Dept of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics | Study here | PhD courses | Mathematics and Statistics MPhil/PhD programme
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PhD/MPhil Mathematics and Statistics programme

Student testimonials

Programme Director: Dr Simon Hubbert

The School accepts students who wish to read for the research degrees of MPhil or PhD in Mathematics or Statistics, either full-time or part-time. The provision of supervision for part-time students is felt to be of particular importance for individuals who have taken up a career after completing their full-time studies and who are continuing in full-time employment. There are also full-time research students in the School, often funded by Research Council awards. Some permanent office accommodation is available within the School for full-time research students, and teaching rooms are normally available during the day for part-time students to work in.

Potential research students are most welcome if they have a fairly clear idea of the subject in which they wish to carry out research. It is also desirable that this should lie in a field in which one of the staff is able to provide supervision. For a summary of the research interests of members of staff, along with a list of theses of recent research students, click here.

Admission and Registration

Applications for research degree places are considered throughout the year. A brief research proposal should be attached to the application form, which the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor will circulate to potential supervisors. If the proposed topic falls within the department's area of interest then the candidate's referees will be contacted, and he or she may be invited for interview. The final decision to admit is taken by a Faculty group consisting of, as a minimum, the Chairman, the Postgraduate Admissions Tutor and the prospective supervisor. Here is a list of recent theses.

Students must register for an MPhil in the first instance but may subsequently transfer to PhD without loss of time if progress is satisfactory and if the scope and quality of the research work merits it. The MPhil degree is a research degree examined by thesis and it must be either a record of original work or an ordered and critical exposition of existing knowledge. The thesis submitted for the PhD degree must form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject; it must afford evidence of originality, shown either by the discovery of new facts or by the exercise of independent critical power.

The minimum length of course for the degrees of MPhil and PhD is two calendar years of full-time study, or the equivalent in part-time study. Candidates may register at any time during the academic year.

To be eligible for part-time registration, candidates must be in full-time employment (or formally registered with the DHSS as unemployed) and live within reasonable travelling distance of Birkbeck College. Full-time students resident in this country can sometimes be funded by Research Council awards.

Overseas students (who have not been resident in the UK for at least 3 years immediately, prior to the start of their course) are not eligible for part-time registration, and should have secured sufficient funding for at least two years of full-time study before pursuing an application.

The School practice is that the progress of each Research student is assessed at the end of each academic year at a staff meeting. In preparation for this assessment, the work is discussed by the student and supervisor together with two other members of the School (or of the College at large, where interdisciplinary research is involved). In the interest both of students and of the School, the annual assessment is regarded as a serious test, and registration will only be continued if reasonable progress is being made.

Further information for research students is given in the Birkbeck College Postgraduate Prospectus but the following notes may be helpful.

General Notes

A student wishing to obtain a research degree must be able to devote a considerable amount of time, regularly and in extensive periods, to the work. Anyone carrying out research must, to a certain extent "live with the problem" until it is solved. Given that full-time students normally need three years to obtain a PhD, the difficulties of part-time study are obvious.

The details of the method of study have to be worked out between each student and supervisor. Where possible, a regular appointment, that should normally be kept even if the student does not feel that there is much progress to report, is important, to ensure that the momentum of the research is kept up. Many students may wish to begin research by following up suggestions from their supervisors. Thereafter, the work should be accompanied by a gradual taking over of initiative by the student, and towards the end the student should know more than the supervisor about the problem. The object of a PhD course should be to make a specific contribution to knowledge, but beyond that to demonstrate that the candidate has the ability to tackle and solve problems of a certain order of difficulty.

To minimise the danger of demoralising delays, it is useful to formulate research problems that can be studied from several angles. In statistics, many subjects can be tackled through mathematical analysis, numerical simulation, the study of special examples etc. Alternation among these approaches provides variety and the possibility of continual progress.

In some cases it is possible to write articles for research journals on aspects of the PhD work while it is in progress. In others, publication is only practicable when the work has been substantially completed. In either case, research students should aim at publication of their results and should subject them to the self critical assessment that publications should involve.

Further Details

For further information please contact the Programme Administrator:

Beverley Downton
Administrator, Mathematics and Statistics
Telephone 020 7631 6403