Whether you’re applying for an advertised research-led PhD project or submitting your own research proposal in your area of interest, here are 5 key points to consider as you search for the right research degree supervisor.

Postgraduate Research degrees are a highly competitive landscape, and you’ll need to be ready to take on the challenge. 

To pursue your passion and make a truly original contribution to knowledge in a particular area of study, you’ll need a supervisor to match your ambition. But how do you find the perfect supervisor for your research? We’ve covered some of the key considerations here:

You'll need to look for funding opportunities before, or at the same time as, you apply for your research degree. Begin as early as possible and know when the key dates are – application deadlines can often be up to a year before study starts. Check out UEA’s deadlines for postgraduate research study to help you with your planning.

Consider your finances and whether you are seeking to gain full or partial funding for your PhD research. Maybe you will want to look for ‘fully funded’ PhD Studentships first, that will include your tuition fees and an annual stipend for living expenses. Check out all of your options. Your circumstances may change across the potential three-year full-time or six-year part-time period of study, so be realistic when assessing your income and expenditure needs. Think about your course costs, accommodation and bills, alongside your lifestyle and what changes you are prepared to make.

With the exception of research in the Faculty of Science where you should contact your nominated supervisor to provide you with an outline proposal, your research proposal doesn’t need to be the fully completed version, but it will need to be developed so that you can use this as a clear and compelling proposition to interest potential funders. Check out our advice on how to succeed at writing a great research proposal, so you can feel confident that you have covered all the points that you need to consider.

Academics within your chosen discipline are likely to be in a knowledgeable position to be able to advise you on where you can apply for funding. Do your research and find out who the relevant potential supervisors are within your chosen area of interest, who clearly share a passion for your topic. Then make contact to discuss your research proposal, and gauge insight into who specific funders may be in your field. Check out our advice on How to Find A PhD Supervisor to help get you started.

Explore funding opportunities with government, business, industry, or charitable organisations. You may have gained direct contacts based on your supervisory conversations, or you may need to undertake some desk research to identify potential sponsors. Look for potential research funding opportunities on established industry sponsors’ websites, as well as those for smaller charities and trusts. It may not be possible to source sufficient funding from a single sponsor, and you may have to apply to a variety of different funders, so do check that different funding schemes can be combined. If you are an International fee status student, it is also worth contacting your national government or education ministry to check funded and exchange schemes set up to help citizens receive international research and training opportunities.

If you are a Home fee status student, you may be eligible for a UK Doctoral loan  currently worth up to £28,673 from Student Finance England. The amount you will receive is not based on you or your family’s income. The loan is paid directly to you, divided equally across each year of your course. You can use the loan for your course fees and living costs. The money only needs to be paid back when you earn over £21,000 a year.

Ready to Apply?

UEA offers a wide range of postgraduate research opportunities. Search all current PhDs and Research Studentships, or take a look at the full list of Research Themes where UEA specialises and submit your own research proposal. For further information on what to consider in the application process, access our guide and take the first step to achieving something incredible. Our Postgraduate Research team can also help with any queries you may have.

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Words of wisdom

“…It is important to highlight that the supervisor-supervisee relationship that develops as the project progresses, is equally significant for the successful completion of the project.” 
Kodili Chukwuma, PhD in Politics
“…Choose an area of research that would combine your passion in the area with practicality, and look out for research staff members whose research interests are similar to yours. They will have a plethora of experience in your chosen field and will share their knowledge with you.”
Natalia Balashova, PhD in Catchment Science and Environmental Hydrology
“…Identify the right person, the person you think is going to understand best your subject because of their publishing record, and then meet them, make sure you get along - this is really important!”
Hippolyta Paulusma, PhD in English