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Research Degrees

We are committed to providing both a stimulating and supportive environment for our research postgraduates. What differentiates us from other providers is the growing focus of many of our researchers on quantitative methodologies (random controlled trials, impact studies, etc.), intercultural education, the arts in education and the psychology of education.

We offer a number of postgraduate study options:


A PhD can be a major step in either launching your career or in reaching your employment aspirations. The Durham University School of Education PhD programme, consisting of both training and supervised research, is perfect for those graduates who aspire to an academic career in educational research teaching in higher education institutions or to positions of professional leadership and responsibility in the field of education.

Even though all PhD topics are different, all students will research a subject in great depth, acquire advanced skills in practical and intellectual problem-solving and critical analysis of theories and evidence, and contribute to an extensive piece of original work (a dissertation of up to 100,000 words) to the field of education.

Your research topic could relate to any aspect of the theory, policy or practice of education and may be drawn from any phase of education, including early years and post-compulsory education. As all doctoral students agree their topics with their supervisory team, the topic you choose must align with the research interests of a potential supervisor at the time of application.

While most of our PhD candidates study full-time, we also accept part-time applicants. Completion of the PhD usually takes three years for full-time study and six years for part-time study. As the staff research areas suggest, we can offer supervision in a broad range of areas. What's more, we welcome applications from varied disciplinary backgrounds, not just from those students possessing qualifications in education-related subjects.

We are looking for exceptional candidates who learn quickly, have the potential to contribute to the School of Education's vibrant research culture, and will go on to accomplish remarkable things in their careers. You will need to have a clear idea of what you would like to research and why, as well as an awareness of recent research in that particular field.

Applicants will normally be expected to hold a Master's degree or equivalent and should be able to demonstrate proficiency in research methods. The latter is most usually demonstrated by the successful completion of a taught Master's degree that includes substantial research methods training. If you do not possess such a degree, you may be interested in registering for our MA Research Methods programme, from which you may be able to progress to PhD study.

Exemption from the research training requirements may be granted only on the grounds of very clear evidence that a candidate has completed comparable research training elsewhere or has engaged in extensive, wide-ranging and high quality education research activity, usually reflected in a record of publication.


Research Masters by Thesis (MEd, MA & MProf options)

We offer three Research Masters by Thesis degrees.

The Master of Education by Research (MEd) normally takes two years to complete for full-time study and four years for part-time study and requires submission of a 70,000 word thesis.

The Master of Arts by Research in Education (MA) normally takes one year to complete in full-time study and two years in part-time study and requires submission of a 50,000 word thesis.

The Master of Professional Practice – Education (International) normally takes one year to complete in full-time study and two years in part-time study and requires submission of a 30,000 word thesis plus a 5,000 word portfolio of professional evidence.

If you are interested in undertaking a research degree which requires in depth research into a topic of your choice, but do not wish to commit to a full PhD, then one of these programmes may be for you. As with the PhD, your research topic will need to align with the interests of a potential supervisor - you can find further information on current research within the department on our staff listings.

Admissions decisions are based on your suitability for postgraduate research and the department's ability to supervise your proposed topic. Our minimum entry requirement for Postgraduate Research is normally an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) although evidence of research skills and/or experience is useful.

If you would like to discuss your application further or have any queries please do not hesitate to contact us


How to apply

Finding a supervisor before submitting your application

Prospective students should consider staff research interests and should make contact with appropriate members of staff to discuss research plans before making a formal application - please see staff profiles here People - Durham University.

If you have any questions, please contact our Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator at


You can apply for this course through our Durham University Postgraduate Application Portal.

You will need to provide the following documentation:

  • Current CV
  • a research proposal, no longer than 2,000 words in length (excluding bibliography), which specifies a topic of study, aims and objectives, proposed research methods and ethical considerations
  • two letters of reference
  • Bachelors/Masters transcripts and certificates (translated to English copies).

English language requirements

Applicants should also be aware of the Department's English Language Requirements and be prepared to provide evidence where necessary. Currently we require a UKVI / IELTS score of 7 (with no component under 6.5). If you have not reached this level, you can be admitted to study a pre-sessional English Language course, with the length depending on your current UKVI / SELT IELTS score (must be over 5.5, with no component under 5). The Department’s requirements are in Band B on this table, which also shows other language tests. 

What happens after I have submitted my application?

All postgraduate research applications are forwarded to us and will be considered as quickly as possible. If successful you will receive official notification of the outcome from the Student Recruitment and Admissions Office. We usually process applications within four to six weeks of receipt, although in some cases we do need to request further information. Successful applicants should ensure that they provide us with the required supporting documentation as soon as possible.

Start dates

We offer three intakes:

  • January
  • April
  • October 

Please apply at least 10 weeks before your chosen commencement date to allow us to process your application.


Visiting Research Students

Visiting Research Student applications are welcome following direct contact and agreement with suitable academic staff, who should be named on the application. Visiting students must submit an application as above and meet our standard entrance requirements as well as providing supporting evidence in relation to the benefits to be gained from the visit.

Visiting student applicants should be aware of:


Fees and Funding


Many students fund their studies privately, but there are opportunities for financial support for UK and overseas students through the ESRC studentships available via the University's Doctoral Training Partnership (NINE DTP) and for UK and overseas students through the Durham Doctoral Studentship Scheme.

The University offers a generous package of support to outstanding doctoral students for three years study for a PhD through the Durham Doctoral Studentship Scheme (open to students from overseas). The scheme is University-wide, and open to applicants interested in studying in the School of Education.

If you wish your application to be considered for one of the University’s studentship schemes you should give particular attention to the specific requirements of the competition and ensure you also indicate the scheme on the application form.


University Postgraduate Scholarships

Durham Doctoral Studentships

Information about tuition fees can be found here:  Tuition fees - how much are they - Durham University