PhD in Finance

Course overview


  • UK top 10% for internationally excellent and world-leading research (Research Excellence Framework exercise 2014)
  • UK top 10 for reach and significance of the impact of our research on business and policy (Research Excellence Framework exercise 2014)
  • Dedicated study area for all ICMA Centre postgraduate researchers
  • Access to key databases and statistical software including WRDS, Thomson One, Bloomberg, TR Eikon, Datastream, SAS, Stata, Matlab, Python, Eventus

Overview and list of topics

Deadline for applications: 30 June 2018

We seek highly motivated individuals with an appropriate academic background (generally a Distinction at MSc level in a finance-related subject) from a good university. We encourage applied and relevant research and our strong connections with many financial firms allow students to gain industry experience during their doctoral research, if they wish. Biographies of and some papers written by, our current PhD students can be viewed here.

We offer funding for up to 10 PhD studentships of full fees plus up to £15,000 living allowance. All scholarships are awarded for 1 year and are renewable for another 2 years, subject to progress. Successful candidates will receive research training, will be required to take relevant University courses on teaching and embed that learning by acting as teaching assistants

List of topics:

  • Algorithmic Trading and Trade Execution Strategies
  • Alternative Investments
  • Asset Pricing
  • Behavioural Finance
  • Capital Structure
  • Commodity Markets
  • Corporate Finance and Governance
  • Empirical Asset Pricing with Liquidity and Uncertainty Premia
  • Empirical Credit Risk
  • Empirical Market Microstructure
  • Financial Econometrics
  • Financial Engineering
  • Financial Regulation
  • Financial Risk Measurement
  • Financial/Economic History
  • High Frequency Econometrics
  • History of Finance
  • Institutional Investors
  • Liquidity Risk
  • Macroeconomic and financial market uncertainty
  • Macroeconomic forecasting and survey expectations
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Model Risk
  • Option Pricing
  • Pension Schemes
  • Portfolio Management and Performance Assessment
  • Quantitative Finance
  • Shipping Finance
  • Socially Responsible Investing
  • Sports Finance
  • Textual Analysis
  • The effect of information on financial markets
  • Volatility and Correlation Modelling

If you have any questions, please contact us by email at or by phone on +44 (0)118 378 6497

Course structure

The first year of the programme combines taught courses, ‘research topics’ seminars, and independent research. The ‘research topics’ seminar continues throughout the programme with a change in emphasis in the second year, when the focus moves from training towards workshop style discussion of research in progress – both of students and visiting faculty – see

Year 1

Term 1 (September – December) Students attend the Advanced Topics in Finance course (weekly two-hour seminars). This is a staff-guided course in research methods, where students are evaluated on their presentations of seminal research papers. The content of this course may vary from year to year to cover the interests of the current PhD students. The final mark is based on the student’s own presentation, participation to class discussion, and a literature review paper.

Term 2 (January – March) Students are required to take 40 credits of approved MSc part 2 courses at the ICMA Centre and pass the exams with a mark not lower than 60%. Criteria for approval include relevance to the student’s research and novelty of the material to the student (students are not allowed to take courses identical or very similar to those already taken at MSc level).

Students are also required to work on an original research paper and give presentations on their progress to a committee, which includes their supervisor and an additional member of the academic staff. The final paper is submitted by the end of the summer term and the student gives a 30-minute presentation on their progress.

Subject to satisfactory progress during the first year, the PhD Programme Director will make recommendation to the School Research Committee that the students’ registration is changed from Higher degree to the PhD degree (if progress is not satisfactory the student will be registered to the MPhil degree).

Years 2, 3 (and above)

All students registered for a PhD degree attend two seminar series: the ICMA Centre research seminars in every term and, between January and June the PhD seminar series where each gives a seminar on their current research. Presentations are evaluated by two academic members of staff. Feedback is provided to students and to their supervisors.

Entry requirements

PhD applications are welcome for commencement in October 2018

Deadline for applications: June

PhD Entry Requirements:

Applicants should have an excellent academic background and have (or expect to have) a Masters degree, with averages at distinction level, in a course containing a significant proportion of finance.

Before applying to the programme, applicants should have a clear understanding of their intended research topic. A mandatory part of the application process is a detailed research proposal.  

Research Proposal Guidance:

All applicants to the doctoral programme are required to submit a full research proposal of approximately 1,000 words. Please refer to the list of topics we are currently seeking to supervise. Your proposal should give some indication that you know how to structure a research proposal, you can identify the main contributions to the chosen area, you know how to critically analyse the existing literature, you can define goals, objectives and methodologies, and if you need data, you are aware of the sources where you can find it. If accepted, you will be assigned a supervisor with whom you will further define your research agenda.

English requirements

If English is not your first language, you may be required to take one of the following:

  • TOEFL (Test of English as a foreign language): Overall score of 100 with no less than 20 in Listening, Writing and Reading and 21 in Speaking
  • IELTS (British Council International English Language Test): Score of 6.5 overall with no component less than 6 when attending the 6-week pre-sessional English course offered by the University of Reading. Entry to this pre-sessional course with a score of 6.5 fulfils your English language requirement.

Please note that students not attending a Pre-Sessional course will need to pass IELTS with an overall score of 7 and no component less than 6.0. For more options please see the International Study and Language Website or email a member of the Postgraduate Admissions team.


You should upload the following items to your online application:

  • your curriculum vitae
  • research proposal
  • copies of relevant academic transcripts

If you have any queries please contact our Admissions Team at or call +44 (0)118 378 6497.

Fees & Scholarships

PhD Scholarships

We offer funding for up to 10 PhD studentships of full fees plus up to £15,000 living allowance. All scholarships are awarded for 1 year and are renewable for another 2 years, subject to progress.

Successful candidates will receive research training, will be required to take relevant University courses on teaching and embed that learning by acting as teaching assistants.


Recent PhD graduates have secured academic positions at Universities such as Bradford, East Anglia, Kent, Reading, Surrey, University College Dublin, St. Gallen and Goethe University of Frankfurt, as well as industry positions at employers such as Barclays, Deutsche Bank, and NAFMII.

Why study at the ICMA Centre?


“National league tables show that Henley Business School consistently provides one of the most satisfying and rewarding student experiences in the UK.” Professor John Board, Dean.

Part of the University of Reading and the triple-accredited Henley Business School, the ICMA Centre has a global reputation for its excellence in undergraduate, postgraduate and executive education in finance, as well as professional and policy development research and consultancy.

Based in University of Reading’s award-winning Whiteknights campus – a short train ride from London, the financial capital of the world – the ICMA Centre is the product of the first active collaboration between the securities industry and a university finance department.

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