Higher Education PHD

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 (including academic mobility and migrants), assessment and feedback, and learning and teaching in context (including the use of concept mapping and pedagogic frailty). 

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.

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PHD Part-time 96 months October 2018
PHD Full-time 48 months April 2018
PHD Part-time 96 months April 2018

Additional costs

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).

Research themes

  • 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.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree in an appropriate discipline.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 7.0 or above (or equivalent) with 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. The University of Surrey is also an IELTS test centre.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.


Study mode Start date UK/EU fees Oversees fees
Part-time October 2018 £2,130 £8,000
Full-time April 2018 £4,195 £16,000
Part-time April 2018 £2,100 £8,000

For fees payable in 2018/19, 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 2018 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.


We have a host of partly and fully-funded studentship opportunities available.

Development of novel radiation-grafted powder ionomers for use in high performance alkali membrane fuel cells

Funding information:
Funding status: Directly Funded Project (European/UK Students only) EU/UK  fees for 3 years: 2018-19 level £4195 Standard stipend for 3 years: 2017-18 level £14,553 £5k bench fees across three-year project

Postgraduate open afternoon

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Find us

01SE01, Senate House
University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH