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Postgraduate Research Degrees at DCU

Research degree application procedures

All postgraduate research applications to DCU are processed online through the Postgraduate Applications Centre (PAC) at the following website www.pac.ie. Before applying, we recommend that you read the information below. General information on making an application to PAC is available from the Registry website. 

 

Finding a potential supervisor and developing a research proposal

All formal DCU research degree applications made via PAC require the following:

  • An approved research project proposal
  • Agreement of at least one named and qualified Principal Supervisor to supervise the student to undertake the research project
  • Approval of the Head of School of which the Principal Supervisor is a member, or is affiliated to

The first priority for any applicant, therefore, is to find an academic member of staff to be your research supervisor. Initially, you may want to consider DCU's range of research areas and then look specifically at the research interests of its academic staff and what they have published in their area of interest. Details of potential academic supervisors and their research areas can be found in a number of ways. Please consult the links below and take time to consider your options:

Before making your PAC application: discussions with your potential supervisor

You should have an outline of your proposed area of interest/research project before contacting a potential academic supervisor. It is important that you are able to give them an overview of your proposed project and are able to relate your research interest to their areas of expertise.

Most schools have their own guidelines on what they expect to see in a research proposal, so you should consult with your proposed supervisor in the first instance. Some schools have a formal proposal review exercise which takes place before a PAC application will be endorsed, and detailed guidelines on the format expected are provided.

Generally, your research proposal should be weighty/detailed enough to allow an informed decision to be made by the school on the strength and scope of your proposed topic, the quality of the project plan, feasibility and relevance to school expertise. A research proposal should, at a very minimum, outline what you will be investigating (what), how you will approach the research project (how) and a justification for the study (why).  As such, you should view your research proposal as a vital part of the application process.

A brief overview, which cites a more detailed project proposal may suffice for applications which are linked to a funded project that has already been subject to rigorous external review. 

 N.B:

Applications which have not been discussed with a named DCU academic supervisor will not be assessed or progressed. Although you may consult numerous DCU staff in investigating the opportunity to secure a research position at DCU, you must get permission from a potential supervisor before making a formal application, via PAC, to the University.

As well as the research project, you should also discuss the following with your potential supervisor:

1. Do you meet the DCU Entry Requirements?

Click here for full details on DCU's entry requirements

Postgraduate students registering for a programme of research at DCU are normally placed on the 'PhD-track register' in the first instance. Following a transfer process (usually in the second year) they are transferred to the 'PhD register' (at this stage it is also possible to submit for assessment as a Masters candidate, instead of continuing to examination at doctorate level). It is also possible to initially apply directly for a Masters by Research.

Students applying for direct entry to the 'PhD register' should hold a Masters degree by research from a recognised university. Applicants who do not hold a Masters degree by research (i.e. even if they hold a taught Masters or first-class honours undergraduate degree) will initially be registered on the 'PhD-track register'. If progress is satisfactory after completing a minimum of 1 year of research study they may transfer (via interview and report) to the 'PhD register'.

2. Do you meet DCU English Language requirements?

Non-native speakers of English will be required to provide evidence of their English language competency as part of their application. If your application is successful you will require a formal English qualification for visa purposes. Full details on the English language requirements can be found on our International Office pages.

3. Do you need a visa to study in Ireland?

Current immigration and visa regulations are detailed on our International Office pages. Non-Irish visitors can consult DCU's International Office for further advice in this area. Note: If your application is successful you will require a formal English qualification for visa purposes.

4. How will your research project be funded?

Please consult your potential supervisor regarding any scholarship or stipend opportunities that they may be aware of. A selection of current scholarship opportunities are also advertised on the Graduate Studies Office scholarships page

5. How will your fees be paid?

It is important you discuss your fee status and liability with your potential supervisor before making an application on PAC. Research fees can differ depending on the research discipline and whether the candidate is categorised as EU or Non-EU. For information on the definition of EU or Non-EU applicants, please consult our International Office pages.

Please note that all new research students must have a plan in place at the time of admission for funding for the full duration of their programme. Further details on fees are available from the Finance Office Fees Section.

6. When can I make a formal application to the University via PAC?

Although most research applicants can apply at any time during the year, there are some research programmes (e.g. taught doctorates) which have a specified closing date. Please ask your potential supervisor if a closing date applies in your case.

7. Are there any school/faculty conditions I must meet before applying?

Prospective students are advised to ask your potential supervisor if their school/faculty requires you to complete any paperwork before making a formal PAC application.

Frequently Asked Questions

For the Applicant

What closing dates apply to research programmes?

Students are advised to submit their PAC application form as soon as possible. Currently the majority of postgraduate research programmes run on rolling closing dates*. Some programmes, e.g. the Professional Doctorate, are advertised with specified closing dates. Please check the school site for details.

Can I apply for more than one course?

