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Applying for a research degree in Computer Science

How to apply

How to apply

Step 1. Before making a formal application you should identify and contact a potential supervisor. To find potential supervisors consult our list of research topics. You will find contact details for each academic on our staff pages and information specific to individual research groups here.

Step 2. We strongly recommend that you contact the potential supervisor prior to making your application. This will ensure that your proposal is within their area of interest and expertise. The processing of applications that do not identify a potential supervisor are very likely to be delayed.

Step 3. Applications for research programmes are made via the Online Applications Service (SELECT). You can complete your application in stages as our system allows you to save your progress and come back later to finish it.

Applications for research programmes can normally be submitted throughout the year. However, competition can be strong so you should apply as early as possible. In general, you should aim to apply early enough to allow enough time for you to provide evidence that all conditions of your offer are satisfied and so you can apply for accommodation and visas if travelling from overseas.

You should also refer to relevant deadlines for any funding bodies to which you are applying. Find out what Department funding is available.

Once you have identified a potential supervisor, you will then need to submit an online application for your chosen research degree:

For all applications, please remember to include:

  • The name(s) of the supervisor(s) whose research groups you are interested in joining;
  • The project or area of research you are interested in;
  • Your research proposal;
  • Transcripts of your undergraduate and any Masters degrees.  Please ensure that you meet the minimum entry requirements; 
  • A Curriculum Vitae (CV);
  • An accepted English language certificate (if English is not your first language); 
  • Details of how you intend to finance your studies.  If you have been awarded or intend to apply for scholarships, please give the names of the scholarships;
  • The names and email addresses of two referees who have agreed to provide you with references. At least one of these should be an academic reference. We advise that you get in touch with your referees before you submit your application, and let them know that they should expect a reference request.

If you do not have all the necessary documentation (for example, you may be waiting for your degree certificate or the results of your English Language test), you can still submit your application and upload further documents when they become available. In the case of English Language, please advise if you are due to take a test.

Please be aware that we may not be able to progress your application if you do not submit all of the required documentation outlined above. If you need any assistance during the process please email

Your research proposal

Your research proposal

Your research proposal is an integral part of the application process, so it is worthwhile investing thought and time on it. It needs to outline the nature of your proposed study and give some indication of how you will conduct your research. The purpose of this exercise is to ensure that you and your potential supervisor(s) have matching research interests. We strongly recommend that you contact your potential supervisor prior to making your application to discuss your research interests.

If you are applying as part of a pre-arranged / advertised research project, please make that clear in your application and state the name of your potential supervisor.

Your research proposal should be about 500-1,000 words in length. It must be in English, and be your own words. 

Writing a research proposal

There is a lot of good advice on the web on how to write a good research proposal, including: 

Common pitfalls in independently-developed research proposals include:

  • Lack of hypothesis/evaluation plan: Unsuccessful proposals often suggest developing a piece of software or a methodology without explaining the problem it is meant to solve or the hypothesis it will be used to investigate, or presenting a convincing evaluation plan. To avoid this pitfall, in your proposal you should try to answer the following questions as clearly as possible.
  1. Which specific problem will the proposed software/methodology solve?
  2. Why is this problem important? Has it been identified as a problem by other researchers?
  3. Is there any previous work on solving this problem in the literature? If so, what are its limitations that you wish to address in this work?
  4. Once you have developed the software/methodology you are proposing, how will you evaluate that it actually solves the problem it targets?
  5. What resources are required for your evaluation? (e.g. if you are planning to develop a methodology that needs to be evaluated by software practitioners, how are you going to get hold of them?)
  • Too broad: While a PhD is all about conducting novel research and contributing new knowledge to your field of interest, you should keep in mind that it is a 3/4-year undertaking and that a non-negligible part of this time will be spent on reviewing literature, writing reports, papers etc. As such, you should try to scope the ambition of your project accordingly. For example, an ambition to "simplify the development of cloud-based applications" within the context of your PhD is not particularly realistic if you are referring to every possible type of cloud-based application out there.

  • Too narrow: At the other end of the spectrum, some proposals either demonstrate very limited ambition (e.g. a trivial extension of the applicant's BSc/MSc thesis, a mundane piece of software), or they are very specific to the needs of a particular organisation (e.g. “use technology X to improve efficiency of a particular task in organisation Y”). While we understand that the latter are often driven by real-world needs of a sponsoring organisation, you should consider the following questions:
  1. Are the findings of this research likely to be of interest to anyone outside the sponsoring organisation?
  2. Does this research involve anything more than applying an existing technology to a specific organisational context and assessing its impact?
  3. Does the proposed work really involve research or could it be carried out by an appropriately-skilled consultant?

Unless the answer to all of these these questions is affirmative, you will most likely need to reconsider your proposal and update it accordingly.


What happens next?

What happens once I have applied?

  • Your application is received and uploaded by the University’s Student Recruitment & Admissions Team.
  • Your referees will be automatically emailed a request to submit an online reference.
  • After approximately 24 hours, we can view your application in the Computer Science Admissions Office. We will email you to confirm receipt. 
  • Your application will be checked to ensure you meet the minimum requirements, and that your application is complete. If we require any further information, we will email you to request this.
  • Once your application is complete, and we have your two references, your application will be passed to the relevant member(s) of staff for further assessment.
  • You may be contacted by a member of academic staff directly if they have any questions regarding your application.
  • If you are selected for interview our Postgraduate Admissions Administrator will contact you to confirm the interview details. UK residents are usually expected to attend an interview in person here in York. For those applicants who are based overseas, we will normally arrange a telephone or Skype interview.
  • If you have applied for funding you will need to be interviewed by your potential supervisor (or nominated other) and a member of the Department of Computer Science Research Study Committee.
  • When a decision has been made about your application, you will be notified via email by the Computer Science Admissions Office regarding the Department’s recommended decision. This will usually happen two to five days after the interview.
  • If you have applied for funding this is usually processed as a separate decision from the recommendation of offer to study.
  • When a decision has been made about applications for funding you will be notified via email by the Computer Science Admissions Office.
  • All offers for a place to study are subject to approval by Postgraduate Admissions, who will send an official letter by email.

Please ensure that you check your email regularly as this will be a primary method of communication, and we make every effort to keep you updated throughout the application process. If you have any queries or concerns at any stage, please do not hesitate to contact us

Please remember that in order for your application to be considered we require you to identify a potential supervisor and submit all of the necessary documentation. Any failure to submit a complete application may result in a delay in the processing of your application. If you need any assistance during the process please email us.

Visit the University pages on applying for our courses for more information.