Education PhD

Start date
Contact the School directly
PhD – 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Doctoral research

The School of Education has a national and international reputation as a centre of excellence and provides wide and varied opportunities for students to undertake full or part-time research. More than 82% of its research was rated as ‘internationally excellent’ (3*) or ‘world leading’ (4*) in the 2014 REF

The university also has a Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) which has been accredited by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). 



The School of Education: At a glance

-       5th in the 2019 Complete University Guide
-       In the top 6 for HEI provision in the Good Teacher Training Guide 2017
-      10th in Europe and 7th in the UK in the 2018 QS World Rankings

Quick links: Fees and Funding | Entry Requirements | How to apply

We provide wide and varied opportunities for students to undertake research. Our academic expertise covers a broad range of disciplines which are grouped into three main departments:

The school also has a number of highly successful research centres based within the departments which reflect the diversity of our research activity.

Our strategy towards research and research degrees is centred on three key principles:

  • Research should seek to combine scholarly and empirical work on fundamental issues with a concern for development work linked to practice; a dialogue between fundamental study and development work can enrich both
  • Research should recognise the importance of professional practice and be pursued through active collaboration with schools, colleges, local authorities, and voluntary and other professional bodies in the UK and internationally
  • Research is often a multidisciplinary activity and strong links across specialisms must be encouraged and supported

The interdependence of research with development and professional practice means that we particularly welcome the contribution of research students to our work. We provide a comprehensive programme of research training, together with opportunities to take part in research seminars where speakers with national and international reputations present work that is at the forefront of current debates within the field.

The Education PhD

A PhD requires a minimum period of study as a registered student of normally three years full-time or six years part-time. It is assessed by thesis only, and is examined by a work of a maximum of 80,000 words and an oral examination. You will be required to complete a research training programme, normally within the first two years of registration.

Whilst we accept applications covering all aspects of educational research, we particularly welcome applications for our current priority areas.

Please visit our school postgraduate research pages to find out more about all our postgraduate research degrees, including our taught doctoral programmes. You will also be able to find out more about the support we can offer you whilst you are undertaking your research. You will also be able to view the profiles of some of our current doctoral researchers to find out more about their research topics.

We also encourage you to visit the school research pages to find out more about our current research.

We also offer the part-time Education EdD which combines the research elements of a PhD with significant taught components.

Ask a student a question

Kristina (from Russia) and April-Louise are experienced postgraduates who are currently studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham, and they will offer help and advice from a student perspective.


Standard fees apply

For 2019-20 these are:


£4,320 full-time, £2,160 part-time. (to be confirmed spring 2019)


£16,740 full-time, £8,370 part-time

The fees shown above are the annual fees for students starting their courses September in 2019. Please note that where courses last more than one year, the annual fees for subsequent years on the course may increase due to inflation. 

Learn more about fees and funding

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to eligible financial support via the Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan for the duration of their course. For more information visit the website.

You can also visit our EU Referendum information page for more information and updates.

Scholarships and studentships

Eligible Doctoral students can now apply for a loan of up to £25,000 to contribute to overall costs. Find out more at

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

For further information please view the school scholarships page or contact the Funding, Graduation & Awards Office via online enquiries. 

How To Apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

When you apply, the application system will ask you to upload a research proposal for submission together with your application. Your research proposal should meet these research proposal requirements.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students
We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – learn more about international entry requirements 

Standard English language requirements apply – except for the Warwick University English Language Test – we require ABB


International Requirements

In addition to our standard academic and English language requirements, applications to study a PhD in Education are judged on the quality of the research proposal submitted and we advise you to carefully read the information outlined below before applying. 

Your Research Proposal

Your research proposal should illustrate your ability to plan an independent research study in Education and the relevance of your topic to the research interests and expertise of staff in the School of Education. You need to demonstrate that you understand the field that you plan to research, identify an interesting and original research question, develop a tentative plan of study and connect your work with our research in the School. It is critical that your research proposal is written to the guidelines specified below.

Guidelines for the Research Proposal

You are free to write your Research Proposal in a format that suits you.

However, please be sure that your Research Proposal includes the following minimum information. 


Title of your proposed research.

Supervision arrangements

Identify the Department you want to join.

Identify two or three potential supervisors with whom you would like to work.

Research question

Provide an overview of your research question, explaining why it is of academic and/or practical importance.

Literature review

Discuss the importance of previous related research and how your own research question might make a useful contribution to the area.

