PhD in Educational Research - Higher Education

This PhD in Educational Research - Higher Education is part-time structured programme that is undertaken through directed study and residential-based learning over 4 years.

Participants focus on their final research thesis from the third year onwards.  It is a well-established and successful route to a PhD, having been delivered successfully for over 20 years.

Key information

  • Overview

    The programme supports you in undertaking and completing a PhD in a way which employs these key advantages:

    • You study within a cohort of fellow participants who act as critical friends and an informal support network during the programme and, if you wish, a continued network throughout your career;
    • You are supported at regular residentials which enable your cohort to meet and socialise, engage in one-to-one tutorials and participate in workshops;
    • This support is provided by a world leading group of researchers/practitioners which gives you structured access to the culture of contemporary research;
    • Participants regularly publish papers from their assignments, allowing you to 'publish-as-you-go' on the programme; 
    • Module tutors give you detailed formative feedback on your work before formal submission, as happens when submitting a journal article. This formative feedback helps you to improve your academic writing very quickly;
    • There is ongoing research training which supports your work on your assignments and thesis;
    • You gain a PhD, rather than an EdD, from completing the programme;
    • When you come to campus you have the opportunity to participate in person in our extensive programme of research events.
  • Who is this programme for?

    To be accepted onto the programme you must have a current role in a higher education context. This role is very broadly defined – for example teaching, research, professional services; leadership and management, educational/academic development.  Please also check that you meet the entry requirements. 

    You will also enjoy this programme if you want to be involved in residentials at Lancaster four times a year, meeting and discussing research issues in person with other programme participants and with the Department’s specialists in higher education. Departmental research events are frequently timed to coincide with these residentials and so you will more easily be able to attend these in person.

    Current programme participants and alumni are from a range of higher contexts and roles from all the world’s continents. Some participants come from organisations which are not themselves higher education institutions but they have professional roles which support such institutions or do work which is post-school. Examples include educational work for zoos, the British Council and private bodies which deliver higher education in very specific areas of study.

    You will find that the participants’ mix of backgrounds, experiences and perspectives adds to your own understanding of the sector and gives you a rich resource of ideas for your own research.  

    Please visit our Recent PhD vivas page to see the range of thesis topics arising from this programme and our What our PhD graduates say page to find out more about recent PhD graduates across the Department.

    Alumni of the programme have gone on to occupy influential positions in the community of higher education researchers, managers, practitioners and policy makers.  For the 20th anniversary of the programme we collected profiles of some Doctoral Programme alumni and current students.

  • Course aims

    The aim of the programme is to provide an opportunity for higher education professionals to become autonomous researchers and to gain deeper and more critical insight into their own and others' professional practices and concerns.

    The programme's objectives are to enable you to:

    • design research projects, and collect and analyse appropriate data;
    • make an original contribution to knowledge in your chosen area/s;
    • produce written work suitable for publication in academic journals;
    • engage others with the outcomes of your research in order to maximise its impact;
    • deploy appropriate theory in a sophisticated way;
    • evaluate dispassionately the work of organisations in the higher education field, and the work of other researchers;
    • demonstrate research-informed leadership for sustained improvement in the higher education field.
  • Residentials

    On this programme there are four residentials per year of up to one week.  Attendance at the residentials is mandatory, and between residentials you are offered resources and advice so that you can continue your research and study in a structured way. We have considerable experience of e-learning in the Department and the Doctoral Programme is also well-resourced in this regard.

How to Apply

Please apply using the My Applications online system.

The next programme start date is 1st January, 2020 with the first residential starting on Monday 6th January 2020.

Maximum Cohort Number: 20

Initial closing date for applications: 30th November, 2019 (Applications received after this date will be considered, on a first-come-first served basis, until the Programme is full).

Candidates must be able to attend all the residentials during Part One of the programme (years 1 and 2).

Please note

To be accepted onto the programme you must be working in a higher education context.

To submit an application, simply create an account on the My Applications website. 

As this is a PhD by coursework and thesis we do not require a research proposal at this stage, but you should explain why you wish to join the programme and how you hope to benefit from it.

Alternatively, application forms can be obtained from:

Postgraduate Admissions
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Lancaster University
LANCASTER
LA1 4YL


Telephone: +44 (0)1524 510880
Fax: +44 (0)1524 510857
E-mail: fass-pg-admissions@lancaster.ac.uk

For admission to this version of the programme applicants should normally have:

  • a good honours degree from a British university or CNAA, and a good taught Master's degree; or
  • qualifications of a comparable standard from a university or recognised degree awarding body in another country.

The programme does not assume any previous research training but those admitted should normally have relevant professional experience.  Applicants should normally have at least three years experience of teaching, research or administration in a university, further education college, or comparable institution.

