Regulations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Approved for entry from September 2023)

These Regulations govern the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Aberystwyth University, henceforth the University.

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy may be awarded by the University in recognition of the successful completion of a scheme of further study and research, the results of which are judged to constitute an original contribution to learning and to give evidence of systematic study and of ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject.

References below to the thesis shall encompass alternative format submissions (see regulations 17-27 below) and practice-based submissions in creative arts (see regulation 16).

In judging the merit of a thesis submitted in candidature for the degree of PhD, the examiners shall bear in mind the standard and scope of work which it is reasonable to expect a capable and diligent student to present after a period of three to four years of full-time study, or its part-time equivalent.

On completion of a Doctoral Degree, graduates will have attained Level D, as defined by the QAA’s Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Modes of Study

1. A candidate may study for the degree by one of the following methods:

A - by pursuing full-time research in the University;
B - by pursuing full-time research in an external place of employment;
C - by pursuing part-time research in the University or externally.

Students applying under section B should be employed at an external research centre or similar organisation which has the staff and the facilities to host and supervise the research project but which lacks degree awarding powers.  Applicants must provide:

  • a declaration of support from the employer confirming that they will allow the student to work full-time on the research project and will provide the required facilities.
  • confirmation of supervision arrangements including the CV of the local supervisor.
  • confirmation that the candidate has, or can obtain, the requisite research skills without attending AU research training.
  • agreement on any AU research training that will be required.

2. It is possible, in appropriate cases, to transfer from one method of the regulations to another, e.g., from full-time (Method A) to part-time (Method C) and vice-versa. In such cases the University will determine a revised minimum period of study and will fix the earliest date for the submission of the thesis.


3. A candidate for the degree of PhD must hold one of the following qualifications prior to commencement of research:

(a) an initial degree of Aberystwyth University;
(b) an initial degree of another University approved for this purpose;
(c) a non-graduate qualification which the University has deemed to be equivalent to graduation.

Departments may set additional requirements such as achievement of a certain class of degree or possession of a Master’s award.

A prospective candidate who already holds a doctoral degree must be able to show that the PhD scheme is in a different field or research from that for which the PhD (or other doctoral degree) was awarded.

4. Irrespective of a candidate’s qualifications, the University must satisfy itself that a candidate is of the required academic standard to complete the scheme of research proposed. This may involve requiring the candidate to provide a portfolio of creative or other writing, and interviewing candidates to assess their understanding of the research proposal.

5. All candidates are required to matriculate with the University. The University provides a list of approved standards which will permit entry to candidature for a higher degree of the University. This list is contained in “Regulations for the Approval of Qualifications and/or Relevant Experience for Admission to Higher Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates of Aberystwyth University”.

A special recommendation for the admission of a candidate who does not possess a recognised entry qualification must be made by the Department concerned to the Postgraduate Admissions Office and approval must be confirmed before the candidate's proposed scheme of study is due to begin.

Registration Periods and Probationary Arrangements

6. A candidate must enrol at the University, pay the appropriate fee prescribed and pursue the scheme of research for the minimum period defined below:

Methods A and B:
Minimum period: three years, the first year of which shall be regarded as the probationary year.
Method C:
Minimum period: six years, the first two years of which shall be regarded as the probationary year.

Notwithstanding the above, the Department may require a candidate to pursue research for longer than these minimum periods.

7. In order to allow for the examination to be completed, a candidate is permitted to submit a thesis six months before the expiry of scheme of study approved. Tuition fees will nevertheless be liable for the full registration period. Where an additional period of research is required of a candidate (as described under paragraph 6 above), the candidate’s earliest submission date is extended by a period of time equal in length to the duration of the additional period of study.

8. During the probationary year/period, the candidate will be expected to demonstrate their ability to proceed with further research.

9. Notwithstanding paragraphs 5 and 7 above, a candidate may be granted exemption from the probationary year/period where they:

(a) hold the postgraduate degree of Master of an approved University obtained by research or advanced study which, in the judgement of the department/Faculty, provides sufficient academic background to permit the completion of the proposed research within two years.
(b) have completed a minimum of one year’s full-time or two years’ part-time supervised postgraduate work in the same academic discipline as the proposed PhD scheme of research to the satisfaction of the University on the recommendation of the appropriate department/Faculty.
(c) has submitted postgraduate research work of a standard approximate to that of a Master’s degree and approved by the University on the recommendation of the appropriate Department/Faculty.
(d) has had at least one year’s relevant experience since graduation, such approval to be granted by the University on the recommendation of the appropriate Department/Faculty.

