Education - PhD

Full Time, Part Time
September 2020, February 2021

Please note

This course and the information on this page is indicative based on the 2019/20 academic year. The final details for this course starting in 2020/21 may be subject to change and will be confirmed by the end of September 2019.

Our Centre for the Study of Practice and Culture in Education (CSPACE) is active in a wide range of research in education policy and practice, and engages in education research across all age phases, from Early Years, through Primary and Secondary Schools, to FE and Post-16, Higher Education and lifelong learning. Areas of interest in which staff are currently active include:

  • Assessment
  • Creativity
  • Childhood Studies
  • Early Years
  • Post-16 Provision
  • Education Policy
  • Music Education
  • Professional Learning and Development
  • Workplace Learning
  • Student experience in Higher Education
  • Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
  • Management and Leadership in Higher Education
  • Historical Research into education

We welcome applications in these and other areas of expertise in education.

What's covered in the course?

  • Research students in Education will join a thriving research community and be part of one of the University’s Research Centres of Excellence.
  • We offer supervision for study either part-time or full-time towards a PhD degree.
  • If you are accepted for a PhD, there is a University-wide taught course in research methodologies, and you will be assigned to a director of studies, and at least one second supervisor will also be appointed.
  • You will have access to a dedicated research room for postgraduate researchers
  • You’re encouraged to publish in collaboration with your supervisors and to take part in research conferences and events

This course is open to International students

Teaching Excellence Excellence Framework

Birmingham City University has been awarded silver status for its quality of teaching in the Government’s Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF).

What is a PhD?

PhD degrees are research programmes. They allow you to learn as you work through the issues associated with solving a particular problem. Each research degree student is supported by a team of supervisors appointed for the particular study. In all years of study, students will be required to present their work in meetings of fellow students and staff conducting parallel research.

Graduate Research and Teaching Assistant (GRTA) Opportunities

GRTA opportunities at Birmingham City University provide you with an opportunity to study for a PhD whilst gaining experience as an assistant lecturer on a funded four year programme.

Below are the current GRTA projects open to application for a September 2019 start. The closing date for applications is 23.59 on Wednesday 1st May 2019.

Project Title: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: professional practices, family experiences and social contexts (REF: GRTAFASD)

This is an exciting opportunity to undertake research in an emerging and under-researched and interdisciplinary area of special educational needs and disability in the School of Education and Social Work.

Contact: Dr Carolyn Blackburn 

Download this document to see the full project details

Project Title: Approaches to well-being in Birmingham schools (REF: GRTAWELL)

This is an exciting opportunity to conduct an interdisciplinary PhD study spanning the Education and Health fields to explore young children’s well-being in the context of one combined authority in England. The specific area of well-being to explore will depend upon the candidate and their field of expertise and interests.

Contact: Dr Carolyn Blackburn or Dr Kate Thomson

Download this document to see the full project details

Past research projects

Some of our past researchers have conducted projects in the below areas:

  • Technology in Early Years Learning
  • Teacher development and professional learning  in Secondary School
  • Transitions and transformation in Further Education
  • The observation of teaching in teacher development
  • Community and non-formal learning.
  • Assessment in music education
  • Composition in music education
  • Professional development in Higher Education
  • Non-traditional students in Higher Education

UK or EU students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
PhD Sep 2020 FT 3-4 years
Register your interest
PT 4-7 years
Register your interest
Feb 2021 FT 3-4 years
Register your interest
PT 4-7 years
Register your interest

International Students

Award Start Mode Duration Fees
PhD Sep 2020 FT 3-4 years
Register your interest
Feb 2021 FT 3-4 years
Register your interest

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.

All students

Applications for research degrees are normally assessed by interview using the following criteria:

That the Faculty is able to provide the appropriate supervisory expertise and resources for the proposed topic 

That the proposed research seems likely to satisfy the academic requirements of a research degree

That the proposed research is feasible in practical terms

That you seem likely to be able to cope with the academic demands of a research degree

Research phds blog

Thinking about a PhD?

Our PhD section is the place to go for application tips, FAQs, funded opportunities, helpful blogs and more!

Find out more

Research Practice

Your PhD will begin with a short course to complete a Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) in Research Practice; this takes eight weeks. Following your PgCert, your PhD will be based on supervision meetings, which normally take place fortnightly basis for full-time students and monthly for part-time students.


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

Normally a PhD journey begins with a research proposal followed by undertaking an extensive literature review on the topic and research questions identified. Time is spent developing suitable research methodology and exploring appropriate theory. Data is normally collected as part of extensive field work and enquiry.

The data is then analysed and discussed at length with conclusions drawn which relate to the originality of the work. A Thesis is produced as the result of the research which is normally 80,000 words. Towards the end of the journey the student undertakes a viva examination which is based on the Thesis. The Thesis and viva are both taken into consideration for the award of doctorate.   

For the first six months of your PhD you will undertake the PGCert in Research Practice, which is a taught and compulsory part of the PhD programme. You will meet with your supervisors and attend classes every week. This is an essential part of the PhD which will help you to get your research started and set you up for the rest of your PhD journey.

