Swansea University

Guide to Research Student Admissions

Guide to Research Student Admissions

1.1 The University’s Admission Policy, as approved by Senate is as follows:

1.2 Our Admissions Policy is to encourage the enrolment of students who have the potential to acquire a broad range of complex, new skills; to master an extensive body of advanced knowledge and, above all, to undergo a period of rigorous, intellectual development culminating in the award of a University qualification.

1.3 The University welcomes applications and enquiries from people regardless of age, ethnic or national origins, race, religion, sex, sexual preference, marital status, family responsibility, physical or sensory disability, and political or religious beliefs and activities unless those activities are unlawful or contrary to the policies of the University.

1.4 When considering a candidate’s suitability for admission, the people delegated with the task of recommending students for admission will pay due regard, as appropriate, to previous academic performance and work experience (as appropriate).

1.5 We recognise that although they may well satisfy some or all of its criteria for selection, certain candidates may have to be denied admission because of the intensity of competition for a limited number of places.


General Principles of Research Student Admissions

The University’s Admission Policy must be adhered to in all cases and without exception. The implementation of the University’s Admission Policy is overseen by the Admissions and Marketing Committee which is chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor responsible for admissions. Each College/School has at least one Research Admissions Tutor nominated by the relevant Head of College/School. The authority to admit or not to admit rests with the Admissions Tutor, acting on behalf of the Head of College/School; however, the Registrar/Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Administration) is legally responsible for the admission of students. Formal offers of admission and statements confirming that a student has been admitted may only be made by or via the relevant Admissions Officer. The University Admissions Officer is administratively responsible for all aspects of the formal admission of applicants, including all liaisons with external bodies and agencies concerned with the admission of students.

3. The Admissions Office and its Role in Postgraduate Admissions

3.1 The Admissions Office is responsible for:

  • distributing application packs to UK/EU students;
  • dealing with detailed enquiries from potential postgraduate candidates;
  • the preliminary processing of postgraduate applications, including the creation of University student records;
  • liaising with and advising Admissions Tutors on all relevant aspects of postgraduate applications;
  • processing Admissions Tutors’ offer recommendations; all liaison with applicants;
  • producing statistical and other management information for the Admissions and Marketing Committee;
  • post-offer follow-up work;
  • confirmation of applicants’ places;
  • the preparation of enrolment and introductory materials for new students.

3.2 The Admissions Office has specific procedures for dealing with:

  • complaints from applicants;
  • appeals from unsuccessful applicants;
  • unreasonable behaviour from applicants;
  • the provision of false or misleading information in support of an application.

4. Process of Application

4.1 Potential research students should first identify the College/School most relevant to the proposed area of research. Potential research students may find it useful to identify a member of staff who would be able to supervise the proposed research topic. If the University does not have the necessary expertise to supervise a particular research topic, the application will be rejected regardless of its academic merit. Staff profiles and details of research interests are usually listed on the College/School web pages or can be requested by contacting the College/School directly.

4.2 It should be noted that the identification of a potential supervisor does not imply any sort of guarantee of admission to the University and the full application procedure must be followed in all cases.

4.3 Applications are accepted throughout the year although potential research students are advised to apply as early as possible prior to the desired starting date. Enrolment is carried out at four points in the year for the vast majority of our research programmes: October; January; April and July. Although there is no specific deadline for applications, places are limited and these are awarded on a first come first served basis to suitably qualified applicants. Also, supervisors are limited to the number of students they can supervise.

4.4 Potential research students can obtain an application form in one of four ways:

  1. By applying online with OnTrack Online Applications through the University website;
  2. By downloading the  Application for Admission to Postgraduate Study Form in pdf format from the University website;
  3. By emailing the Postgraduate Admissions Office for an application pack (postgraduate.admissions@swansea.ac.uk). The following information must be included in the email:
    • Academic Year of Entry
    • Full Name
    • Gender
    • Full Address
    • Email
    • Telephone Number
    • Proposed Qualification Aim
    • Nationality
    • Country of Permanent Residence
  4. By contacting the Postgraduate Admissions Office directly:
    Postgraduate Admissions Office
    Swansea University
    Singleton Park
    SA2 8PP
    Tel: +44 (0)1792 295358
    Fax: +44 (0)1792 295110

4.5 Swansea University Sponsored Students

Applicants wishing to apply/register interest to apply for a funded research programme can do so at Postgraduate Scholarships Research.  Details of how to apply/express interest is listed on each individual scholarship advert.