Prospective students can apply for one research course only. The research topic must be discussed with and supported by a potential supervisor. Applications which have not been discussed with a supervisor are not valid and will not be assessed.

What fees apply to my programme?

Fees differ depending on the course of study and whether you are an EU or non EU applicant. Further details are available from the Fees Office website. All new research students must have a plan in place at the time of admission for payment of fees for the full duration of their programme. 

I can't find a potential supervisor.

In the first instance, potential applicants should check the following links:

I want to work across two subject areas e.g. bioengineering

You will need a primary supervisor in one area with a co-supervisor in the other. Applicants are advised to discuss this matter with their potential supervisor.

Am I eligible for direct entry to the PhD programme? What is the difference between the PhD-track and PhD registration?

To register for a postgraduate research degree, a candidate must normally have obtained a primary degree classification equivalent to Second Class Honours or above, from an approved University or an approved equivalent degree-awarding body, or have an approved equivalent professional qualification in an area cognate to the proposed research topic. For further information please visit our Registry pages.
    1. PhD applicants should hold a masters degree by research from a recognised university.
    2. Applicants who do not hold a postgraduate research qualification e.g. Masters by Research (or equivalent) are only eligible to register on the 'PhD-track register' which is stage 1 of the PhD programme. On successful completion of the transfer process (report and interview within 21 months of their start date) a student on the 'PhD-track register' will be transferred to the 'PhD register' with effect from their original start date in the university. Students who do not successfully complete the transfer may be eligible to graduate with a Masters at this stage.
    3. For those interested in applying for a Masters degree by research, an honours primary degree is necessary (preferably at least 2:1) in the discipline in which they intend to undertake the research. 

      It may also be possible to move from the Masters register to the PhD register on successful completion of a transfer process, as outlined above, if the student made sufficient progress.

What do I need to talk to my potential supervisor about prior to applying?

    1. The specific research area and the title of the project
    2. Opportunities for Graduate Training Elements (GTEs)
    3. Funding – EU/ non EU (see question 3 above); payment of fees for the duration of the programme
    4. Closing date, if applicable
    5. English language requirements
    6. Confirmation of programme – Masters, PhD-track, PhD, and the relevant programme code. 
    7. Day-to-day work
    8. Expected duration of studies

How do I find research vacancies (funded)

Check the Graduate Studies Office scholarships & opportunities page as well as http://www.iua.ie/

Where can I find out more about Graduate Training Elements?

Information is avilable from the Graduate Studies Office Graduate Training website.

How do I apply for a visa? 

Contact the after your applciation has been accepted. When you have been offered and accepted a please contact the International Office

I've accepted my offer and paid my fees, do I still need to register?

Yes. You need to register on year 1 of your programme and annually in September at http://www.dcu.ie/registry/registration.shtml. Details will be published on your portal page. Your login and password will be provided to you on your initial registration.

How long will it take for the PAC application to be assessed? 

Students are advised to submit their application form as soon as possible. Normally an initial assessment is carried out when all required documentation is available (2-4 weeks). If additional information is required, the applicant will be notified.

Do I have to fill out the whole PAC application form? Are there any sections I don't need to fill out? 

All applicants including DCU graduates or current students should include as much relevant information as possible in each section. Use 'N/A' for sections that are not relevant to you e.g. native English speakers do not need proof of English language competency. Mandatory fields where N/A cannot be used are highlighted with a red asterix *

What should I include in my research proposal? 

Most schools have their own guidelines on what they expect to see in a research proposal, so you should consult with your proposed supervisor in the first instance. Some schools have a formal proposal review exercise which takes place before a PAC application will be endorsed, and they give detailed guidelines on the format expected.

Generally, your research proposal should be weighty/detailed enough to allow an informed decision to be made on the strength and scope of your proposed topic, the quality of the project plan, feasibility and relevance to school expertise. A research proposal should, at a very minimum, outline what you will be investigating (what), how you will approach the research project (how) and a justification for the study (why).  As such, you should view your research proposal as a vital part of the application process. A brief overview, which cites a more detailed project proposal, may suffice for applications which are linked to a funded project that has already been subject to rigorous external review. 

Information for the DCU Supervisor/School

  1. How long will it take for a PAC application to be assessed?
    Normally an initial assessment is carried out when all the documentation is available. Supervisors are normally expected to complete their assessment within 2 weeks of notification.
  2. What do I do with a PAC application where the student hasn't spoken to me first?
    'Cold' applications by students without discussion with a supervisor will be returned to the student until they have obtained support from a potential supervisor.
  3. I would like to interview the student prior to them completing the application. How is this organised?
    The potential supervisor can make local arrangements through their school for a telephone and/or personal interview to take place. Notes of such interviews should be maintained. Normally an individual staff member such as the Research Convenor would be involved in the interview process.