Those Universities whose Master's degrees are approved for the purposes of exemption from the probationary period are listed in “Regulations for the Approval of Qualifications and/or Relevant Experience for Admission to Higher Degrees, Diplomas and Certificates of Aberystwyth University”.

No other exemptions will be given.

Time Limits

10. A candidature shall lapse if a thesis is not submitted, in the form and manner prescribed, by the time-limit listed below:

Methods A and B:

Four years from the official beginning of the candidate’s period of study, or, where the candidate has been exempted from the probationary year, three years from the official beginning of the candidate’s period of study.

Method C:

Eight years from the official beginning of the candidate’s period of study, or, where the candidate has been exempted from the probationary period, six years from the official beginning of the candidate’s period of study.

The above time-limits may be extended by the University, but in exceptional cases only and in accordance with criteria laid down in the Regulations for the Submission and Examination of Research Degree Theses. A reasoned application, supported by appropriate independent evidence, must be submitted by the candidate’s department for consideration by the University.
NB For students admitted from September 2018, the following maximum Time Limits for Completion, including any periods of temporary withdrawal and extensions approved by the Head of the Graduate School, apply:

From initial registration date to the first submission of the thesis for examination:

Full-time PhD/PhDFA: six years
Part-time PhD/PhDFA: ten years

Extensions to these limits may be granted by the Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) provided that:

1. Evidence of special circumstances is supplied
2. The student’s department confirms that the research project remains current and viable and that the student is capable of completing the project within the requested extension.

11. The University shall ensure that candidates are supervised, on a regular and continuing basis, in accordance with its general procedures for postgraduate supervision.

12. Each candidature shall have a supervisory team including a minimum of one main supervisor and a second supervisor nominated by the candidate’s Department.

  • The main supervisor will normally be a member of the academic staff of the University;
  • The second supervisor will normally be a member academic staff of the University or collaborative institution or organisation.

The procedures for postgraduate supervision shall be made available by the University to students and supervisors through the Codes of Practice and Supervisors’ Handbook.

Thesis Length and Submission

13. Every candidate’s research shall be completed by the presentation of a thesis (a maximum of 100,000 words in length, excluding appendices and references) which embodies the methods and results of the research. A properly constituted Examining Board is required to conduct an oral examination of a PhD candidate who submits a thesis for examination. This requirement might, however, be waived at the discretion of the Examining Board, when an examination of a re-submitted thesis is being conducted and the examiners are recommending a clear pass without amendments, or with only very minor corrections or amendments. In other, exceptional circumstances, a viva for a resubmission may be waived with the approval of the Examining Board and the Head of the Graduate School.

14. Candidates shall sign a declaration to certify that the work submitted has not been accepted in substance for any degree or award, and is not being submitted concurrently in candidature for any degree or other award. The signed declaration shall be included in all copies of the works submitted for examination.

15. The University shall ensure that the form of submission and examination of the thesis conform to the University’s ‘Regulations for the Submission and Examination of Research Theses’.

Special provisions relating to Schemes in the Creative Arts

16. In the case of candidates following approved research degree schemes which fall within the University's subject area of Creative and Performing Arts, the thesis may take one or more of the following forms: artefacts, score, text, portfolio of original works, performance or exhibition. The submission shall be accompanied by commentary placing it in its academic context together with any other items which may be required (e.g. a catalogue or audio or visual recording).

In all cases the submission and written commentary shall be bound, and other required items (e.g. tape or other media) shall be enclosed in a container suitable for storage on a library shelf and shall carry the same information on the spine as is required for dissertations/theses. This information shall be placed so as to be readily readable from the container in its stored position.

