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Built Environment Research Degrees - PhD

Currently viewing course to start in 2022/23 Entry. Switch to 2023/24 Entry

A built environment PhD can be a pathway to a career in a wide range of related professions, especially in management roles – or in the academic world.  If you’re already in such a role, the PhD is a major piece of personal development, developing new knowledge and building skills for your next career step....

  • Level Postgraduate Research
  • Study mode Full Time/Part Time/Distance Learning
  • Location City Centre
  • Award PhD
  • Start date September 2022, February 2023, May 2023
  • Fees View course fees
  • School School of Engineering and the Built Environment
  • Faculty Faculty of Computing, Engineering and The Built Environment

Overview

A built environment PhD can be a pathway to a career in a wide range of related professions, especially in management roles – or in the academic world.  If you’re already in such a role, the PhD is a major piece of personal development, developing new knowledge and building skills for your next career step.  Birmingham City University has been a major centre for built environment education in the region, and PhD study builds on our expertise and professional and industry networks.

We cover the major built environment disciplines including surveying, project management, facilities management, planning, real estate and civil engineering.  We are interested in interdisciplinary research building links to areas including engineering, computing, health, law and others.

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

A PhD enables you to follow a programme of self-directed, independent study, supported by experienced supervisors who are themselves experts in their area. We may use industry experts to support some projects, and others may be run in full collaboration with an industry partner.

The Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice prepares you for study at this level, as most find it a very different experience from previous taught courses.  Topic-specific training and support is identified and provided by your supervision team and other experts as necessary.

Although you will be developing as an independent researcher, you will be supported both by your supervisors and the wider research community in the School, Faculty and University. There are regular opportunities for you to present and share your work with other research students and staff.

Why Choose Us?

  • Expert staff supervisors, keen to help their students succeed
  • Excellent links with industry and built environment professions, both to support your research and your career progression
  • Research grounded in traditional built environment subjects but also keen to build cross-discipline links to shape the future built environment
  • Encouragement and support for you to publish your work
  • Opportunities to support and teach other students, including bringing your new research into their education
  • A range of specialist software, facilities and working environments tailored to specific project needs

Studying with us during the Covid-19 pandemic

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses. Should the impact of the pandemic continue in future years, any additional or alternative arrangements put in place by the University will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

Open Days

Join us for an on-campus Open Day where you'll be able to explore our campus and facilities in person. You'll be able to hear more about your chosen subject area from our academics.

Register your interest

Research Interests

Current interests

Our built environment research is wide ranging.  Our work in construction plant and machinery had four-star, world leading, impact. We are developing new approaches to Building Information Modelling (BIM) including applications to heritage buildings. We have developed ‘serious games’ for public consultation and training in planning and environmental management, which have been used by government, local authorities, schools and other agencies. We have a world-leading reputation in urban form and post-catastrophe reconstruction. We are developing new construction materials and techniques such as timber laminates. We are working on building energy use and management. 

Current interests

We welcome enquiries relating to the built and natural environment, including planning, development, real estate, civil engineering, surveying, facilities management, conservation, and urban form and history.

We find it most effective to work with inquirers to focus their research ideas before a formal application is made.  You can contact either individual staff or the School's Director of Research Degrees, Professor Peter Larkham.

Areas of research in which staff are currently active include:

  • Digital built environment including BIM (Building Information Management)
  • Renewable energy, energy management in buildings, customer energy management behaviour
  • Nano-fluids and heat transfer
  • Sustainable and innovative materials for construction
  • Construction waste management
  • Automation in construction
  • Water management, urban drainage systems and flood resilience
  • Real estate – property and asset management, risk
  • Planning and development law
  • Urban change: post-catastrophe reconstruction, urban form, conservation and design
  • Spatial planning including stakeholder engagement, crowdsourcing, placemaking
  • Using games to foster social learning and engagement with planning challenges
  • Facilities management including infection control in hospitals

Fees & How to Apply

Please select your student status to view fees and apply
  • UK Student
  • International Student

UK students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,596 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,298 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £2,875 in 2022/23

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,596 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,298 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £2,875 in 2022/23

Award: PhD

Starting: May 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,596 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,298 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £2,875 in 2022/23

International students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation (capped at 5%) or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £13,500 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,750 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • TBC

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £13,500 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,750 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • TBC

Award: PhD

Starting: May 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £13,500 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,750 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • TBC

If you’re unable to use our online application form for any reason, please email Research.Admissions@bcu.ac.uk.The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Applications to start this course in September 2022 are now closed, you can apply to begin in February 2023. 

