Institute for Transport Studies (ITS)

Programme Structures

ITS offers three types of postgraduate research programme:

ProgrammeStandard study periodMaximum study period

3 years
5 years

4 years
7 years

2 years
4 years

3 years
6 years
3+ months

Research degrees (PhD/MPhil) are awarded to students who successfully complete a thesis presenting original research on an approved topic. The key characteristic is that the thesis represents a substantive original contribution to knowledge within that field.

ITS takes pride in ensuring that each research student gains the maximum personal benefit from their studies. To help achieve this, we support each individual through a series of milestones. The timeline below outlines a typical full-time route to successful completion of a PhD:

PhD Programme Structure

(Note - different timescales /milestones apply to MPhil and part-time PhDs.)

Of these various milestones, some are of particular importance:

Assessment of the first year

Students seeking a PhD are initially registered with 'provisional' status. At the end of the first year progress is reviewed and the registration status changed, subject to a successful upgrade. This upgrade is an assessment of performance and takes the form of a written report and oral presentation to a panel. The primary aim of this and other processes is to help keep the student on-track for successful completion.

Feedback at the end of the second year

Towards the end of the second year students submit a paper about their progress, which is considered by both supervisors and the Postgraduate Tutor. This includes an updated plan to detail the student's path to submission, for approval prior to registering for year three.

Viva examination

At the end of their studies, after submitting the thesis, students undertake an oral exam. This is done by a panel consisting of at least one external examiner and an independent internal examiner - supervisors do not assess the viva, but may attend.                     

Study for an ITS research degree in your own country

If you would like to study for an ITS research degree while spending most of your study period in your home country, the Split-site PhD programme might be the ideal scheme for you.

A Split-site PhD is designed to give you access to academic supervision from ITS, whilst keeping costs affordable and allowing you to remain in your current circumstances - such as your location and job. This form of part-time PhD study can be particularly suited for those who work in countries other than the UK, in Universities, research institutions and similar organisations.

ITS has the capability and facilities to supervise research in a wide range of transport areas and disciplines.  We welcome applications for Split-site study in most fields. Students usually have two ITS based supervisors and the supervision is highly individual, carried out by a combination of Skype, e-mail, telephone and visits.

How long is the study period?
A Split-site PhD is normally 5 years of part-time study.  The maximum period is 7 years. The minimum period of residence in Leeds is 8 months and over the 5 years, most students spend between 8 and 12 months in the Leeds - some stay longer in the but the living costs are then higher.

Do I have to spread my time in the UK over the full study period?
No – you and your supervisors decide when it will be best for you to come to Leeds. Some students visit each year, others visit more or less frequently. You must come to Leeds for 2 months in the first year, to receive research training. You must also attend an assessment of your progress and potential to successfully complete your PhD (during the second year), and attend for the final examination of your thesis.  

Do I need a local support in addition to my ITS supervisors?
Yes – a local advisor must be appointed in addition to the formal ITS supervisors. The local advisor should normally be employed in a University, research institute, or commercial/ industrial organisation with a significant research component. It is important that the local advisor is readily available for you to consult with.  You also need to ensure that your employer fully supports your studies, and provides a letter of evidence that local resources and facilities are in place.

How is my progress monitored and supported?
In addition to regular contact with your supervisors, you will submit a progress report to ITS every six months.  One of your ITS supervisors will normally also visit you at least once during your studies.

What are the fees?
The fees for a Split-site PhD are a proportion of the fees for a traditional PhD.  In year one, 75% of the standard full-time fee is payable, followed by 50% in years 2-5. Fees are charged at the UK/EU or the international rate, according to your fee status.

Why should my employer consider funding me for a Split-site PhD?
This type of PhD programme can often be the beginning of long term academic collaboration between departments and institutions. Your employer also benefits from you staying in post during the majority of your study period; it is also cheaper.

What are the admissions requirements?
The academic requirements are a relevant degree, equivalent to a UK Bachelor (Honours) 2:1 plus a Masters degree (in certain cases candidates without a Masters may be accepted). If English is not your first language, evidence of proficiency is required, such as an IELTS score of 6.5 overall with no elements below 6.0, or equivalent. 

You must have also developed a clearly planned research proposal. We encourage you to make direct contact with the ITS staff members whose research areas align with your interests, in order to develop a proposal of shared interest. Please visit the PhD Topics page at for details of research areas where we particularly welcome applications.

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