Postgraduate student standing by a poster board explaining the poster

Inspiring postgraduate researchers

Home to an exceptional research community

The University of Portsmouth Graduate School is home to a community of more than 1,000 research degree students across our 5 faculties.

Whether you're studying for a PhD, MPhil, MRes, MD, Professional Doctorate or PhD by Publication, the Graduate School can help you through every aspect of your research degree, from admission, registration, submission of your thesis, to your viva voce examination.

The Graduate School is where you'll find bespoke training and professional development courses to grow your research career – and is your first port of call for student and supervisor guidance and support, and for the latest postgraduate social and academic events.

How long does a research degree take?

We offer a variety of different research degrees – including MPhils, PhDs and Professional Doctorates – and depending on whether you're studying full-time or part-time, they can take between 2 and 6 years to complete. Each research degree timeline is different.

Research degrees year-by-year

PhD (full-time)

  • Year 1: Major review
  • Year 2: Annual review
  • Year 3: Submission

PhD (part-time)

  • Year 1: Annual review
  • Year 2: Major review
  • Year 3: Annual review
  • Year 4: Annual review
  • Year 5: Annual review
  • Year 6: Submission

MPhil (full-time)

Year 1: Annual review* 
Year 2: Submission

MPhil (part-time)

Year 1: Annual review
Year 2: Annual review
Year 3: Annual review
Year 4: Submission

MD (full-time)

Year 1: Major review 
Year 2: Submission

MD (part-time)

Year 1: Annual review
Year 2: Major review
Year 3: Annual review
Year 4: Submission

Professional Doctorate (part-time only)

Year 1: Annual review
Year 2: Annual review
Year 3: Annual review
Year 4: Submission

Stages of your research degree explained

When you start your doctoral journey with us, you'll either select your own supervisors or be allocated a supervisory team. You will have at least a first and second supervisor, and might also have an additional third supervisor. Not all supervisors need to be within the same faculty as we do encourage interdisciplinary research.

Whatever you're studying, you'll be required to complete whichever of the following stages are relevant to your research degree pathway: major review, annual review, thesis submission and viva.

What each stage of your research degree means

The purpose of the major review is to assess how you're progressing with your research degree and whether you're on the right track to satisfactorily complete your degree within the prescribed time. Major Reviews take place towards the end of your first year of study (for full-time PhD and MD students, end of year 2 for part-time PhD/MD students). 

It's a good idea to prepare for your Major Review in good time, and we'll send you a reminder that yours is coming up, so you can work with your supervisor to develop your submission. You might also find it useful to attend the Graduate School Development Programme (GSDP) workshop ‘Preparing for your major review’ which has been specifically designed to help students prepare for this key stage.

You'll be expected to document the training and development you've done in preparation for your Major Review, so you should make sure that your records are up-to-date in Skills Forge, a web-based system where you can manage your professional research and excellence skills (PRaXiS) development. Any GSDP events you attend will be recorded automatically in your Skills Forge account, but you can add any other training and development you complete yourself.

All research degree students must complete this stage, except those studying for Professional Doctorates.

The purpose of an Annual Review is to assess whether you're actively engaged in the research programme and making good progress. As with your Major Review, you should start to prepare for your Annual Review in good time, and likewise, we'll send you a reminder that yours is coming up, so you can work with your supervisor to develop your submission.

Annual Reviews take place at the end of year 2 for full-time PhD/MD students, and at the end of year 1 for part-time PhD/MD students. Professional Doctorate students have annual reviews at the end of their first, second and third years of study. And if you're an MPhil student, an annual review is only necessary if you're continuing your research to PhD level.

The exact requirements of an Annual Review can differ between departments, so speak to your supervisor to find out what your review will entail. As with Major Reviews, you'll be expected to document the training and development you've completed so far in your Skills Forge account. 

