Higher Education PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates

October 2022
January 2023
April 2023
July 2023

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates

October 2022
January 2023
April 2023
July 2023

Why choose this programme

At Surrey, 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.  

Our Department of Higher Education is one of the largest departments in the UK dedicated to multidisciplinary research solely in higher education, investigating academic identity and development, assessment and feedback, and learning and teaching in the disciplinary context.  

We’ve secured research grants from a variety of funders, including the British Academy, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), 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’re at the forefront of their respective fields, giving you access to expertise in a range of areas of higher education.

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

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 research 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: 

  • Pedagogical content knowledge of English as a second or foreign language teachers: effects of teacher education and expertise. 
  • Promoting English foreign language students’ willingness to communicate through teacher classroom behaviour and strategies in the Saudi context.  
  • Re-imagining students’ becomings: new approaches to thinking and doing transition. 
  •  Role of self-perception in the reconstruction of teacher’s identity: exploring the impact on foreign trained English teachers in higher education institutions. 

We’ll equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to shape professional practice and policy, allowing you to pursue highly a fulfilling career in academic, research and learning development positions within the higher education sector. Graduates 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 formally review your project. 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. 

Progress reviews 

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. 

Professional development 

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.

Research support

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.

Research themes

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 in areas of marginalisation and their effect on employment and educational outcomes), Professor Ian Kinchin (an expert in pedagogic health) and Dr Emma Medland (an expert in assessment and feedback and pedagogic practice).

Entry requirements

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 process

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


Start date: October 2022


UK £4,596

Overseas £18,100


UK £2,298

Overseas £9,100

Start date: January 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £18,100


UK £2,298

Overseas £9,100

Start date: April 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £18,100


UK £2,298

Overseas £9,100

Start date: July 2023


UK £4,596

Overseas £18,100


UK £2,298

Overseas £9,100

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.

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

Additional costs

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.

More information on the application process.

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.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions
Contact Admissions Team

University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH