Doing a Research Degree

A research degree is an independent programme of work involving the thorough study of a research topic. The first step in applying to do a research degree at the RCA is to approach the Research Coordinator responsible for the programme in which you want to study (please note that some programmes offer different avenues for applying – see Subject-area Requirements for details). If your research is interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary and you are uncertain as to which programme to apply, we suggest that you email your proposal to the Research Coordinator in each of the relevant programmes.

Once you have found a member of staff who may be able to support you please email them to introduce yourself and include a copy of your research proposal for them to read through. Once the proposal has been read you should be contacted to let you know whether your research can be undertaken. If it is successful you can then proceed to make your application online.

You might find it helpful to consider the following issues when completing your research proposal:

  • What is your particular research question, hypothesis or area?
  • How do you propose to address this question or to develop the field (what is your methodology?)
  • How do you see your work in the wider context of the discipline? How does it relate to existing work in the area?

At the RCA it is possible to pursue a research degree through thesis only study or through a combination of studio-based and thesis study. If you are proposing to undertake a studio-based research degree, how will the studio and written work relate to each other? If you are proposing to undertake a PhD, what is the original contribution to knowledge and understanding? How do you propose to reflect upon or analyse critically your approach to the project?

Following initial feedback from the Research Coordinator, applicants may then be encouraged to submit a formal application. Applicants for MPhil and PhD who are selected on the basis of their application form will be invited to attend an interview at the College.

Please note that research students are usually registered as MPhil for at least one year full-time study, prior to application to transfer to PhD.

If you are considering applying to the College for 2016/17, you can prepare for your application by researching the programme and School, and accessing the Application Guidance and Funding information available. You can also access information about Tuition Fees, find contact details of Research Student Representatives,  see academic Research Student Supervisors across all Schools and programmes, and access the Research Handbook.

Open Days are held at the College between October and January of each academic year, to enable applicants to explore research programmes and meet staff and students.

To book a place on the Research Student Open Day, please email

The Researcher Development Framework

The Researcher Development Framework (RDF) underlies the Research Developer Statement (RDS) and represents a major new approach to researcher development, to enhance our capability to build the UK workforce, develop world-class researchers and build our research base. The RDF is a tool for planning, promoting and supporting the personal, professional and career development of researchers. It articulates the knowledge, behaviours and attitudes of researchers and encourages them to aspire to excellence through achieving higher levels of development.

For more information, download Introducing the Researcher Development Framework (PDF)


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