How long does it take?


Hi, I am seriously considering applying for a PhD Studentship at the University of Manchester - this is maybe a daft question but how long does it take to complete? Is it 4 years full time? The advert I am interested in does not actually state how long it takes, so being new to all of this I thought I would check before I apply! Thanks


3 to 4 yrs full time is the norm in the UK. Although it depends how much funding you get, if you get funding for 3 yrs, then my advice is to take 3 yrs - why work for no money?!


For 4 year PhD the worst case scenario could be: 4 years research (bulk of work done in 4th year as took ages to understand what supposed to be doing), spend 1 year writing thesis, fail viva requiring 2 years of major corrections and then resubmit and pass. Total of 7 years.
Best scenario: complete research in 3 years, write thesis in 1 year, pass with no corrections. Total 4 years.

I wish I was in your situation, so I could press the 'cancel' button at the bottom of the electronic application. Unfortunately I clicked 'send'. Probably the biggest mistake of my life!


Thanks for the encouragement Gingersnaps! I'm sorry you had such a tough time of it - hopefully not everyone has such 'wish I hadn't ever started' time??:-(

Thanks Ju-ju and Golfpro for your comments and link - I have sent the contact supervisor an email to enquire about the length of time just to clarify before I apply. Have you guys had the same experience as poor Gingersnaps? I hope not!


4 yrs full time now mandatory at my school as maximum time allowed, from this year. 3 years is according to my supervisor, highly unusual though definitely not impossible.

It is absolutely a function of how focused and dedicated you are your supervisor are. Everyone enters thinking Oh THIS is what I am gonna be doing. Then it starts and then you often lose focus, expand. Sometimes not. I am thinking if it is a studentship then there is a broad focus already. The rest is entirely on your steam, and your supervisor's too.

You may not even notice weeks just dropping out, with distraction, or you may be able to literally *sit* on your topic with grit and come out in 3.


For my discipline, most complete in around 4/5 years. It's easy to let it drag on for a variety of reasons.

Universities are now very keen on completion rates, so you will be looking at finishing at the 4 year mark.

I know some people who finished on the 3 year mark, but they chose fairly straightforward subject to write about and kept it as simple as one can at PhD level. My advice would be to not to chose an overtly difficult area of research.


Hi there,
I submitted after 3yrs and 10 days :-) and my viva is in Jan... so I may still fail or have lots of corrections etc!! But hopefully not, and in that case I should be done in 3yrs 3 months. While it may be unusual it is not impossible to finish in 3 yrs ( I sometimes wonder if the people who finish in 3 yrs perhaps just don't post on forums!! because everything is going so swimmingly ??)


From this year, like Phdbug, we have a mandatory 4 year maximum time scale for submission. We are basically allowed 3 years of research and then 12 months completion and it has to be submitted by the 4th anniversary of initial registration unless there are significant extenuating circumstances agreed well in advance of the deadline. I guess its helpful in that it stops people from procrastinating too much but then again it does restrict you from being able allow the thesis to evolve significantly if things turn out differently to what was expected. It suits me as I need to go as fast as possible (within reason) due to my age and really wanting to build a career afterwards (I'll be in my early 40s when I graduate) and I have a couple of friends who started their Phd when I started my nightschool A levels (so back in 2001) and are STILL going lol.


manchester now have a strict policy of getting everyone to finish as soon as possible, as close to 3 years as they can (and completely finished within the 3 years if at all possible!). in the case of the sciences (or at least in my specific subject area - pharmacy, funded for 4 years in my case), they assume you will complete all practical work within the 3 years and spend the first few months of year 4 writing up and submitting, with the aim to be finished well within year 4. they have also tried to switch to a four year funding wherever they can so that students do not have to work during year 4 to earn money, and therefore they can concentrate solely on writing up and submitting.

this does differ for different subjects - for example, manchester do a wellcome trust project that is 4 years including 1 year of taught courses at the beginning, sort of like a masters and phd joined together. this course is funded for 4 years but may take up to 5 if you run over a bit in your writing up/submitting period.

good luck with your application!


just remembered search the archives for a thread titled something like 3 yr phd a myth? exact same conversation topic there too...



All this advice is great thanks very much! I got a response from the PhD organiser who says its over 3 years - which suits me as I don't want it to drag on!

I'm definitely going to apply - just need to get my cover letter done - eek!!