University of Birmingham PhD opportunties

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is a truly vibrant, global community of staff, students and researchers. As a founding Russell Group member and consistent top 100 university, Birmingham is recognised internationally for excellence in teaching and research and provides the best possible teaching, research facilities and support services to ensure postgraduates reach the peak of their potential.

With a wealth of research opportunities to choose from, Birmingham has one of the most extensive postgraduate course portfolios in the UK enabling you to work and study alongside world-leading academics in a diverse, multicultural community of over 14,000 students from 150 countries. We offer opportunities to propose your own research as well as fully funded PhD projects.

Your research and career

A Birmingham degree will help you to stand out in the competitive global job market.

A Birmingham degree will help you grow and develop, boost your professional prospects or even change direction in your career. We were among the top five most targeted UK universities by top employers (High Fliers: The Graduate Market in 2022), and the University’s Careers Network know the skills and development required to make you a highly desirable graduate for employers locally, nationally and internationally. Whether you are seeking to stay in academia or use your research in industry, a degree from the University of Birmingham can help you reach your career goals.

Find a course and apply

You can apply online through course finder, which allows you to complete the application process at your own pace. Search all of courses though online course finder and apply directly through the course page:

Postgraduate Open Day

Our Postgraduate Open Day is the perfect opportunity for you to ask any questions about postgraduate study at Birmingham.

The open day gives you the opportunity to talk to our experts and find out more about the wide portfolio of taught and research opportunities available to you at the University. Our open days are back on campus! We hope to meet you there!

Book your place today to receive updates about our next open events.

Online chats

‘PG Learn’ is the postgraduate platform for live events, blogs and chat throughout the year, where you can watch subject interviews and presentations and ask Birmingham staff, current students and alumni questions about their own experiences of postgraduate study and the programmes they have studied.

Browse our upcoming events and register to receive updates about future online chat sessions that suit your interests.

View our prospectus

Learn more about the Birmingham experience by downloading our Postgraduate Prospectus.

Request a postgraduate prospectus now

Academic Units

For almost 100 years, Birmingham Law School has led the way in legal education and research. One of the world’s finest law schools, our research contributes not only to the legal profession, but also to business, governance, public policy, NGOs, and the arts, as well as to the discipline of law. Our research is recognised on a global stage, and our academics are frequent participants in legal debates and contribute to the policy-making process.

The School has a wealth of expertise, particularly in the fields of commercial law, criminal law, criminal justice, judicial administration, European law, public law, human rights, international law, private law, restitution, conflicts of law, international economic law, comparative law, health and social welfare, socio-legal studies, and legal theory.

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Founded in 1900, the University of Birmingham (UoB) is a well-established institution, both nationally and internationally, that offers high-standard teaching and research in most major disciplines. The Times & The Sunday Times awarded the UoB the University of the Year status for 2013/14. UoB has academic staff of distinction (many recognised as international leaders in their fields) and attracts students of high ability. UoB is also one of the leading research-based universities in the UK; the breadth of research expertise is a distinctive characteristic of the University. To facilitate research, researchers have access to top-class infrastructure and benefit from the support and expertise of the Finance Office and Research and Commercial Services, when involved in research projects.

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The School of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Birmingham produces graduates who are creative, highly numerate and skilled at solving problems and delivering results. This is possible only as a result of our first-rate staff and our on-going focus on excellence in engineering research and technology. From nanotechnology to vehicle and aero-technology, our research scales the full range of engineering disciplines to support manufacturing industry world-wide.

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The Institute of Applied Health Research targets health burdens and inequalities across the lifespan locally and globally through two broad themes:
- population health and primary care research
- healthcare evaluation and methodology

We conduct research to inform practitioners and policy makers on novel ways to improve health. The Institute also has an extensive portfolio that we broadly describe as ‘methodological’, that would ultimately underpin the efforts to tackle major health problems globally. Our experts provide key inputs to a wide range of applied health and translational research in the University and beyond.

