Application Process

If you're planning to apply to a PhD programme in UCD you must research your target programme and contact a potential supervisor before you begin the application process.

Here are a few tips for how to start looking for a potential supervisor in UCD.

Once you've identified one or two potential supervisors, you should contact them by email. All supervisors receive many potential applications by email and so an email out of the blue is completely normal. Always customise the email to the specific member of staff. Here are some items to include in your initial contact email.

  • Your name
  • Academic background
  • Academic awards or highlights
  • Research experience
  • Why you wish to enter doctoral studies
  • Why the academic member of staff’s area of research will match with your research goals (cite the academic’s publications)
  • Make it clear that you are familiar with their work and how their research interests mesh with your own
  • A research proposal, if appropriate
  • Ask them specifically if they are accepting new graduate students for the coming academic year.

Once you have the agreement of an academic member of staff to support your application to take a place on the School's PhD programme. In some schools you will apply via the UCD online applications system www.ucd.ie/apply in others, there will be a paper-based application process. The School will be able to advise you what the required application process is. You will be asked to provide your contact details, curriculum vitae and support documentation which may include:

Normally a proposal should be between 1,500 and 2,000 words and will include the following:

  • A working title of the topic area:
  • General overview of area: brief abstract of the general area of study and identify the discipline(s) within which it falls. You might also refer to the way in which your own background gives you competences in your chosen area.
  • Identification of the relevant literature: demonstrate that you are aware of the debates and issues raised in relevant bodies of literature and demonstrate that your proposed area has not been studied before, so you need to identify your niche which will lead on to the thesis preparation.
  • Key research questions: Since you need to demonstrate that the topic can be completed within the normal time period allowed, you need to demonstrate that it is manageable, and so focus on key questions within your niche area.
  • Aims and objectives: State specific objectives of the research to be undertaken.
  • Methodology: You need to demonstrate an awareness of the methodological tools available to you and show some understanding of which would be suitable for your research.
  • Timescale/research planning: You need to demonstrate an awareness of the need for planning and the timescale of the research. Please try to prepare a realistic timescale.
  • Bibliography: You should include a short list of references to key articles and texts included in the application.
  • Avoid: Broad topic areas which would be unmanageable as research topics; Vague descriptions of research areas and Subject areas where your chosen School has no expertise.

The most important thing is to explain why you are applying for your particular programme: what attracts you to that subject area, how your studies and/or work experience has influenced you, career plans etc. The UCD Supporting Statement should also include details of any work experience. You can prepare your answers offline and copy and paste them in subsequently. You can enter a maximum of 32,000 characters in answer to any one question. If your answers are more than 2,000 characters in length you must save them in a word document which you can then upload after your application has been submitted, otherwise your answers will not be visible to the assessors.

A transcript is a document that states the results of all the subjects of all years that you did in your degree. Please note that the transcript is not the parchment that you would have received in your graduation. If you do not have a transcript, you can request this from your University.

Certain programmes will look for references that are able to provide details about your academic abilities and motivation. In some cases there will be specific referee forms available on the School site, however, in cases where references are required, the more normal request is for the referee to provide a letter of reference in his/her own words. UCD comes under the terms of the Freedom of Information Acts, 1997 and 2003. In the context of the Online Applications system, this means that an applicant can request any documentation presented as part of the applications process, including sealed references sent directly by the referee to the institution.

Your application will be reviewed by the School Graduate Committee and then the College Graduate School Board to determine your suitability to take a place on your chosen PhD programme. Your application will be assessed on the basis of your academic qualifications, the alignment of the proposed research with the Schools academic strategy, your personal statement and, where relevant, your English language proficiency. Only when you have been approved by the College Graduate School Board will you be eligible to register to the PhD programme. For this reason it is prudent that you make your application about two months prior to your expected start date. You can register for a PhD in UCD in September, January or May.