Studentship Application Guidance Notes

These guidance notes will help you to apply for our PhD with Integrated PGDip studentship. You can only apply through the University of Sheffield’s Postgraduate Online Application System.

For general information regarding completing an application for PhD study, please refer to the University’s Applying essentials – PhD study webpage.

If you have any questions please email

Summary of required Supporting Documents

You should include the following supporting documents:

  • Proof of your previous degree(s)

  • Two academic references

  • Supporting statement

  • CV

  • English language tests / qualifications (if applicable)

It is important to upload all of your supporting documents at the time of submitting your application, as without these we are unable to make a decision on your application.

More details are provided in the rest of this document and the University’s Applying essentials – PhD study webpage.

Application Part 1

Section A: Personal Details

You will need to enter your personal details in this section. If you know your HESA or Unique Learner number, then please include them, although this isn’t necessary.

Section B: Contact Details

Please enter your email address and correspondence/home addresses. These can be updated if they change once you are registered at the University.

Section C: Nationality and Residency

Please detail your nationality and residency – this will determine your fee status.

Section D: English Language

If you want to study at the University of Sheffield, you must be able to show that your English is good enough for you to successfully complete your course.

If you have recently been awarded (and received the certificate for) a first degree or postgraduate diploma taught in English in a majority native English speaking country, you will not normally need to provide other evidence of English language ability. You should have been awarded your degree/diploma within five years of the start date of your Sheffield course.

The CDT’s English Language requirements are IELTS 7.5 overall, with no less than 7.0 in each component.

For more information about English language qualifications, please see the University’s English language requirements webpage.

If you are a UK citizen, select “UK Applicant” from the “Qualification” dropdown box on the form.

Section E: Previous Education

Please provide details of all previous degrees you have attained. You should ensure that relevant degree certificates and transcripts are uploaded to your application, as we are unable to make a decision without these.

If you haven't yet graduated, please upload your most recent transcript, showing your results to date.

If you're studying qualifications from an institution outside the UK, please also include documents indicating the marking scheme used. If you're able to submit these at the point of application, this will help us to correctly formulate any offer we make.

Official translations into English

If any of your certificates or transcripts have been issued in a language other than English, you should include with them official, authenticated English translations. Official translations of qualifications documents are also a requirement of the UK government's visa regulations. The translation should be on official letter-headed paper, clearly state that it is an accurate translation of the original, and include all of the following pieces of information:

  • The translator or translation company's name and contact details

  • The translator or translation company's credentials or qualifications

  • The date of the translation

  • The translator's full name and signature, or the full name and signature of an authorised official from the translation company

The translation should be done by an official translator/translation service. We won't accept translations by agents unless the agency offers a recognised translation service and the translator can demonstrate appropriate credentials, for example NAATI, CATTI or NAETI. English language modules studied as part of the agent's degree course, for example TEM-4 or TEM-8, are not considered appropriate credentials.

Section F: Relevant Employment

Detail any relevant employment/industrial experience you have had, including the responsibilities and duties you held.

Section G: Equal Opportunities

This is required for University procedures. The only sections that can be seen by the admissions team are: if you have a disability; need additional support; or have any unspent criminal convictions.

Section H: Supplementary Information

Please provide details of any other Universities/courses you have applied to.

Section I: Personal Supporting Documents

Please add personal supporting documents such as a CV or documentation of any achievements. For any documents relating to previous courses (such as Final Year Projects or Dissertations) please upload these to the “Course Supporting Documents” section.

Application Part 2: Course Applications

Postgraduate Research Courses

Please select the following:

  • Qualification applying for: Doctoral Training Course

  • How do you want to study?: Full Time

  • Which Doctoral Training Course do you want to apply for?: Speech and Language Technologies CDT

  • Preferred supervisor: Prof. Thomas Hain & Prof. Rob Gaizauskas

  • Start date: September 2023

  • Do you know how you want to fund your studies: Yes

  • Please select your likely funding source: Scholarship or studentship (not listed below)

  • Please enter details of your funding source: SLT CDT Funding

  • What stage are you at with your funding?: The funding has been confirmed

Note: Do not worry if you see a message indicating that centrally administered scholarship applications for the 2023 academic year are closed. All CDT places are associated with funding (which is separate from the University’s centrally administered scholarships) - funded places are still available; you do not need to apply separately for funding.


You need to provide two academic references for your application. These should be supplied by academic staff at university-level institutions where you've previously studied. If you've been out of education for the last two years, you can send one academic reference plus one from your current employer if you wish.

In their references, your referees should provide their personal opinion of your ability and suitability to undertake postgraduate study, in particular your previous academic achievements (especially in comparison to those of your peers), and any distinct strengths and weaknesses (for example motivation, commitment, independence, ability to work under sustained pressure). If your first language isn't English, your referees should also include their opinion of your proficiency in written and spoken English.

You can upload your references directly to your online application. Alternatively you can ask your referees to upload your references themselves via our Referee Portal. Please be aware that we may contact your referees via the details you include in your application. Note: if you choose to have your referee provide their reference directly, it remains your responsibility to ensure they are uploaded by the referee before the application deadline. Your application cannot be reviewed without them.

There's no official reference form, but please make sure your name and the title of the course you've applied for (and your applicant and choice numbers if you have them) are included on any documents that are submitted. References should be supplied as scanned copies of signed letters on official letterhead paper and/or sent from an official email address of the organisation where the referee works.

Supporting Statement

Your supporting statement should include a brief outline of your research areas of interest and why you wish to pursue this area of research. This should not be a project proposal; if you are offered and accept a place, your project will be defined in collaboration with our academics and/or industrial partners after you start.

