Selection Process - Postgraduate Research


Applying for an MRes/PhD or MPhil/PhD programme can be an exciting process. It offers you the opportunity to think critically about a topic that interests you and prepare towards carrying out independent research. However, given the high standards of academic skills required to complete a PhD, it can also feel daunting. This page contains information that will help you prepare for your doctoral journey. 

Questions to consider before applying

Before starting your application, it is important that you reflect on the main reasons for your decision to pursue a PhD and prepare your mind for the challenges of completing a doctoral programme. You should conduct thorough research on the requirements and structure of the programme you are interested in as well as the types of academic support offered by the department running the programme. The questions below have been created to help you think through the reality of doing doctoral study. Answers to some of these questions can be sought by visiting the webpages of the department you are considering joining and contacting the relevant departmental staff for additional information. 

  • What does the institution expect of its research students in terms of time spent researching, undertaking training or attending ‘taught’ elements, and other responsibilities?
  • What are the roles and responsibilities of doctoral supervision at the institution, and what provision is there for change of supervisor if my supervisor leaves or takes a sabbatical?
  • What facilities and resources am I likely to need for my project and will I be able to access them?
  • What costs am I likely to incur that are not included in the annual tuition fee, such as travel for research purposes, conference attendance, bench fees or specialist equipment?
  • How will I be supported in finding opportunities to attend conferences, give presentations and publish?
  • Will I be given opportunities to teach, and, if so, how much teaching is available/expected? How much support will be available to me as a novice teacher?
  • What support is available (in my subject) for research and professional transferable skills development? Are there required courses I need to take?
  • How does the institution promote an engaging and interdisciplinary postgraduate research environment?
  • How are the concerns of doctoral students represented at the institution?
  • What provision is there for arranged suspension of study (for example, for parental leave) and will I be able to return to my research if I suspend my study for some reason?
  • What happens if I cannot or do not complete my research?
  • What employment opportunities are available for someone researching in my field and how might this doctoral qualification enhance my career prospects? 

Source: The UK doctorate: a guide for current and prospective doctoral candidates, QAA and NUS (  

The Doctoral Supervision Process

At LSE, the allocation of supervisors depends largely on the availability of staff with the right research background and who are likely to be staff members for the foreseeable future, who are interested in supervising your proposed research. The School expects that there should be at least two possible supervisors for each applicant. A department may have to turn away a potentially excellent student because it does not have the capacity to offer that student a place at that time due to supervisors not being available. Before starting your application, it is important to review the academic staff pages of departments to confirm if your research interests are likely to match existing research interests within the department. It may be helpful to contact a potential supervisor before applying to determine the extent to which they may be interested in your proposed topic, but please read departmental guidance on this before doing so. Please note that LSE Fellows cannot act as supervisors. 

Following confirmation of your place on a research programme, you will be assigned a lead supervisor (and a second supervisor/adviser) who is a specialist in your chosen research field, though not necessarily in your topic. Lead supervisors guide you through your studies. During your first year you will normally be required to undertake training in the methods  and subject specific knowledge necessary for you to undertake your proposed research. In all years, you will also normally be expected to attend and contribute to departmental research seminars and workshops. Together, these are designed to strengthen your methodological skills, language skills or background knowledge of specific topics related to your research, and help you to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for you to flourish as a research professional.  

In the course of your methods and skills training, you will be required to develop, and later present, a more detailed project proposal. The proposal, which should illustrate your command of the theoretical and empirical literature related to your topic, will be a clear statement of the theoretical and methodological approach you will take. It will include a draft outline and work plan, which should identify any periods of fieldwork necessary for your research. This should demonstrate the coherence and feasibility of the proposed research and thesis. 

When to apply

MRes/PhD and MPhil/PhD programmes normally start in late September each year but with the permission of the relevant department you may start in January (Lent term) or exceptionally in April (Summer term). This depends on the availability of taught courses that your department and academic supervisor decide that you must take. Most of those courses are held in the Michaelmas term, so most research programmes start in September. See When to apply

Duration and mode of study

The time taken to complete any research degree depends on your progress and individual needs and you must remain registered with the School until your thesis has been submitted. 

MPhil/PhD: You register for the MPhil in the first instance. An assessment of your work, which usually occurs between 12 and 18 months from your start date, will allow us to appraise your aptitude for original research at doctoral level. If you have progressed satisfactorily you will be retroactively upgraded to full PhD status. The total duration of study is a maximum of four years full-time. 

MRes/PhD: You register for the MRes, which lasts one or two years full-time, depending on which track you are admitted to. In order to progress to the PhD part of the programme, you must satisfy progression requirements for your department, usually a merit overall and a merit in the dissertation. Registration at PhD level is usually a maximum of four years full-time, meaning the total duration of the MRes/PhD is five or six years, depending on your specific programme. 

