School of Education

Research degrees

We are one of the leading Education departments in the UK, with an excellent reputation for research and teaching. We are active in a wide range of research projects across our research interests, and in recent years we have been successful in obtaining research funds from a variety of local, national and international funding bodies.

Our PhD is designed to equip professional educators with a wide range of research skills, knowledge, understanding and expertise in their chosen field of research. We offer:

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We offer a campus-based or practice-based PhD in Education, and we also offer a PhD by distance learning, ideal for those based away from Leicester or those who wish to combine studying for a research degree with their professional and personal commitments.

The information on these pages applies both to our campus-based PhD and our distance learning PhD, except where specified.

Education PhD

Research training

During each year of study as a full-time doctoral student, the University provides dedicated days of targeted training in general research and transferable skills. Training days run by the Student Learning Centre focus on areas such as:

  • Effective writing and presentation skills
  • Teamwork
  • Presenting research at conferences
  • Preparing for interviews

The University bases such training closely on the recommendations and priorities of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), and the Postgraduate Training Guidelines of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Full-time doctoral students attend termly day conferences on educational research, and are also expected to attend relevant training provided within the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. This taught provision is also available to locally-based part-time students. In addition, PhD students are also encouraged to attend the doctoral summer school.

Part-time doctoral students are provided with some of their training through online materials held on the Blackboard site run by the School of Education and by online courses provided by the University's Student Learning Centre. They are also entitled to attend any classes being offered to full-time students when visiting the University.

PhD students based overseas are encouraged to come to Leicester for face-to-face tutorials with their supervisor and, if possible, to arrange their visits to coincide with the doctoral summer school or other events at the School of Education.

Student support

Every research student has a main and second supervisor. Your progress will be carefully monitored by a Thesis Committee made up of the main and second supervisor, and the School’s Postgraduate Research Tutor or nominee. Your main and second supervisor also work out an appropriate research training plan in negotiation with you, taking into account your particular needs and priorities.

The University’s David Wilson Library provides an excellent and ever-expanding range of both on-site and electronically-accessible resources for all research students, whether full-time or part-time. It also houses a dedicated area for postgraduates and research students. The School of Education provides well-equipped workrooms for doctoral students, open-access computer rooms, and a Doctoral Studies Blackboard site for online support. This is complemented by online resources provided by the University's Student Learning Centre.

Probation review

PhD research students are registered on probation for the first 12 months (full-time students) or 24 months (part-time and distance learning students) of study after initial registration. Over this period you will complete your research skills training and your overall suitability for a PhD programme will be monitored.

At the end of this period your progress will be assessed and, subject to this being satisfactory, you can then continue with your degree.

You will be required to visit Leicester both for your probation review and for your viva exam at the end of your degree.

Practice-based PhD

Our practice-based PhD allows you to carry out workplace-based research and to submit a practice component along with a shorter thesis, in place of the traditional 80,000 word PhD thesis.

The practice component can take a variety of forms, e.g. a creative artefact, model, digital resources, programme, etc.

The details will be agreed with supervisors within six months of registration for full-time students or twelve months for part-time students.

Examples of practice-based doctoral study inquiries

Below are a few examples of the sort of inquiries that lend themselves to practice-based doctoral study:

  • Developing classroom pedagogies in your subject area
  • Devising programmes for Continuing Professional Development
  • Implementing a training programme for student teachers or early career teachers
  • Developing researcher capacity in schools
  • Devising a course/textbook

Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.


If you are interested in a practice-based PhD, please take a look at our supervisors' areas of expertise and make contact with us to discuss your ideas.

In the first instance, please contact Education's Doctoral Studies Office (

Why Leicester?

As a research degree student at Leicester you are a part of a vibrant research community. Campus-based doctoral students run their own thriving research methods discussion group. Our annual summer school brings together doctoral students from all over the world, and students present and discuss their work at our annual postgraduate research conference. The conference is a highlight of the year, buzzing with ideas and animated discussion.

In addition to events tailored to doctoral students, postgraduate students are welcomed at discussion and research events led by academic staff, including our 'Food for Thought' research seminars, our Special Interest Group meetings and our annual School of Education conference.

HEA Social Sciences developing pedagogies project

As supervisors and tutors, we also undertake research into our own practice. We are particularly proud that for the last two years we have been funded by HEA Social Sciences to undertake two key projects to develop effective pedagogies for supporting doctoral students. Our focus has been on developing doctoral students’ understanding of criticality through peer assessment. 

In the first phase of the project, students developed research posters, which they displayed in an online gallery. All participants engaged in providing formative feedback to other students, and then developed and improved their own posters on the basis of the feedback received. The improved versions were then presented in person at the postgraduate research conference.

Personalised academic support

Each doctoral student is allocated a main and a secondary supervisor, with expertise and scholarship in an area relevant to the student's research focus. Students and supervisors work closely together to identify the research issue to be investigated and to develop the project and the thesis. Before applying, you are advised to familiarise yourself with the areas of expertise offered by our team of supervisors, and to ensure that the topic you are proposing is consistent with the specialist areas we offer.

University facilities

The University Library provides an excellent range of on-site and electronically-accessible resources for all research students, and includes a dedicated area for postgraduates. The School of Education also provides workrooms for doctoral students.

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