Management and Business PhD

I did not hesitate to apply for Surrey’s PhD programme in Business and Management, given its outstanding reputation. I had the opportunity to work with one of the leading academics in my research area.

Cinla Akinci PhD Business and Management

Why choose this course?

The Surrey Business School (SBS) has earned international recognition for its interdisciplinary orientation to research and teaching in management and business.

What you will study

Staff members conduct research on substantively relevant and cutting edge issues that inform theory and practice in management and business. Findings from their research have been published in top-tier journals in the various disciplines represented in the School. A significant number of staff members serve or have served, on the editorial boards of leading journals in their respective disciplines. Colleagues at SBS have earned their PhDs at highly reputable institutions including Stanford, Harvard, Chicago, MIT, LSE, and others.

The School provides a collegial and an internationally diverse environment in which doctoral students can expect to thrive intellectually. Students are also integrated into the research and teaching activities of their respective departments very early in their doctoral journey. Students have access to office space, major business and finance databases (e.g. WRDS, Bloomberg), PCs, computational and statistical software (e.g Matlab, Mathematica; SAS, SPSS, Stata), a wide range of online research tools and resources, and an intellectually engaging community of doctoral students.   

Key research areas include:

  • Finance and Accounting
  • People and Organisations
  • Marketing and Retail Management
  • Strategy and Entrepreneurship
  • Digital Economy
  • Transformation and Sustainable Enterprise

The Surrey Business School offers a research-based doctoral programme that combines subject-specific instruction with rigorous training in research methods. The programme is pursued primarily on a full-time basis. However, in exceptional cases and subject to the agreement of the supervisory team and the PhD Programme Board, it can be pursued on a part-time basis. During the initial 16 months, students will take a number of prescribed subject-specific and research method modules while working closely with their supervisory team to firm up their doctoral research.

Students are initially enrolled on a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) programme and transfer onto the PhD programme on passing the confirmation examination. This examination is normally held after the 12th but no later than the 16th month of enrolment on the programme. The Surrey Business School PhD programme is particularly suitable for candidates intending to pursue careers in research and teaching at tertiary institutions.

Year one

Securing the foundations of your research

Students are required to take a mix of examinable subject-specific and research methods-related modules, and to closely work with their supervisory team. These modules will be assessed on a PASS OR FAIL basis. The objectives of these modules are three-fold:

  1. To equip students with an understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of social science research methods
  2. To enhance substantive knowledge in their field and related fields
  3. To understand and apply appropriate data analysis techniques.

Students will be expected to take a minimum of 6 modules spread over two semesters all of which will be delivered in blocks. Ordinarily, the first year runs from October to June. Students are expected to have their confirmation or qualifying examination within 12 to 16 months of enrolment on the programme.

First Semester

Philosophy of Social Science Research
This module aims to provide students with an in-depth understanding of philosophical issues that underpin social science methodology. The module covers the standards of scientific inquiry, assumptions that underpin research methodologies, the role of theory in understanding and explaining phenomena, framing of research questions, research ethics, and evaluation of research method and design choices.

Supervisor-Directed Module
This module is designed to enable students to acquire a deeper understanding of the substantive knowledge base and methodological issues in their research domain. Working closely with the student, the supervisory team will draw up a list of readings that the student must read and meet with the team regularly to discuss over a period determined by the team.

Quantitative Methodology 1
This is an introductory inferential statistics module that aims to equip students with the knowledge to understand and conduct quantitative data analysis as well as interpret the findings. Additionally, it covers questionnaire design and, scale development and validation. Students who have taken a similar module or have a strong quantitative background will be exempted. The supervisory team will recommend an appropriately advanced module as a replacement.

Qualitative Methodology 1
This module introduces students to the fundamentals of conducting and analysing qualitative data. Students learn about the varieties of qualitative methodology, interviewing techniques, observation, as well as the principles of inductive research inquiry. Students intending to pursue a quantitatively-based dissertation are encouraged but not required to take this module.

Second Semester

Seminar in Contemporary (Advanced) Subject-Specific Topics
This module aims to provide students with a broad understanding of contemporary issues and debates in their specific discipline. These issues may be of a substantive and/or a methodological nature. Departments are responsible for designing and delivering this module.

Quantitative Methodology 2
Building on Quantitative Methodology 1, this module focuses on application of statistical techniques to analyzing quantitative data. Data analysis techniques covered include factor analysis, structural equation modelling, multilevel analysis, cluster analysis, and social network analysis. With the consent of the supervisory team, a student may in lieu of this module, take a data analysis module (internally/externally delivered) better tailored to the skills and competencies required in their field.

Qualitative Methodology 2
This module provides students with a deeper appreciation of methodological issues in qualitative data analysis and a hands-on training in selected techniques in qualitative data analysis. This module is compulsory for students writing a qualitatively-based dissertation but optional for those writing a quantitatively-based dissertation.

Seminar in Academic Writing
The objective of this seminar is to equip students with the competencies needed to prepare their confirmation report and research papers in general. Topics to be covered include developing a research problem, conducting a literature review, choosing a theoretical framework, and research design.

Board of Doctoral Studies
The Board of Doctoral Studies meets twice a year to assess the progression of students on the programme. Students who fail any of the assessed modules will be given an opportunity to resubmit their paper for reassessment. Those who fail a reassessed paper will not be allowed to continue to confirmation. Instead, they will be offered an MPhil pathway as will those who fail the confirmation examination.

