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Top 5 PhD Universities in UK

Updated on 15 April, 2024

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

The UK has one of the highest academic progression and qualifications globally. As per data from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), more than 900,000 students obtained postgraduate degrees in 2021-2022.

PhD universities in the UK demand excellence from their applicants. This article takes a quick look at some of the most prominent universities in the UK to help prospects understand the requirements and conditions attached to such courses. In addition, it examines other related details, such as the application process and submission deadlines.

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Top 5 PhD Universities in UK

Below is a list of universities in UK for PhD programs. Note that these are some of the most reputed institutions globally as per QS World Rankings 2023.

University NameQS World Ranking 2023Popular CoursesCourse DurationApproximate Annual Tuition Fee for Int’l students*
University of Cambridge2

Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics


Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


3 to 4 years (Full-Time)


5 to 7 years (Part-Time)

20,000 to 39,000 GBP 
University of Oxford4

Advanced Bioscience of Viral Products


Architectural History

Molecular Cell Biology in Health and Disease

3 to 4 years (Full-time)


6 to 8 years (Part-Time)

29,000 to 30,000 GBP (International Students)
University of Edinburgh15

Agriculture and Food Security


Applied and Computational Mathematics

Comparative Literature

3 years (Full-Time)


6 years (Part-Time)

24,000 to 30,000 GBP 
King’s College London37

Child and Adolescent Psychiatry


Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Science

Social Genetic and Developmental Psychiatry

3 to 4 years (Full-Time)


5 to 7 years (Part-Time)

28,260 GBP 
University of Birmingham91

Plasma Wave-Particle Interactions for Space Physics and Space weather


Dissecting the Role of Novel Hematopoietic Factors in Development and Disease

Quantitative Research on Financial Resilience and Financial Wellbeing

3 to 4 years (Full-Time)


5 to 7 years (Part-Time)

9,000 to 21,000 GBP 

*As per university sites

Eligibility & Entry Requirements

The admission criteria for PhD in the UK depend on the selected institution and program. In general, applicants will have to attain the following: general conditions are as follows:

  • A minimum score of 6.5 in IELTS or 92 in TOEFL (for international students)
  • A UK 2:1 Bachelor’s Honors degree (60 – 70%) or an equivalent 
  • A Master’s degree in a relevant subject or field
  • A research proposal

There are a few things to keep in mind here. First, IELTS and TOEFL test scores must be from the last 2 years. 

Second, there may be university-specific guidelines in some cases. For example, Indians pursuing a PhD in Edinburgh University for science or technology must obtain an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate. 

Application Process  

The application process largely depends on the university a student applies to.

Nonetheless, most institutions will require applicants to submit the following:

  • The title of their research project and the proposed field
  • The name of their preferred supervisor
  • A minimum of 3 references (most universities favor academic referees)
  • Transcripts for undergraduate and postgraduate programs
  • A CV
  • A statement of purpose (500 words or less)

Submission of details regarding the research project only applies to institutions that permit individual research proposals. So, if a university has designated research outlines, students will mostly have to stick to them. For instance, the University of Birmingham PhD program offers defined fields for students to choose from.

Application Deadline 

Most PhD programs in the UK start their terms in September. However, a few allow students to apply in January or May. 

Even so, applications are open all year round for any of those months. International students, though, must submit their documents three months before the term commences. On the other hand, domestic students get more leeway and can apply a month before the course begins.  

Career & Job Prospects 

Completing a program from reputed PhD universities in the UK can open up several lucrative career opportunities.

For instance, a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge can lead to a career in biomedical engineering. The average salary in this field is around 33,000 GBP annually, as per job portals.

A few other positions and their projected annual packages include: 

  • Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist (PhD in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry): 83,000 GBP
  • Forensic Consultant (PhD in Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Science): 63,000 GBP
  • University Lecturer/Professor (PhD in Comparative Literature):76,000 GBP

Final Thoughts

Getting selected for the top PhD programs in the UK is an immense accomplishment in itself. Still, prospects must remember that the cost of living in the UK can be relatively high. In places such as Oxford and Edinburgh, it can be as expensive as 22,000 GBP annually. 

So, it would be best for applicants to learn more about funding organizations and the available grants and aids they can leverage. Apart from that, it also would not hurt to outline a tentative budget and find out about the cheapest non-campus residential options.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pursuing a PhD program in the UK expensive compared to other countries?

Studying in the UK may require significant financial resources. But students and PhD applicants can apply for financial aid from funding organizations under specific conditions.




Do the universities in the UK offer a good standard of education?

The UK is one of the best places to study and offers a high standard of education. As per QS World Rankings 2023, the country has several institutions listed in the top 100 universities globally.








upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

We are a dedicated team of study-abroad experts, ensuring intensive research and comprehensive information in each of our blogs. With every piece written, we aim at simplifying the overseas education process for all. Our diverse experience as journalists, content writers, editors, content strategists, and marketers helps create the most relevant and authentic blogs for our readers.

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