences, Engineering, Health Science and Science.

How long will my degree take?

The length of each degree type can vary, and most courses offer part-time study options. 

Distance learning

A Research Degree by Distance Learning offers a high level of flexibility for individuals wanting to pursue a research degree at the University of Bristol from anywhere in the world. 

Find out more about how the University accommodates Distance Learning, what options are available to you, and what access you will have to the University's research environment.

Apply for a programme

Find out more about how to apply for a research degree, or search through available research programmes, on our Postgraduate Study pages.

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