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What is a PhD?

Technically speaking, the PhD, or ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, is the highest qualification that a student can achieve. Practically speaking, it’s a 3-4 year individual research project involving advanced scholarship focusing on a specific area of interest to you within the field of philosophy, and which makes an original contribution to knowledge.

Each student’s experience of the PhD is unique – some will undertake primary data collection through fieldwork and interviews, while others will do all their research in the library – but all PhDs require a high degree of self-motivation, self-reflection and self-discipline in order to be completed on time, and in a way that accomplishes all they set out to do. Contrary to the stereotype of a PhD being a lonely experience, in Warwick Philosophy you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with your peers, supervisors or other colleagues through conferences, workshops and study groups - both on and off campus - and through these, you’ll get important insights into your own topic and stay engaged with the wider academic community.

Throughout this process, all PhDs gain valuable skills in research, writing, public speaking, networking and critical thinking, which are important not only in academic careers, but also in many other professions.

What is a PhD in the UK?

As opposed to undertaking the degree in other countries, a PhD in the UK is based more around individual research. In Philosophy, it does not include any taught element, though you are expected to pursue the professional development programme offered by the Department, and are encouraged to undertake additional training offered by the University. Your progress will be monitored in regular meetings with your supervisor and through an annual review with a committee made up of members from the Department, (the Graduate Progress Committee).

In addition, you will take part in a variety of research activities that will involve writing, presenting talks and taking part in work-in-progress meetings and research workshops. Your degree culminates in the submission of a thesis, which is examined by Viva. Normally you will be expected to complete your thesis in three years, with a maximum registration period of four years, if you require additional time. In contrast with some other countries, where a PhD can stretch to 7-8 years full time, a PhD in the UK is shorter because there is no significant taught component to the course.

There are also opportunities for PhD students to take up sessional teaching of undergraduate seminars within the department; many of our PhD candidates take advantage of this opportunity. Teachers are appointed by the university only on the recommendation of the Head of Department, after completing an application and consulting with their supervisors. Current PhD students are given priority for teaching. Teaching can provide you with valuable experience if you wish to pursue a career in academia.