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Q & A: PhD Admissions

Q & A: PhD admissions

I received the following question through the blog (edited out some details to maintain anonymity):

Dear Sir/Madam,

With due Respect, I would like to request that kindly help me with some of your advice for obtaining admission to the PhD program.
I am an international student from India, I have resided in the UK since 2007 as a student. In India I have graduated with science subjects such as Biology, Botany, chemistry and English. I was working in an American based pharmaceutical company as a medical representative.
In the UK I have acquired the certificate in “NVQ 3 in Health & Social Care level 3” 2010, also I have done Master’s in business management (MBA) with merit, from the XXX university in 2011.
During my stay In the UK, i am working in the NHS as Phlebotomist and Health Care Assistant, in wards, OPD’s and A&E.

My MBA project was “Something related to Medicine and Information” for accurate, unbiased and speedy information at their convince.
Now I am confused what kind of Medical related research project I should choose for my phD programme, considering my previous medical experience, to get enrolled for the PhD degree program. Last year I tried in some universities to get admission with same research project, but I was not successful.
Please give me some ideas about research field I should choose that will be acceptable for university so that I can get enrolled for PhD Programs

Hope for a positive response

Kind regards

XXX (non EU Student)

This question is of course rather specific where the reader asks for advice on the topic itself. I’m not an expert in medical fields, so I cannot give advice on the actual topic. And, even if I were an expert, I would recommend you to identify your topic yourself and coordinate it with your supervisor.

But before we get to the topic, you need to know more about how PhD admissions work. You mention that you were not successful applying to a program previously. My best advice here is: make sure you understand the admissions process very well.

I receive cold emails with applicants for a PhD position under my guidance almost daily. And, if these applicants would have done some basic reading about the process at my university, they would know that we need to have an open position and a project before they can apply (unless they are coming with their own funding). Sending me your CV and a general letter, of which I can see you are sending the same letter to 100 other professors in remotely related fields, is not even going to result in a reply from my side.

From that perspective, making sure you know how to apply for universities is key here. I can’t give advice for universities in the UK, since I’ve never worked there. But make sure you understand all the steps. Ask current PhD candidates in your network for advice – how did they gain admission into the program?

A second important step is to send an application that stands out. Which skills and knowledge do you have that make you a great candidate? Why do you want to study at University X and work for Professor Y? Let them see that you’ve read about their work and that you have your motivation very clear. What makes you you? What makes you stand out among other straight A students?

Depending on the university, you would need to write a short research proposal as part of your application, or define the topic in the first months of your PhD. If you are working on writing a short research proposal, you need to make sure you rely on the literature. Read deeply and widely in your field to find a research gap that could be a research topic. Think about the methods as well – if you are applying to a lab-based group, then proposing computational work is not in line with the specialty of the research group. Think about fit with the supervisor in terms of skills and knowledge. Once you have a clear picture of the practicalities as well as the scientific aspects, you can develop your proposal.

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