The Department provides a highly stimulating environment for research, attracting outstanding applicants from a variety of academic backgrounds. Research students form an integral part of the Department's research community. The Department is recognised nationally and internationally as one of the leading centres of research in Civil and Environmental Engineering. 

PhD Programme Information

Key stages of the PhD programme

The PhD is a research degree awarded on the basis of the thesis submitted, and typically takes three or four years to complete on a full-time basis.

Early Stage Assessment. All students must undergo an assessment of their research potential at 9 months to determine whether registration for the PhD can continue. The purpose of the Early Stage Assessment (ESA) is to confirm that you have an understanding of your field of research and the direction of your project, and have the potential to pursue research.

Late Stage Assessment. A second review of a student’s PhD research ability must be undertaken between 18 and 24 months after the date of initial registration. The purpose of the Late Stage Review is to confirm that the student (a) has an adequate understanding of the research problem, (b) has a critical awareness of the relevant literature on the subject, (c) has a realistic research plan and schedule and (d) has the capacity to pursue research.

Writing up. At Imperial College, Doctoral degrees are awarded on the basis of the submission of a thesis and subsequent defence of the thesis at a viva voce (oral) examination. This is the culmination of your PhD studies.

Throughout your studies, there will also be opportunities to present you work to your peers and members of staff. 

Career paths and employability

Graduates from our research programmes are considered to be the leading expert in their research field, having successfully defended their theses.  A good majority of research degree students to on to Postdoctoral research (at academic and research institutions), teaching and academic positions both nationally and internationally.

For data relating to the first destinations of our graduates, please view the links below. 

Additional training and opportunities

Attendance at MSc modulesWe recognise that applicants to our research programmes may not have had the opportunity in their previous study to cover all taught material appropriate to their proposed research.  We therefore offer the opportunity to attend relevant modules.

Graduate School Development Programmes. These courses are offered by the College’s Graduate School and are designed to broaden the student's range of transferable skills. Attendance at a stipulated number of Graduate School Professional Skills courses is compulsory for all research students.

Graduate Teaching Assistant Training. Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA).   Many research students are involved with assisting with tutorials, laboratories and workshops in support of both undergraduate and Master’s students. Working as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) provides you with an opportunity to broaden your experience, and develop further skills such as learning how to convey complex technical concepts and writing/communication.   It can also help improve your own technical abilities (both theoretical and practical), broaden your knowledge base and gain communication and task management experience.

Research Seminars. A number of research seminars on a broad range of subjects regularly take place across the College, these are listed on the Graduate School's Research Seminars feed. In addition, within the Department each research section runs a series of seminars including external and internal speakers. As a research student you should expect to present to your research group during your studies. 

The major mechanism for funding PhD research in the Department for UK and EU eligible students is through the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Sustainable Civil Engineering. Information on current CDT PhD opportunities is available at:

Application Information

PhD opportunities / funding

Funded PhD Vacancies
Project Title or Vacancy Reference NumberContact for further detailsClosing Date
EngD Studentship in Water Engineering - Anaerobic Digestion of Sewage Sludge Professor Stephen Smith  Friday 28 April 2017 
Understanding geological evolution of chalk cliffs and coastal processes using InSAR Dr James Lawrence Recruiting for September 2017 entry
Project A: Plumes in stratified environments or
Project B: Low-energy building ventilation
Henry Burridge Open
The Centre for Doctoral Training: Sustainable Civil Engineering is offering multiple opportunities including the following topics:  Centre for Doctoral Training: Sustainable Civil Engineering Recruiting for October 2017 entry
* 'open' vacancies remain open until a suitable candidate is identified.
Current PhD Opportunities


Scholarship Opportunities
Project Title or Vacancy Reference NumberContact for further detailsClosing Date
 Departmental Scholarships
 Sarah Willis 31/03/2017 and 22/06/2017
For details of College Scholarships please search the Scholarships & Awards database.
Scholarship Opportunities

Minimum entry requirements

  • A good Upper Second or First Class Degree result (or International equivalent), in engineering or another numerate discipline
  • A Masters level degree qualification
  • Good mathematical skills
  • English Language qualification (where relevant)

Applicants for whom English is not their first language may be required to present an English language qualification, passed at the appropriate level. This may follow the application if not available at the time of submission. Please see the College English language requirements for postgraduate applicants for information. 

The application process and essential information

When to apply

Selection for research programmes occurs throughout the year and all applicants  are given careful consideration. Students wishing to start in October would normally apply no later than July in the year of entry to allow sufficient time to process applications and obtain visas if appropriate. Those applying for funding from the College or Department should ensure that they are aware of all funding related deadlines.

Most applicants apply to a specific advertised research project. These may be projects funded through research grants held by academic staff members, others are funded from departmental studentships (typically funded by EPSRC) and in some cases students bring their own funding in the form of scholarships from their employer or home government.

Step 1: Identify a suitable project

  • Find a suitable project and supervisor
    • Visit the research and academic staff pages of our website to help identify topics of interest and potential supervisors.
    • Check the PhD opportunities page to see if there are any funded projects on offer of interest to you. 
  • Contact your preferred supervisor(s) directly, to discuss potential projects and funding options.

Step 2: Prepare your application

Regardless of the source of funding, interested students should always begin the application process by contacting a faculty member to discuss the potential research topic. Online applications should only be submitted after the potential academic supervisor has expressed sufficient interest in your application. 

