Steps involved in a PhD


Are you interested in pursuing doctoral research at UCL?

We explain each step of the way from admission to conferral of your degree.


Application to the subject-specific doctoral committee (CDD) for admission to the PhD programme

To be able to put together your application for admission to the PhD programme for submission to the CDD responsible for your chosen field of study, you must have:

  • the necessary entry qualifications
  • a supervisor who has agreed to oversee your work
  • an original and innovative research topic in which you have a keen interest
  • a proposed supervisory panel willing to support you
  • your proposed doctoral training programme (60 credits)
  • a way of funding your research

Visit the site of the CDD responsible for your area of research, where you will find the information and forms you need to submit your application for admission. Applications can be submitted at any time during the academic year.


Enrolment at the university for the PhD programme and doctoral training

Once the responsible CDD has approved your application, you will need to enrol at the university by contacting the Admissions Office. You can enrol for the first time at any time during the academic year. Depending on your particular situation, there may be some additional administrative procedures and you will have to complete these in conjunction with the submission of your admission application to the CDD. To ensure continuing supervision of your research work, you must re-enrol each year.

For further information:

Check out the webpages of the Admissions Office and also contact the PhD programme manager of your CDD.


Doctoral training

The doctoral training programme that you draw up in close collaboration with the members of your supervisory panel centres on three key aspects:

  • discipline-specific training, consisting of a number of advanced courses and attendance at local and international seminars, workshops, conferences or congresses;
  • development of scientific communication skills, both oral (active participation in conferences, seminars, etc.) and written (scientific publications, research reports, etc.);
  • development of transferable skills (foreign languages, project management, teaching skills, e.g. tutoring, intellectual property, etc.).

Each CDD defines the general framework for the doctoral training activities to be undertaken (types of activities and associated credits) and validates the ECTS credits acquired. Your doctoral training programme must include at least 60 credits, although you may engage in additional training activities if they are useful for your research or your future career.

For further information on training:

Check out the Valo Doc Training & Skills webpages, the webpages of your CDD and also contact the PhD programme manager of your CDD.


Mid-term evaluation

The mid-term evaluation is a key step towards obtaining a PhD, as it will determine whether or not you are able to continue your studies. It is for the supervisory panel to decide whether your work has progressed sufficiently well enough for you to be able to complete your PhD thesis on time. For the purpose of this evaluation, your supervisory panel will ask you to:

  • submit a report or article written by you, or any other document demonstrating the progress made in your research work;
  • make an oral presentation of the work you have done and the projects planned for the remainder of your PhD.

Some sources of funding (e.g. the Fund for Scientific Research - FNRS, FRIA or FRESH) will require proof that you have passed the mid-term evaluation before they will renew your fellowship or grant.

For further information:

Check out the webpages of your CDD and also contact the PhD programme manager of your CDD.


Setting up the PhD examination board

When the supervisory panel considers that your research work has reached completion and that you have accumulated the required ECTS credits through your doctoral training, the final stages on the road towards obtaining a PhD will begin once the specific PhD examination board has been set up. This board will award you a doctoral degree, subject to your successful completion of the final evaluations.délivrera le grade de docteur.



Private defence

The private defence is the first step towards finalising your thesis. Based on this, the PhD examination board will decide on the admissibility of your thesis and whether to authorise you to defend it publicly.

The private defence is a scientific exercise (both written and oral) during which the thesis topic is analysed and discussed in depth. It provides an opportunity to verify your ability to conduct research and take an enquiring, scientific approach. It takes place solely in the presence of all members of the PhD examination board.

For the purpose of this evaluation, the PhD examination board will ask you to:

  • submit the provisional manuscript of your thesis no later than one month before the date of the private defence (this may be either an original dissertation, an essay accompanied by all publications and other work you have authored or co-authored, or a dissertation centred on a project or other work you have authored or co-authored);
  • give an oral presentation (viva voce) of your work and answer questions about it.



Public defence

If the PhD examination board decides that your thesis is admissible (often subject to a few amendments being made to the provisional manuscript), the public defence can be organised (no earlier than one month after the private defence).

Upon successful completion of this final stage in the process, the PhD examination board will grant you a PhD from UCL.

During this public viva voce, you will present the results of your research, demonstrating your communication skills and ability to make complex subjects accessible to a wide audience. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the completion of your PhD journey in a formal setting with all the proper decorum and university traditions (ritual nature of the proceedings, the examination board members in full academic regalia, the presence of your friends and family, etc.).

Another format for the final stages of your thesis is possible and involves both evaluations taking place in one session. In this case, the decision on the admissibility of your thesis will be announced at least one month beforehand, solely on the basis of the provisional manuscript, without any oral presentation (viva voce).

To make the practical arrangements for these evaluations, contact the PhD programme manager of your CDD.