How to apply – a step-by-step guide

A step by step guide to applying for a research programme at UCL.

1. Identify the degree programme at UCL you wish to study

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes in any application cycle.

All graduate research programmes offered at UCL are listed in the research degrees section.

2. Investigate research opportunities across UCL

UCL is a large, multi-faculty university and it may be that your area of interest is represented in more than one department or in one of our multidisciplinary institutes or centres. There are two main types of research degree opportunities:


Some funded PhD programmes will be advertised as studentships. This is more common in Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM) areas. These opportunities may be listed on our studentships page, although some academics prefer to only advertise them on their websites. Each studentship will stipulate its own application process and entrance requirements.

Studentships are also offered in UCL’s doctoral training centres. Many of these studentships are funded by the UK Government and are only available to UK/EU students.

Speculative opportunities

Most opportunities, and potential funding, are not packaged as studentships or advertised. Exceptional students, that meet the entrance requirements, are therefore encouraged to be proactive to identify opportunities with UCL academics whose recent research closely matches their interests.

There are three main ways to identify an appropriate supervisor to contact:

  • Browse research programmes to find centres of research in your area of interest. Click through to the department or centre website to find staff profiles.
  • Look on UCL’s Institutional Research Information System (IRIS) where you can search for relevant academic units and potential supervisors by keyword. Not all academics are listed in IRIS but it is a good place to start.
  • Search our online research repository (UCL Discovery) where all UCL’s research papers are published, subject to approvals. If you identify a research paper that particularly interests you it is likely that one of the authors would be a suitable research supervisor.

If an academic is very impressed with your research experience and proposal they may be able to help you to identify sources of funding, including from their own, or departmental, research funds. There are also UCL scholarships that they can nominate you for.

3. Making a research enquiry

All prospective applicants, except those applying for advertised studentships, are encouraged to send an informal research enquiry. This should either be sent directly to the academic you are interested in working with or the departmental contact.

Making a research enquiry helps define your interests, contributes to making your application successful, and also serves to ensure the identification of the best possible supervisor for your needs.

You can find contact details for academic departments at the bottom of relevant programme pages. Alternatively you can find Graduate Tutor information on the UCL Doctoral School website.More information on how to contact potential supervisors and write a research proposal can be found in our guidance document.

4. Submit a formal application

Finally when you and your prospective supervisor are happy with your research proposal, you should submit a formal application.

5. Await decision

You will be able to track the progress of your application via the UCL Applicant Portal (log in required). If you are required to submit anything further after your application has been submitted you will be notified by email and in the portal.

6. Pay tuition fee deposit (Paediatric Dentistry DDent only)

If you have applied to the Paediatric Dentistry DDent and your application is successful you will need to pay a tuition fee deposit. The amount payable is dependent on the mode of study and fee status.

Further information