Information for postgraduate research applicants

Choosing The University of Manchester for your postgraduate research gives you the chance to carry out your studies in a world-class institution, among respected academics.

We are dedicated to carrying out research that will have a significant impact on the world around us.

We provide information for postgraduate research applicants below.

Writing your research proposal

The proposal is the main way we can judge whether you have what it takes to excel as a doctoral candidate and for you to share your ideas and interests with us.

You need to show that you understand what is required when proposing research.

Remember, in a PhD proposal you aren't committing to doing specifics, and a fuller proposal is required to complete the first year. Instead, you are showing that you know how to do a research project.

Keep your proposal concise. You have lots to cover so you'll need to boil the literature down to its essentials, covering only what is relevant to your project (while showing you are aware that the rest is there).

Typical proposals in the Faculty of Humanities tend to be around 1,500-2,000 words but do vary by programme, so please check with the School you'll be submitting your application to for more specific research proposal guidance. For your proposal, we'd recommend a structure that is something like this:

  • abstract;
  • literature review (which usually means three paragraphs on the main elements of your conceptual framework and one on the proposed case);
  • research questions;
  • methods;
  • work plan;
  • references (not included in the word count).

How to write a research proposal

Watch our information session hosted by Dr Tomas Frederiksen, including a step-by-step guide on writing your research proposal.


Finding a supervisor

As a doctoral researcher, you'll have at least two supervisors who will support and guide you throughout your PhD or professional doctorate.

These will consist of your main supervisor and a co-supervisor.

The relationship between you and your supervisor(s) is central to the success of a PhD.

A supervisor will develop your ideas, skills, thinking, and research.

It is a close relationship over a long period of time.

A basic rule is that you should be applying to work with people who are cited in your research proposal.

When you find someone you're interested in working with, get in touch.

It's important to have a clear outline of your ideas and an initial research proposal or abstract for the academic to read, as they're looking for strong ideas which they can work with you on.

Once you've found a supervisor who is interested in supporting you, they should help you improve your research proposal and application with critical feedback.

If you're applying for funding, the importance of a strong research proposal is even higher. Your proposal needs to be very sharp and may need substantial work to make it competitive.

This will take time, and we would recommend you approach potential supervisors around October of the academic year before you wish to start - nearly 12 months before your proposed start date.

You can explore all the academics currently working in the Faculty on our database, with details on their research interests, publications, and contact details.

Research training and professional development

As a doctoral researcher in Humanities, you will be encouraged to think about the impact of your research and your career aspirations, while you will also be given the opportunities to gain the experience and skills to realise your ambitions.

The University of Manchester provides funded opportunities for personal and professional development to maximise your talents.

From workshops and events tackling key research skills and tools to placements, internships, and exchanges, you'll find many ways to broaden your networks and personalise your training to meet your needs and enhance your experience.


As part of my PhD, I had the opportunity to undertake a four-month internship in Parliament working for the Welsh Affairs Select Committee.

I also had the opportunity to undertake a one-month overseas institutional visit, which was a funded programme to go and work with an academic at Purdue University in Indiana.

I think the placement in Parliament really helped me to think of myself as an academic in a world of policymaking, and it really helped me to accrue skills that were really beneficial to my research.

Being in Indiana and working at Purdue was also a defining moment for me, bringing my research over and speaking to the political science faculty.

Anna Sanders / PhD student

Expert supervision

One of the most important factors for successful development is the relationship you'll have with your supervisors.

All our academic supervisors are research active and will support you throughout your studies, helping you to develop rigorous, creative, and original research practices.

We're not here simply to 'supervise' - we seek to discover and co-produce new knowledge with students as our partners.

You can expect to meet with your supervisor at least once a month to discuss progress on your project, where you will be offered support on anything you might be contending with.

An inspiring environment

As a postgraduate researcher, you'll be joining a large and diverse community of internationally-recognised academic experts in an environment that will stimulate intellectual debate and development.

You'll be supported to present your ideas at international conferences and workshops that provide relevant professional opportunities. 

You'll also be encouraged to publish, and we have strategies to help you achieve this goal.

You'll have access to funding for fieldwork and conference activities. All five schools in the Faculty of Humanities have funding available to support students undertaking fieldwork abroad and presenting papers or posters at academic conferences.

The support to succeed

The Faculty of Humanities has a dedicated Researcher Development Team that will support your professional development throughout your PhD and beyond.

Our researcher development programme will enable you to become more aware of your developing researcher identity, equipping you with the skills you need during your PhD and preparing you to integrate with the research community.

In addition, we consider all our postgraduate research students to be developing intellectual leaders.

This is recognised in our Developing Intellectual Leaders Programme, which supports a small group of students through a series of interventions designed to help them take control of their professional development and make the most of their leadership potential.

In addition to expert teaching and tuition, you'll have access to excellent facilities such as our world-leading library and archive collections, common learning areas, and personal workstations.

PGR Knowledge Exchange

We support postgraduate researchers to collaborate with external partners via placements and other cross-sectorial projects that bring research outside academia.

Our PGR Knowledge Exchange programme is designed to support you in engaging with external partners, create impact with your research and develop skills and networks that can boost your professional development and employability both inside and outside academia.

We foster cross-sectorial collaboration, co-creation and knowledge exchange through a series of different schemes and initiatives.

Global connections

As a leading research university, we have established connections all over the world.

We are keen to support our postgraduate researchers to fully participate in the international research community through conference attendance, fieldwork, and institutional visits and exchanges. We have a number of established postgraduate researcher exchange programmes across the globe, including:

  • Indiana University;
  • University of Copenhagen;
  • National University of Singapore.

These exchanges offer an excellent opportunity to visit another institution, access research resources and experience the academic culture and professional networks of another institution/country.

To support postgraduate researchers to take part in these exchanges, the Faculty offers financial support.

Successful applicants receive up to £3,000 towards travel expenses, accommodation, subsistence, educational materials, and/or other education-related costs for anything from two weeks to a maximum duration of a three-month visit.

The total value of the award depends on the duration and location of the exchange and is made at the discretion of the Faculty, based on banding for the costs of overseas travel and accommodation.

Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs)

We collaborate with other higher education institutions and external partners to provide additional opportunities for our postgraduate researchers.

The Faculty is part of a wider network of institutions and cultural partnerships through its membership of NWCDTP (North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership).

This is an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-funded DTP which offers postgraduate studentships and training across a full range of arts and humanities disciplines.

The NWSSDTP (North West Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership) is one of 15 ESRC-funded doctoral training partnerships in the UK and brings together the Universities of Manchester, Lancaster, Liverpool, and Keele.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) studentships are available across the full range of social science disciplines and students have access to research expertise and training across the four constituent universities.

Collaborate with our postgraduate research community

Our past and current partnerships with many organisations have contributed to the exchange of knowledge and the creation of research impact in the wider society.

Organisations benefit from working with our postgraduate researchers in many ways as they can bring their knowledge and research expertise to contribute to the organisation's specific needs or projects.

We seek to develop further partnerships with more organisations of all sizes and in all sectors.

If you are an organisation and would like to discuss working with us, please get in touch at