Research themes include:

- Biostatistics, Evidence Synthesis and Test Evaluation
- The Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit (BCTU)
- Child, Maternal and Lifestyle
- Chronic Disease Epidemiology and Management
- Health Economics Unit
- Health Informatics and Patient Reported Outcomes
- Horizon Scanning Research and Intelligence Centre
- Social Studies in Medicine

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Our researchers are world leaders in the areas of cell and molecular biology, immunology and virology. Our extensive research programme brings together scientists and clinicians to define basic mechanisms of cell and molecular biology, and then determine how the normal programme of cell growth and differentiation is usurped in cancer.

We are striving to use the knowledge we gain to develop new and improved treatments for a range of different cancers. We are founded on close partnerships between the clinicians and scientists working within the University of Birmingham and the Birmingham hospitals. These close interactions accelerate our ability to perform laboratory studies on cancer patient samples to understand the basis of their disease so that we can then apply this knowledge back in the clinic.

Research areas and groups

We focus on both basic and translational research into human cancer, in parallel with studies of the normal mechanisms controlling cellular functions which become deregulated in cancer. Our research makes use of cutting edge tools in the areas of cell and molecular biology which are supported by expertise in genomics and computational biology. We are making significant advances into our understanding of the genetics of different cancers, including childhood cancer, and of mechanisms that replicate and repair DNA. We translate this expert knowledge into new and proven treatments for patients in our world-leading CR-UK Clinical Trials Unit.

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Immunology, the science of how the body protects itself against infection and cancer, and immunotherapy, the treatment of disease through the manipulation of the immune system, are arguably the most exciting areas of medicine at the current time. Such approaches promise the opportunity of controlling infectious diseases while providing more effective cures for diseases including cancer, common autoimmune disorders and allergies and Alzheimer’s disease.

Birmingham has a very strong history of immunology research going back 30 years, and with one of the greatest concentrations of scientists and doctors in the world is well positioned to make a world-leading contribution.

Our research spans many aspects of the immune system, from the formation of white cells within the thymus gland (a small gland in the neck) to clinical trials on patients with diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or viral infections.

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We are the only centre in the UK to have brought together, under the same roof, a group of world-leading medical and scientific experts in human ageing, trauma and major illnesses with the same driver: inflammation.

Our partnership between the NHS and University brings basic scientists, clinicians and patient partners together to break down traditional bench to bedside, bedside to bedside and primary care-secondary care divisions that have prevented a truly integrated, multidisciplinary, patient-centred approach to treating chronic inflammation and ageing, an approach highly endorsed by patients.

This enables us to transform the way these chronic, debilitating and life-threatening conditions are studied, prevented and treated. Patients often suffer from more than one chronic inflammatory condition and so instead of looking at them separately, we consider them collectively. In this way we identify the major common drivers of ill health that can then be tackled to improve overall health rather than treating each disease individually. By working side-by-side, our specialists not only learn from each other, but they are also able to provide a holistic approach to treating patients.

Our innovative work also takes in trauma – and we are at the vanguard of new ways to help patients of all ages to recover from serious injury.

We have won four Centres of Excellence awards in as many years, the MRC-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Musculoskeletal Ageing Research, the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Rheumatoid Pathogenesis, the NIHR Surgical Reconstruction and Microbiology Research Centre and the Scar Free Foundation. In 2016 we were awarded over £12 million for an NIHR BRC in Inflammation research. In total these awards bring in over £30 million of vital funding.

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Research within the Institute is diverse, encompassing fundamental science of model organisms to the biochemical and biophysical analysis of microbial components to transnational research on key pathogens of medical and veterinary importance.

A primary focus of research within IMI is combatting the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). By taking a multi-disciplinary approach involving genomics, bacterial genetics, molecular microbiology, structural biology and mathematical modelling our aim is to tackle significant global health-care challenges such as tuberculosis, pnuemonia, fungal pathogens, gastrointestinal infection, blood stream infections, and health-care associated infections. This work is supported by a Wellcome trust PhD studentship program funding cutting edge AMR research in collaboration with The University of Nottingham.