  1. Prepare transcripts of study, which you normally request from your University. Transcripts should include all modules you have undertaken and the marks you have been awarded in each element of assessment. If they are not in English, please include a translated copy. Always ensure that you include a copy of the University Marking Scheme.
  2. If English Language is a requirement, please ensure that you have familiarised yourself with those accepted by the College and the expected level of achievement in each.
  3. Identify two individuals to act as referees on your behalf. Ensure that they are in a position to write a letter of support appropriate to the application which you are submitting, and that they are familiar with you, your abilities, your achievements and your potential for postgraduate study. Reference letters are confidential and must come direct from the referee to the College, not via the applicant. The letters must be recent, relevant and dated.
  4. Prepare an up-to-date CV and a Statement of Support (or letter of motivation).
  5. Prepare a brief preliminary research proposal, preferably in conjunction with your potential supervisor.

Step 3: Make your application

Finding the right course code: the table below lists the research degrees available within the Department.

Application Essentials
 H2ZX  Civil Engineering Research (PhD)
 H2XX   Civil Engineering Research (Occasional)
 H2RX   Civil Engineering Research (MPhil)
 H2ZS  Sustainable civil engineering CDT
 (see the CDT website)
 H2UT  Water Engineering (EngD)
Programme Codes
Programme Codes
  • The online application form is here: Apply Now

When completing the online form, please ensure you include:

  • brief details on Second Level education;
  • how you propose to fund your studies (if via scholarship funding, please ensure that you provide details of those you have applied to and the date you will expect a response);
  • the expected or final outcome of your degree(s) of study.
  • your mathematical qualifications and capabilities.

You are required to provide email contact details of your referees.  These must be professional email accounts, as we do not accept reference letters submitted from private (gmail, yahoo, etc) accounts. Please also ensure your referees are aware of this requirement.  Where the referee does not have a professional email account, then a standard reference letter on original official letter-headed notepaper will be an acceptable alternative. Such letters should be sent direct to the College Registry Admissions (Engineering), Sherfield Building, Imperial College, London SW7 2AZ, UK.

The process and progress of your application to our PhD Programme

Following submission of the online application:

  1. You will receive an email acknowledgement that your application has been successfully submitted.
  2. Within a few of days you will receive a reference number, this is an 8-digit number starting with a single 0, and is referred to as your College Identifier Number (CID), this number must be quoted in all correspondence.
  3. You will be able to track your online application until it is forwarded to the Department.  Your online e-service account from then read "with Department" until a decision is returned on your application. You will, however, receive notifications by email when your referees submit their online letters of support.

The Departmental Process:

Your online application is received into the Postgraduate Office of the Department, where it is held until it is considered complete. A completed application will include:

  • Both of your references - it is your responsibility to ensure that these are received
  • Transcripts (partial or complete) of all degrees you have undertaken, or are currently undertaking
  • Personal statement
  • CV-Resume
  • Research plan

The completed application will then be subject to a preliminary screening before being sent on to the potential supervisor/research group for consideration. Please note that some applications do not pass preliminary screening, and it is possible for a decision to be returned to the College at this stage. The potential supervisor(s) will then arrange an interview with you.  Where the applicant cannot attend, the interview will likely be conducted using Skype. 

Decisions are informed to, and processed by, the College Admissions Office. Notifications are sent by email.

Apply now

Further information resources for this course

Document to download PhD Handbook 2016-2017
Resources for this module
Resources for this module

Why choose us?


MEng Accredited CEng (Full)

Our degrees are accredited as fully satisfying the educational base for a Chartered Engineer (CEng). 
See for further information.

MSc (Technical)

Our degrees are accredited as meeting the requirements for Further Learning for a Chartered Engineer (CEng) for candidates who have already acquired a partial CEng accredited undergraduate first degree. 
See for further information.



League table rankings

QS World Universities rankings

  • Subject Ranking. Civil Engineering = 4th (2017); 5th (2016); 4th (2015); 9th (2014); 1st (2013); 6th (2012). 
  • Overall, Imperial was voted 8th best university in the world in this year's QS rankings.

Education Guardian Unversity Guide (UK)

  • Subject Ranking. Engineering: Civil = 1st (2017); 1st (2016); 2nd (2015); 2nd (2014); 12th (2013).
  • Overall, Imperial was ranked 5th in this year's Guardian university guide.

The Sunday Times University guide (UK)

  • Subject Ranking. Civil, Chemical and other Engineering = 1st (2016).

The Times Higher Education world ranking

  • Subject Ranking. Engineering and Information Technology = 6th (2014/15); 9th (2013/14)
  • Overall, Imperial was ranked 9th best university in this year's Times Higher Education world rankings.

Complete University Guide 2016

  • Subject Ranking. Civil Engineering = 2nd (2017), 2nd (2016), 2nd (2015)
  • Overall, Imperial ranked 4th best university in this year's Complete University Guide.

National Student Survey

  • Overall Satisfaction, 96% (2016)

Research assessments

  • REF-14. 47% of research assessed to be 4* (highest rating), 48% assessed to be 3* and 5% assessed as 2*.
  • RAE 2008. 40% of research assessed to be 4* (highest rating), 55% assessed to be 3* and 3% assessed as 2*.