How to apply

Whichever research degree you wish to apply for, you will need to develop a research proposal. This is the critical part of your application – so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.

If you’re applying for a DBA, then there is a research proposal template to complete, which you can download here. This details the information you need to provide to describe your research idea and the work-based problem or opportunity it seeks to address.

For all other degree options, there are a number of steps you should take to ensure your proposal is as strong as possible.

1. Check out your supervisor

If you’re applying for an advertised PhD or MRes position, then your supervisor’s name will be on the advertisement. They will be on the panel if you’re invited for interview. Take some time to look at their areas of research and read what they’ve published. This background reading will help you understand how to pitch your proposal.

If you’re applying for a PhD, MRes or MPhil based on your own research ideas, or for a Professional Doctorate, then try and identify a potential supervisor at Edinburgh Napier who has expertise in that area. One way to do this is by entering a relevant search term on this page: Research explorer tool / People tab

This will bring up a list of researchers linked to that term – and you will then need to look at each one individually to see if they match the research area that interests you. Alternatively, you can search on Researchgate or

Once you’ve found someone who you think is a match, you should then contact them by email briefly explaining your idea. It may be that they don’t have the capacity to take on another research student – this is good to know in advance before you go further with your application.

However, if your idea interests them, they may be able to help you with your proposal and provide you with advice as you develop your idea. 

2. Write your proposal

If you’re applying for an advertised position, then the advertisement will include details about the research to be undertaken. This may be very clearly specified or it may just lay out an area for exploration. Your research proposal should include a brief description of your relevant experience and skills, and say what you would uniquely bring to the project and how the project fits with your future direction. If the description of the proposed PhD or MRes is fairly broad, then your research proposal should show how you would develop the idea, to demonstrate you have the initiative to narrow it down in an interesting and plausible way. 

If you’re applying based on your own research idea, then your research proposal should also include details of your relevant experience and skills, then lay out your idea and how you would approach the research. You should demonstrate a broad understanding of the field. Make sure you name your proposed supervisor in the proposal.

Research proposals should be clear and concise – no more than two pages long. They should be written in accessible and non-technical language, so they are understandable by someone who is not necessarily a specialist in your area. 

Ask someone else to read your proposal so you can be sure your ideas are clearly articulated. If you’ve found a supervisor and are submitting your own research idea – then ask them if they’d look at the proposal before you submit it. They may not have the time, but it’s fine to ask.

3. Obtain references

All students applying for a research degree will need to provide two references. Your application will be placed on hold until references are supplied.
Reference requirements for the different research degree options are:

  • PhD/ MRes/ MPhil: Two academic references, but if you have been out of education for more than three years, you may submit one academic and one professional reference.
  • DBA/Professional Doctorate: One academic reference and one professional reference.

Whatever degree you’re applying for, you should provide your referees with a copy of the reference form which you can download here [link to form]

  • For an advertised PhD, MRes or MPhil: provide the referees with a copy of the advertisement and with the name and address of the contact (from the advert) to which the reference should be returned.
  • For any other research degree: provide the referee with a copy of your project proposal and ask them to return the reference to the address detailed on the reference form.
Once you’ve written your research proposal and obtained two referees, then you’re ready to submit your application through our online system. You can find the appropriate links to apply here along with details of the fees for your degree and where you might find help with funding.

After you've submitted your application, the postgraduate admissions team will send it to the appropriate school for consideration. Once the school has made a decision, the admissions team will email you to let you know whether you have been selected for interview. We aim to provide an initial response within seven weeks, so long as your application is completed correctly. 
If your application is incorrect or incomplete, then we’ll need to return it to you for additional information, which will lengthen the time it takes to process. Please also be aware that applications from students requiring visas can take an additional two weeks to process.


Fees, forms and funding

Check out the fees for each degree option, sources of funding and access our online application forms

Lara Alshawawreh

“Edinburgh is my second home…part of my heart was left there!”