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Past Questions

  1. I am moving to Germany with my family later this year, I am looking at a PhD via DL in either psychology or an interdisciplinary with philosophy as my research interests span both areas. I am struggling to find contacts at Birmingham to speak to to discuss how to find a supervisor and whether it is possible to do a psychology PhD via DL, the course finder is not the greatest tool either. Any suggestions?

    Hello, thank you very much for your question and apologies in the delay getting back to you. My name is Emma from the Postgraduate Recruitment team, and I am replying on behalf of the mentor as they have not yet answered it.

    I'm sorry you haven't been able to find the relevant information. In terms of studying by DL, as long as you find supervisors who are willing to supervise you long distance, and your research does not require you to be on campus every day (for example), then a Psychology PhD by DL is doable! More info here:

    You can use this database to start your search for a supervisor:

    Or use this enquiry form to enquire to the Psychology team:

    I hope this helps, PG Recruitment

  2. Hi Keith, I just went through your previous responses to others, they are very helpful. Thanks! I am interested in applying for the doctoral programme in Local Government Studies through DL. I am also working full time for a metropolitan municipality in South Africa and have three questions. 1. What is your sense regarding the institution's perspective on international issues? Does it have an international outlook or does it put a strong emphasis on European perspectives? 2. Are there any available scholarships/funding for international DL students? On average what would be the total costs associated with a part time DL PhD programme per year and over the full duration? 3. As a part time DL PhD student do I ever get an opportunity to spend some time physically on campus?

    Hello, thank you very much for your question and apologies in the delay getting back to you. My name is Emma from the Postgraduate Recruitment team, and I am replying on behalf of the mentor as they have not yet answered it. I will do my best to answer your queries!

    1. I'm afraid I don't know the Local Government Studies department in enough detail to be able to say whether it's more focused on European or International issues - but you can contact the team by finding the email address at the bottom of the course page:

    2. Please refer to our funding database ( for possible funding opportunities. You may also find information on our international pages useful, including our page on international scholarships ( Part time students would pay half the amount of tuition fees as full time, which would be £8,790 PT per year for international students. However, instead of paying this for 3 years you would pay it for around 6, so it would cost the same amount just over a longer period of time. Bear in mind you are less likely to find funding for a part-time PhD, as most part-time students do it that way so they can work at the same time and pay their way through the PhD. The benefits to a DL PhD are that you wouldn't have to pay to come to campus or for accommodation in Birmingham though!

    3. As a DL PhD student I don't believe you will be required to be on campus at any point, but if you wish to visit our campus you would be more than welcome. You could use it as an opportunity to meet your supervisors in person and make use of our facilities if you need them. This would be something you would discuss with your supervisors - or like I said above, if you need further information you can email the Local Government Studies team for clarification.

    I hope this helps, PG Recruitment

  3. I’m planning to start my PhD in Education but the website doesn’t have any info about how much attendance isn’t required in a PhD course. I will be living abroad during the course so I need to have this information before I commit myself to the course. Please let me know what is your experience? Thanks.

    There is the opportunity/expecation that you attend three (I think) residentials during your programme. The residentials are two weeks in length and the travel and accomodation costs are covered by your fees. Other than that, no requirement.

  4. Did you have a background in philosophy at any time before you applied to the PhD program? I was curious because I have a strong interest in theology and a newly developed interest in philosophy, though not formal education in the latter. I wasn't sure how cumbersome that would be!

    Before applying for the PhD programme, I had completed an MA in Philosoophy. I think attempting a PhD with no grounding in analytical philosophy would be very challenging. If I were you, I would have an open discussion with a member of the academic staff.

  5. I’m considering applying to do a DL MSC in Global Ethics, but completed my academic life to date in my twenties with a 2.1 in Business and French. I’ve recently come out of commercial employment where I was a director and shareholder of a large advertising company, working for them for over 25 years, but I’m concerned that I need academic references to apply. I obviously have commercial and personal ones I can provide, but will this be sufficient? Sorry if I’m asking the question to the wrong person, but I’d also appreciate your feedback to someone of a similar stage of life! (I’m 58) Are many of the DL students the same? Is preference shown to those who are younger and wishing to advance their careers rather than from a pure wish to advance their knowledge? Thank you

    Hi, we do, where possible, ask for at least one of the two references to be an academic one. However, it is understood that this can be difficult for some applicants to obtain so employment references are usually accepted (on headed paper and signed) if necessary. You can contact the Admissions team using the below linked details for confirmation on this:

