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School of Civil Engineering

Research degrees

Research Degrees - School of Civil Engineering - University of Leeds


The School of Civil Engineering’s research has high impact both in academia and in everyday life. Civil engineering is focused on providing the infrastructure that society relies on; our research impacts on all members of society and on the wider environment. We believe that, as civil engineers, we must view our state-of-the-art technical advances in the wider societal and economic context.

This mandates us to work collaboratively and eclectically with other engineers, scientists, social scientists, economists, health professionals, psychologists and many others.

At Leeds, we are proud of our achievements in cross-disciplinary work and see this as essential to our approach. Our PhD students are at the forefront of addressing the challenges and increasing uncertainties due to economic change, climate variability and urbanisation.

The School of Civil Engineering’s research activity is led by two institutes:

Institute for Resilient Infrastructure (iRI): ensures that the physical infrastructure systems underpinning our way of life can adapt to changes, both in the way we use them and social and physical environment in which they created, designed, built and operated.

Pathogen Control Engineering Institute (PaCE): undertakes research on all aspects of the built environment in which the presence of pathogens influences design, including water treatment, solid waste and airborne transmission of disease. Both institutes have strong links with the university-wide cross-disciplinary institute Water@Leeds, which is a concentration of all the expertise involved in water research at the university.

The School has a wide range of modern experimental facilities to support postgraduate research projects.

School research brochure: Download
Postgraduate research brochure: Download

Research degrees

Research degree programmes have the objectives of training students in the skills and techniques of conducting research, developing understanding and enthusiasm for a selected research topic, and accelerating the development of a mature, critical and self-motivated approach to the acquisition and application of specialist knowledge.

Our international reputation for research makes this an ideal place to pursue a research degree, whether as preparation for a research career in industry or as the start of an academic career.

We offer two types of research degree:

• Masters by Research (MSc Eng Res) - 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
• Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - 3 years full-time or 5 years part-time

A PhD is the most internationally recognised research qualification, and is the most commonly pursued research degree as Leeds.

In all cases you are expected to carry out a programme of research in a particular area under the supervision of a primary supervisor and one or more co-supervisors. Supervisors are usually staff within the school however co-supervisors may be from another discipline, another institution or even industry depending on the project and funding source.

You are assessed at the end of your first year (second year for part-time students) through a report and oral examination; successful completion enables progression into the remaining years. At the end of the programme you will prepare a thesis which describes your research and your original contribution to knowledge; the thesis is assessed by oral examination

Once registered specific training needs will be identified and suitable courses recommended. You will also have access to a broad programme of skills training and professional development to help you complete your research effectively and to keep you at the leading edge of developments in learning and teaching, innovation, enterprise and knowledge transfer to help you succeed in future employment.

During the later stages of your study you will be expected to give seminars and write papers for scientific journals and conferences.

Postgraduate research brochure: Download

Entry requirements

We would normally expect applicants for postgraduate research to have achieved one of the following in a subject relevant to the proposed research:

- a first or good upper second class honours degree (or equivalent from an overseas University),
- a good performance in a Masters level course.

We also recognise relevant industrial and academic experience and special circumstances in the consideration of applicants.

English language requirements
If English is not your first language, you are required to provide evidence of proficiency in English. You will need to meet our minimum requirements for one of the following recognised English language tests: the International English Language Testing Service (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

- IELTS: 6.0 with not less than 5.5 in listening, reading, speaking and writing.
- TOEFL (Internet based test): 87 overall with at least 20 in listening and reading, 22 in speaking and 21 in writing.

More information about English language qualifications is available from Research Student Administration.

Language Centre
The University of Leeds Language Centre provides the Academic English for Postgraduate Studies pre-sessional course which is designed to help international students develop the necessary language and academic study skills required for successful study on a research degree programme at the University of Leeds. Courses are offered throughout the year with starting dates in September, January, April, July or August.

For further information, please visit the Language Centre’s website or contact the Language Centre via e-mail:


Fees for 2014/15
UK/EU – £3,975
International - £16,500

Fees for 2015/16
UK/EU – £4,100
International - £17,500

You are classified as either a ‘UK/EU’ or ‘international’ student for the purpose of assessing tuition fees. International students will pay a higher fee than UK students as the fees for UK and EU students are subsidised by the UK government.

When to pay
Fees must be paid in full before you can register as a postgraduate student, unless you will be paying for yourself. If you are self-supporting you can pay fees in two instalments, the first payable at registration. If you are supported by your government, employer, or other sponsor, you should provide a letter from them addressed to the University, confirming that the fees will be paid directly. Sponsors cannot pay by instalments. For further information visit the University's website.

Scholarships and funding
Postgraduate research study is a major investment in your future, but there is support available to help ease the financial pressure.

The University and external funding bodies, such as Research Councils, offer a range of scholarships to UK, EU and international students that cover full or partial course fees, and/ or maintenance payments. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and are very competitive, so it is important you make enquiries and apply to all relevant sources as early as possible.

Faculty of Engineering Scholarships
- Scholarships for UK/EU students
- Scholarships for International students

How to apply

Formal applications for research degree study should be made on-line via the 'I want to apply' page on the Research Student Administration website.

Please complete the application form as fully as you can ensuring you complete the following sections:

- your expected source of funding
- grade(s) or degree classification(s) for your degree-level qualifications
- your proposed research area
- a brief one-paragraph summary of your research interests or proposed topic

We cannot normally consider your application without this information.

Please also ensure you upload or provide the following documents:

- copies of your degree certificate(s)
- transcripts of marks achieved in degree-level qualifications
- evidence of English language qualifications
- references if available (alternatively, the Faculty will contact your named academic referees directly)

If these documents are not available, please provide them at the earliest opportunity, as we cannot usually make an offer without them.

If possible, please include a CV (this will provide invaluable information as to work experience and publications) and a research proposal unless you are applying for a specific project studentship or Centre for Doctoral Training.

Research Proposal
Although it is not a formal requirement, we encourage candidates to submit a research proposal. The proposal does not necessarily commit you to a precise project, however it gives a good indication of your research interests and gives academic staff an opportunity to see a sample of your writing. Projects can be further negotiated during the admissions process.

We would recommend that a research proposal is structured broadly as follows:

• a description of the research problem.
• an argument as to why that problem is important.
• a review of literature relevant to the research problem - this should provide a conceptual framework for the reader and demonstrate that the researcher is aware of the breadth and diversity of literature that relates to the research question.
• a description of the proposed research methodology.
• a description of how the research findings will be used and the potential impact/societal benefit of the research.

Please ensure that all content is properly attributed. We would suggest that the maximum length of a proposal is 4 sides of A4.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) and Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS)
Non EU/EEA nationals planning to undertake postgraduate study in the UK in certain science, engineering or technology disciplines need to acquire an ATAS certificate and a CAS before they can apply for a Visa, Entry Clearance (EC) or Extension of Stay (EoS). More information is available on the 'I want to apply' page on the Research Student Administration website.

If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office, e:, t: +44 (0)113 343 8000.