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The School of Biosciences currently has over 60 senior Academic Staff including 9 holders of prestigious independent research fellowships. There are over 150 postgraduates and 100 postdoctoral fellows.

The diversity that exists in Biosciences is mirrored in the School, encompassing a very wide range of expertise amongst academic staff. Research is organised into six research "themes": Biosystems and Environmental Change, Computational Biology, Institute of Microbiology and Infection, Molecular Cell Biology and Signalling, Plant Genetics and Cell Biology and Structural Biology and Molecular Biophysics. These are of international repute and have substantial research income from Research Councils, Charities and government bodies amounting to some £23 million in current contracts. The School received a Research rating of 5 in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise

You will soon discover that you have become a member of a worldwide research community. The School provides a number of mechanisms to encourage international research interactions. We sponsor your membership of a learned society, help you win support from Research Councils and Charities for attendance at international meetings and have funds to assist overseas travel and conference attendance. The Biosciences Graduate Research School, to which all our research students are enrolled, assesses training needs of individual students and provides opportunities for training and personal development.

We also run research Masters (MRes) programmes in Analytical Genomics, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Molecular Mechanistic Toxicology. Excellent students may be taken into the PhD programme after completion of these courses.

PhD studentships, which may be for three or four years include those funded by the University, the Darwin Trust, Research Council Quota/CASE/Industry/Committee studentships and by various charities. Research Council awards are only available to students whose permanent residence is in the UK or EU. A number of financial awards may be made to overseas students who are paying their fees themselves, to help support their stay in Birmingham. In addition, a number of Darwin scholarships in bacterial/microbial molecular genetics are available to graduates whose permanent residence is outside the U.K.

We endeavour to give prospective students a rapid decision on their application. Our policy is to interview good applicants after they apply and to make a decision of whether to accept, hold, or reject within 4-6 weeks of the receipt of a completed application form. High quality students put on hold will receive an offer of a place, subject to the availability of awards, confirmed by the end of June each year.

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Chemical Engineering at Birmingham
Birmingham has one of the largest concentrations of Chemical Engineering expertise in the UK, with an excellent reputation in learning, teaching and research.

This reputation is reflected in our RAE rating which shows us to be in the top five Chemical Engineering Schools in the country; 20% of our outputs were in the highest 4* category (highest-international, world-leading) and 45% in the 3* (high international) ranking.

Chemical Engineering at Birmingham combines teaching from lecturers who are global experts in their field, together with leading edge teaching facilities and laboratories to enhance the learning experience for our students. We also have strong links with key employers who provide projects and work placements for our students and regularly recruit our graduates, including Procter & Gamble, bp, ConocoPhilips, ExxonMobil, Cadbury Trebor Bassett, Unilever, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline.

Formulation Engineering Research
Our mission is to carry out research of the highest academic quality, which is novel, challenging and relevant to users.

Our strengths are in design and characterisation of microstructured products, and in heat and mass transfer, fluid flow, particle technology and materials engineering across chemical, biological and physical systems. We collaborate with world-class industry, and with leading edge engineering and science departments nationally and internationally.

Research is structured into four industry themes:
Bioengineering: bioseparations, cell and tissue engineering and bioremediation

Energy and Chemical industries: fuel cells and catalysis, reactions in supercritical fluids, reaction engineering and the chemistry-chemical engineering interface

Food, Health and Nutrition: research into structured foods, food hygiene and food safety

Speciality Products: particle and solids processing, structured materials; and pharmaceutical processing

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The School of Chemistry is a vibrant and dynamic department, with a tradition of educational and research achievements stretching back over a hundred years. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, all of our research outputs were internationally recognised, with over 60% being classed as internationally excellent or world-leading. After significant levels of investment, the School is now one of the best-equipped in the UK for carrying out research in the Chemical Sciences. Over the last five years, the University has invested more than £4 million in research and teaching infrastructure, and the creation of 15 new staff posts. More recently, research infrastructure has been further strengthened with significant funding from Advantage West Midlands, the regional development agency, and the European Regional Development Fund. In 2008, the School was awarded a further £6 million to create the Doctoral Training Centre for Physical Sciences of Imaging in the Biomedical Sciences (PSIBS). Taken together, the School is now well equipped to address the scientific problems of the 21st Century.