The PGCert programme covers literature review and research methods which are specific to your faculty. The outcome of the PG Cert will be a detailed and considered research proposal which will take you forward with your work. 

How the PhD is assessed

The criteria to be awarded a PhD is to make a ‘unique contribution to knowledge.’ Whether a student has achieved this is determined by a panel of experts, including internal and external academics. The panel will assess the student’s written thesis, and the student’s oral defence of that thesis in a viva voce.

Extracurricular activities

All PhD students are encouraged to attend a range of conferences and research meetings and workshops in their particular field of research.

PGCert in Research Practice

For the first six months of your PhD you will undertake the PGCert in Research Practice, which is a taught and compulsory part of the PhD programme. You will meet with your supervisors and attend classes every week. This is an essential part of the PhD which will help you to get your research started and set you up for the rest of your PhD journey. The PGCert programme covers literature review and research methods which are specific to your faculty.

Employment Opportunities

The PhD award from Birmingham City University is a well-established and valued professional qualification within the education sector. Typical careers include school management, working in further or higher education, or educational consultancy.

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:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Our Facilities

We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £260 million on new learning facilities.

As part of these plans, the University's Education provision will join the rest of the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences at our City South Campus in Edgbaston during 2018.

This is the third phase of the University's project to move all teaching and learning to two campuses, City Centre and City South. By moving our Education provision, we are creating a hub for the provision of public service contracts and professional development at City South Campus and improving the student experience with a stronger sense of community and more consistent support services and facilities.


In addition to classrooms, a lecture theatre, social learning spaces, an open access IT suite and cafe facilities, the new £41 million extension to our City South Campus offers a range of specialist teaching and learning facilities for specific subjects including science, design and technology, drama and physical education.  


All our departmental facilities replicate the school learning environment.

  • Art and Design
  • Design and Technology
  • History
  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Religious Education
  • Music
  • Drama

Not only are we investing £41 million in a new building to house the laboratories and teaching spaces needed, but we also plan to open up these facilities to benefit all students and the wider community. This will complement our existing sports facilities, which already provide a base for students to compete in activities ranging from rugby to.

Mary Seacole Library

The Seacole library, based at City South Campus, is one of the UK's largest specialist health education libraries. The facility offers an extensive range of range of information and reference materials set out in a relaxing environment, conducive to studying. There are comfortable seating areas, group study areas, a silent study area and private study rooms.

Computer Facilities

The Seacole building houses a large open access IT Suite which comprises of 96 PCs, printers, photocopiers and scanners. Our PCs utilise the latest Intel i5 core technology, all with:

  • Fast (unrestricted) internet connectivity
  • Ability to save files to USB, DVD & CD
  • Microsoft Office software
  • Research and statistical software
  • Storage space which can be accessed from any PC across the University and from home

Our PCs are also designed to support students who may have difficulties with reading and writing, featuring specialised software with zooming/magnification and screen reading capabilities, which may also be customised for individual student needs.

The IT Suite offers extended opening hours and is supported by a specialist Open Access Assistant during term time. In addition to the open access PCs within the IT Suite, there are 12 networked student PCs available within Seacole library.

Tony Armstrong Staff Profile

Dr Anthony Armstrong

Director of PGR Degrees in Education and Social Work

Tony's teaching and supervision commitments are undertaken at doctoral level which involves our EdD and PhD provision. He also teaches at Level 7 on the PG Certificate in Research Practice which is offered to doctoral candidates in the early stages of their research work. 

Tony worked for many years in the area of Initial Teacher Education and Continuing Professional Development for teachers with the focus on the Further Education sector before taking up his current post. He has also worked extensively as a curriculum manager and Head of Department in both Further Education and Adult Education

Read Anthony's full profile

Alex Wade

Dr Alex Wade

Senior Research Fellow

As part of the Educational Doctorate Alex leads sessions on 20th century Continental thought, particularly post-Marxist and postmodern writers such as Baudrillard, Lefebvre and Bourdieu, placing them within their wider educational and cultural contexts. Alex is responsible for delivering Masters in Education both within the University and in partner institutions, where his work focuses on environments of informal learning. With a special interest in academic writing and how it is achieved within institutions, he provides guidance for staff and PG students on writing for publication, conferences, and thesis writing and run regular workshops to assist with this.      

Professor Alex Kendall

Associate Dean Research and Business Development
Birmingham City University Associate Dean: Research and Business Development, Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences Jan 2011 -
University of Wolverhampton Associate Dean, Education Jan 2004 – Dec 2010
University of Wolverhampton Principal Lecturer, Post Compulsory Education Apr 2003 – Dec 2003
University of Wolverhampton Senior Lecturer, Post Compulsory Education Jul 2000 – Apr 2003
Rowley Regis College Senior Tutor 1998 – 2000
Rowley Regis College Assistant Team Leader for English 1997 – 1998
Worcester Sixth Form College English Teacher 1995 – 1997
Akademia Vzdlavania, Trdnava, Slovakia 1992 - 1993