PhD in Information Security
The Information Security Group runs a standard three-year PhD research programme on a wide variety of security-related topics (see ISG Research for details of current research interests).
The ISG has supervised over 200 PhD students, many now holding influential positions in the cyber security industry.
Most questions about our standard three-year PhD programme should be answered by the content below, but if you have read the relevant section and have any further questions, please do contact us at ISG@rhul.ac.uk.
Note that we also host an EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security for the Everyday, which funds a four-year PhD programme (first year of taught training followed by three years of research). Please follow the above link for details of the CDT programme.
Most questions should be answered by the content below, but if you have read the relevant section and have any further questions, please do contact us at ISG@rhul.ac.uk.
Who studies this course?
A PhD is an advanced degree that requires high-levels of education, enthusiasm, independence and dedication. Students who are accepted onto the course are likely to have already achieved a degree-level qualification in a related subject and are looking to develop their skills in the pursuit of new branches of information security.
The degree can be used as an entry into corporate information security research or academic research, or may serves as a method to demonstrate the candidates advanced skills in a manner beyond that demonstrated by a taught course. Ex-students can now be found working at high levels in all branches of information security.
How does it work?
All PhD research students are assigned at least one named supervisor and an advisor, both of whom must be academics in the Information Security Group. The supervisor directs the work and acts as the first line of research and welfare support. The role of the advisor varies, but in all cases the advisor provides a second line of support.
The PhD programme at the Information Security Group is research-based, and as such much of the work will inevitably involve substantial amounts of research and study, both independently and in closely coordination with the supervisor. However students may also be directed to attend some of the advanced courses offered by the university. Successful completion of a PhD research programme is most easily achieved if a student plays an active role in the ISG research community. This involves regularly attending relevant seminar series, workshops and study groups in the ISG. It also involves discussing and presenting work to other students and staff. Where appropriate, students will be expected to attend or present work at seminars, workshops or research meetings off the campus, including international research conferences.
How can I study for a PhD?
A three- to four-year course in which the students work on campus and study for their PhD as a full-time job.
The most common, and practical, mode of pursuing a PhD is to study full-time. Students are expected to attend campus regularly and approach their studies in a manner similar to a full-time research and development job. Students will have regular meetings with their supervisor and access to many different types of seminar series within the department.
Full-time students in their first three years of study are guaranteed desk space and computer facilities in the department, and are expected to contribute fully to the departmental research community.
A four- to seven-year course for committed students who wish to study their PhD alongside a full-time job or similar commitments.
We welcome applications for part-time study from committed candidates. Part-time study is the default mode for students working for more than fifteen hours per week or with family commitments which preclude full-time study. Part-time students are expected to attend Royal Holloway’s campus on a fairly regular basis and to have regular meetings with their supervisor (either in person or at a distance).
How long does a PhD take?
Applicants are advised that, in line with most other UK universities, there is a maximum registration period of four years for full-time PhD students and seven years for part-time students. Thus, before registering for a PhD degree, students must ensure that sufficient time and funds will be available to complete their thesis within this time period.
How are PhD degrees examined?
Once the research has been successfully completed the student must write and submit a final report in the form of a PhD research thesis. This will be evaluated by at least two experts and the student will be invited to attend an oral examination where they must defend their thesis.
Detailed information is available in the ISG PGR handbook
The minimum entry requirement for an MPhil or an MPhil leading to a PhD degree is the equivalent of a UK Second Class Honours degree in an appropriate subject, although in many cases a Master's level qualification will also be expected.
Candidates must also be demonstrably proficient in English.
It is extremely important to make sure that you have sufficient funds (both to cover fees and living costs) to complete a PhD study programme, especially now that there is a four year limit for full time study (seven year limit for part-time).
Obtaining funding can be extremely difficult and so potential candidates are advised to actively explore all available opportunities to secure funds.
How to apply
You should then email the supervisor(s) closest to your research interests with a research proposal and ask them if they would consider taking you as a new research student.
You should give a list of possible supervisors in your application. Please note that Lorenzo Cavallaro, Alan Tomlinson, Lizzie Coles-Kemp, Kenny Paterson and Czeh Ciechanowicz are not taking on any new PhD students at this time.
The supervisors willing to consider Part-Time PhD applicants are Jorge Blasco Alis, Rikke Jensen, Simon Blackburn, Peter Komisarczuk, Siaw-Lyn Ng, Kostas Makantonakis, Stephen Wolthusen, Elizabeth Quaglia, Betram Poettering and Konstantinos Mersinas.
Once you have decided on a supervisor(s) you will then have to submit an application which requires:
- a research topic/area and the name of potential supervisor(s);
- a short research proposal — explaining why the topic is important, what is the state of the art in the area, and what are the research contributions that you would like to make beyond the state of the art;
- a personal statement — describing your reasons for wishing to pursue a PhD, including why you think that you are qualified to do research in your proposed area;
- your current CV — with a list of qualifications;
- one academic reference.
Mode of study
The most common, and practical, mode of pursuing a PhD is to study full-time. Full-time students in their first three years of study are guaranteed desk space and computer facilities in the department and are expected to contribute fully to the departmental research community. Full-time students have four years from their registration to submit their thesis.
We also welcome applications for part-time study from committed candidates. Part-time study is the default mode for students working for more than fifteen hours per week or with family commitments that may preclude full-time study. Part-time students are expected to attend Royal Holloway’s campus on a fairly regular basis. Part-time students have seven years from their registration to submit their thesis.