Higher Education PhD

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Why choose this course?

Our PhD in Higher Education intends to create the next generation of researchers who will tackle the complex problems in higher education, to help shape higher education policy and practice at the local, national and international level.

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 taught by leading academics who are at the forefront of their fields and have research strengths in diverse disciplinary subject areas, providing you with exposure to a range of different higher education areas.

We will encourage you to embrace the regular opportunities to engage in departmental activities such as team meetings, research seminars and departmental workshops, to provide you with real-world higher education experience.

What you will study

Our PhD in Higher Education creates researchers who can inform higher education policy and practice that are evidence-based. Following our highly successful MA in Higher Education, which has a range of persons including researchers, educators, academic and learning developers, the PhD in Higher Education allows the doctoral research to explore the complex and difficult issues in-depth within the evolving field of 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. Research students within the department are well-supported. In addition to regular supervisory sessions, students 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.

You will graduate equipped 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 advisors on matters regarding higher education.

Research areas

Key research areas include:

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, into work


Departmental Studentship Opportunities

Departmental studentships are available for top-quality students, covering tuition fees at the Home/EU rate and maintenance at current research-council rates for full-time or part-time study.

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PhD Full-time 48 months October, January
PhD Part-time 96 months October, January

Contact us

General enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681


Entry Requirements

All applicants should have a good honours degree in an appropriate discipline.

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 7.0 overall, 6.5 in each component (or equivalent).

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.


Study mode UK/EU fees Overseas fees
Full-time £4,195 £16,000
Part-time £2,100 £8,000

Please note these fees are for the academic year 2017/18 only. All fees are subject to annual review.

Overseas students applying for 2017 entry should please note that annual fees will rise by four per cent (rounded up to the nearest £100) for each year of study.

A complete list of all fees for our research programmes

Doctoral College

Our Doctoral College supports researcher excellence and employability across the doctoral and early career stages of the researcher journey.

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).