Process of Considering Application

On receipt of a completed application, the candidate will receive an acknowledgement letter (online candidates receive an emailed acknowledgement). The Admissions Office will check each application to ensure that University and College/School requirements are/will be met before sending the application to the relevant Admissions Tutor. If an application form is received without a reference, the application will be held in Admissions pending receipt of at least one reference. Every week applications without references will be forwarded to the relevant Admissions Tutor to establish whether or not an offer could be made - conditional upon receipt of satisfactory references.

5.1 Where necessary, advisory notes will be added in the ‘Advisory note from Admissions’ box on the section ‘For University Use Only’ of the application form.

5.2 In making a decision on the suitability of an applicant, Admission Tutors must be aware of Indicator 6 of QAA UK Quality Code for Higher Education Chapter B11: Research Degrees which states:

"Only appropriately qualified and prepared applicants are admitted to research degree programmes. Admissions decisions involve at least two members of the higher education provider's staff who have received training and guidance for the selection and admission of research degree students. The decision-making process enables the higher education provider to assure itself that balanced and independent admissions decisions have been made in accordance with its admissions policy."

Entry Conditions for Research Degrees

Applicants for doctoral research degrees must normally hold an undergraduate degree from an approved university and have achieved (or be expected to achieve) a minimum classification of upper second (2:1) or equivalent. Applicants will also normally have, or be studying for, a master’s degree or similar level of qualification at an approved university.*

Applicants for MRes (Master of Research) or MA / MSc / LLM by Research degrees must normally hold an undergraduate degree from an approved university* and have achieved (or be expected to achieve) a minimum classification of lower second (2:2) or equivalent.  Applicants not holding a degree can be considered for MRes (Master of Research) and MA / MSc / LLM by Research degrees programmes on the basis of the University’s non-graduate entry policy.  Please consult the course page for the programme you would like to study for any additional programme-specific requirements. As well as academic qualifications, admissions decisions may be based on other factors, including (but not limited to): the standard of the research synopsis/proposal, performance at interview, intensity of competition for limited places, and relevant professional experience.

*Approved universities include all UK and most major international universities. For a full list, please contact study.

6.1 Applicants holding qualifications from non-UK institutions will be checked using the National Academic Recognition Information Centre (NARIC) database which has been established by the British Council. A NARIC Comparability will be included on all non-UK applications.

6.2 Applicants whose native language is not English must provide evidence of competence in English Language sufficient for research study. Different Colleges/Schools will require different levels of competence in English Language.  The University's English Language Training Services (ELTS) offers a range of English Language courses during the year. ELTS offers its own internal test of English Language proficiency which is recognised for the purpose of admission to the University’s degree programmes. Students will be required to provide proof of their English Language qualifications before being permitted to enrol fully with the University.

6.3 The university recognises that students who are diagnosed with long term conditions may want to start a dialogue with the relevant support service to discuss how any additional support needs are accommodated. The term ‘long term condition’ is associated with any diagnosed physical, mental, learning and communication difficulty, defined under the Equality Act 2010 as a disability.

Applicants who have disabilities, Specific Learning Difficulties and long-standing medical conditions are encouraged to declare their disability on their application forms. Information surrounding an applicant's support requirements is not asked for until an offer is made on academic grounds.  Applicants are then sent a separate letter and questionnaire, following their conditional formal offer of admission. The completed questionnaires are returned to the Disability Office and/or Wellbeing Service.  The Disability Office and/or Wellbeing Service will work with the applicant and (where required) other relevant staff within the University to discuss the support that may be required.  Once the Disability Office and/or Wellbeing Service informs the Admissions Office that a candidate is ‘clear to proceed’, the condition is removed from the offer letter.

6.4 Details of the University’s facilities for students who have disabilities, Specific Learning Difficulties and long standing medical conditions may be found in the relevant Good Practice and Information Guide produced by the Admissions Office for Admissions Tutors.

6.5 Normally students may not concurrently be enrolled on another award bearing programme in this or any other university/institution. However in certain circumstances, a student may be admitted on a research degree while still enrolled on another award bearing programme:

  • The student has completed any taught modules of the other award bearing programme and is preparing for submission of a dissertation;
  • The student is no longer liable for fees for the other award bearing programme.
  • The student is a member of staff and is contractually required to be enrolled on the PGC tHE as a condition of employment.

