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Research degrees at Royal Holloway

Royal Holloway is one of the larger colleges of the University of London and widely recognised as one of the UK’s leading research institutions.  

The departments and schools provide excellent opportunities to actively engage in research supervised by world leading experts in the arts, humanities and sciences. 

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF), published on Thursday 18 December 2014, it was confirmed that we sit within the top 25 per cent of UK universities for research which is rated as ‘world-leading’ and ‘internationally excellent’.

Our successes include:

  • 81 per cent of our research is within the world-leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) categories: an increase of more than 20 per cent from RAE 2008.
  • In addition, 30 per cent of our research is classed as 4*, the highest category.
  • Geography is ranked the top Geography department in England for 4* and 3* research.
  • Six of our departments are in the top 10 for 4* and 3* research, including Earth Sciences (second), Psychology (fourth), Mathematics (fifth), Music (fifth), Media Arts (ninth) and Drama and Theatre (10th).

We have more than 900 postgraduate students conducting specialist research and collaborating with academic staff who are working at the frontiers of their subjects. 

The PhD programme allows postgraduate research students to explore a specific area of their own choosing overseen by a supervisory team culminating in a large-scale thesis, leading to a University of London PhD.

In addition to the subject-specific training obtained within the students’ home department, we also place great emphasis on transferable skills training provided by the Researcher Development Programme.

We also encourage a number of strong links with London and the South East regional business community as well as partnerships with national and multinational companies and the creative sector. For example, the world-leading Information Security Group (ISG) has numerous high-profile industrial partners supporting its research and consultancy including Vodafone, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. You can find out more about our external research partnerships and the Surrey Enterprise Hub, which offers office space and support to small businesses, on our research pages.


All prospective applicants are encouraged to investigate the research opportunities available here by looking at individual departments and research centres and groups. 

An informal enquiry can also be sent to the postgraduate administrator or director of graduate studies, in your chosen department, to see what opportunities are available and if an appropriate supervisor will be able to oversee your research.

You can find contact details for postgraduate administrators under the Postgraduate Research section of each department, while contact details for the directors of graduate studies are available in the Directors of Graduate Studies listing.

You can also take a look at some of our recent research projects making an impact in the UK and around the world, as well as some of our world-changing researchers.


Research degrees at Royal Holloway usually start in September or January (although start dates can be flexible). 

In common with most UK universities, students are initially registered for an MPhil degree but are expected to transfer to the PhD programme during their second year, on meeting the formal requirements for progression.

PhD degrees usually last for three years for full-time students or six years for part-time students. An additional year is available for writing-up for both full-and part-time students, if required.Your supervisor will give you advice when you decide on the appropriate time to submit your thesis.




“I chose to do my PhD here for a number of reasons. My supervisor is an internationally known scholar whose work inspires me, and I benefit from discussing my work at informal staff-student seminars.


I have access to all University of London facilities, and can attend training courses to improve my teaching, presentation and writing skills. I also received an overseas research student scholarship for three years, and gained invaluable teaching experience.”

Didem, Politics & International Relations


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