I am writing regarding research proposal requirements in the UK PhD applications. I am checking biology+CS CDT programs, where the professors list possible research topics with a one-page description. And a 3-4 page research proposal from the applicant is required for the application.

I heard a lot of people saying the "common" practice is to reach the supervisor first, draft the proposal, and have the potential supervisor revise the proposal before submission.

However, I have problems getting replies from the possible supervisors. I guess it's partially because my first contact emails are not attractive enough, and partially because they are busy or on holiday. It could also be they have been helping others with proposals for the same project.

My questions are:

  1. For such programs (where a research project has been provided), is having the supervisor's help with research proposals a practically MUST?

  2. What level of help do you usually receive from the supervisors? One-paragraph general comments on the proposal, or having them comment on the doc in detail, or even further?

  3. Since the project is posted and funded within a CDT, does it mean if I get the professor's detailed help with the proposal, then I am 'almost' selected? The rest of the application is just administrative?

  4. If they are not responding to me, does that mean my proposal will be thrown into a pile of applications and never get the chance to be read?

Thanks for your reply.

PS: I saw some similar posts but with different focuses, such as this one. I hope this won't be considered as duplication.


1 Answer 1


Caveat that I am not in the same field: but it will depend on who the proposal is for.

If the proposal is for use by the University as part of application process, then I would not contact the professor your applying to for help. Instead look for help from people you are friendly with in your current institution. How much help you get will depend on the person and your relationship with them. For my masters students I would provide help with structuring, reading it multiple times, providing suggestions etc. For some one I was merely acquainted with then I might only read a final draft and provide comments. Getting help for this version is not a must but is very helpful in terms of knowing what someone would be looking for in the proposal.

If the proposal is going to an external body, to ask for funds, then you definitely need to be in contact with the professor as there will be University requirements for the application. In this case I would also expect to get/provide a lot of help to the applicant and getting the professors help is a must.

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