LSE’s MPhil/PhD programmes are designed to be followed full time by fully funded students, as experience has shown that this route is the most successful for maintaining momentum to a successful and timely submission of your thesis. We recognise that certain circumstances, for example disability or caring commitments, may necessitate your studying part time. If you wish to be considered for part time study, you should mention this in your personal statement, and discuss it in your interview if you are shortlisted. 

To be eligible for part time study: 
a)      You must meet one of the criteria for part-time study (eg primary care responsibilities or disability), 
b)      The Department must be in a position to provide training, supervision and support required for a part-time attendance 
c)       You will still be undertaking study and attendance on campus (this is not a route for distance learning) 
d)      You must not be subject to external restrictions on part time study for another reason (eg visa or funding). 

Preparing your supporting documents

Before applying to your chosen programme, it is important to confirm the key supporting documents required for your application. Typically, an application for a graduate research programme at LSE will require the following:  

(1) an academic transcript for each qualification you mention in your application;  

(2) a statement of academic purpose;  

(3) an outline of a research proposal if applying for a MRes programme or a full research proposal if applying for a MPhil/PhD programme;  

(4) a sample written work;  

(5) CV/resume;  

(6) GRE or GMAT scores if required for your programme; 

(7) two academic references. 

Depending on whether you have satisfied the School’s English language requirements, you may also need to provide proof of English test scores. Additional supporting documents can include professional references to supplement academic references.  

For detailed guidance on the supporting documents required for your application, please view the Supporting Documents page. As individual programmes may have specific requirements, some departments may not require all the items listed above or may have certain criteria for writing statements or research proposals. For this reason, we advise that you visit the departmental website for your chosen programme to ensure you make all necessary provisions. 

Interview Guidance

All academic departments, except the Department of Economics, interview all PhD applicants they are considering accepting (unless the applicant is already well-known to the department). One or more members of academic staff will be present at the interview (this might include your potential supervisor) and they will be involved in making the final decision to offer a PhD place to a student. The primary aim of the interview is to help the department gain further information about your motivation, commitment and potential for study at the doctoral level. It also provides the opportunity to convey your interest in and enthusiasm for your chosen topic, and your overall approach to academic work.  

LSE’s MPhil/PhD programmes are designed to be followed full-time as experience has shown that this route is the most successful for maintaining momentum for a successful and timely submission of the thesis. However, we recognise that certain circumstances, for example disability or caring commitments, may necessitate studying part-time. If you plan to complete your programme on a part-time basis, please prepare to discuss the reasons for this during the interview if you are shortlisted. 

We advise all applicants to attend the interview with a few questions for your interviewers. This will be your opportunity to fill any gaps in your knowledge about the department/programme and clarify the support mechanisms in place for doctoral students in that department. 

Below is more detailed information about what to expect from an interview. 


What are departments looking for in the interview? 

Doctoral students are expected to have certain attributes and the interview will be an opportunity for departments to get further information about the candidate’s: 

  • ability to process complex concepts, reason analytically and critically; 

  • ability to evaluate their own work and the work of others; 

  • capacity to conduct independent research as well as to accept guidance from others; 

  • enthusiasm for research; 

  • motivation and perseverance in achieving objectives; 

  • organisational skills; 

  • capacity to establish good working relationships; 

  • personal and academic integrity. 

Conducting the interview 

The interview is a two-way process: academic staff will be interviewing you, but in many respects, you will also be interviewing them. Consider how you will convince your interviewers of your suitability for the programme and the value you can add to the department. Try to think of the interview as an open conversation where you can discuss your interests, experiences, and ambitions. Your interviewers are likely to make notes as you speak but this is only to ensure they can remember what you say during the interview, so do not be concerned if they are not always maintaining eye contact. 

Some questions may be prompted by the information you included in your statement or research proposal so be prepared to review these materials prior to your interview. It will be useful to remind yourself of what you wrote to ensure the case you already made in your written application is consistent with what you say during the interview.  


Sample interview questions 

Motivation for doctoral study (at LSE) 

  • Please tell me something about you, what you have been doing/studying/working on during the past year? 

  • What made you apply for this programme at this particular time? Why did you choose LSE? What made you choose this department? 

  • Where do you anticipate/hope a PhD will lead in terms of your career development? 

  • What contribution do you think you will be making to your chosen field of research? 

Readiness for doctoral study 

  • What is the relevance of your previous study to your proposed research? 

  • What potential areas of research have you identified? How did you arrive at these? What interests you about them? 

  • Have you previously led seminars/taught undergraduates? 

  • How do you intend to fund your study? 

The demands of doctoral study 

  • Are you aware of the requirements of the programme (including taught courses)? 

  • What are you expecting by way of supervisory arrangements? 

  • How do you anticipate combining the demands of doctoral study/completing a PhD with other commitments you might have? 

Questions to consider asking your interviewers 

  • How many other PhDs are working in this research area and in the department as a whole? 

  • Are there any journal networks or research reading groups in the discipline? 