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We offer researchers the unique opportunity to work at the life sciences interface. Our research is based in the School of Dentistry, which is combined with Birmingham Dental Hospital in the city centre. The institution has the largest patient attendances in Britain and is the major dental, clinical and laboratory reference centre in the West Midlands.
We have focused our graduate studies activities in the area of research-based higher degrees, where you can draw on the training opportunities offered by working with internationally recognised research teams. This approach has been adopted because we feel that rigorous research training provides the ideal basis for development of the skills demanded by the modern clinician.
Our research facilities are first class and include modern, well-equipped laboratories in which a broad range of dental research can be undertaken. These are further complemented by access to specialist equipment elsewhere within the University.
A programme of infrastructure development has recently led to enhancement of cell culture facilities and a new molecular biology laboratory. Use of modern IT facilities is encouraged through provision of a specialist computer suite in which computer-assisted learning packages are available in addition to a full complement of other software. Specialist dental library facilities are also available on site.
You may study for a MSc by Research or PhD degree in a stimulating and well-equipped research environment. Our research teams bring together both clinical and non-clinical researchers in partnerships that provide the opportunity to link together a range of multidisciplinary expertise. This approach allows a particularly strong and supportive environment in which you can undertake your training and benefit from interaction with leading researchers.
You undertake formal training to develop the skills required within your research. While at the school you have at least one supervisor with whom you have regular contact, and who provides guidance in your learning and research. During this time, you are encouraged to present work in seminars and at conferences, both to develop your presentation skills and to make contact with other researchers.

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"Welcome to the School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, in the College of Arts and Law. This is one of the largest Schools in the College, and variety is our watchword. We offer one of the most extensive ranges of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the country. Our research expertise is equally diverse, and we welcome students and researchers from all over the world."
Professor Andrzej Gasiorek, Head of School

Research Profiles:

The School of History and Cultures offers a unique range of postgraduate research opportunities. It builds on the strengths of its constituent Departments: History, African Studies and Anthropology, Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology, and the Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage.

The School environment provides the opportunity to take advantage of new opportunities and directions in historical and cultural research and teaching. Each Department has top class research and teaching scores, supported by staff who are renowned in their fields.

As a doctoral researcher in the School, you will be part of the Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures (BRIHC). BRIHC aims to bring the School’s world class research to the widest possible audiences and provide researchers with opportunities to develop their careers and strengthen their research.

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A key part of the School is the study of modern languages, including French, German, Spanish and other Hispanic languages, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, and Russian. We are also home to one of the UK’s largest groups of internationally renowned researchers in the national cultures of Europe - past and present.

The School incorporates the Department of History of Art, which is located in the renowned Barber Institute of Fine Arts. This houses the Barber Institute gallery - an excellent and representative collection of post-medieval European art that is a valuable and convenient teaching resource for all members to use on a regular basis.

The School also includes the Department of Music, one of the largest music departments in the country, with a history stretching back to 1905. Its research community includes internationally recognised scholars, composers and performers.The Department offers its students prestigious learning environments in the £16 million Bramall Music Building to ensure a first-rate student experience.

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The School of Mathematics is one of nine schools in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. The school is situated in the Watson Building on the main Edgbaston campus of the University of Birmingham. There are about 50 academic staff, 15 research staff, 10 support staff, 60 postgraduate students and 600 undergraduate students.

The school conducts research in a broad range of pure mathematics, applied mathematics and statistics. There are flourishing research groups in algebra, analysis, applied analysis, combinatorics, fluid dynamics, numerical analysis and optimisation.

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Metallurgical studies at Birmingham date back to 1881 when the first students were registered for an option in Chemistry in the Mason Science College in the City. Thirty students registered for the first course. A separate Department of Metallurgy was created out of the Department of Chemistry in 1887 and this was consolidated when the College became a University in 1900. The Department moved to the Edgbaston site and Thomas Turner became the first Professor of Metallurgy in 1902.

