PhD in Sound Recording: Psychoacoustic Engineering

The 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 & 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 (45 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 (33 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 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 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.

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 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 expertise in acoustics, psychoacoustics, signal processing, programming, statistical analysis, mathematics, theoretical and experimental 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 experimental research and a formal dissertation-style write-up, could also be sufficient (not all of our current PhD students have masters degrees).

Evidence of theoretical understanding gained from, and of experimental 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.


Annual tuition fees for 2016/17 are as follows:

The criteria for 'home' fee classification are rather complex but, in very general terms, they require that you have a relevant connection to the UK or EU 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 are self-funded; some study part-time and work part-time in the audio industry; some have arranged sponsorship from a current or previous employer; some pay their own living costs but have their tuition fees covered by a partial scholarship from the IoSR; others are working on specific funded projects and receive a full scholarship 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 p/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 to potential sources of, and information about, external funding may 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.

Details of the main application procedure, together with online and PDF application forms, can be found on the University's PGR pages. However, please take note of the following...

In the "Personal Statement" section of the application form, 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 for grant, eligible for IoSR scholarship, found part-time work, etc).

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 detail 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 say what research questions you hope to address, how these relate to IoSR interests, what the current state of the art is, and what methods you hope to use to advance it toward your stated goals, referencing previously-published research as appropriate.

Further Information

If you have a query about postgraduate research in the IoSR not addressed by the information on this website then please email Dr Tim Brookes

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