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Engineering Research Degrees - PhD

  • Course Code: PR0110 (Full Time) PR0153 (Part Time) PR0169 (Distance Learning)
  • Level: Postgraduate Research
  • Starting: February 2022, May 2022
  • Study mode: Full Time, Part Time, Distance Learning
  • Location: City Centre

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Any arrangements put in place by the University for the 2021/22 academic year will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

An engineering PhD can be a pathway to a career in a wide range of related jobs, including 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. Your engineering PhD study builds on our expertise and professional and industry networks.

We cover the major aspects of mechanical and electronic engineering and civil engineering. We are interested in interdisciplinary research building links to areas including the built environment, computing, health, law and others.

What's covered in the 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, both to support your research and your career progression
  • Research grounded in traditional areas of engineering but also keen to build cross-discipline links to shape future materials, technologies and products
  • 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 labs/workshops, software, facilities and working environments tailored to specific project needs

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.

Our engineering staff work collaboratively with business, industrial and academic partners to develop ‘real world’ applied solutions across a range of themes. Currently we are engaged on research projects developing a new generation of robust sensors, inclusive autonomous transport systems, autonomous robotics and drones, and sensor sensor networks (IOT).

Staff are also actively engaged in the development of advanced manufacturing systems to deliver lightweight vehicles, cost effective metal forming processes and sustainable systems. A key aspect of this work is its connection to industry and business which is also addressed by our logistics and supply chain team.

Current interests

We welcome enquiries relating to mechanical, electronic and civil engineering.  Current research degrees in Mechanical and Electronic Engineering are focused on, Automotive Engineering including autonomous vehicles and drones, Sensors including IOT (Internet Of Things), Manufacturing including sustainability and logistics and supply chain management.

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:

  • Nano-fluids and heat transfer
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Sensors and remote health monitoring
  • Fluid and structure mechanics
  • Multiphysics fluid structure interaction (FSI)
  • Numerical modelling such as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) and Finite Element Analysis (FEA)
  • Non-linear control of fluid flow
  • Knowledge-based engineering
  • Wind engineering
  • Microfluidics
  • Nano-medicine
  • Urban drainage systems
  • Hydrological performance
  • Fibre reinforced composites
  • Polymer science
  • Product life cycle assessment

Past projects

Research projects our researchers have completed in the past are:

  • A Technology Selection Framework for Virtual Design Engineering Automation (Shiva Babu)
  • Experimental and Computational Analysis of Oil Flow in Cooling Galleries of Diesel Engine Pistons (Jens Lahr)
  • Design study of a horizontal axis tidal turbine blade (Siddharth Kulkarni)
  • An origami based layered particle method for modelling ultrasonic wave propagation in liquid coupled medium (Mani Seethapathy)
  • UK students
  • International students

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,500 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,250 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 Years
  • £2,815 per year

Award: PhD

Starting: May 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,500 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,250 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £2,815 per year

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £13,200 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,600 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £8,250 per year

Award: PhD

Starting: May 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £13,200 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,600 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £8,250 per year

If you’re unable to use our online application form for any reason, please email 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.

Entry Requirements

To apply for our engineering 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 (

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. 

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 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.

PGCert in Research Practice

For the first semester of your PhD you will undertake the Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice, which is a taught and compulsory part of the PhD programme.  (Part time and distance learning students are encouraged to take this programme as early in their studies as possible, supported by a virtual learning environment when they cannot attend in person.)

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.  There are weekly class-based sessions but much of the work focuses on your own topic, so there is considerable overlap with the work you will be doing at the same time with your supervisors.

The CEBE PGCert programme covers the conversion to PhD-level study, the personal skills necessary to succeed, literature review and research approaches.  We also consider your personal research journey and career development.  It does not teach specific research techniques, which will be developed with your supervisors and via separate assessment of your research skills requirements. You are also able to attend any PGCert session in any of the other faculties.

Day-to-day activities 

Each doctoral project is unique, so each student’s day-to-day experience also differs. A typical day might include thinking, reading, analysis, writing, meeting supervisors, attending research events, or any combination of the above. Whatever the nature of your project, all doctorates require independent study and require you to manage an extended, self-directed research project that uses critical thinking to deliver new knowledge.