At postgraduate level, we have a comprehensive choice of research degrees: MRes , PhD and EngD, with a wide range of generous scholarships available in all research areas. These research programmes are supported by outstanding academic staff, and a superb range of equipment and facilities. Most projects receive industrial support.

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Research in pharmacy is focused in the following scientific disciplines:

Pharmacy practice

We are involved in a number of research areas related to the safe and effective use of medicines, such as patient adherence to medicines, the rational use of antibiotics, reducing medicines waste, the prevention of adverse drug reactions, and pharmacovigilance.

In paediatric medicines, research spans the latent risks of medication system to children, problems in medicines supply between primary and secondary care, and the barriers preventing the participation of children in clinical trials. At the other end of life, research is focused on the pharmacology and therapeutics of end of life care in a palliative setting.

Researchers are also involved in the examination and improvement of prescribing, from the utilisation of prescribing indicators to the education and training of prescribers. Birmingham University is responsible for the SCRIPT West Midlands SHA prescribing project and research in interprofessional simulation-based training.


In collaboration with the West Midlands Medicines for Children Research Network, researchers in pharmacy are developing a research centre with a focus on paediatric formulations and biopharmaceutics. The main aim of this centre is to develop age-appropriate medicines for children that are underpinned by scientific principles and design.

Researchers are also investigating the development of respirable formulations and improving the targeting of such formulations to central and alveolar regions of the lung to enhance local and systemic delivery. There is a particular focus on the development of inhalable dry powders prepared by spray-drying, and the use of polymeric materials to generate powders that exhibit a modified drug release profile.

In addition, researchers are developing novel nanomaterials as delivery vectors for cancer and other diseases. The ultimate goal is the use of these delivery vectors for the efficient delivery and targeting of drugs to the site of action. Nanotoxicology is a further area of particular interest of the group in an attempt to develop safe nanovectors.

Medicinal Chemistry and Drug Discovery

Medicinal chemistry research within the University of Birmingham is an ever growing and thriving discipline. Current research interests in medicinal chemistry fall within the theme of the design, synthesis and development of novel small molecules that have the potential to treat diseases. Such molecules are currently being explored for the treatment of hypertension, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) and cancer.

Some of the current projects currently being pursued are:

Design, synthesis and development of small molecule kinase inhibitors as potential treatments of hypertension, glioblastoma and neuronal injury.
Design, synthesis and development of modulators of 5-HT receptors with novel mode of action and/or modified distribution characteristics.
Development of new classes of siRNAs as anticancer agents.
Development of a chemical toolkit to selectively control steroidal synthesis and signalling in disease-relevant cellular systems.
Building synthetic microtissues for drug discovery.

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The School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion offers a variety of forward-thinking postgraduate research opportunities.

The School is home to a dynamic and friendly community of staff and students, pursuing original research on a wide range of topics.

The School consists of the Department of Philosophy, which has a growing international reputation as a centre of excellence for research in analytic philosophy, especially in metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of language and mind, and ethics and ethical theory. The Centre for the Study of Global Ethics is part of the Philosophy department and was founded in 2001. It was set up to address the practical and theoretical issues raised by globalisation and was the first of its kind in the UK.

The Department of Theology and Religion is one of the largest and most diverse departments in the country. The Department is particularly strong on the study of religion in the contemporary world, including Pentecostal studies, urban religions, practical theology and philosophy of religion. It plays a world-leading role in research into textual scholarship, postcolonial theory, Christian-Muslim relations and World Christianity.

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The School of Physics and Astronomy traces its origin to the original Department of Physics which was opened on 1st October 1880 when Professor John Henry Poynting took office in new laboratories of Mason Science College at Edmund Street in Birmingham.

Staff are active in a wide range of research fields including Astronomy, Condensed Matter Physics, Molecular Physics, Nanoscale Physics, Nuclear and Particle Physics, as well as Theoretical Physics and Medical and Radiation Physics. Courses in all of these topics (and many more) are available in our degree programmes, which are taught by internationally recognised experts. Our teaching is well respected, having been awarded 23 (out of 24) in the last assessment.

