September has been an intense month both on PhD and personal life. I recently gave a presentation on my research and it was the first time that I did it. It was quite an experience. I was a lot under pressure to show everyone that besides the social media, I actually do good science too.
Many people ask me about my PhD and what they have to do to apply for a PhD in the UK. I decided to make a blog article because loads of people are asking and I don’t have the time to answer individually.
- ENGLISH TEST: Before even considering doing a PhD, you need to master a bit of English. You need to do an English test, either the IELTS or TOFEL which consists of 4 parts: reading, listening, speaking and writing. I did the IELTS and the minimum score to access the British Higher Education System is 6.5/9, the equivalent of a B2 upper intermediate level.
- THERE IS NO NEED TO DO AN EXAM TO START A PHD. In some countries, like in Italy, PhD students are hired by the School/Department. So there are 15/20 scholarships every year and students need to do an exam, usually at the start of the academic year and pass it to win the scholarship.
In the UK, PIs hired PhD students and pay the salary out of their own budget.
You can start any time of the year.
- HOW TO FIND OPEN POSITIONS? The first option is to look at the website of the PIs you are interested in and drop them an email. You present yourself, your academic achievements, why you want to join the group and you hope to get an answer. I sent probably 50 letters and got only a few answers. If you can’t be bothered, then the Internet is you best friend. Open positions are advertised on some websites such us jobs.ac.uk or FindAPhD, the one I used was or you might be surprise to hear that many PIs advertise PhD positions on their Twitter pages. I lost count of the number of “PhD opportunities” I have seen on Twitter.
- In the UK, there is a new way of doing a PhD and you can apply for a Doctorial Training rather that a traditional PhD. In Nottingham alone, there are 3 different Centres for Doctoral Training, one in Sustainable Chemistry (my programme), in Life Science and Bioscience, and in 3D printing and Additive Manufacturing. I am aware of another of these programme in Catalysis in Bath. They all have different deadlines to apply for the programme and hire from 10 to 50 new students every academic year. I strongly recommend applying for these programmes rather than a traditional PhD, because you get training that shape you as a professional for the working industry. You also have your own budget for consumables and travelling (conferences and summer/winter schools) and you don’t have to stress out to apply for grants or beg your supervisor to buy that chemical/kit you desperately need.
The application for a PhD programme is online and you can do it through the University websites. If you are a suitable candidate for the PhD, you will be asked to do a Skype interview or they invite you to do a formal interview at the University. You will have to prepare a presentation on your Master or Bachelor project and you’ll be asked technical questions about general topics related to your field of study. The interview might last from 30 min to 1 hour. If successful, you will be given an offer. The salary is about £1200/month. Students who apply for Marie-Curie scholarship are the richest, their salary is about £2500/month and they end up earning more as PhD students than a postdoc.
If you belong to a country outside the European Union, you might have to secure your own funding along with the VISA.
Many people from Brazil or the Middle East do a PhD in the UK but their home country pays for the salary and fees (£10000/year). Non-EU students don’t have access to free healthcare so you will have to pay to get services from the NHS (National Health System) which is free for EU students.
Hope this answer most of the questions I get. Feel free to make a comment if you want to know more or want to add more.
Ciao and stay cool