    This is something that does occur and, as you say, often amongst distance learners. The university does not show any preference to younger students and each applicant is judged on the merits of their application: academic background, employment experience, research proposals (where applicable). The university also has an ever popular Postgraduates and Mature Students Society who may be able to chat further about life and study at the university:

    I hope this helps. Best wishes, Tom

  6. What was your motivation for undertaking postgraduate study?

    There is no straightforward answer to the question of what has motivated me to undertake postgraduate study. As I am close to retirement age, it definitely isn't the opportunities for career advancement a postgraduate qualification might afford. In fact my area of study, Global Ethics, has no direct bearing on my professional work. Many years ago, as an undergraduate, I always felt a little frustrated that time didn't allow me to explore a topic area as fully as I would like. This was also the case when, much later, I did a part-time MA by distance learning. So one motivating factor for enrolling on a PhD programme is the opportunity to take any ideas I may have as far as they will go. Of course, as I am studying part-time and by distance learning, there are still significant restraints; and the discipline of assignment deadlines and supervisory meetings still provides a research framework which is at once both enabling and constraining. Second, as I mentioned, in a few years I am reaching retirement age and I see the PhD as one means of transitioning into a new phase of life. I would like to think I am never going to `retire´, just do other things.

  7. Why did you choose the University of Birmingham?

    I chose the University of Birmingham because the Global Ethics DL option is well constructed and mature. At the same time the University as a whole has a solid public reputation. But more than anything, I was struck by the openness and friendliness of the people I met and talked to when first exploring the possibility of enrolling on the PhD programme.

  8. Can you describe your journey from school to where you are now?

    Well, it has become a long journey. I left school over forty years ago aged sixteen. After several years earning my living in various ways, I returned to full-time education as an undergraduate student. After graduating, I dabbled with a PhD and some undergraduate teaching, but was given a career opportunity I found I couldn't refuse, working as a policy adviser in the Chief Executive's Office of a Metropolitan City Council. Some years later, chance took me to the United States and then to Germany. I still live in Germany and now work in the IT division of a large financial company based in Munich. A few years ago I completed a distance learning MA in Philosophy. My current programme of study is the follow-on.

  9. Was there a big transition from undergraduate to postgraduate study?

    For me the big transition is from  participating in mainly taught programmes of study to undertaking a research project. I don't think the concluding dissertation module on a taught MA has anything like the same feel as embarking on a PhD.

    But I think it is important to keep in mind that when starting your PhD you yourself are not the finished article. As your project develops so do your own academic and organisational skills. I would say in this respect there is a clear continuation from previous courses of study. The core attributes of curiosity, openness, willingness to learn and application are those which will bring success in both the undergraduate and postgraduate world.

  10. How do you interact with the distance learning (dl) community at large? What is the engagement level like and what recommendations do you have for students to make the most of it? How is the DL community linked to the on-campus community (if at all?)

    Sections of the DL community has the opportunity to meet in person at the residentials. Outside of this, my experience is that contact between DL students is minimal. Attempts by the UoB to foster communication between DL students have not really worked. The responsibility for this is, of course, with the DL students themselves. There is no real link between the DL community and the on-campus community. I think the DL student would need to make regular trips on-campus for various department events for there to be such a link. For example, there is a conference being hosted by the university at the end of May, which I will attend.

  11. What is the degree of commitment in a PhD Philosophy full-time DL in terms of estimated weekly workload? In a research PhD (which does not have teaching courses) are there schedules, homework and deadlines too? Is there a standard calculation of hours per week dedicated?

    As I am only a part-time distance learning PhD student I cannot completely answer your question. However, even as a part-time DL student there are deadlines to be agreed and kept. There is an obligation to meet on a regular basis (every six weeks) with my supervisor team. In these meetings we review progress and set targets. If the supervisors feel not sufficient progress is being made they are obliged to state this on the official record of this meeting. There is also a progress review panel which formally reviews the progress made after x(1 years time). This panel comprises college faculty, and their approval is required to continue on the programme. I went through this review process and although the panel expressed some concerns about my progress I was allowed to continue.

    As for the necessary time commitment , If you are a full time distance learning then it must be the equivalent of full time employment - but again this is probably highly dependent on the individual researcher. As a part-time distance learning student I have struggled to find time  do my research alongside full time employment.