Entry Requirements

To apply for our built environment PhD research degree you should have, or expect to be awarded, a Masters degree in a relevant subject area from a British or overseas university.

Exceptional candidates without a Masters degree, but holding a first class or upper second class Bachelors degree in a relevant subject area, may be considered.

We also welcome enquiries from potential PhD researchers with appropriate levels of professional experience.

We find it most effective to work with inquirers to focus their research ideas before a formal application is made.  You can contact either individual staff or the Faculty’s Director of Research Degrees, Professor Peter Larkham (peter.larkham@bcu.ac.uk)

Alternatively please send us an initial PhD enquiry containing your brief PhD research proposal (1000-2000 words), and/or any questions or queries you may have.

We will review your initial enquiry to ensure that your research proposal compliments one of our PhD research interests and if so we will ask you to make a full application.  We are unable to progress any proposals that do not have a clear and close link to our interests.

Additional costs

As each PhD is an individual research project, it is impossible to specify precisely what additional costs (fieldwork, travel etc) may be incurred. Any potential costs should be identified in your application.

Although the School and Faculty has some limited financial support towards the direct costs of research (e.g. attendance at conferences and workshops, etc.) this is allocated on a competitive basis and you may need to supplement this. 

Course in Depth

A day in the life of a PhD student

If you're considering doing a PhD there's probably a lot of questions going through your mind: how am I going to pay for it? Should I quit my job? Will I cope with the workload? But most importantly, what is it really like? Karen Patel, a full time PhD student, shares her experiences of juggling life, a part time job and her studies. Read more in Karen's blog.

The PhD Journey

Full-time students are expected to complete within 3-4 years, whilst part-time students may take 4-7 years. In your first year (two years for PT students) you will spend time reviewing the field, refining your research proposal and projected plan, and developing key topic-specific research skills. You will be supported in this through attendance at the Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice, which runs for the first semester of your studies.

Your progress is reviewed every 6 months, with alternating ‘light-touch’ written reviews with your supervisors and annual reviews involving a written paper, presentation and interview with an independent panel of experienced supervisors.

Your second year (years 3 and 4 for PT students) is likely to be spent undertaking in-depth research (data collection and analysis) in your chosen area, with the third year (years 5-6 for PT students) involving writing up your results and presenting them in a suitable format (usually a written thesis of some 80,000 words).

Once you have submitted your thesis the examiners usually need 6-8 weeks to read it before the viva (oral) examination, after which there is likely to be a period for corrections / rewriting before successful completion and award of your PhD.

Throughout your studies we aim to develop your research skills, and support you in presenting your work through publication and conferences. We expect your participation in the range of research-related activities within the Faculty, contributing to building our research community. You many get opportunities to teach and support other students. We also encourage you to think of your career path and development in the longer term, as well as the first post-PhD job.

Modes of Study

Our PhD programmes are offered full-time or part-time. These modes of study ensure that we can create a PhD research plan around your lifestyle needs, even if you are in full-time employment or overseas.

Full-time PhD Research: three to four years

As a full-time PhD research student we expect you to spend much of your time using facilities on campus and contributing to our research culture.  You may spend periods of time away from campus collecting data (‘fieldwork’ on site or using libraries and other facilities). You will usually spend at least 37 hours per week engaged in research.

You will usually spend at least 37 hours per week engaged in research.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 36-43 months.

Part-time PhD Research: four to seven years

You would choose part-time PhD research if you opt to study while in employment or if full-time study is impractical.

You will be encouraged to use the campus facilities and attend research events when you can and may often work from home.  Electronic contact with supervisors is possible but face-to-face contact has great benefits.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 48-72 months.

How the PhD is assessed

Your progress is reviewed every 6 months, with alternating ‘light-touch’ written reviews with your supervisors and annual reviews involving a written paper, presentation and interview with an independent panel of experienced supervisors.  The annual reviews will assess whether you continue with your PhD studies, or whether lack of progress means that you should transfer to an MPhil, or withdraw from your study.

Once you have submitted your thesis the examiners usually need 6-8 weeks to read it before the viva (oral) examination. The viva commonly lasts between 1 and 3 hours and questions can be wide-ranging about your research, how it fits into your discipline, and its contribution to knowledge and impact.  The examiners’ recommendation is based on a combination of the thesis and viva performance.

