PhD in Audio Engineering

The Institute of Sound Recording (IoSR) offers research-based programmes leading to the degrees of MPhil and PhD, in the subject areas of psychoacoustic engineering and audio engienering. 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 & Structure

The 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 a PhD, subject to a satisfactory progress report and viva-voce examination, the research plan defined in the progress report will then be executed. This will lead to further literature-based and experimental research, conference (and possibly journal) publications, and the final PhD thesis (c. 70,000 words) and viva-voce examination. Broadly, a PhD is assessed on three criteria:

MPhil or PhD study doesn't normally entail lecture attendance. Throughout the project, regular guidance will be given by way of meetings with the designated supervisor(s), progress will be reviewed formally twice a year, internal seminars will be used to share and discuss findings with other research students, and training needs will be identified and met by the University's internal PGR courses, modules from the University's taught degree programmes, external courses or guided reading.

Postgraduate research (PGR) students are strongly encouraged to work here at the University. We have shared office space for all our PGR students and working alongside others with similar interests and complementary expertise, and just along the corridor from IoSR academic staff, can be very valuable, as can the proximity of our technical facilities and the University's library and other learning resources. Depending on the nature of your research project, however, it may be possible to conduct much of it away from the University, provided you maintain regular contact with your supervisor(s) and are in attendance at the University at the very least for a few days in April/May and October/November for our bi-annual research seminars and progress reviews.

Entrance Requirements

In 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 6.5 with a minimum of 6 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.


Annual tuition fees for 2023/24 are as follows.

... increasing (currently) by 4% for each subsequent year of registration.

The criteria for 'UK' fee classification are rather complex but, in very general terms, they require that you have a relevant connection to the UK in terms of residency and nationality. More specific information can be found at To enquire about your own classification please contact The Registry Student Centre / +44 (0)1483 682053 /

In addition to tuition fees, you will need to consider the cost of accommodation and your basic living expenses. There is information about the likely cost of living in the Pre-Departure Guide produced by our International Student Office.

Funding Sources

Some 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:

Further information about fees, funding, studentships and loans is available from the University's Doctoral College.

The following links to potential sources of, and information about, external funding may also be useful.

Application Procedure

We 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 the IoSR Director of Research.


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.

Further Information

If you have a query about postgraduate research in the IoSR not addressed by the information on this website then please email the IoSR Director of Research.

A Postgraduate Prospectus and more general information about Postgraduate Study at the University of Surrey is available on the University's main PGR pages.

Useful information about postgraduate study in general can be found in any of a nuber of books on the subject. e.g. E.M.Phillips & D.S.Pugh: How to get a PhD (Open University Press, 3rd Edition, 2000).