You may be collecting research data which, depending on your project, could involve running computer simulations, lab- and workshop-based fabrication and testing, interviewing people from industry or other product users, or working in libraries and industry facilities outside Birmingham.

You might also be developing your personal and professional skills and knowledge, as well as your PhD research, by participating in wider national and international research and professional communities, attending conferences and CPD (continuing professional development) events, and by contributing to the delivery of undergraduate and masters-level modules.

There may be opportunities to contribute to research projects run by members of staff.

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.

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 engineering-related industries.  PhD students have benefited from these links in, for example, PhD funding (for example a project with the Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron science facility at Harwell, Oxfordshire) and access to key individuals and data (work on aero engine design and materials with Rolls Royce). In motor vehicle related projects we work with companies ranging from JLR to Morgan Cars. We are working on autonomous vehicles with companies including Westfield Sportscars, Heathrow Enterprises, Fusion Processing, Creative Example and Conigital.


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.


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. 

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

Of the 90+ PhD students in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment, over 75% are from outside the UK.  Our supportive research environment is recognised and appreciated:

“The scholarly environment of the Faculty with international students from various backgrounds gave me the opportunity to interact with people from different cultures, thus enriching me and establishing new friendships.” Sherdon Niño Uy (Philippine PhD student)                                                                                                         -

Our Facilities

This course will be taught at Millennium Point at the City Centre Campus. We offer a wide range of technology to help you with your studies.

We have an ongoing strategy to upgrade and further develop our well-equipped laboratories. These plans are supported by global technology providers such as PTC and Technosoft. These two companies alone have recently donated more than £11 million worth of computer aided design, product lifecycle management and knowledge-based engineering software.

In addition, more than £750,000 worth of capital investment has been made in upgrading our engine emissions test facilities, environmental laboratory and thermodynamics equipment.

Test Cell Facilities

The key features of our test cell include:

  • 340 kW fully transient dynamometer
  • Full exhaust gas analysis both pre and post after treatment system
  • Ammonia slip analyser, EGR CO2, THC and non-methane HC

Exhaust Analysis

The key features of our exhaust analysis facilities include:

  • Signal Group Analysers in 3 racks with heated sample systems
  • Sierra BG-3 particulate mini-tunnel
  • AVL 415S smoke meter

Environmental Lab

The environmental lab is part of the Centre for Low Carbon Research (CLCR) and is home of the bioenergy and bioprocessing research group at the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment.

The suite is divided into three main areas a wet lab/pilot facility a fully equipped analytical suite and a microbiological lab. This newly refurbished facility offers state of the art analysis and testing of environmental samples as well as scientific evaluation of lab scale and pilot scale technologies and processes.

More about our facilities

Staff expertise

Professor Peter Larkham is the School's Director of Research Degrees as well as being Professor of Planning specialising in urban change and post-war reconstruction.  He has supervised over 15 PhDs and MPhils, and examined nearly 30 – so is well placed to advise potential applicants.

Each PhD student has a supervision team (normally a Director of Study and a second supervisor) who have both experience of supervising research degrees through to completion, and the necessary subject-specific expertise.  Therefore every member of our academic staff is a potential research degree supervisor because they will be contributing as part of a team.

Professor Peter Larkham

Professor of Planning

A Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Historical Society, Peter teaches on postgraduate courses in built environment subjects, and has contributed to a number of academic journal papers and other publications. He also supervises at PhD level.

Millennium Point

Engineering PhD students are based in Millennium Point, part of the University’s new City Centre campus.  Millennium Point itself is a flexible and fast-changing space, frequently adapted to meet changing educational needs.  We have a range of flexible study spaces, workshops, laboratories etc.

Millennium Point also houses Thinktank (the city’s museum of science and technology), and the surrounding district is also changing extremely rapidly – the Birmingham terminus of the HS2 line is immediately opposite, providing an excellent laboratory for a wide range of engineering applications and civil engineering over the next decade and more.