Advice for International PhD and Research Degree Applicants

The University of Leicester welcomes PhD and research students from around the world.

International Postgraduate SmilingOur reputation is global. Leicester is ranked in the top 2% of universities in the world by the QS World University Rankings and in the top 1% by the THE World University Rankings - so it's no surprise that so many research students from outside the UK choose to come here.

Around 40% of our full-time campus based research students come from outside the European Union and we have significant numbers of research students from China, India, Indonesia, Iraq/Kurdistan, Latin America, Malaysia, Nigeria, North Africa, Pakistan, Taiwan, the USA, and Saudi Arabia. And our distance learning research students are based all around the world.

How to Apply

International applicants should follow the step-by-step guide to applying for research degree programmes.

Most research degree programmes start in September, January and April each year and we welcome applications at any time. It is important that applications are submitted as far in advance of the proposed start date as possible.

Applicants should allow a minimum of six weeks for an application to be considered. 

International applicants who will require a visa to study in the UK should submit their application at least 3-4 months before the proposed start date.

Entry Requirements

All applicants must meet the academic entry requirements. Applicants must hold a qualification that is equivalent to a UK undergraduate (Bachelors) degree with at least first class or upper second class honours - see the advice on equivalency of international qualifications.

International applicants who need advice on the equivalency of their qualification(s) should contact the Postgraduate Research Admissions Office - please email

Please provide:

  • full title and subject area of the qualification
  • name and country of the awarding institution
  • scanned copy of your marks/grades to date

English Language Requirements

In addition to the academic entry requirements, all applicants for research degree programmes are required to satisfy the English language entry requirements.

Applicants whose education was not in English must normally achieve the minimum required scores in one of the three approved Secure English Language Tests:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing Systems) - Academic Version
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) - Internet Based Test
  • PTE (Pearson Test of English) - Academic Version

The preferred test is the IELTS (Academic Version). Advice for enquirers/applicants based overseas and wanting to sit the IELTS (Academic Version) is available from the British Council.

For most research degree programmes applicants must achieve at least a minimum overall IELTS score of 6.5 and a minimum IELTS score in each component (speaking, reading, listening, writing) of 5.5. IELTS scores of 6.0 (overall) and 5.5 (in each component) are accepted for some science/engineering subjects and IELTS scores of 7.0 (overall) and 6.0 (in each component) are required for PhD/MPhil degrees in English, Health Sciences, and Law.

English Language Training

The University welcomes applications from academically qualified and highly-motivated applicants for whom English is not their first language and whose potential to work successfully at research degree level can be realised with a limited amount of pre- or in-sessional English language training.

As an alternative to allowing applicants who do not meet the normal requirements to improve their Secure English Language Test scores, Departments may allow applicants to satisfy the English language entry requirements on the basis of successful completion of the appropriate pre-sessional course(s) with the University's English Language Teaching Unit.

International research students joining the University may enrol on free English language training courses alongside their research degree and these are a great way to further develop your English language skills and enhance your employability.

Visas and Immigration

Applicants from outside the European Union must hold a Tier 4 (Student) visa to register for a full-time research degree at Leicester. Owing to UK visa restrictions, part-time registration is not usually available to international applicants.

Learn more about applying for a Tier 4 (General) student visa.

You do not need a visa to register for a distance learning degree if you will remain resident in your home country; you may need to apply for a visitor's visa to come to the UK for study visits, summer schools, meetings with your supervisors, etc.


The University of Leicester is one of the largest providers of postgraduate programmes in the UK and we
recognise the importance of providing new international postgraduates with a choice of University accommodation.

Postgraduates can apply for accommodation in one of our self-catered residence blocks within easy
reach of the main campus and the city centre. You will find the rents competitive and affordable and the atmosphere friendly and supportive. For those wanting to live in private accommodation, we can also provide advice on finding your own place.

Take a Look Around Our Campus and City

You don't have to visit Leicester to see what the University looks like.

Learn more about our friendly and welcoming campus - see the photo gallery and You Tube video.

Leicester has a varied city life to explore and enjoy. With a population of around 500,000 Leicester is the tenth largest city in the UK. It is also one of the oldest cities in the UK with a history stretching back some 2,000 years. Learn more about one of the most vibrant and diverse cities in the UK.

Consider Studying for your Research Degree at Home

We offer a number of distance learning research degrees which allow you to complete a University of Leicester PhD wherever you are in the world.

Don't take our word for it though - let some of our research students explain why they chose the University of Leicester.

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