Doing a PhD is probably one of the toughest and most rewarding challenges you can face in academic life.

Studying a PhD is your opportunity to carry out original research that will make a significant impact on your chosen field or subject. Unlike undergraduate and taught Master’s students, doctoral students are expected to take more responsibility for managing their own learning. A PhD is a long-term commitment – it can take around three to four years to complete (or up to six years part-time). To be successful you need to be self-sufficient, motivated and independent. Of course, you will have to have a sufficient amount of autonomy, but universities do offer various support mechanisms to help you succeed.


Each student is assigned a main supervisor who will provide guidance and advice on all aspects of the project through regular meetings and an annual written progress report. The supervisor will help you gain access to the facilities, equipment and resources needed to complete your PhD; to identify training and learning needs and encourage participation at appropriate training events, conferences, seminars and networking events.

Your supervisor is there to challenge you – to question your ideas and thinking; to help you learn how to justify and defend your ideas, and how to constructively challenge your own thinking and that of other researchers. At Cranfield University many PhD students are working on projects for our industrial partners. This will often mean that students have the advantage of a second supervisor working in industry and of forming new networks within the area you are studying.

Doctoral Training Centre

Several UK Universities have a Doctoral Training Centre supported by UK Research Councils (RCUK) and industry. These provide support and a stimulating and supportive research environment for students to forge lasting relationships. At Cranfield University our Doctoral Training Centre brings together researchers from across the University to provide networking opportunities.

Training and development programme

The UK Research Councils expect graduating research students to demonstrate that they possess a number of transferable skills. Cranfield offers training and other development opportunities to improve the skills and technical knowledge researchers need in future careers – whether in the commercial or public sector.

At Cranfield our ‘Core Skills’ training programme encompasses lectures (delivered by accomplished individuals from industry and government) and workshops (including subjects such as project and time management, presentation skills, scientific writing and statistics) and monitors the personal development of students. An annual Postgraduate Research Conferences allows students to showcase their work to fellow students, members of academic staff and external sponsors of research – an excellent experience for future national and international conferences later in their careers.

What Cranfield students say:

“Before I started my studies, I was told by quite a few people that the PhD journey can be long and lonely, but I have to say it certainly was not the case for me and my PhD colleagues here at Cranfield. We encouraged each other and shared experiences with students from other disciplines and years, and formed a network to support to one another.”

Shelly Chapman, PhD student.

“I had a supportive and skillful supervisor and the Doctoral Training Centre provided excellent training courses. The people at Cranfield were always ready to help and motivate. It’s an awesome work culture which I thoroughly recommend to anyone considering a PhD.”

Satya Dubey, PhD student.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the struggles of studying a PhD?

Undertaking a PhD is no mean feat. There are several struggles that lots of students go through but there are also lots of avenues for support available. Funding is a main stress point for students and luckily we’ve compiled lots of funding opportunities to help you. Visit the funding opportunities part of the website for more information.

Finding the time to get the work/life balance correct can also be a struggle for lots of students. It’s important to make time and have a healthy social life in order to keep you happy. Regular exercise helps you get through the stresses of rigorous study.

Is doing a PhD Difficult?

It is often said that obtaining a PhD is not an intellectual feat but more a test of discipline. Study and research can be a fairly isolating task which can take up long hours. Being able to stick to a routine and focus on an end goal is your best chance of success.