Your Doctoral Thesis is where you'll present your conclusions after you've completed your literature review, concluded your original research and collected your results. Doctoral theses vary in length, depending on what research degree pathway you've chosen. More information on how to present your thesis can be found at our MyPort pages.

It's a good idea to start writing your thesis as early as you can, and there's a range of support available to help you complete it – including face-to-face meetings and email contact. You can arrange how you'd like to manage this with your first supervisor. You can expect your first supervisor to:

  • Propose your examiners and submit details for approval by the Chair, Faculty Research Degree Committee on behalf of the Faculty Research Degree Committee;
  • Advise on the editing and content of your thesis before submission;
  • Discuss the arrangement of a mock viva with you;
  • Organise a mutually convenient date for the examination and notify the Research Section, Department of Student and Academic Administration of the date, time and venue.

You can also book onto a range of GSDP workshops through your Skills Forge account, including ‘Introduction to writing the literature review’ and ‘Writing and revising your thesis’. A range of relevant books are also available in the University Library.

Your Viva Voce is when you meet with a panel of examiners to defend your thesis. Preparing for your viva can be a nerve-wracking time, but there's plenty of support and guidance to help you prepare.

Your supervisor will be a key source of support, and you can also book the GSDP workshop ‘Preparing for your doctoral Viva Voce examination’ through your Skills Forge account. A number of books on how to prepare for your viva are also available in the University Library.

Closer to the time, you'll receive details about the specific requirements of your viva, including the regulations you'll need to comply with.

Research degree inductions

Your postgraduate study at Portsmouth begins each year with registration. After registration you'll receive your student ID card, which gives you access to the University Library, and a University of Portsmouth computer username and password.

We arrange a 2-day introductory programme to help you make rapid progress with your studies. The Graduate School induction event runs in October and February each year and is compulsory for all new postgraduate research degree students. The event will provide you with:

  • Introductions to the key personnel involved in the Graduate School and registration of your research degree
  • Understanding of what is different about doctoral level postgraduate study and how to prepare for it
  • Opportunities to meet other research degree students and supervisors from your department, faculty and the wider University as a whole. During the two days you will be introduced to the Graduate School Development Programme (GSDP) and events, and shown how to login to the Skills Forge software.

Your faculty and/or department will also organise local welcome events. Before arriving at the University, you will be invited to attend these introductory events. If you require more details about induction, please contact your departmental office or the Graduate School at

Our next 'Getting started with your research' introductory programme is on Wednesday 4 October - Thursday 5 October 2023. All new students will receive an invitation to attend, with more details available in early September.

Postgraduate researcher training

Our Graduate School Development Programme (GSDP) offers free online and in-person training, workshops and special interest groups covering topics such as research design, doctoral process and career development. They're delivered by our expert tutors, and support students at all stages of their research degrees.

Our online training also covers doctoral process and skills for researchers, and these fast-paced resources contribute to the 10 annual days of research development activities (5 days for part-time students), that we expect you to complete.

For more information on our training and development, visit our Graduate School Development page.

Postgraduate Ambassadors talking

There is massive support and resources available through the supervision team, Library and Graduate School. I have learned a lot through the training courses provided by the Graduate School, which I attended almost daily

Mahmoud Elmarzouky, PhD Accounting and Financial Management

Supervisor training

The Graduate School also offers training and support for your supervisory team, to make sure that your supervisors have the skills and knowledge to support you through your research degree from start to finish. 


The Graduate School holds various events throughout the year to enhance your research degree experience with us including our 3-day Thesis Boot Camp, the Festival of Doctoral Research and other special interest events. More information on these events can be found at our Graduate School Eventbrite page.


Vitae is the global leader in supporting the professional development of researchers, working with universities globally striving for innovation, impact and research excellence. They provide some extremely useful advice on getting started with your PhD, including a downloadable professional development guide for new researchers. It also organises interactive Google hangouts with leading research professionals as well as useful advice on getting started, planning your time and developing your skills as a researcher. Visit the Vitae Website.

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