Research methods

State the main research techniques and data collection procedures you propose to answer the research question you have posed. Justify why these are appropriate.

Data collection strategy

Explain how you will collect data for your study. Justify why your strategy is a good one and explain how you can successfully collect the data you need in the timeframe.


Outline your proposed timetable of activities.


List the works you have cited in your proposal.

Word Limit

Your proposal should be no more than 2,500 words, excluding references.

Common mistakes made in a research proposal

  • The research topic is too general. Your research proposal needs to state clearly what you plan to research, why and how.
  • The proposal is not well-informed, theoretically. Your proposal may identify a real-world educational issue or problem, but it does not demonstrate its theoretical importance to the study of education. Your proposal must identify the theoretical insight your research will bring to our discipline. What will be the significance of your work? Why is your research question original and interesting?
  • The research proposal does not fit with our academic expertise. To study for a PhD in Education at Birmingham you need to (1) find a supervisor whose research interests align with yours and (2) identify links with the research of one of our departments and/or research centres 

The stages of a PhD application

  1. Develop your research proposal
  2. Ensure that your proposal matches our research expertise in the SoE
  3. Identify a potential supervisor and department; list these clearly on your application form, in your personal statement and in your research proposal
  4. Make informal contact with your potential supervisor via email and discuss your proposed research with them if you wish
  5. Finalize all of the supporting material for your application (including a 2 – 3 page CV, a personal statement, academic references, copies of academic transcripts/degrees, evidence of a successfully completed English Language Test if applicable)
  6. Submit your application online

Download the information in PDF format how to prepare your research proposal

Perhaps the most important step in the formulation of your research project is to identify a member of academic staff with appropriate expertise to supervise your area of interest. Your supervisor will act as the main source of academic supervisory support and research mentoring during your time as a doctoral researcher at the University and as such, it is vital that you ensure that the department to which you are applying is able to offer appropriate supervisory support in your relevant research area. Before submitting your application to the University you will need to identify potential supervisors in your desired field of research and contact them directly about your research proposal.

Applicants are encouraged to view the research activity within each department in the school as well as on the individual staff profiles. You may also download a summary of staff research interests (PDF, opens new window).

As a postgraduate researcher you will have one-to-one supervision with a lead supervisor and also a second supervisor or academic advisor. Your supervisor is the key person in providing support and guidance in your research. Students who are involved in similar areas may also have some group supervision.

You will have 24 hour access to work space in our research suite, where there are computer and telephone facilities. You also have access to the University's libraries and computer facilities, (which include the new £300 million library on campus) as well as other entitlements such as grants towards conference attendance, printing and photocopying. Many of our postgraduate researchers work with supervisors in publishing articles and making their work public. Students will register with the School of Education but are also automatically members of the Graduate School, with access to facilities such as the Graduate Social Centre and the opportunity to meet with other researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines. As a doctoral student, you will also be able to join the College of Social Sciences Doctoral Training programme which has ESRC recogition.

The School of Education also runs an annual Doctoral Research Conference which is which brings together doctoral researchers, academics and practitioners to explore key issues and developments in educational research, theory, policy and practice. The conference, which is organised and run by the doctoral researchers, includes a keynote presentation, an expert panel debate, papers in parallel sessions and a poster exhibition.

Over the last five years, an impressive 95.8 % of Education postgraduates have been in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

Birmingham’s Education graduates choose to work in variety of education roles in schools and administrative roles in public and private sector organisations. Work in retail, sales and administration are also popular options. Some chose to continue their education and apply for professional courses such as teacher training. Some of our graduates are attracted to careers in education such as teaching, community and youth work or other public sector occupations such as social work, police, housing and probation. New opportunities in partnership enterprises within sport, leisure, education and community schemes appeal. Some graduates also consider work in the private sector such as retail, finance or marketing.

What type of career assistance is available to doctoral researchers in Education?

The College of Social Sciences, to which the School of Education belongs, has specially designated careers advisors and careers consultants who can provide guidance for doctoral researchers on career paths, CVs, training opportunities, application and interviews. The University’s central Careers’ Service also runs workshops and offers personally tailored advice and guidance including 1-1 careers advice and 1-1 CV advice. The Career’s Service runs CV writing workshops especially for postgraduates in the College of Social Sciences, giving advice on how to compile CVs for both employment and for academic roles.

The University also has dedicated careers advisors who run workshops and provide networking opportunities with potential employers. These are especially popular with international postgraduate researchers.