Entry Requirements

To gain admission to a research programme an applicant must comply with the following entry requirements:

  • Attainment of a good Honours degree (normally a First or Upper Second Class
    Honours degree) awarded by an approved University in an appropriate subject, or the equivalent thereof, or
  • Attainment of an alternative qualification or qualifications and/or evidence of experience judged by the School as indicating a student’s potential for research and as satisfactory for the purpose of entry to a research degree programme

Admission may be subject to preliminary study, which may include assessment. In such cases, registration for a programme leading to a research degree will be subject to satisfactory completion of the preliminary study. The time taken for the preliminary study will not be counted towards the period of registration.

Applications from international students whose native language is not English must satify one of the following English Language requirements. The School of Education requires  IELTS: 7.0 with no less than 6.5 in any band; PTE: PTE Academic 67 in all four skills.


Research applications are made online via Course Finder. However, 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

Although you are free to write your Research Proposal in a format that suits you, your proposal should be no more than 2,500 words, excluding references and should include the following minimum information. 

Your proposal should:

  • Include a title for the proposed research
  • Identify the Department you want to join and identify two or three potential supervisors with whom you would like to work.
  • Provide an overview of your research question, explaining why it is of academic and/or practical importance.
  • Discuss the importance of previous related research and how your own research question might make a useful contribution to the area.
  • State the main research techniques and data collection procedures you propose to answer the research question you have posed. Justify why these are appropriate.
  • 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.

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

Split location postgraduate research study

International students normally carry out their research and are supervised at the University of Birmingham. However, there are students, often academic staff at overseas institutions though not exclusively, who are looking for flexible study arrangements. In these cases, most of the study period would be spent in their home country with short periods at the University of Birmingham. Students registered for a doctoral degree must spend a minimum of six months full-time at the University of Birmingham. The period need not be continuous but needs to take into account accessing the research training programme. The University will seek to ensure that the facilities for research and study in the home country are broadly comparable to those at this University.

If you are interested in a split location doctoral degree, you are advised to contact the postgraduate research administrator: pgreducation-enquiries@contacts.bham.ac.uk