  • What are the publication expectations for PhD students in this department? 

  • What are the submission and qualification rates for PhDs in the department? 

  • Is there funding available to attend national or international conferences and meetings? Or to do fieldwork? 

At the end of the interview, it is helpful to: 

  • ask if your interviewers have any further questions for you; 

  • thank them; 

  • ask what will happen next and when you might hear from them. 

For more information about the interview process, please view this page


Each academic year, LSE offers approximately 80 studentships to new PhD students in the form of LSE PhD Studentships, LSE ESRC Studentships, LAHP AHRC Studentships and LSE & III PhD Studentships on Analysing and Challenging Inequalities. These awards are open to high calibre students of all nationalities studying across all research areas at the School but, in particular, we are seeking to support applications from: 

  • UK students 

  • Women whose research will be within the field of Economics, Finance, Accounting, Management, Mathematics, Statistics and Methodology 

  • Black, Minority, Ethnic students, especially from Black African/Caribbean, Pakistani and Bangladeshi heritage 

LSE PhD Studentships 

LSE PhD Studentships are tenable for four years and cover full fees and an annual stipend, which was £20,622 for students starting in 2023. They are available for UK, EU and international students undertaking research in any LSE discipline, with annual renewal subject to satisfactory academic performance. 

These awards will be made solely on the basis of outstanding academic merit and research potential. This relates both to your past academic record and to an assessment of your likely aptitude to complete a PhD in your chosen topic in the time allocated.

These awards will be made solely on the basis of outstanding academic merit and research potential. This relates both to your past academic record and to an assessment of your likely aptitude to complete a PhD in your chosen topic in the time allocated. 

Studentships are tenable for four years and cover full fees and an annual stipend, which was £20,622 for students starting in 2023. 

ESRC funding 

LSE has an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) and has ESRC studentships in several programmes across 19 departments. These studentships are available for students of all nationalities. 

Studentships are tenable for three or four years, depending on the programme of study. They cover full fees (for international students, LSE will cover the difference between UK and overseas fees) and an annual stipend, which for 2023 entry was £20,622. 

Individual programme entries detail which programmes are eligible for ESRC funding. 

AHRC funding 

LSE is part of LAHP (London Arts and Humanities Partnership), which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Students of all nationalities can apply for one of these studentships. 

Studentships are tenable for three years and they cover full fees (for international students, LSE will cover the difference between UK and overseas fees) and an annual stipend, which for 2023 entry was £20,622. LSE will also cover full fees and stipend for an additional fourth year. 

LSE Departments that typically host AHRC studentships are International History, Media and Communications, Philosophy and Law, but students from other disciplines (for example, Anthropology, Gender Studies and International Development), can also apply if their research falls within the remit of AHRC, as explained on the UK Research and Innovation website.

To be considered for a LAHP studentship for 2023 entry, students need to have applied for their chosen programme of studies. They will also need to submit a separate funding application to LAHP, deadline to be confirmed. Details of the application process can be found on the LAHP website

Department-specific funding 

Check the programme-related funding page for PhD funding opportunities. 

How to apply for funding

Except for LAHP studentships (see above), academic departments nominate students for the funding opportunity they may be eligible for. There is no separate application for LSE, ESRC and department-specific studentships. To be considered for this funding, you must submit your complete application for admission to LSE by a specific date. This date differs by academic department. 

  • deadline for being considered for LSE PhD Studentships and ESRC funding for 2024 entry if you apply to a programme in the Law School : 1 December 2023
  • deadline for being considered for LSE PhD Studentships and ESRC funding for 2024 entry if you apply to a programme in the Department of Economics: 14 December 2023

  • deadline for being considered for the first round of LSE PhD Studentships and ESRC funding for 2024 entry for all other departments: 15 January 2024

  • deadline for being considered for the second round of LSE PhD Studentships for 2024 entry (some departments only): 25 April 2024 depending on the programme you are applying to. Details can be found on the individual programme page. 

For more information about fees and funding for research programmes at LSE, please view the Fees and Funding page

Attaining Comprehensive Equality in Postgraduate Research Initiative

(ACE PGR Initiative) 

ACE PGR Initiative has been designed to improve the educational experiences and student outcomes of UK Black, Asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) candidates at PGR level.   With a focus on enhancing long-term academic success for PGR students, the ACE PGR Initiative will provide support to BAME candidates at three key stages of the PGR lifecycle: (1) Access, (2) Student Success, and (3) Career Progression. 

In the initial phase, the pilot scheme will concentrate primarily on increasing access to PGR study. The application fee will be waived for all self-identifying BAME applicants of UK nationality who apply to a MRes/PhD and MPhil/PhD programme at LSE.  All self-identifying UK BAME applicants will be automatically included in the scheme unless they use the opt-out option on the online application. This means that, in addition to the waiver of the application fee, opt-in UK BAME applicants will benefit from:  

For more information about this initiative, please click here