I am a graduate student at a US university. One of the papers I need for my research is a Ph.D. thesis, owned by the University of Birmingham, U.K. (but this question is for a more general case). That thesis has never been published and is not available on the web. When searching for that paper on the University of Birmingham library website, they only have the hard copy of that paper in their library. Is there a way that I can obtain that paper?
If the thesis is recent enough that it would have been written electronically, you can try to locate the author and ask if they would be able to send you an electronic copy. This is a reasonable request.
Otherwise, talk to a librarian at your university library. They almost certainly have some sort of inter-library loan that can get you a copy, or access to the original. Requests like this are part of their job and this is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask them to help with.
I think the British Library can provide any PhD thesis from a UK university, even if no electronic copy has been stored in a library. See http://ethos.bl.uk/