Selecting an Institution

Choosing an institution at which to conduct your postgraduate research will depend on a number of factors. Here are some key things to consider:

Choosing a Supervisor

Although many graduates are most concerned about managing to fund a place at a good university, you shouldn't underestimate the importance of getting a good supervisor. Your relationship with your supervisor is a crucial one. He/She is your first (and sometimes only) port of call not just for help and support with your thesis, but also with teaching, publications and job applications. It’s crucial to have someone who will be enthusiastic and motivating throughout your studies. Try to establish how interested and effective any potential supervisor is going to be by checking up on:

  • whether they have (successfully) supervised before.
  • what kind of a reputation they have in their field.
  • whether they have worked and published in your specific area of interest.

Also, make sure you meet him or her face-to-face before you commit.


This one sounds obvious, but do make sure the university at which you want to study has a decent collection of the kinds of books you will need. It will become very time-consuming and expensive if you need to travel frequently for these materials, although inter-library loans are of course possible and journals are increasingly available online.

Find out about the graduate facilities at any institution you’re interested in. Is there a regular graduate seminar or colloquium, for example?


This is an important part of the postgraduate study experience. It’s good for your CV and a useful way of gaining experience and income. Some institutions are better than others at offering PhD students teaching experience, so find out what generally happens at your chosen institution before you apply – contact the Faculty/Department or, if possible, ask other graduate students about their experience.