6.6 Where the condition of admission was the submission of a dissertation for the other award bearing programme, then the student must successfully have completed that award bearing programme no later than three months after enrolment on the research degree (on or before 31 December for October starters) in order to be permitted to continue study on the research degree. Students who are concurrently enrolled will be informed of the date by which the other award bearing programme must be completed at the point of enrolment and will be sent a reminder at least one month before the date. If the student does not successfully complete the award bearing programme by the date stated, then the student will be in breach of the regulation concerning concurrent enrolment and candidature for the research degree will be terminated or suspended until such time as the award bearing programme is completed.

6.7 Applicants for research degrees are requested to indicate whether or not they have any criminal convictions (excluding minor motoring offences). The Admissions Officer writes direct to candidates who indicate they have convictions to request further information.

7. Specific entry conditions

Specific entry conditions for individual research programmes may be sought from the following link: http://www.swansea.ac.uk/postgraduate/research/.

Transfer in from Another Institution

Students may be permitted to transfer in from other institutions by submitting an application for admission in the normal way. (see the Guide to Transfer and Withdrawal of Research Students for more details).  Please note that you must still be registered on your current research programme and have academically progressed to date in order to be eligible to apply for transfer consideration.

9. Methods of Candidature

Research students are admitted as either full-time or part-time students (see Guide to Research Degree Candidature for definitions of full-time study and part-time study).

9.1 Research students are admitted under one of four methods of candidature:

9.2 Method A

As a full-time student, by pursuing research at the University.

Students admitted under Method A will be expected to be resident in the United Kingdom during the period of supervised study for the degree and should live within easy commuting distance of the University. Students admitted under Method A are not permitted to be engaged in any employment for the duration of the award except as permitted under the University’s Guide to the Employment of Research Students1.  Students admitted under Method A are liable for fees at the appropriate full-time level (depending on residency status)

1Full-time Research Assistants (RAs) employed by the University may be permitted to enrol under Method A and be eligible for fee remission equivalent to the standard home fee for a full time programme of study where there is close matching between the research project to be undertaken and the work of the RA. RAs who wish to be considered for fee remission are responsible for providing an authorised form before or at enrolment signed by: (i) the Head of College/School;  (ii) the Human Resources Department verifying research assistant status; (iii) confirmation that the Academic Regulations and Cases Board has approved eligibility. In monitoring the progress of such students, the Academic Regulations and Cases Board ensure that Method A remains an appropriate method of candidature and may require the student to transfer to Method C (part-time study) if appropriate.

9.3 Method B

As a full-time student, by pursuing research in an external place of employment.

Students admitted under Method B will be based in an external place of employment in the United Kingdom2 which has been approved by the University.

2An external place of employment must be physically external to the University and must provide facilities independent of those provided by the University, most importantly supervision. The student does not need to hold a contract of employment with the external place of employment, but must be appointed an approved external supervisor in addition to the internal supervisors. If the place of employment is based within the University where the student can be supervised on a continuous basis by the internal supervisors then Method B is not appropriate.

Students admitted under Method B will be appointed an approved External/Industrial Supervisor in addition to the supervisors based in the University. Approval for place of employment and External/Industrial Supervisor must be sought on a case by case basis (blanket approval for places of employment or supervisors will not be permitted). Students admitted under Method B are liable for fees at half the appropriate full-time level (depending on residency status).

9.4 Method C

As a part-time student, by pursuing research either at the University or externally.

Students admitted under Method C do not need to be resident in the United Kingdom during the period of supervised study for the degree. Students who do not live within easy commuting distance of the University should ensure that there is regular contact with the supervisor and, as an absolute minimum, one face-to-face meeting during each academic year. Students admitted under Method C are liable for fees at the appropriate part-time level (depending on residency status).

9.5 Method D

As a full-time student, by pursuing research within an approved programme of research offered jointly by the University and another University or partner institution/approved partner.

Students admitted under Method D may be based either at another University/approved partner or partially at the University and partially at another University/approved partner on an approved programme of research. Students admitted under Method D are liable for fees at the appropriate full-time level (depending on residency status).

9.6 Staff candidates

Members of staff of the University will normally be admitted under Method C and may be eligible for a staff bursary to cover part of the fee liability3.  In some cases a Research Assistant may be admitted under Method A (see Note to Method A above).

