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: 30th June 2019

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

PhD Structure

A PhD is usually taken on a full-time basis over 3 to 4 years. The programme starts in September at the beginning of the academic year. However, if necessary for your training, you may be required to come to the University earlier to attend some preparatory courses.

Year 1: You will have to attend courses examined according to university rules. These courses include Research Methods and other courses required for your area of concentration;

Confirmation of Registration: During your second year, you will be required to defend your fully developed Research Proposal, consisting of a substantive document of around 10,000 words;

Year 2-3: The remaining part of your PhD studies will be devoted to complete your thesis before your viva examination at the end of your 3 to 4 years (maximum amount of time allowed by university rules).


Year 1 

During your first year of studies, you will be required to:

  • Attend at least 60 credits from PhD/Masters level courses in Research Methods and other relevant courses plus a no-credit bearing course (see below);
  • Attend some short courses (2-3 hours each) required for the Reading Researcher Development Programme at the Graduate School (overseeing PhD studies within the University of Reading);
  • Attend the Preparing to Teach training programme (which is necessary to be able to complete any teaching-related activities within Henley Business School);
  • Participate in weekly research seminars organised by your Department and others relevant to your area of interest;
  • Hold regular meetings with your supervisor(s).
  • Contribute to Business School and Departmental teaching/research activities and events;


Required Taught Component






Understanding Management and Financial Research




Advanced Finance Theory with Empirical Applications




Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods




Any other relevant course/module





Confirmation of Registration

During your second year you will submit a substantive Research Proposal of around 10,000 words that will be defended in front of Faculty members and/or assessed by independent examiners. This process will coincide with your confirmation of registration and, if successful, it will grant you the status of PhD candidate.

The Research Proposal will be a significant development of the initial proposal you submitted for your application. It will include material you may have produced during the 1st year courses in research methods (e.g. literature review, methodologies, data description, etc.). If you plan to do a PhD thesis combining three papers, you are expected to include a draft of the first paper in your Research Proposal. Alternatively, if you intend to use a book-like structure for your thesis, the document should include the draft of at least one of the three/four key chapters.


Year 2 and 3 

During your 2nd and 3rd year you will:

  • Continue to work on your PhD dissertation drafting the other two papers / key chapters;
  • Hold regular meetings with your supervisor(s);
  • Attend some short courses (2-3 hours each) required for the Reading Researcher Development Programme at the Graduate School;
  • Participate in weekly research seminars organised by your Department and others relevant to your area of interest;
  • Contribute to Business School and Departmental teaching/research activities and events;
  • Present posters/papers at national/international conferences;

Entry requirements

The application process normally consists of three main steps:

  • Formal application
    • Before applying formally you may want to contact a potential supervisor who is working in your area and could be interested in your topic
    • Please avoid contacting multiple faculty members simultaneously. We do talk to each other and this is not seen as a professional practice.
  • An evaluation of your suitability for the programme based on the documents you uploaded in your application.
  • If you meet the entry requirements and we can match you with a supervisor you will be formally interviewed to assess your suitability to pursue a PhD at the ICMA Centre.

The deadline for applications to be considered is the end of June.


The key requirements for a successful application are:

  • Top grades in your Masters degree (minimum requirement is Merit or equivalent, but we prefer Distinction)
  • Top grade in your Masters Dissertation (or equivalent research-based piece of work) because this may show your research attitude and skills
  • Very well developed research proposal. This is a document of at least 6/7 pages where you:
    • identify the motivation of your study
    • place it within relevant literature highlighting the current gap and potential research questions
    • state your intended methodology show understanding of the data (if any) necessary to accomplish your study and relevant sources. This aspect will also reveal the feasibility of your study.
  • A reasonable intended timeline reflecting issues you may encounter in the study as presented above (for example, if you have to collect primary data, the time spent on data collection will be much longer than the one you would spend if you intend to use secondary data sources)

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 Fees

For fees, please visit the Graduate School website. Overseas applicants should refer to the non-laboratory based fees listed in the tables (International Band 1 for non UK/EU students).

Henley Business School Scholarships

We offer up to 10 PhD scholarships covering fees and stipend for 3 years and awarded on the basis of outstanding academic merit. 

Further PhD funding

  • UK/EU nationals: The University of Reading takes part in the South East DTC(Doctoral Training Centre). If you’re interested in applying, please follow the link for further details.
  • Nationals from India and developing countries: The Felix Scholarship competition is open to candidates applying for either taught Masters or Postgraduate Research Degrees who are either Indian nationals, or from developing countries, and who fulfil the required criteria. For more information and how to apply please follow the link.
  • Regional PhD Bursaries: They are available for PhD applicants normally living within 25 miles of the University. The scheme is not open to students who have already started their study at the University of Reading. For further information, please go to Graduate School website.
  • Former UoR Graduate: If you have already studied at the University of Reading you will get up to £1,000 off fees through the alumni fee discount.
  • Other: For information on further opportunities, please see the find funding section on our University website.


Recent PhD graduates have secured academic positions at UK Universities such as Oxford, Manchester, Kings College London, Cardiff, Bath, Sussex, Surrey and East Anglia. Academic roles have also extended to international universities such as ESCP Europe, Hamburg, University College Dublin and  Goethe University of Frankfurt.

PhD graduates have taken industry positions at employers such as Allianz, Barclays, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, London Business Bank, NAFMII, Oxford Risk and Sociovestix Labs.

How can Henley Careers work with you?

We have an award winning careers team to support you through your time here and 4 years after graduating from us.

Henley Careers run numerous events throughout the autumn and spring terms to help you gain industry experience, enhance your professional development and network with employers. We also offer one-to-one career coaching appointments where you can talk to a Careers Consultant about anything related to your professional development – whether it’s planning your ideal career journey, building confidence in a particular area, practicing for interviews or having your CV checked.

For more information please see our Careers page.

Current as of April 2019.

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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