Why choose this course
Our PhD in Higher Education will produce the next generation of researchers, ready to address the complex problems in higher education and help shape higher education policy and practice at local, national and international levels.
The Department of Higher Education has a growing reputation in the field of academic development and practice. We are one of the largest departments in the UK dedicated to research solely in higher education, and since 2013 we have attracted research grants from a variety of funders including Leverhulme, British Academy, HEFCE, SRHE and SEDA.
At Surrey, you will benefit from our vibrant research culture and specialist expertise in the areas of academic identity and development, assessment and feedback, and learning and teaching in the disciplinary context. This research spans a connection with general higher education as well as within various disciplinary fields including STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), English for academic purposes, veterinary sciences, business studies, politics, etc.
You’ll be supervised by leading academics who are at the forefront of their fields and have research strengths in diverse disciplinary subject areas, which will provide you with exposure to a range of different higher education areas.
What you will study
The Higher Education PhD will equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to shape professional practice and policy that will enable you to pursue highly fulfilling careers in academic, research and learning development positions in the higher education sector. Future careers also exist as researchers for government think-tanks, as well as policy research advisers on matters regarding higher education.
As a PhD student at Surrey, you will receive individual supervision from a team in your specialist area, as well as tailored research training in a variety of research methods. In addition to regular supervisory sessions, you will be invited to engage in regular departmental activities within the Department of Higher Education which will provide you with a breadth of tangible experience and real-world insight into a higher education institution.
The Doctoral College run a series of compulsory workshops, including 'Welcome to your Doctorate'. In addition, you will be required to complete some research methods training. The research training modules are a combination of online/blended modules and face-to-face modules. When not collecting data and attending training sessions, you will be encouraged to work at your desk in the Department.
The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.
We have three main research themes. We encourage doctoral candidates to address some aspect of these themes either at the general higher education level or within specific disciplines in their research proposal.
We also welcome applications that may not fit these themes but has an higher education aspect to it.
Academic development and identity
- Pedagogic frailty
- Academic mobility
- Migrant academics
- Higher education practices, e.g. peer observations.
Assessment and feedback
- External examiners practice
- Student engagement and feedback.
Learning and teaching in context
- Research tools and methods for learning and teaching (technology-enhanced learning, concept mapping, and work-based learning)
- Student and staff motivations
- Professional values
- Student transitions, e.g. into higher education and into work.
Our academic staff
See a full list of all our academic staff within the Department of Higher Education.
Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree in an appropriate discipline.
View entry requirements by country
English language requirements
September 2019 entry onwards: IELTS Academic of 7.0 overall or above (or equivalent) with at least 6.0 in each individual category.
Entry prior to September 2019: IELTS Academic of 7.0 overall or above (or equivalent) with at least 6.5 in each individual category.
View the other English language qualifications that we accept.
If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.
Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.
For fees payable in 2020/1, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).
Overseas students applying for 2020 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.
There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.
Code of practice for research degrees
Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.
Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).
Terms and conditions
When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.
This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.