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The School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham is one of the largest and most active Psychology departments in Britain, and is one of four within the College of Life and Environmental Sciences. The School comprises a large body of staff from diverse scientific fields, and has research activity across a wide range of topics in psychology, including biological, clinical, cognitive and perceptual, developmental, forensic and social psychology, and behavioural and cognitive neuroscience. There are 63 academic staff, 19 administrative, technical and support staff, 243 postgraduates and 650 undergraduate students.

The School has an excellent reputation for both teaching and research. It is ranked 6th in the Guardian league table for Psychology (2014) and has sustained an annual research income of £3-4M throughout the REF period. This income comes from research councils (BBSRC, EPSRC, ESRC, MRC), charities (The Wellcome Trust, The Leverhulme Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Stroke Association), the European Union, the NHS and Government Departments (the Home Office, the Department of Health), and from Industry. Courses at postgraduate level include: taught doctorates in Clinical and Forensic Psychology, and masters-level courses in research, neuroscience, Criminal, Clinical and Forensic Psychology.
The School has a wide range of technical facilities to support research including: 3T MRI scanner at the Birmingham University Imaging Centre, EEG and TMS and eye tracking facilities as well as a range of specialised behavioural laboratories and a baby lab. All PhD students are encouraged to acquire new research techniques and use the equipment available in the school. During the REF period 91 PhD students have completed their degrees. Our students are from diverse academic backgrounds and geographical locations, with 45 different nationalities in total.

We are a key partner in the University of Birmingham ESRC Doctoral Training Centre (one of the few single-institution DTCs in the country), and in the BBSRC doctoral training programme run jointly with Warwick and Leicester, and the MRC-ARUK and EPSRC PSIBS doctoral programmes. All PhD students attend courses determined by an annual training needs analysis, conducted with the supervisor(s), which provides training specifically tailored to the needs of doctoral students in our School.

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The School conducts world leading research in the sciences of sport, exercise, health and rehabilitation. Our mission is to address one of the key challenges facing contemporary societies: increasing the quantity and quality of lifelong engagement in physical activity to enhance health and wellbeing. We are interested in finding new ways to support the physical activity and sport needs of all individuals and communities ranging from elite athletes to young children, elderly exercisers, inactive groups and those recovering from illness or injury. Our School is one of the longest established in Europe for scientific research in this area. We were ranked first in the UK in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), with 100% of our staff entered in this exercise; 60% of our research activity was rated as being at an internationally excellent or world-leading level.

The School is able to meet students’ aspirations by offering research degrees across a wide range of areas from exercise science to sport coaching. We have expertise in both physiological and social sciences. Housed in state-of-the-art purpose-built facilities, we are expanding in size and scope both within the School and through our strong collaborations within the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, and with the College of Medical and Dental Sciences. The School also works closely with professional sports and practitioner bodies, and we have developed unique partnerships with, among others, the Professional Golfers’ Association and the Football Association. In this multi-disciplinary environment, students can gain valuable academic and employability skills leading to a wide range of career outcomes.

The School is organised into four cognate research/teaching groups within which it nurtures its discipline-specific scientific excellence: Exercise Physiology with Nutrition & Exercise Metabolism; Movement Rehabilitation with Motor Control & Physiotherapy; Sport & Exercise Pedagogy with Sport Policy, and Sport & Exercise Psychology with Behavioural Medicine. Research involves an interdisciplinary approach integrating the expertise and analytical skills of the School’s four research groups. Through our research and teaching, we contribute to five interdisciplinary themes:

• Active Lifestyles
• Effective Learning
• Optimal Performance
• Movement Rehabilitation
• Healthy Ageing

The School has a vibrant postgraduate research community with over 50 full-time PhD students registered. It is not, however, just the size of our postgraduate community that is important, but its quality. High quality is achieved through carefully targeted recruitment, supportive supervision arrangements, and by providing formal training in both generic and discipline-specific skills.

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Other PhD Programmes