[Edited] I am very shortly going to be sending off my PhD application. I cannot apply quite yet because I am waiting on my bachelor's documentation which was withheld (library fines which are now cleared) but now it is in processing, and I do have my transcript. I have my master's documentation. The BA uni say they don't know when the cert will be ready, it could be a week or two, or longer presumably. The deadlines for PhD applications are set as the summer, but I know that many faculties like to have the applications in sooner because they want to decide on their student quantities. Is there some kind of unspoken deadline that I should shoot for in general [e.g. late Feb, Apr etc] or does it vary by institution? Does one lessen one's chances of acceptance if applying nearer to the official early summer deadlines?

I should mention that a staff member in my choice of PhD uni has already approved my proposal and agreed to be my supervisor. Should I apply anyway without the BA cert and just say it is in processing [without going into reasons why]? I am not applying for funding.

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    I'd say you should start searching for positions and writing to potential supervisors right now. First, positions can appear throughout the year. Second, not having your MSc documentation on hand will likely not prevent you from applying. You can always say that you finished your masters and just waiting for documentation, and people will understand. Besides, MSc is often not a formal requirement. – Alexey B. Jan 31 '17 at 16:29
  • @AlexeyB. thank you for this response. I should have added that I have emailed one supervisor who approved my proposal. I do not want to upload an application without the documentation that has been requested. Should I do so anyway or wait a bit longer [I imagine I will have everything I need by the end of Feb]. – C26 Jan 31 '17 at 16:35
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    I think, you should discuss with that person how you should proceed. It depends on multiple things: what kind of position you'll applying for, whether the potential supervisor already want to have you as a student or just allow you to compete for the position, when they want you to start and so on. – Alexey B. Jan 31 '17 at 16:48
  • Keep in mind if you are also applying for funding these deadlines can be much earlier. – atom44 Feb 8 '17 at 10:48
  • @mg4w thank you for the note, I am not applying for funding for this though. – C26 Feb 8 '17 at 10:50

Is there a preferable time of year when one should apply for a PhD in the UK?

This very much depends on the university, programme, funding, etc. So it's hard to generalise a single "preferable time".
But, that being said, many STEM programmes (which are not on a rolling admission) and funding opportunities tend to have application deadlines between around mid-September and around mid-February.

Does one lessen one's chances of acceptance if applying nearer to the official early summer deadlines?

Not unless it says somewhere that places may be filled before the application deadline.

Should you apply without the BA cert and just say it is in processing (without going into reasons why)?

Typically, applicants are not required to submit proof of any qualifications in the early stages of the application process. They are required, however, to submit an official academic transcript.
It is only in the later stages of the application process, e.g. after receiving a conditional offer, that applicants have to provide supporting documentation as evidence for meeting each condition of the offer.

My advice is that you get in touch with the admissions office of the place you are applying to, and ask them directly about the details of the application process and your BA cert.

  • Thank you very much indeed for your well thought-out answer. I did contact the admissions office, they said that if I could not provide a BA cert, to upload a Word doc with the reasons why one is unavailable then this would be taken into consideration with my application. I thought about just uploading one saying it is being processed by my BA uni and will be ready very soon. Do you imagine this may be sufficient? – C26 Feb 8 '17 at 12:08
  • @C26 Maybe, I don't know. But it doesn't seem like you have any other choice. – 101010111100 Feb 8 '17 at 12:15

It varies between groups within institutions and between institutions. However, in most groups that I know decisions could be made as early as January (although February-April is more usual), and (at least in the current climate) there's no attempt to keep spaces open for late applicants. You will lessen your chances by leaving the application late.

  • Thank you for this response. I don't know why I omitted this from the OP but I also am waiting for my BA cert [though I do have a transcript], this was never originally received since I owed the university library some books which I kept for a very long time! However, the books were located and the debt now cleared, so the BA cert is on its way. I am VERY embarrassed to admit this is what is holding things up since I know they are expecting the application. Should I mention that or just wait it out till I have everything [I am sure I will have all the docs I need by the end of Feb]. – C26 Jan 31 '17 at 22:14
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    Transcripts are far more important than certificates: you won't get an offer without transcripts, but may get a (conditional) one without the certificate. – Ian Feb 1 '17 at 6:47
  • Thank you. It seems my master's cert/transcript have now arrived. This will be enough for the application, I imagine [no BA cert yet]? – C26 Feb 1 '17 at 11:03

As described by this site:

As stated In the UK and in most countries around the world, PhD studentships begin in September/October. However, funded and self-funded PhDs can start at any time of year. You should begin applying as soon as possible. Although new studentships are advertised throughout the year, competition for places gets higher the closer you get to October.


Except very special cases, there is no preferable time in case of PhD applications.

Unlike master's degree, a PhD degree is basically requires a certain area of interest and motivation to conduct quality research. Therefore, it is best to directly get in touch with professors who are looking for PhD students. In most cases, it is entirely depended on professor's research budget or a new position opening in the research team.

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