PhD in Sound Recording: Psychoacoustic EngineeringThe Institute of Sound Recording (IoSR) offers research-based programmes leading to the degrees of MPhil and PhD, in the subject area of psychoacoustic engineering. For more information about our research focus, past and current projects, staff, students and facilities, please follow the relevant links on the navigation menu. If you enjoy academic study, have a thirst for knowledge, and are interested in the IoSR's research area, then a postgraduate research degree here might be right for you.
Programme Duration & StructureThe normal length of study leading to a PhD is 3 years full-time (the range being 33 months to 48 months). For part-time PhD study the norm would be 6 years (48 months - 96 months). The normal length of study leading to a MPhil is 2 years full-time (the range being 21 months to 36 months). For part-time MPhil study the norm would be 4 years (40 months - 72 months). The differences between MPhil and PhD are in the volume, originality and significance of the work undertaken. Typically, a project will begin with a thorough review of previously-published academic literature in relevant areas, leading to (after approx. 6 months for a full-time student) a critical/analytical report. The conclusions to this report will suggest an appropriate next step which will normally be some sort of experimental study, designed to test a hypothesis formulated from the literature review. The study might involve software design, acoustic measurements, listening tests, etc. The results of this study will be written up in another report (and possibly as a conference paper) which will include a discussion of their significance to the project. The literature review and experimental study, perhaps together with some additional reading and/or experimentation, will lead to (after approx. 12 months for a full-time student) either:
- for an MPhil, a thesis (c. 50,000 words) drawing appropriate conclusions, and a viva-voce examination; alternatively, it may be possible at this stage to transfer to PhD registration.
- for a PhD, a full progress report drawing appropriate conclusions, refining research questions and detailing a research plan to allow these questions to be answered; together with a viva-voce examination.
- does it embody a reasonable amount of work for the period of study?
- has the work followed a logical structure and been conducted according to sound scientific method?
- has an original contribution to human knowledge been made?
Entrance RequirementsIn order to be accepted onto the MPhil or PhD programme you will need to demonstrate a high level of academic achievement in relevant subject areas and a clear aptitude for research. We will need to be happy that you have the necessary background subject knowledge and the necessary research skills to begin the programme. Typically, you will need to have evidence of expertise in acoustics, psychoacoustics, signal processing, programming, statistical analysis, mathematics, literature-based and experiment-based research methods, academic report-writing, etc. You don't necessarily need a Masters degree, but a good Masters (achieving or approaching distinction) is a very good way of getting the necessary knowledge and skills, and of proving that you have them. Alternatively, a good Bachelors degree (first-class or high upper second) with a first-class mark in a significant final-year project, involving both literature-based and experiment-based research and a formal dissertation-style write-up, could also be sufficient (not all of our PhD students have masters degrees). Evidence of theoretical understanding gained from, and of experiment-based and literature-based research conducted in, a non-academic environment, will also be taken into consideration. If English is not your first language then evidence of appropriate reading, writing, listening and speaking skills will be required (e.g. IELTS band 7 with a minimum of 7 in each category, or TOEFL-iBT 100 with a minimum of 25 in each category). You will also need to be able to fund your studies for their full duration. Finally, your proposed research area must fit with the research focus of the IoSR.
CostsAnnual tuition fees for 2021/22 are as follows.
- home full-time: £4,500
- home part-time: £2,250
- overseas full-time: £17,600
- overseas part-time: £8,800
- home full-time: £4,596
- home part-time: £2,298
- overseas full-time: £18,100
- overseas part-time: £9,100
Funding SourcesSome of our PhD students have self-funded; some have studied part-time and worked part-time in the audio industry; some have arranged sponsorship from a current or previous employer; some paid their own living costs but had their tuition fees covered by a partial studentship from the IoSR, the Faculty, the University or an external funding body (e.g. for overseas students, a grant from a national educational body in their home country); some have won a full studentship from one of these sources covering their tuition fees and providing a quarterly stipend. When full or partial scholarships are available from the IoSR they are advertised on this website. This normally happens in March, for PhDs starting the following October, but funded projects may also start in January, April or July and scholarships for these will advertised between 3 and 9 months prior to the start date. We occasionally offer paid teaching work to postgraduate students, depending on their skills, knowledge and experience. This can involve supervision of practical sessions, tutorial support, marking or delivery of programme content. The pay is around £12/h and the maximum teaching load a research student may take on is normally 180 hours pa. Unfortunately it is difficult to predict what teaching will be available very far in advance. The following links point to information about studentships offered by the Faculty and the University which are open to IoSR PhD applicants:
- Department of Music and Media PhD studentships (2023 entry)
- Surrey Black Scholars Studentship Award (2023 entry)
- Breaking Barriers Studentship Award (2023 entry)
- The British Council
- Chevening Scholars
- Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan (CSFP)
- Commonwealth Scholarships
- Institute of International Education (Fulbright Scholarships)
- Marshall Scholarships
- Newton International Fellowships
- Prospects (UK graduate careers website with information about many sources of funding)
Application ProcedureWe normally have two or three vacancies per year for new postgraduate research students. Applications can be made at any time, and enrolment can begin at the start of January, April, July or October; the norm would be to apply around March or April to enrol the following October. However, some competitive funding sources (e.g. the University's Doctoral College and FASS Studentships) require application a year or more in advance of your intended start date. Details of the main application procedure, and on online application form, can be found on the University's PGR pages. However, in addition to completing and submitting the application form, please email a CV and a 500–1000 word research proposal to Dr Tim Brookes.
- The CV should provide evidence of your skills, knowledge, experience and qualifications in areas relevant to the programme for which you are applying (acoustics, psychoacoustics, signal processing, programming, statistical analysis, mathematics, theoretical and experimental research methods, academic report-writing, etc).
- The research proposal should begin with some background to explain the motivation for investigating your chosen area: what's the state of the art, what are the gaps in current knowledge, how might filling one or more of these be useful/interesting and to whom? It should then propose a main research question that focuses on filling a key gap, and break this question down logically into smaller sub-questions that might each be addressed with a literature review or an experiment and that, together, allow the main question to be addressed. Then, for each sub-question, suggest a means by which it might be answered (e.g. a body of literature to consult or an experiment to conduct). Finish with some specific comments about why the IoSR is the place to conduct your proposed research. Format the proposal as a self-contained document, properly referenced, ideally with text under the headings: background, research questions, methods, fit with IoSR, references. Try to keep it to 1,000 words or fewer.
- In the text of your email, please say why you are interested in your chosen research area, explain your reasons for wanting to pursue a research degree, give an indication of how you hope successful completion of the degree will help your life and career, and state your current position with regard to funding (secured sponsorship, applied/applying for studentship, self-funding, etc).
We will always interview an applicant before offering a place. At interview, you are likely to be asked about your motivation for PhD study (e.g. why a PhD? why this topic? why here?), your subject-specific knowledge (e.g. acoustics, psychoacoustics, programming, signal processing, mathematics), your proposed project (e.g. the state of the art, possible paths forward, possible contributions to knowledge), and your research skills (e.g. searching literature, academic writing, experiment design, statistical analysis, understanding the significance of findings, time and data management). You will also, of course, have the opportunity to ask us questions and (if you are able to visit in person) to tour our facilities.