A warm welcome from the UCL Doctoral School to research students starting in September

2 December 2020

The UCL Doctoral School is here to support and guide you through your journey as part of our world-leading research community!


You are about to embark on an extraordinary journey, joining a vibrant community of around 6,000 research students and over 6,000 academic and research staff involved in research and supervision across our 11 faculties. UCL is a centre of innovative cross-disciplinary research, and has academic staff with some of the strongest backgrounds in their specialist fields in the world. You, our research students, play a vital part in this stimulating environment, and our ground-breaking research could not continue without your contributions. 

This year brings the additional challenge of research study with the effects of the global pandemic; however, we’d like to reassure you that UCL is committed to maintaining supervision and teaching of the highest quality, and, as London’s global university, we are looking forward to supporting you safely on campus as well as virtually. We have innovated new ways of studying, collaborating and doing research these past few months and we hope to retain the best of the virtual world as we all move into the ‘new normal’.


Undertaking a research degree is a very different experience to taught courses at both an undergraduate and postgraduate level with which you are familiar, or your recent professional environment if that’s where you are coming from. It will challenge you in new ways, but we also hope it will bring you novel rewards. Your research degree is a unique chance to develop and lead your own project and to generate new knowledge which you will learn to critique, contextualise, and ultimately defend at examination. There are many people within UCL to help you on this journey, not only within your Department or Division/Institute, but also within central support services, of which the Doctoral School is one of many. In particular, your supervisory team will assist, question, support, and challenge you: they will help you develop as an independent thinker.

During your research programme, you will produce a research proposal which will frame your research question. Eventually you will produce a thesis which documents your original ideas about your focused topic, the methods you have chosen, the evidence to support your ideas, and the discussion and conclusions that arise; all of which will be considered within the context of current and past developments, and finally be defended during an oral examination (viva).

At UCL, we are committed to equipping you with the research skills and experience not just to excel in academia, but also in a range of other careers which require originality, rigour, and methodological reasoning. We want you to become ‘creative, critical, autonomous intellectual risk takers’. You will be given numerous opportunities to develop these skills through your research work but also through activities within your Department, including courses, conferences, seminars, and teaching. We encourage students to look beyond the boundaries of their chosen discipline, and to broaden and share their knowledge via UCL’s many networks, societies, and competitions.

Resources to get you started

Doctoral Skills Development Programme

The Doctoral Skills Development Programme offers an extensive catalogue of courses available for free via UCL’s Organisational Development team.  

Research Log 

This online tool helps you manage your research project as well as monitor your skills and training progress, applicable to both the academic and non-academic worlds.

Code of Practice for Research Degrees

This document set out the standards you can expect from UCL. We are committed to ensuring you receive the highest quality, internationally-renowned research training within a positive and supportive research environment.

Doctoral School Handbook 

The Docoral School Handbook outlines the support, activities and events available to you as a research student at UCL. 

Doctoral School Website

Our website is regularly updated with information on policies, resources, competitions, societies, and other research activities available at UCL.

Welcome and induction events 

These events are open to all research students (MPhil/PhD, Prof Doctorates, MRes, etc). This year, they will be run virtually by each Faculty and will include not only tailored information relevant to your particular area of study, but also general information relevant to all students with input from central teams. You will also be able to hear advice and ask questions to current students. Ask your local Postgraduate Research (PGR) Administrator for the date for your Faculty induction event.

Departments/Divisions/Institutes/Programmes may also have local inductions. It is worthwhile attending them all as you will gain different perspectives and meet different people. UCL is a big place, and sometimes the hardest bit can be finding out about all the amazing opportunities available to you - we encourage you to get stuck in!

Finally, we wish you all the best in your research studies and encourage you to stay in touch with us throughout your time at UCL.

Elizabeth Halton, Deputy Director, UCL Doctoral School