School of Society and Culture

PhD Education

This PhD allows you to join a vibrant research community where you can explore a question about formal or informal education and learning that interests you, in-depth, with the support of world-leading academics. It can help you develop an academic career, deepen understanding in your professional field or keep your mind engaged and active in retirement.

Key features

  • Opportunity to join an active research network in the Institute of Education.
  • Designed to be flexible with both full time and part time modes of study available.
  • Comprehensive support from a team of dedicated supervisors.
  • Access to a wide range of courses focussed on the development of research skills and knowledge through the Doctoral College.
  • Specialisms in Children and Families, Inclusive Education, Learning outside Formal Education and Education Policy.
  • Research across all ages and in formal and informal contexts.
  • International students very welcome.

Entry requirements

To gain entry to the programme participants will usually need, or be about to gain, a masters degree or a first or upper second class honours degree in a relevant subject.
Other professional qualifications recognised as the equivalent to a degree and experience which demonstrates that the applicant can meet the challenges and demands of the programme are also considered.
Overseas students will need to demonstrate their English Language Proficiency and have an overall score of at least 6.5 on IELTS (with no individual score lower than 6.0) or equivalent.

Fees, costs and funding

Please visit the fees and student finance page for information about fees. This course is in Band 1 for fees purposes.
If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.
If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.
You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.
Please visit our postgraduate research: money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

All applications for doctoral study in Plymouth Institute of Education are processed via our Doctoral College. To make a formal application the applicant needs to complete our postgraduate application form which can be found here:    

With your application form you need to include two academic references, evidence of a minimum IELTS score of 6.5, if English is not your first language, and a research proposal.

Submitted research proposals should address the following questions:

  • What is the topic of your research,
  • What research question(s) will you aim to address,
  • What are your reasons for undertaking this research,
  • A review of relevant research literature in the field,
  • What data will you need to collect to carry out your research (do you already have access to your data source),
  • What are your proposed research method(s) and/or plans to conduct your research?
Your proposal must include a reference list and should not replicate work that you have already undertaken at masters or other level (although it can build on this work).

Learning outcomes

Applicants will normally be expected to reside in the UK for the majority of the academic year to enable regular face-to-face contact with tutors, except for periods of fieldwork overseas.

PhD students are allocated a team of at least two research supervisors who have expertise in your chosen area of study. You will be expected to attend regular supervision meetings and to conduct an annual training needs analysis with your supervisors. This identifies which training event, or research seminars, it would be appropriate for you to attend as part of your research training and professional development as a career researcher

Welcome from the PhD Programme Leader – Professor Jocey Quinn 

Educational research at the University of Plymouth is rich and varied. Underpinning all of our research is a commitment to seek to transform education experiences and outcomes for both learners and teachers.
At Plymouth we offer opportunities to engage in research that is relevant to current educational issues, both nationally and internationally; interdisciplinary; linked to strong local, national and international networks and partnerships; and supported by committed, expert supervisors who are keen to work with the next generation of education researchers.
I hope the information provided here will help you make an informed decision about whether you would like to join our research community. 
If you have questions or would like further information, please contact me
PhD Programme Leader – Professor Jocey Quinn
Research across these groups focuses on a wide range of topics, including:
  • Issues in leadership, management and policy in education;
  • A range of different learners: from children through to adults;
  • Learning in different contexts, places and spaces: from schools and universities through to online and outdoor education;
  • Enhancing the way that we teach and learn about core curricula subjects such as science, mathematics and technology;
  • The impact and influence of education: issues of transition, innovation and social justice;
  • The effectiveness of strategies and interventions in the field of education
“Studying for my PhD in Education with Plymouth has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing individuals. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet other like-minded people working on their own PhDs who were happy to advise and compare notes. I’ve had expert supervision and support whilst I’ve been studying and have had the chance to learn some useful transferable skills through the Doctoral College.”
Ciaran O’Sullivan
PhD Education 
Ciaran O'Sullivan

 - PhD Education

"The long journey of PhD made me feel like it was too short because of having an excellent research environment in Plymouth. Comparing cross-cultural outdoor activities in early years is my research interest, and the research was supported with an excellent supervisory team. I had plenty of chance to meet with people in my field as having opportunities and support to attend various events. After this journey, I got a place at a Turkish University as well as feeling proud of using the name of University of Plymouth as an alumni research fellow."

Mehmet Mart
PhD Education

Heather Knight - PhD Education

"My research explored the topic of racism in mainly white schools, using critical race theory, critical pedagogy and critical arts theory. It examined white teachers and pupils conceptualisations of racism and anti-racist education and explored the role of the arts for supporting anti-racist school practice in the south west of England. 

"The PhD journey was both a rewarding and challenging process that involved juggling doctoral research with family responsibilities and teaching. The opportunities, provided by the department, to nurture and support PhD students to engage in teaching opportunities were a valuable part of the process, leading to a part-time Associate Lecturer role during and after completing my doctorate."

Heather Knight
PhD Education

Doctoral supervisors

Coastal Processes Research Group Perranporth beach