Students who pass all their coursework requirements will be permitted to submit a qualifying report for the confirmation examination. This report, which is essentially a PhD dissertation research proposal, must be submitted within 12 to 16 months of enrolment. While there may be some variability in the structure and content of the proposal, it must be structured along the format of a journal submission. Specifically, it must provide a careful and in-depth development of a research problem and statement of research objectives, potential contributions of the study, discussion and justification of theoretical framework(s), hypotheses development (Quantitative) or development of research questions and / or research propositions (Qualitative), and discussion and justification of research design and data analysis strategy.

Examination Panel
Three copies of the report must be submitted to the examination panel. This panel will comprise the candidate's supervisory team, an internal examiner, and an independent chair. The examination must be held within 6 weeks after the candidate has submitted their proposal. The chair will ordinarily liaise with the Director of the Doctoral Programme to decide on the venue and date of the examination. The candidate will have a maximum of 20 minutes to make an oral presentation of their work after which, panel members will take turns to examine the candidate on aspects of the confirmation report.

There are three potential outcomes of the confirmation examination:

  1. Pass with no corrections
  2. Pass with corrections (minor/major). Candidates who pass with major corrections will be required to submit a substantially revised version of their report to the examination panel. The panel will have the discretion to request the candidate to have another examination.
  3. Fail. Candidates who fail will be recommended for the award of an MPhil degree. To be recommended for the award, a student must submit a research-based paper to be assessed by an internal and external examiner on a pass/fail basis.

Year two

Implementing your research

Students who require primary data to address their research questions are expected to undertake supervisory team-directed research. Even if students are away from the university for part of this period, they are expected to maintain regular contact with their supervisory team. The second year is also an ideal time to spend a few months abroad at a partner university as Visiting PhD student.

Year three

Data analysis, writing up, and submission of dissertation

The overarching objective in the final year on the programme is completion of data analysis and writing up of the dissertation (traditional monograph or three publishable papers). Additionally, students will have opportunities to deepen their research methods training and acquire the competencies to prepare and submit research papers for journal submission. Students are expected to have attended and presented a paper at a major international and/or regional conference that uses a stringent peer review process for the evaluation of papers.

Data analysis workshops
Workshops on specific data analytic techniques (quantitative and qualitative).While these workshops are designed to provide students with more advanced instruction, they will also be geared towards rectifying skill deficiencies. The nature of these workshops may vary from year to year depending on the needs of students and may be internally/externally delivered.

Seminar in Research and Publications
This seminar covers the various phases of the publication process as well as issues in the management of careers in academia. It focuses on such topics as preparing manuscripts for submission, managing the revise and resubmission process, reviewing journal submissions, writing grant applications, and managing the demands of teaching and research in the early career phase. This is a non-examinable module but students will be expected to submit a journal submission-ready paper at the end of the module.

Year four (optional)

Writing up and submission

An optional year for students unable to complete and submit their dissertation at the end of Year THREE. Students must apply for a COMPLETING STATUS (at a reduced tuition fee) which must be approved by the Board of Doctoral Studies.  In accordance with University of Surrey regulations, there is a 4-year overall limit on the time to completion of the PhD programme.

SBS offers two models regarding the form of the doctoral dissertation. Students are strongly advised to agree with their supervisory team (at the start of their programme) which of the two models they intend to pursue.  

  1. Traditional dissertation monograph with a word limit as stipulated in the University's guidelines on doctoral dissertations.
  2. 3-paper monograph. The three papers must be of publishable quality and on a related theme (underpinned by a coherent storyline). The expectation is that at least one of the papers should be at an advanced stage of the review process at a journal on the FT50 Journal List at the time of the PhD viva voce. The monograph to be submitted for examination must have an Introduction and an Extended Conclusion.

Doctoral Examination
See University procedures

Applicant requirements

Profile of potential applicants
To benefit from the opportunities offered by the SBS PhD programme, ideal applicants must have the following attributes:

  • a high degree of intellectual development as evidenced in prior educational background/qualifications
  • a strong work ethic coupled with a willingness to take initiative
  • ability to engage in critical/analytical thinking
  • passion for a career in academia or research-related roles


Applicants must submit, together with their completed application form, academic transcripts, two letters of reference, and a personal statement. The personal statement must highlight their motivation for pursuing a PhD and the attributes (including prior experiences) that demonstrate their potential to survive the rigours of the PhD programme. 

Research proposal
Applicants must submit a research proposal of about 3,500 words. The proposal must provide a clear statement of the research problem demonstrating an in-depth understanding of the relevant literature, a justification of the importance of the topic, a discussion of the added value or potential contributions of the proposed research and a reasoned description of the research design for implementing the proposed research.

In addition to meeting our admission requirements, the offer of a place on the PhD programme is contingent upon the extent to which your proposed research aligns with departmental research clusters and/or the research programmes of one of our Research Centres.


SBS offers generous funding through a mixed of studentships, tuition waivers, and teaching/research assistantships. Students may also to apply for University of Surrey-wide funding opportunities. Students are normally funded for a three-year period.

When to apply

Students normally enrol in October and January. October starters must submit their application and supporting materials by February 16 while January starters by September 14. Applicants need not make a separate application for funding but must indicate whether they have external funding. Given the competition for funding, not all successful applicants will be awarded studentships. However, every effort will be made to provide some form of financial support to applicants.   

Further information

Please email:

Course facts

Qualification Study mode Course length Start date
PhD Full-time 36-48 months September, January

Contact us

General enquiries:

+44 (0)1483 681 681

Entry Requirements

Applicants must hold a good first degree (minimum 2:1) and a Master's degree in a relevant subject from an internationally recognised university. 

View entry requirements by country

English language requirements

Non-native speakers of English will normally be required to have IELTS 7.0 or above (or equivalent) with 6.5 in each individual category.

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 £4195 £16,000

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).