I contacted a professor X at an university in UK regarding a PhD position in a particular area of mathematics. I briefly described my research interests in my email to which the professor encouraged me to apply officially since the department has a centralized admission process. So I submitted my application two weeks ago and the deadline was on 7 January. Next day (8 Jan), the professor invited me for an online interview. The interview took place yesterday. There were three more people on the panel; 2 profs. and a postdoc all working in the same area as X. The interview wasn't a technical one and they asked me about background in mathematics, academic history, research work and stuff like that. In return I also asked a few questions from a series of papers published by Prof. X, his future projects, and some general questions regarding the programme. It went on for an hour and everything went well. Although I feel maybe I could have added some more detail in my description of my previous research works. At the end, they informed me that I will be informed about the admission committee if I will be getting any funding or not as an international student and I thanked them for this opportunity. So, I thought maybe this was an unofficial acceptance and I only have to wait for a confirmation on funding. After the interview I emailed the professor around 1 p.m. GMT to confirm the same and thanked him again for the interview. But I haven't received any response from him yet. In all our previous communications he has always replied within 2-3 hours as long as he received the email within official business hours.

Questions 1. Should I consider this as an unofficial acceptance?

  1. Is the official acceptance conditioned upon receiving full funding from the department and which will be decided by the admission committee?

  2. What generally happens after these interviews? Do the professors recommend students to the admission committee who they want to take in as their student? In that case, does his silence mean he has rejected me?

As an international student I am unfamiliar with the admission process at universities in UK. So, any answers or perspectives preferably from other professors in UK or somebody who is familiar with the system there would be highly appreciated.

  • 3
    Are you extremely wealthy? If not, then yes, funding is effectively necessary to consider yourself admitted. How are you going to support yourself otherwise?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jan 13 at 4:26
  • Yes, I understand that. Actually, I have seen that often people get accepted first then they are informed if they will be receiving any funding or not. Perhaps, I should have mentioned this in my post.
    – Anish Ray
    Jan 13 at 4:39
  • 3
    Please don't expect anyone to respond to emails within 2 or 3 hours. You may have gotten responses that quickly before but that should not be seen as setting a standard. If you write a follow up email that quickly you will come over as extremely pushy and annoying. Don't do that.
    – quarague
    Jan 13 at 17:38
  • Thank you for this advice but I didn't write a follow up email.
    – Anish Ray
    Jan 13 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


I am based in a UK Maths department. I would emphasise from the start that there is no national procedure, so my local expectations may not apply.

First, PhD offers at my institution have a similar status to job offers: there is substantial administrative overhead to ensure that the applicant can legally and practically take up the position before the offer letter is sent out.

I would typically expect the report of the interview to go through at least one level of academic oversight (in my institution it would be two: a comparison with other candidates within the same sub-discipline in order to rank candidates, and then a comparison with other candidates across all Mathematics to rank and also take into account broader strategic goals where relevant). When these meetings are timed depends on the number of applicants and interviews and the window within which interviews can be done. At my institution these meetings can be bi-weekly, sometimes weekly.

I would then expect the full candidate portfolio to go through at least one level of administrative checking (language requirements, ensuring the funding is in place and sufficient, checking that all reference letters are in place, ATAS statements, ethics issues, etc).

Only after these steps are completed will the offer letters (one for academic acceptance, one for the funding) be written. If the academics you're communicating with are following the rules they won't be able to give you a verbal offer until this point: in any case, such a verbal offer is substantively meaningless IMO. The academics may be able to tell you that you've been ranked highly and recommended for funding (which may happen much earlier in the process), but that's not a formal offer. Many academics will try to say as little as possible in order to avoid giving a false impression here.

In my experience, with luck around specific meeting times and assuming all documents are in place, this process can be done in a couple of days. In most cases early in the cycle, particularly with non-UK applicants for whom the funding and visa issues are more complex, I'd expect at least a week, maybe (much) more.

  • Thank you so much for this detailed explanation of the admission process.
    – Anish Ray
    Jan 13 at 13:02

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