Language proficiency

Applicants will need to have an acceptable fluency in written and spoken English.


For students whose first language is not English, an English Language Test Certificate will be required, that is, IELTS Academic with an overall score of 6.5 with at least 6.0 for reading and writing.


Further information can be found at: English Language Requirements.

Fees and funding

The fee for each cohort is set annually by the University and represents the part-time fee for that academic year.  Once a student is on the programme the fee will be increased in line with inflation for each subsequent year of the course.

The course fee for:

  • 18/19 is £4,035 per academic year, for four years minimum, for UK/EU and £7,215 per academic year, for four years minimum, for overseas nationals.
  • 19/20 is £4,130 per academic year, for four years minimum, for UK/EU and £7,390 per academic year, for four years minimum, for overseas nationals.

Fees are subject to a small increase each academic year.

To help finance your postgraduate study at Lancaster, you can apply for funding from charities and other funders: further details are available on the Fees & Funding webpage.

Applicants from the European Union can read more information about Research Fees (from Lancaster University) following the 2016 Referendum.

When you apply you will need to indicate your likely source of funding for your fees. If you are not self-funding you should investigate possible sources of finance as soon as you can for the full period of your study. Many students have been supported by their employing institutions.

Find out what our graduates say about studying on our PhD programmes

Structure and modules

The programme is divided into two parts and has a modular structure. Each of the six modules as well as the final thesis is assessed.

Programme staff

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We couldn't find anybody that matched your criteria

I am a Lecturer in Higher Education, and my main research interests relate to three interlinked questions: how higher education as a sector (and idea) works, how organisations in the sector mediate policy, and how students experience and negotiate their time at university. I am particularly interested in exploring how these questions compare on a domestic, as well as international, basis. I have recently completed a project on social science doctoral training, and my current work investigates how being a student varies between different kinds of university in the same region - you can see details of the project here.

View Richard's profile

Research evaluation, Evaluation societies, Peer review processes, Societal impact (“Impact”), International and national research assessment frameworks, UK Research Excellence Frameworks, Higher Education policies, Research and innovation policies, Responsible research and innovation, Bibliometrics, Scientometrics, Altmetrics, Research governance, Evidence-based and evidence-informed policymaking, Health policy making, Research Utilisation, Public engagement, Mixed methodology, Qualitative research, Research networks, Social network analysis, Research visualisation, Text visualisation and Science communication.

View Gemma's profile

My research interests are closely linked to the work of REAP and my university role as Educational Developer. Major themes at present include:

  • Evaluation of Widening Access initiatives (OFFA)
  • Widening participation policy and practice
  • Inclusive teaching and learning policy and practice
  • Disability and transition to HE and Employment
  • Educational Equality and Social Exclusion
  • Educational Guidance See also doctoral research
  • Family Learning within school and community context

View Ann-Marie's profile

My research interests broadly concern higher education policy and governance, the political economy of higher education and the digital economy. I am researching the diversity and complexity of markets in and around universities, including the variety of actors that have entered the sector, their strategies, ways of working, and consequences for higher education and societies at large. I am also interested in the platform capitalism and phenomena like digitalisation, datafication and platformization of universities.

View Janja's profile

My research programme lies at the intersection of online education, higher education, and international education. Taking up sociocultural learning theories and critical approaches to the complex interrelationships between discourse, knowledge, and power, I have aimed to provide more comprehensive explanations of current online higher education, which has been increasingly internationalised. My current research projects focus on understanding and supporting academic and social experiences of non-traditional student groups in online higher education, including: international students, adult students, doctoral students, teachers and educational professionals.

View Kyungmee's profile

My research interests span two themes: education and social justice, and the nature of higher education. I am interested in inter-relationships between education and society, and between theory and practice. I have explored different interpretations of critical pedagogy, and particularly the ways in which conceptualisations of knowledge impact upon social justice. Much of my work is informed by critical theory, and I have a special interest in the work of Theodor Adorno. My recent work has looked at the nature of assessment and feedback the role of failure in learning including the relationship between conceptions of failure and social justice. My forthcoming book Assessment for Social Justice explores the potential to further social justice within and through HE assessment and draws on the critical theory of Axel Honneth

View Jan's profile

I have a broad range of research interests in the fields of higher and post-compulsory education. Over the years, these have included research into:

  • changing patterns of academic work
  • the nature of the academic experience
  • the development of higher education research
  • the history and meaning of higher education
  • alternative modes of study
  • the postgraduate and research experience
  • mature and 'non-traditional' students
  • comparative studies
  • patterns of participation
  • the role of learning in adult life

View Malcolm's profile

Contact us

Programme Director

Dr Janja Komljenovic

Programme Co-ordinator

Alison Sedgwick
E-mail: a.sedgwick@lancaster.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 1524 592685

PhDs in Educational Research