Postgraduate Study

Deciding whether to undertake postgraduate study can be a complex decision

It is important to consider the benefits, the cost and whether a taught course or research would suit you best. The Keele Careers & Employability team are available on campus to allow you to talk through your options. Details of virtual open days and funding opportunities can be found on the Keele website. 

The Prospects Website also provides careers advice and job and course opportunities to help students and graduates to make informed choices about their career options.

Full guidance on postgraduate research degrees can be found in the Code of Practice on Postgraduate Research Degrees.


Masters students may qualify for the Postgraduate Loan from Student Finance. 

If you're studying a PhD, the Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs.

You may also be able to find financial support from a number of other sources. Making a successful application is not easy and the process can often be long, confusing and strenuous, so start looking as early as possible and persevere if you do not find success at first. Having an idea of what you would like to study or research will help focus your searches and avoid any unnecessary applications. Eligibility for grants, bursaries and scholarships can depend upon if you are a home or international student, in full or part-time study or if you are an undergraduate or postgraduate so check guidance carefully. If you are unsure about your eligibility for an award then contact the provider directly for clarification.

The following links may be helpful:

Keele postgraduate funding opportunities. have a check list of possible funding sources.  

DSC online databases.

Family Action grants for families and single parent households. 

International Financial Aid and College Scholarship offer funds for students who wish to study abroad. Most scholarships are restricted to certain geographical areas so check carefully.


Turn2us has a useful search tool to help you find available grants.

Scholarship Hub - you will need to create an account to access their grant search but this is free if you only want to use their basic search.

Finding a Supervisor

It is very important that you identify an academic who you feel comfortable working with. You need a supervisor who can give you the support you need throughout your studies. There are indicators as to the standard of supervision an academic is likely to provide.

  • Potential supervisors are often your first point of contact when enquiring about potential postgraduate study at an institution and they will be able to help guide you through the application process. It is a good idea to meet with your potential supervisor before you begin your course and, if possible, before you even apply. As a minimum you should be in regular e-mail correspondence or having telephone conversations during the application process.
  • Many departments will list postgraduate students previously supervised by their staff. It is worth investigating how those students careers have developed after their postgraduate study under the supervision of the academic. Occasionally an academic will state on their personal page if they are willing to supervise postgraduates and at what level (taught or research).
  • Do not be surprised if a potential supervisor asks you about your research proposal or to provide an academic CV (a document outlining you academic achievements such as qualifications, grants awarded, publications and conference or training sessions attended, this is perfectly normal and is usually an indication that the academic takes postgraduate supervision very seriously. It is understandable that they might want to know a little about you if they are to invest the time in supervising you.
  • You should have a good idea of some of the leading academics in your field. Try looking on the back cover of their latest book to find which institute they belong to or Google their name. If you have no idea about potential supervisors then visit university department websites with a strong reputation in your field and browse their staff pages. Don’t worry about contacting the wrong individuals, most will simply point you in the direction of a colleague who will be able to help.


Working with Supervisors

Each supervisor-student relationship is different depending on the personalities involved. However, as a postgraduate remember that you should be treated as an adult and that your study/research is yours. Your supervisor should trust you to manage your work and other commitments, meet deadlines, organise your work schedule, develop timelines and to ask for help when needed. 

Sit down with your supervisor early on and develop a clear plan of work to be completed and when it is to be completed by. If your circumstances change and you won't be able follow this plan, speak to your supervisor about your problems and do not wait for issues to build up. The relationship with your supervisor should be open and honest - you should be able to trust one another’s judgement and be comfortable enough to express how you are feeling.

After meeting with your supervisor, write brief notes of what you discussed and agreed, and ideally you should both sign and date the notes once you are agreed they are an accurate reflection of your meeting. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or conflict if there are any problems later on in your study.


Problems with Your Supervisor

You can make a request for a different supervisor to the PGR Director. Normally, any change of supervisor will be by mutual agreement between the student and the University. 

Separate to this, if you are unhappy with any aspect of your time at Keele you have the right to submit a complaint. You should try to resolve issue informally first by contacting your lead supervisor or another member of staff.  If you then want to follow the formal complaints process, you can visit our Complaints page for guidance.

