PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement

This distinctive PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement (by thesis and coursework) is a part-time structured PhD programme that is undertaken entirely online, minimally over 4 years.

Academics providing modules and supervision on this programme are all internationally renowned researchers based in one of the best Education Departments in the UK. The Department has an established and excellent reputation for research and evaluation in Higher Education and in Doctoral programme provision, which has been running since 1995. The specialists in higher education research who contribute to this programme belong to the Centre for Higher Education Research and Evaluation.

Key information

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Introduction to the PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement (HEREE)

Paul Trowler gives a 4 minute introduction to the HEREE PhD

Find out more about how HEREE researchers’ work made a difference for them, their workplace and the world in our 10th anniversary year, 2023.

HEREE 10th anniversary

What our students say

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How to Apply

Please apply using the My Applications online system.

The next start date is 1st October 2024.

The cohort size is typically 30 or fewer.

The initial closing date for applications is 31st July 2024. Any applications received after this date will be considered on a first-come-first-served basis until the cohort is full.

Please apply using the My Applications online system.

As this is a PhD by coursework and thesis we do not require a research proposal at this stage we do require a personal statement and writing sample (see next tab for further information).

Please contact the admissions team if you have any questions about applying to study at Lancaster University.

Personal statement

Because this is a doctoral programme, we do not require a research proposal from applicants. However, the personal statement should contain the following:-

  • A statement of where you are currently employed, and in what capacity (this must be a higher education institution)
  • A statement of reasons for applying for this programme in particular;
  • Any evidence of achieving goals and meeting deadlines in a comparable area in the past;
  • Any evidence to indicate successful engagement in collaborative tasks (as this is an aspect of the programme's approach);
  • Any evidence of the ability to think and write analytically.

Applicants should normally have at least three years experience of in teaching, research or administration in a university, further education college, or comparable institution.

Writing sample

As part of your application we ask you to upload a piece of writing, in English, that you have produced in the past and that best demonstrates the following characteristics:

  • The ability to respond in a focused way to a specific question, remit or task;
  • The ability to express ideas in an accessible way;
  • The ability to structure a document in a clear and logical manner.

The document must have been produced by you alone. It may be something academic (perhaps for a prior qualification such as a Master's dissertation) or a policy document, a guidance document or some other form (perhaps produced in your professional role) which demonstrates the three characteristics above. If the document is accessible online you may also provide us with a link to it.

For admission to this PhD applicants should normally have:

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

Applicants must be employed (in any capacity) in a higher education institution, or in an organisation directly and mainly associated with higher education.

Preference will be given to applicants who have degrees in cognate areas (normally social science/humanities). In judging applications, special attention is given to previous performance in qualifications or projects that have involved doing research and writing it up in a timely and effective fashion.

Close attention is paid to the comments made by referees. Asking someone who can comment on your capacity for independent research and study as well as your ability to complete tasks to a deadline is extremely helpful. Having an academic referee is therefore very important.

The aim of the admissions process is to build a well-functioning cohort of people who, like you, are able to benefit from and thrive in a strong academic environment. You will be able to apply your experience, intelligence and previous learning to the task of getting to grips with research into higher education, producing a strong draft of a publishable article in the area within 6 months of starting the programme.

Applicants should note that the workload on any PhD can at times be challenging, particularly when combined with a full- or part-time professional role. This programme aims to integrate your research studies with your professional role, thus helping to mitigate this challenge to some extent. The words "research, evaluation and enhancement" in the title of the programme capture this professional/research integration. We provide a focussed programme aimed at producing publishable research very quickly within a highly structured framework of resources and optional activities. While some deadlines for producing drafts of assignments for formative feedback, and some assignments themselves, are flexible, there is no flexibility in the end-of-module summative assessment. This is because the programme is sequential: one module must be successfully completed before commencement of the next. The course is organised this way to ensure students stay on track to complete all modules within the necessary timeframe.

Language proficiency

Applicants will need to have 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.

Many students have published journal articles arising from their module assignments and theses.

Examples of publications arising from the HEREE programme

View a list of the PhD theses from the HEREE programme.

Examples of theses from the HEREE programme

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:

  • 24/25 is £5,410 per academic year, for four years minimum, for UK students and £9,670 per academic year, for four years minimum, for international students.

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 and 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

PhD in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement graduates

Structure and modules

The programme has a modular structure with three core modules and three support modules. All modules are compulsory and they are assessed along with the thesis proposal and the final thesis. Progression between core modules is conditional on successful completion of the previous module, meaning that deadlines of the three final assignments in Part 1 are not moveable.

  • Part One (years 1 and 2) consists of 3 core modules and two support modules that offer participants guided study in key areas of Higher Education Research, Evaluation and Enhancement.
  • Part Two (years 3 and 4) - participants carry out an original piece of research under the supervision of a member of staff and produce a thesis (45,000 words) with the benefit of a non-assessed resource module.

This programme is undertaken entirely online. On successful completion you will be awarded a PhD degree certificate confirming your status as "Doctor of Philosophy in Higher Education: Research, Evaluation and Enhancement" from Lancaster University. The mode of study is irrelevant to the final award.

Online and Distance learning

The Educational Research Department has considerable experience of supporting online and distance learners and we aim to make all our students feel that they are full members of the Department and part of the postgraduate community. Wherever possible we facilitate online participation at events and seminars organised by the Department.

All students have access to Moodle which is our Virtual Learning Environment. Many resources, for example, journal articles; required for postgraduate study, will be available online through the OneSearch facility offered by the Library. Additionally, the Library provides extra services for Distance Learners.

Visit our Computer requirements for studying online page for further information.

Rebecca Marsden is the Online Learning Support Officer for the Department of Educational Research and she can be contacted with queries about online learning.

The Academic skills webpages provide a wide range of online study opportunities across a range of topics. These include digital skills, referencing, research training and critical thinking.

Programme staff

The staff who teach and supervise programmes and modules can vary due to staff changes including research and other types of leave.