3Members of staff who wish to be considered for a staff bursary are responsible for providing an authorised form before or at enrolment signed by: (i) the Head of College/School;  (ii) the Human Resources Department verifying research assistant status; (iii) the Staff Development Unit, approving the application for a bursary.  Full time members of staff will be eligible for a bursary equivalent to the standard home fee for a part-time course. Part-time members of staff will be eligible for a bursary calculated to the number of hours stated in their contract at the start of the session or at the point of admission (calculated using 35 hours per week as an average full time contract). If a member of staff has a fixed term contract, the value of the bursary will be pro rata to the period of employment. The bursary will be withdrawn from members of staff who do not progress satisfactorily.


10. Process of Making and Accepting/Rejecting Offer

The College/School decision should be written/typed on the last page of the application form, marked DEPARTMENTAL DECISION. The Admissions Tutor must tick the Accept (Conditional or Unconditional) or Reject box, as applicable. Conditions must be outlined in the space provided on the form. Colleges/Schools are able to complete the decision making process on online applications electronically.

10.1 In accordance with precepts 5, 7 and 8 of the QAA Code of Practice for the Assurance of Academic Quality and Standards in Higher Education (Section 1: Postgraduate Research Programmes - September 2004) and the accompanying explanations, Admissions Tutors are requested to ensure that:

  • The College/School can provide an environment that provides support for doing and learning about research and where high quality research is occurring;
  • All students who are admitted are appropriately qualified and prepared to undertake research;
  • It is feasible for students who are admitted, whether full-time or part-time, to successfully complete a particular research project.

10.2 The decisions open to Admissions Tutors when dealing with postgraduate application forms are:

ACCEPT (Conditional)

A recommendation that a place be offered conditional upon the candidate meeting the specified academic criteria (e.g. degree result or satisfactory English Language requirement).

ACCEPT (Unconditional)

A recommendation that a place be offered unconditionally as the candidate has already fulfilled the academic qualifications deemed appropriate for admission. (Such offers are still subject to verification of the candidate’s qualifications.)

The Admissions Office must be supplied with the name of at least two anticipated supervisor(s).


A recommendation not to offer a place. Admission Tutors should give a summary of the reason(s) for this decision as the Admissions Office may receive a request for further information from rejected candidates. Lack of financial support/funding is not grounds for rejecting a candidate’s application.

11. Offer Letter

A formal offer of admission, signed by the Postgraduate Admissions Officer, is the applicant’s official letter of acceptance to pursue postgraduate study at this University. The offer letter contains the following information:

  • Course information: start date, College/School, details of degree, period of study, submission date, name of supervisors;
  • Conditions of the offer (if applicable);
  • Tuition fees plus information regarding the payment of fees;
  • Accommodation information (full-time candidates only);
  • Full details of the terms under which the offer is made;
  • A copy of the offer for the applicant to sign and return.

11.1 An applicant is asked to return the copy of their offer letter with their decision. Options available are to accept or decline the offer. Candidates who accept the offers will receive an acknowledgement.

11.2 During your research programme candidature, you will be expected to demonstrate sufficient academic progress via continuous assessment. You may be required to transfer to a lower level award programme (if appropriate) or withdraw from studies if it is deemed that you have not made sufficient academic progress as per College/School/University progression criteria, research targets, or have not complied with university regulations at any time.

Research Degree Programme StudiedPotential Exit Award as determined by Examining BoardPotential Lower Level Programme Transfer
PhD None MPhil, MA/MSc/LLM by Research
Extended PhD PG Cert/PG Dip MPhil, MA/MSc/LLM by Research
MPhil None MA/MSc by Research
Professional Doctorate/Eng D PG Cert/PG Dip MRes, MPhil
MRes PG Cert N/A
MD None MA/MSc by Research, Mphil
PhD/MD by Published Work None N/A
Senior Doctorate None N/A
MA/MSc/LLM by Research None N/A

12. Post-Offer Follow-up Work

Various letters/emails are sent to applicants post-offer to maintain contact between the applicant and Swansea University. Applicants who have not yet accepted an offer will be contacted and encouraged to make a firm decision on admission.

12.1 All applicants who have accepted an offer and hold an unconditional offer of a place will be sent enrolment information prior to enrolment.

