Why choose this programme
At the Surrey Institute of Education (SIoE), our aim is to 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.
SIoE is one of the largest institutions in the UK dedicated to multidisciplinary research solely within higher education.
We’ve secured research grants from a variety of funders, including the British Academy, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Office for Students (OfS), the Leverhulme Trust, the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) and the Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE).
You’ll benefit from our vibrant research culture and you’ll work alongside leading academics who are at the forefront of their respective fields, giving you access to expertise in a range of areas of higher education.
The University of Surrey is 33rd in the UK rankings for overall research quality by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. The research quality of the Surrey Institute of Education was ranked 20th out of 83 submissions for Education. In terms of outputs [research papers and other published works], 43% of the Institute’s outputs were considered world-leading (4*) for their originality, significance and rigour, placing us 11th out of the 83 submissions. For impact, we have been ranked 20th with 100% of impact case studies judged to have outstanding or very considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance. Over half of our research environment was judged to be of 3*quality or, in other words, an environment conducive to producing research of internationally excellent quality and very considerable impact in terms of its vitality and sustainability.
What you will study
Our PhD is research-based, so you’ll spend most of your time developing a research question, conducting original research, analysing your results and writing up your findings, all under the guidance of your project supervisors. We’ll also give you tailored research methods training through online and face-to-face tutorials.
Current students are researching topics including:
- Internationalisation of higher education: Chinese language learning in Pakistan
- Promoting English foreign language students’ willingness to communicate through teacher classroom behaviour and strategies in the Saudi context
- Challenges to teaching values: exploring the effect of changing national context on the professional identity of international academics teaching in UK universities
- Students’ experiences: neoliberal expectations and students’ mental health in British Higher Education
- Enhancing EFL students’ feedback literacy in China’s application-oriented universities.
We’ll equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to shape professional practice and policy, allowing you to pursue a highly fulfilling career in academic, research and learning development positions within the higher education sector. Graduates can also take up roles as researchers for government think-tanks, as well as policy research advisers.
Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.
You’ll have a confirmation assessment to review your project formally. If you're a full-time student, this will take place around 12-15 months into your studies or 24-30 months if you’re studying part-time. You’ll be required to submit a written report and successfully complete an oral examination.
Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which you will discuss in a viva examination with at least two examiners.
In addition to the confirmation process you’ll have six-monthly progress reviews with your supervisors. These meetings are an opportunity to reflect on your progress, discuss successes and challenges and set targets for the next six months. These reviews will be monitored by postgraduate research directors and recorded on your student record.
You’ll also have one formal meeting with your supervisors every month and can expect to have more frequent meetings between these. The regularity of these will depend on the nature and stage of your project.
You’ll be invited to engage in regular departmental activities within the Department of Higher Education, giving you a breadth of tangible experience and real-world insight into a higher education institution.
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.
Our research investigates:
- Assessment and feedback, including external examiners practice and student engagement with feedback.
- Educational transitions, including students and academic staff transitions and mobility, in national and international academic contexts.
- Identities and values in education, including professional identity development of academic staff and students.
- Language and literacy learning, including students' motivation in learning English Language.
- Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and disciplinary education, including girls’ participation in STEM subjects at the higher education level, and the teaching and learning of STEM and disciplinary subjects.
We’ll encourage you 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 have a higher education aspect to them.
Our academic staff
Throughout your studies you’ll have at least two supervisors, with at least one from the Department of Higher Education, who’ll have scientific expertise relevant to your research project. Your supervisors will give you academic guidance and tuition, helping you develop your research ideas and plans, consider your theory and methods, and analyse your work. They’ll read and comment on your draft work, giving you honest and constructive feedback. They’ll provide you with pastoral support and advice, referring you to more specialist services where necessary.
Supervisors may include Dr Anea Hosein (an expert on young people’s educational and employment pathways), Professor Ian Kinchin (an expert in pedagogies of care and concept- mapping), Professor Naomi Winstone (an expert in feedback literacies) and Dr Marion Heron (an expert in literacies and languages).
Postgraduate researchers have a dedicated office space.
Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree in an appropriate discipline.
International 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.
Start date: April 2023
Start date: July 2023
Start date: October 2023
- To be confirmed
- To be confirmed
Start date: January 2024
- To be confirmed
- To be confirmed
For fees payable in 2022/23, 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 2022 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.
A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.
How to apply
If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.
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) for the 2022/2023 academic year 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 our full disclaimer.