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Department of Mathematics

How to apply

Once you have chosen your postgraduate research programme, you can follow our instructions to apply online.

Applying for postgraduate research studies is easy and can be done quickly online. Simply complete and submit an online application on the University application page.

We welcome applications for postgraduate research all year round, but please check your intended programme's start date to ensure that your application is received on time.

To find out what we need from you to process your application as well as advice on the application process, please visit the University website below.

Do I need to submit a research proposal?

A research proposal is optional for PhD applications in the Department of Mathematics.

While you're welcome to submit one, we're perfectly happy for you to merely indicate the area(s) of mathematics (such as fluid mechanics, financial mathematics, number theory, numerical analysis, etc.) you're interested in, and/or list the names of any specific academics who you'd like to work with. If you omit the latter we will forward your application to all members of staff who have an interest in the research areas you've listed. Coming up with a research project that is not only worthwhile but also do-able (within the duration of a typical 3½ year PhD) is not a trivial exercise, and we generally encourage applicants to work on this jointly with the potential supervisor.

Do I need to submit a personal statement?

As with research proposals, providing a personal statement is optional, though we do encourage you to write one. Explain your motivation for wanting to study for a PhD, elaborate on your areas of interests, etc. If you do choose to include a personal statement, then this should be because you have interesting and relevant information to tell us.

Give us specifics rather than generic statements. So, rather than stating that you have been fascinated by mathematics from an early age, tell us about specific projects that you may have worked on in the course of your undergraduate degree, during summer research internships, or your MSc thesis, say. How did these give you insight into what research is like, and why did you enjoy them? 

It is important that any personal statement is written by you, and is not copied (or even be "inspired by") personal statements of others that are available on the internet and elsewhere.

What should the references say?

References form an extremely important part of the application. While an excellent undergraduate degree is obviously desirable, an applicant's performance in undergraduate exams is not always a good indicator of their suitability for research.

We therefore like to see references that comment on your suitability for research and explain the research activities that you've been involved in to date.

We recommend taking every available opportunity to obtain research experience (eg: in a final year project, a summer internship, or an MSc research project), and for many students the enjoyment of this experience forms a large part of their motivation to study for a PhD.

Choose referees who can comment on this; your project supervisor or any other academic who has seen you undertake research or project work are obvious choices. Other good referees tend to be academics who have noticed you in their lectures (maybe your interest in the material meant that you asked lots of good questions  academics tend to remember this).

What happens after I've submitted my application?

If you have already been in contact with a supervisor, have agreed a research project and have been interviewed, you should get a decision very quickly. We will simply check that the anticipated supervisor is willing to take you on as a student and that the paperwork (transcript, referees reports, etc) confirms their positive impression of you. If so, you will receive an academic offer.

If you haven't had a formal interview, we will arrange one with the supervisor and a second academic, usually the co-supervisor. This can be done by video call (eg Skype), though if possible, you should try to visit the Department if you have not done so already.

If you have not been in contact with a supervisor prior to applying (and, as indicated above, this is not a bad thing), we will forward your application to all potential supervisors who work in the area(s) you expressed an interest in. If they are interested (in principle) to supervise you and have the capacity to take on more PhD students, they will contact you to discuss possible projects in more detail. If we can't find a suitable supervisor for you, we'll let you know. We're a big Department and have people working in many areas of mathematics, but there is a limit to the number of students individual academics can sensibly supervise.