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I am almost done with my master's degree in mathematical finance. I'm done with thesis and have one course left to take. I am taking it in a 3rd world country and am interested in applying for a PhD in stochastic analysis in the UK.

I am told that, in general, the application process for PhDs, unlike applications for masters or bachelors, involves first speaking to faculty and then to the school. Is that right? That is, when I apply I should already have a professor in the university willing to be my doctoral advisor?

The exact procedure I heard is something like:

  1. Read up various literature on your desired dissertation topic which should include several textbooks and even more for recently published articles. (If necessary, study for IELTS, GRE, etc.)
  2. Come up with a PhD proposal.
  3. Contact relevant faculty of the universities to which you intend to apply.
  4. Discuss your proposal with them if they're up to it.
  5. One of the following: Revise proposal if needed, completely change proposal or get referred to different faculty member.
  6. Actually apply to the university.

So, is that how it actually is?

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Unfortunately the system in the UK is not uniform. You will really have to read each individual department's web site to know how to apply. There are, for example, Centres for Doctoral Training http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/skills/students/centres/ which you apply to like a US graduate program. I don't know if there is a good one that covers stochastic analysis but it seems likely.

It sounds like the list you give is for people who want to apply for a specific supervisor. For this route, your main issue will be funding as there is very little funding for non-UK students these days. This will also vary wildly between different universities. There may be deadlines which you have missed already if you want to start in 2015. However, simply for being accepted by a supervisor without funding the list you gave is fine.

Overall, read each department's web site on their PhD programmes, don't forget to look for any relevant Centres for Doctoral Training and good luck.

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The big question is funding. Unless you are rich enough to fund yourself you need to find a source of funding. Most "generic" phd funding in the UK is for UK/EU students only. Since you mention you are currenly studying in a "third world country" I assume you are most likely not from the EU.

So realistically if you can't afford to fund yourself you either need to find a PhD that is tied to a funded project or find funding from your home country.

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