Alternative format submission

17. The alternative format allows a doctoral candidate to incorporate material that is in a format suitable for submission for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Apart from the inclusion of such materials, the alternative format thesis must conform to the same regulations that govern the standard PhD thesis. The criteria for the award and the standard that must be achieved will also be the same as for the standard PhD. Candidates who wish to present their work in the alternative format must follow the guidance below.

18. Materials included in the alternative format thesis may include those which are solely and/or partly authored by the student and may be already published, accepted for publication, or submitted for publication in externally refereed contexts such as journals and conference proceedings.

19. The thesis should remain an original contribution to the field of research by the student, regardless of the format. A clear statement must be made at the outset of the thesis to explain and justify in full the nature and extent of the candidate's own contribution and the contribution of any co-authors and other collaborators to the publications presented. The co-authors or collaborators must sign declarations confirming this. The researched materials should be derived from original research undertaken after the date the student initially registered with the University.

20. Any candidate wishing to submit their thesis in alternative format must submit a written request, giving an outline of the proposed thesis structure to their supervisor and appropriate Postgraduate Monitoring Committee for approval. This request must be submitted before the end of year two for full time candidates and the end of year four for part time candidates. The request should specify why the alternative format thesis is more appropriate for the research project and demonstrate how the candidate will take full advantage of the alternative format. If approval is granted for submission in alternative format, the student must obtain the Permission to submit a PhD thesis in alternative format form from the appropriate office. Students must submit the form with their thesis.

21. The number of papers included in the alternative format thesis may vary according to discipline but will normally be between three and five. The papers should reflect the quantity, quality and originality of research and analysis expected of a candidate submitting a standard doctoral thesis.

22. The papers must constitute a body of knowledge within a coherent and continuous thesis, rather than a series of disconnected publications. As such, any publications should be adapted and integrated within the structure of the thesis. Any sections of the thesis which are published or in publishable format should be clearly identified.

23. Any work submitted within the alternative format thesis must be substantially different from any work which may have previously been submitted for any degree at this or any other institution.

24. It is essential that the alternative format thesis includes detailed and critical analysis of the work and methods used, since sections formatted for publication/dissemination may not already include this level of detail. The structure of the alternative format thesis should include the following:

I. All required pages for a standard thesis submission detailed in the PhD submission guidance notes
II. A rationale for submitting the thesis in an alternative format and an account of how the thesis format has been constructed
III. A written context for the research, which should incorporate sections/chapters of up to 20,000 words in total defining the rationale for the research and the strategy employed during the research as demonstrated in the thesis. The context section/chapters should include a summary of each publication submitted; an outline of their interrelationship, including a synthesis of the work as demonstrated by the publications as a complete coherent study; a summary of the research aims, objectives, methodology, results and conclusions covered by the submitted work; a critical reflection of the research methodology and methods; a critical review of the significant and original contribution the work makes to the academic field in question; and a demonstration of the original and independent contribution to knowledge and a rationale to prove at least equivalence to that normally demonstrated by the submission of a thesis
IV. A written review of previous research including sections summarising and synthesising previous research in the field of investigation
V. A written methodology detailing the methods employed during the research and a detailed critical analysis of those methods and the information they provided
VI. Presentation of results and their analysis in a format suitable for presentation in a peer-reviewed journal and/or in conventional thesis chapters as in the standard PhD thesis
VII. A summary/conclusion drawing together the various outcomes of the work into a coherent synthesis and indicating directions for future work
VIII. References and appendices as in the standard PhD thesis

25. The incorporation of publication-style chapters in the thesis may lead to some duplication since each publication-style chapter may have self-contained components that might overlap with parts of the other sections of the thesis. Nevertheless, the maximum length of the alternative format doctoral thesis should not normally exceed that of the standard thesis.

26. As with the standard doctoral thesis, examiners should satisfy themselves that the alternative format thesis meets the requirements of the doctoral degree as prescribed in the appropriate regulations and policies. The fact that a thesis contains material that has been published or accepted for publication does not guarantee that the examiners will recommend the award for which the candidate is being examined.

27. The publication of research papers in journals may incur financial costs; for example for journal page charges, payment costs for publishing in “Open-Access” journals or colour reproduction costs. The student must be made aware of these potential financial costs by the supervisory team at the time when the decision is made to produce an Alternative Format thesis.

Reviewed: June 2023