Depending on when you began your registration as a postgraduate researcher at Keele, your learning plan will be split into 2 parts (pre-2012) or come as one whole (2012 onwards). The document acts as a log of your work including:

  • Details of you supervisory team
  • Projected start, progression and completion/submission dates
  • Progress reviews
  • Supervisory meetings
  • Research training completed
  • Research activities (grants, conferences, field work etc.)
  • Leave of absences taken

It is important to complete your Learning Plan as fully as possible and keep it up to date. It acts as a useful guide to preparing and organising your PhD as well as a record of achievement in case of conflict or misunderstanding. You should discuss your Learning Plan on a frequent basis at meetings with your supervisor.

Progression takes place 10 months after you start your studies (or 20 months for part-time students). The purpose of the progression is to identify if you are likely to complete your thesis to the expected standard. The four possible outcomes are as follows:

  1. You are suitable and may progress to doctoral study
  2. You are not suitable for doctoral study and will prepare a thesis for submission for a research master’s degree
  3. You are not suitable for doctoral study and will be required to withdraw
  4. You are not yet suitable for progression and will be given a programme of work to complete over a period not exceeding 2 months, at which point you will again be reviewed 

The process varies depending on your research institute. Speak with your RI administrator about organising your progression well in advance. Progression boards can take a while to organise due to busy academic schedules so you might need to continue reminding your RI about your impending progression.

Speak with your supervisor about what you can expect to be asked. Some general indicators might include:

  • What made you decide to research your chosen topic?
  • How have contemporary developments shaped your work thus far?
  • What contribution will your research make to the wider community?
  • How did you come to define you key terms?
  • What are the key skills you have learnt so far and where do you feel you need to train further?
  • What might you have done differently up to this point?
  • What are your plans for the rest of your research project?

Continuation is an extended period of time in which to write up your thesis and therefore you may not have access to all the resources you had previously. If you feel you will be unable to submit your thesis on time you should tell your supervisor and RI as soon as possible.

You may only be on continuation mode of attendance for a maximum of 12 months (24 months for part-time students) and you must have competed your minimum period of supervision, usually 3 years (6 for part-time students). You must also have completed your 30 month review (60 month for part-time students). You will still have to pay tuition fees but only at a 15% the full-time rate. You should expect to have access to the following:

  • Your supervisor for reading draft thesis chapters
  • The library and other IT services
  • Computing facilities in your research institute

There are also council tax implications for moving onto continuation status. Many local councils do not consider those students on continuation to be full-time but the councils in the Keele area have now agreed to continue exemption. Your name should be included on the list of full-time students sent to the local councils but if you're having any problems with the council, please get in touch with us.

A viva voce is an oral examination of your knowledge of your thesis. A viva voce is conducted by two examiners - one internal and one external - and an independent chair. If you wish, your supervisor may be present with the prior permission of the Research Degrees Committee. None of your supervisory team may sit on the examination committee for a viva voce.

There are seven possible outcomes:

  1. Award a doctorate
  2. Award a doctorate once requested revisions have been made
  3. Resubmit for a further oral examination within two years for a doctorate

Only for original submissions - not for re-submissions:

  1. Award a Masters
  2. Resubmit for a further oral examination within two years for a masters

Only for original submissions and for doctoral candidates - not for resubmissions or Masters students:

  1. Make no award and allow no resubmission
  2. Unable to make a joint recommendation- new examiner(s) will be added to resolve the situation

If you have been in regular contact and have had a positive working relationship with your supervisory team, you should have a general indication of your likely result (1-3, 4-5 or 6) before the viva voce takes place since any potential major issues will have already been flagged up at progression or supervisory meetings. However, if you are worried about your progress, or have issues at any time during your studies you can always discuss your concerns with ASK.

You may want teaching experience to provide an extra income and/or to gain experience. However, unless you are on a Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA), teaching is not guaranteed. There are several ways in which you can increase the likelihood of teaching opportunities and experience:

Tag Teach - Make sure academics in your school and research institute are aware of your research topic and any potential teaching crossovers with their modules. You may be able to suggest taking a lecture or part of a lecture where relevant to your research.

Teaching Register - Sign up to a teaching register where students list their teaching and research interests. Academics who are then seeking teachers in related fields will search the register. This avoids sending out lots of pointless and often irritating e-mails to module leaders.

Other institutions - Try contacting other Higher and Further Education institutions to see if there is teaching opportunities. Larger institutions are more likely to have the funding and modules that you can apply your research to.

Non-academic - Not all teaching experience has to be in a lecture theatre, lab or seminar room. Volunteer to help out in local projects or sign up to summer schools. Any environment whereby you can demonstrate teaching skills could prove invaluable.

Modules - Take modules from the Learning and Professional Development Centre that require teaching as part of the module.

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