This programme is more than a ‘standard’ PhD; please state clearly what attracts you to this particular programme and how this relates to your academic background and career plans. This statement is a critical component of your application. It is your opportunity to describe why you are a good fit for the CDT PhD programme. You should describe your interest in SLT and research; any experience you’ve had in the speech or NLP areas; and any experience of research you may have. It’s also a great opportunity to describe your mathematical and programming aptitude / experience. The personal statement is your chance to show a passion for doing a PhD in SLT.

Resources on writing personal statements for PhD applications can be found below.

Please also indicate in your statement whether the UKRI eligibility criteria classify you as a home student or an international student.

Scholarship Application

All CDT places are automatically associated with funding (which is separate from the University’s centrally administered scholarships). You do not need to apply separately for funding; ignore this section.

Course Supporting Documents

Please upload documents, such as your dissertation or final year project, if you feel these will support your application.


Once you are happy that you have completed all the sections, please return to the overview. Click on ‘Submit Application’ towards the bottom of the page to finalise your application.

Additional guidance for your Supporting Statement

Introduce yourself and your reasons for applying

Academics won’t have long to read your statement, so start with a strong opening paragraph to grab their attention. For example, can you explain why this research area is important to you? Where did the interest in this specific area of research come from? Try to be original in what you write and keep it brief.

Why you?

State clearly with evidence how you are a good match for the programme. Make your examples relevant to the role and how you will be using the skill or knowledge that is asked for. PhDs are unlikely to have a person specification, so make sure you are familiar with the requirements through wider research. Show you have the skills, attributes and knowledge to manage all aspects of your own research project for 3-4 years.

Write about your studies or research to date, including any relevant projects, essays or presentations. Also include information about other relevant experiences, such as summer projects and work experience. Use this section to demonstrate study skills, research skills and/or transferable skills such as communication, project management, independence, teamwork, problem-solving, decision making, resilience and self-motivation as well as others that are necessary for the PhD or position. Also include details of any papers you have written, relevant conferences you have attended or any funding you have been awarded.

Consider also any other experiences such as part-time work, mentoring, volunteering, work shadowing, membership of clubs/societies, etc. What skills have you developed as a result that would be relevant to your application?

You may find the STAR structure useful to refer to when presenting examples to demonstrate a competency:

  • Situation – Provide some brief details about the situation so that the reader can understand the context of the example

  • Task – Explain the objective/purpose, i.e. what you were aiming to do

  • Action – Describe what you did and summarise your actions

  • Result – Finish with the outcome. Show that you met your objectives and, if appropriate, comment on what you learnt from the experience

This is the opportunity for you to demonstrate your relevant skills, attributes and specific knowledge, so make sure you sell yourself.

Why us?

Explore the CDT and the Speech and Hearing (SpandH) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) research groups, their achievements, partnerships and the facilities that they have to offer. To do this, you could:

  • Look at departmental web pages

  • Read publications from the research group (particularly important if this aligns to your research interests)

  • Search their social media pages (eg Twitter / ResearchGate)

If applying for a PhD, explain what attracts you to the opportunity. For example, could you comment on experiences the PhD offers, the course structure, or any links with industry? Is the programme noted for a specialism, or highly regarded for its training? You can also state why you wish to study at this particular institution.

The more you know about the opportunity, the more you are able to demonstrate your motivation. For example, their research methods may take your interest, or you may be impressed by their achievements. Whatever it is that enthuses you about the opportunity, try to be specific and authentic, and relate it back to you and your experiences as much as possible.

Your career / academic goals

Outline your aims and specific goals, showing how you think the opportunity will help you achieve these. Ensure your goals are realistic and relevant to the role. Show you have an understanding of the potential impact and wider value of the research and why this is important.

Closing statement

Try to end on a high note with a positive concluding statement. You could re-iterate your motivation and commitment, or outline your eagerness to discuss further in an interview. Keep it brief and positive.

Key tasks: make sure you have done your research into the opportunity.

Effective research helps you to understand the opportunity better – whether that opportunity is a job, placement or further study. By knowing more, you will be better prepared to demonstrate your motivation and have a better understanding of their requirements.

When doing your research there are multiple sources of information you could explore:

  • The CDT’s and department’s website.

  • The CDT’s and department’s social media.

  • Your own networks.

  • News articles.

  • Career Service employer events, fairs and webinars.

  • Library resources.

  • Job profiles.

Remember, you aren't expected to be an expert, but you should know enough to understand what you are applying for and how the programme and research groups broadly operate.

Key tasks: reflect on how you meet the requirements

Think about examples that demonstrate any relevant skills or experience you have.

These examples can come from your academic work (dissertation, fieldwork and team projects), work experience, voluntary work, student societies, positions of responsibility, sport and music, or anything else!

  • Try to think of examples from a range of activities, from different parts of your life.

  • Where possible, draw on recent examples

  • Specific examples should include specific detail as this makes them more memorable and persuasive.

  • Focus on how and why you were successful in the activity involved.

  • Where relevant, see if you can include a measure of your success eg, how much money you raised/managed, how many people you led/presented to.

If you struggle to reflect on yourself and your experiences, consider writing lists, mind-mapping or talking about the criteria with a friend or family member. You might surprise yourself!

Key tasks: application drafting

Draft your application in a separate Word document. This enables you to keep a copy of your responses, which will be important to reflect on should you be invited to an interview. It also enables you to proofread your work to check for spelling and grammar. It is also a good idea to get someone else to check your application for you.