Following the viva there is likely to be a period for corrections / rewriting before successful completion and award of your PhD.

Employability

Employment Opportunities

The PhD is a well-established and valued academic qualification within the sector and is highly likely to enhance career prospects. For those wanting to follow a career in teaching and researching in Higher Education, a PhD is highly desirable.

Value of a PhD

The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is recognised worldwide and is often an essential requirement for those wishing to follow an academic or research career in industry or commerce. Our built environment PhD research degree has been designed to help you achieve a career in one of the wide range of built environment disciplines – surveying, real estate, civil engineering, planning and others – in industry, research or academia.

For some jobs a PhD is virtually a necessity – in the academic world, for example.  In many professional roles it is an indicator of personal commitment, critical and creative thinking, personal management and ability to work with and even manage others, and is a step to promotion and higher-level, often managerial, roles.

After the PhD

From the very start of your PhD journey we encourage you to think about what happens after you graduate: how the PhD will contribute to your career plan from identifying and getting your first job to beyond.  We use the VITAE research career development framework to help you plan for your future.

Industry links

We have close links to a wide range of organisations in the built environment industries and professions. PhD students have benefited from these links in, for example, PhD funding (for example the developer Willmott Dixon funded a PhD bursary, and provided access to data and senior staff, for a study of BIM and the University’s new Parkside building) and access to key individuals and data (the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Royal Institute of Town Planning have been helpful at both regional and national levels).

Placements

Some PhD topics may allow you the opportunity to work with other institutions and companies as part of your research.  This could be as a placement, but this is rare for our PhDs – agreements to work with a company to collect data are much more common. 

Occasionally, external funding or contacts have provided placement opportunities not directly related to the PhD research: while these contribute to your knowledge, skills and CV, they do interrupt your studies.

You can discuss your options with your potential supervisors, if you feel a placement would benefit your research. 

International

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Facilities & Staff


Our Facilities

The facility our students value most is not actually on campus, but is the location of the campus in the heart of Birmingham’s Eastside opposite the new High Speed 2 station construction, and minutes from dozens of fascinating live projects within the city centre.

Birmingham as it changes constantly on our doorstep really is our ‘living lab’. By simply looking out the window of our classrooms you’ll be able to witness live projects as they’re happening around us. You’ll constantly be inspired by dozens of fascinating case studies just from walking from the station to the campus.

The facilities on offer to our students reflect the work environment you will enter as you start your career. Learn more about what we have to offer below.

Software

Recognising the rapidly evolving digital built environment we are constantly reviewing software to best fit with the professions of the future.

Autodesk Accredited Centre Status, we use the latest integrated building modelling software across undergraduate courses, seeing Architectural Technology, Building Surveying, Construction Management, Property Development and Planning and Quantity Surveying students engaging in cross discipline information management projects modelling real life experience. Accredited Centre status allowing all students licence to download this software, and making available additional qualifications and certification to those demonstrating expertise and dedication to exploring their own and the limits of the Autodesk environment.

At course level, students engage with the latest and most appropriate software for their future professions. Real Estate students with CoStar, the leading industry database supporting valuations. Quantity Surveyors using Blue Beam, Revu and QS Pro, and along these Quantity Surveyors and Construction Managers use Synchro and Navisworks for 4D and CostX for 5D work. For Building Surveying and Architectural Technology routes, visualisation is important where Enscape, V-Ray Lumion and Sketch-up are available.

Built Environment Space in Millennium Point

The Built Environment Space in Millennium Point is available to all students with a huge resource of software-equipped laptops for loan on campus. For off campus working, much of the software we use comes with free student licences and all students will have access to the Windows Virtual Desktop, allowing access to our range of software from anywhere where the internet is available.

The Studio Space that we've created in Millennium Point is an open workspace where students can work on their design projects. We have all student work and examples that will change every week or month depending on what stage of a project we're at. And it's an open space for working on projects.

This is where our Architectural Technology students and our Building Surveying students in particular, spend a lot of their time.

Concrete and Hydraulics Labs

Our dedicated Civil Engineering facilities include a Hydraulics & Structures lab Concrete & Geotechnics lab as well as a bending rig.

The swollen concrete lab and hydraulics lab are the heart of our Civil Engineering course, where we have a range of test equipment. This is where our students can carry out experimental work as part of their course, either as part modules or using those labs to work on their final year project.


Built Environment facilities