12.2 In order to matriculate with Swansea University, students offering a bachelor degree must have obtained that qualification from an ‘approved’ institution (as stipulated by Swansea University’s Matriculation and Special Cases Committee/Sub-Committee). If a particular institution is not listed in the appropriate reference guides, the Admissions Office must submit a special case to the Group before that particular candidate’s admission will be approved.  The Matriculation and Special Cases Committee/Sub-Committee review the cases and advise the Admissions Office whether or not the qualifications submitted are acceptable. If a particular case is declined, the candidate’s offer of a place (which would have been conditional upon approval of their qualifications) would need to be withdrawn.

12.3 As soon as a non-EEA candidate has met the conditions of their offer, they are issued with an unconditional letter which is also used to support their visa application form. Conditions of offer may include requirements relating to matriculation (see Regulations 12.2 and 15.3).

13. Confirmation

Confirmation is the process by which the Admissions Office records that the conditions of an offer have been met and, hence, that the applicant can be admitted to his/her chosen programme.

13.1 From mid-June, the Admissions Office will commence writing to Universities for details of candidates’ summer degree results. Other academic results are also written for at this time. The Admissions Office also contacts candidates by email to remind them of their outstanding conditions and to ask for the relevant documentation to be submitted.

13.2 If a candidate fails to meet the terms of the offer then the application is referred back to the relevant Admissions Tutor for a decision which (depending on the individual circumstances of the case) could be either accept or reject.

13.3 The Admissions Office then writes to admitted candidates who have met the terms of their offers, as well as to unconditional candidates, requesting final confirmation that they wish to commence their postgraduate course of study. Student records are transferred from the admissions environment to the main student record for candidates who confirm that they will pursue their chosen programme of study. Files for candidates who request the deferral option are removed to the next session.

14. Appeals from Unsuccessful Applicants

Unsuccessful applicants may appeal against the decision not to grant admission to the University. All appeals shall be conducted in accordance with the Admissions Office’s existing procedures for appeal.

15. Enrolment

The University expects all candidates to enrol in order to be recognised as a student of the University.  All candidates shall enrol in accordance with the enrolment instructions for the particular programme of study and within the prescribed enrolment period. 

15.1 Candidates are required to enrol within the prescribed enrolment period:

  • If enrolling for the first time with the University;
  • If enrolling for the first time on a particular programme of study;
  • If progressing to the next level of study, the next year of study or in some cases, the next part of study and attending  on a full-time or part-time basis;
  • If the University is expecting a fee to be paid in accordance with the University’s regulations governing student finance and fees.

15.2 In order to enrol with the University, candidates, where applicable, are required to provide evidence of entitlement to study at the University in accordance with:

  • the specific programme requirements;
  • the University’s requirements governing matriculation (see Regulations 12.2 and 15.3);
  • the laws governing study in the United Kingdom.
  • fitness to return to study regulations

15.3 If the candidate has already been awarded a degree, a verification pro-forma may be sent to the awarding university or the candidate may be requested to obtain verification of their previous award from the awarding university in the form of an original certificate or an official academic transcript confirming their previous award and to provide this documentation to the Admissions Office and/or MyUniHub. The results of Swansea undergraduates are verified using the University’s student record database.

15.4 Where the candidate does not provide satisfactory evidence of entitlement to study at the University in accordance with Regulation 15.2 above and by the deadline stipulated by Academic Services, the candidate will be deemed ineligible to enrol (unless Regulation 15.5 below applies).

15.5    Where the candidate meets all requirements to enrol (in accordance with Regulation 15.2) except for the University’s requirements governing matriculation, the candidate may, at the discretion of the Admissions Office, be permitted to provisionally enrol for a specified period of time, conditional upon the candidate agreeing to meet the University’s requirements governing matriculation by the deadline stipulated by the Admissions Office. If the candidate then fails to meet the University’s requirements governing matriculation by the deadline stipulated by the Admissions Office, the provisional enrolment will lapse, the candidate will be deemed ineligible to enrol and Regulation 15.6 below shall apply.

15.6 Where the candidate is deemed ineligible to enrol and/or fails to enrol within a prescribed enrolment period, this will result in the candidate’s candidature lapsing and the withdrawal of the candidate from the University.  Requests for the reinstatement of the candidature and permission to enrol late shall be determined administratively by a senior member of Academic Services staff (in consultation with the candidate’s College) on behalf of the Academic Regulations and Cases Board.

15.7 The University shall notify the relevant authorities, within a prescribed period in accordance with United Kingdom laws governing study in the UK , of students who have been withdrawn for failure to enrol on a programme of study within the prescribed enrolment period.

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