PhD by Publication

A number of universities around the world have started offering PhD based on the merit of prior publications. If you have published at least 3 scientific papers as the main author and have no PhD yet, then you can consider applying for a PhD using this stream for obtaining the award.

A recent PhD graduate highlights a key advantage of doing PhD by publication: “…dividing it up into five discrete papers allowed me to see a way ahead making the PhD seem more achievable”. This experience comes from PhD by publication and no prior publication. PhD by prior publication is targeted at experienced researchers who have already published scientific papers.

Times Higher Education reports how PhD by prior publication can benefit people not following the traditional academic path:

“Mark Doel, emeritus professor of social work at Sheffield Hallam University, spent 20 years as a practising social worker and published widely in scholarly journals, although he never produced a PhD thesis. The PhD by publication route enabled him to enter a scholarly life later in his career. Jennifer Law, principal lecturer in public sector management at the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, argues that a PhD by publication is especially useful if, like her, “you have not entered academia via a traditional route with a PhD already completed”.

There are some universities which have published policies and frameworks for this non-traditional PhD arrangement.

In Australia, Charles Sturt University has a policy for PhD by prior publication. The policy states:

“The PhD by Prior Publication is suitable for established researchers with a significant historical record of refereed publications who wish to gain a formal qualification to recognise their standing within a field. During the program, the candidate must develop a thesis for examination comprising of the prior publications and a significant integrating essay that demonstrates both a capacity for independent research and a significant, original and scholarly contribution to knowledge or understanding.”


Griffith University in Australia has a window for doing PhD by submitting prior publications. They include the following items as eligible for the publication for PhD:

  • books and monographs
  • chapters in books
  • scholarly articles, eg, refereed articles in research journals
  • exhibitions, site specific installations, compact discs, film, video, and scores.


Kingston University London also has the window for PhD using prior publications. The University website says: “The award allows people who have not followed the traditional academic route towards a PhD to obtain academic recognition for having undertaken and produced research, and developed their research skills and subject knowledge to doctoral level”. It also provides detailed procedures for the admission, submission and examination, which can be accessed through this link. 


City University of London also this window. It’s policy statement states:

“City, University of London may also award the degree of PhD in an approved research degree title to candidates who have an existing body of publications which make an original and significant contribution to knowledge. The PhD by prior publication is open to holders of a degree from an approved university who are able to submit evidence of a body of published work of a suitable type and quality and who have the nomination of a member of City’s professorial staff with whom they share a research interest.”


Oxford Brookes University also has the provision for PhD by prior publications but its eligibility criteria 2.1 says that “Applicants shall normally have had some prior association with Oxford Brookes University.” This means that the program is targeted to the alumni or the staff of the University itself. However, there is an exception to this rule too:

“In exceptional cases, applicants holding qualifications other than those in paragraph 2.1 shall be considered. Such applicants shall be considered on their individual merit and the University shall look for evidence of the applicant’s ability and background knowledge in relation to the research. Professional experience, publications, written reports or other appropriate evidence of accomplishment shall be taken into consideration.”

So if you have no association with this University but still have a good profile, this University could still be an option.

University of Warwick in the UK also has this option. Like many others, it stipulates one year as the typical duration for this degree, and standard one yer PhD feed applies.

Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has arrangements for PhD by Publication and Phd by Practice. The publication route is explained in this excerpt from the University policy:

“Registration for PhD by Publication (Route 1) is available to candidates who have a record of publishing. At least 60% of the publications the candidate wishes to submit as part of the PhD should normally have been published prior to enrolment and the submission of an application for registration to the Academic Board Research Degrees Committee. The publications should normally have been published within two years prior to the submission of the application. In exceptional cases, where the candidate has shown evidence of active publication beyond the 2 year period such publications may also be considered provided such material is germane to the subject area in question. Normally, this period would not be extended beyond 3 years prior to application.”

MMU also offers PhD y Practice, the policy for which is summarised here: ”

“This route unlike PhD by Publication is suitable for candidates who are established professionals as well as suitably qualified recent postgraduates who are engaged in professional practice in the arts or design fields. The programme of research may be carried out in any context for practice, for example, fine art, design, architecture, media arts, creative writing, film, television, dance, performance, music and composition.The material submitted for the PhD shall be examined, in the normal way, and must be sufficiently extensive as to provide convincing evidence that the research constitutes a coherent and significant contribution to knowledge or scholarship in a particular field.”

University of Westminster also encourages staff and outsiders to pursue PhD by prior publications.

“Submissions for this award will consist of a coherent body of work which is of the same quality, rigour and volume as required of a standard PhD in your field and which constitutes an original contribution to knowledge. We welcome applications from Westminster staff and from outside the University.”


An educational advisory portal provides a comprehensive list of Universities offering PhD by prior publication in the UK, Australia, Ireland, Spain, and Malaysia.