PhD and MPhil in Education

Our research students form a very active and varied group of researchers in Education from many different parts of the world and professional backgrounds. These researchers are supported by staff from one of the most successful and eminent Schools of Education in the United Kingdom. The quality of our research degrees is greatly influenced by the quality of our overall research activity which was recognised in the most recent RAE with the award of a Grade 5.

Routes to a PhD

The ‘1 + 3’ route

PhD StudentThe most appropriate route for students wishing to work for a PhD is the 4yr PhD. On registration students follow the MSc programme: either on-campus or as a distance student on-line, and, if successful, gain the MSc award before they begin their second year of full time study. During the first year they also work with supervisors to begin to determine their personal research programme. From the start of their second year, students concentrate more fully on their personal research, guided by their supervisors.

My supervisors were brilliant – very experienced but also wonderfully human. Sarah Turner

Some of our students follow the MSc course part-time over two years at a distance in their own countries prior to coming Exeter. This means they can continue to work while following the MSc and only spend three years with us in Exeter doing a full time PhD.

Other students choose to do their MSc on-line and then do their PhD part time over six years. These students usually spend the third year in Exeter to get them started and then go home to do the bulk of their research. They usually come back to Exeter at least once a year to meet supervisors and to do reading they cannot always do in their own countries.

The MPhil/PhD route

On the MPhil/PhD route students register for an MPhil and take the MSc research training modules. They also work with supervisors on a personal research programme. Successful students can choose to exit after 2 years of full time study with the degree of MPhil. However, most choose to apply to continue their studies to PhD by writing a conversion paper. If this is judged to be of an appropriate standard by a Conversion Board they then continue research with their supervisors, resulting after a total period of study of 3 to 4 years, in the production of a thesis. On successful examination this leads to the award of PhD.

The PhD route

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a research-based degree normally requiring at least three years full-time study, or four years part-time study, leading to the production of a thesis of approximately 80,000 words. This is the route for you if you already have strong and relevant research experience, have an advanced qualification in research methodology or hold an MPhil from a recognised institution in an area relevant to research you will be doing in the school.

If you wish to go straight into a PhD you will need to write a research proposal. Details of how this must be written will be sent to you when you request an application pack (see below about how to do this).

The Master of Philosophy in Education (MPhil)

The Master of Philosophy (MPhil) is a research-based degree normally requiring at least two years of full-time study, or three years of part-time study, leading to the production of a dissertation of approximately 60,000 words. In exceptional circumstances it is possible to convert from a MPhil to a PhD.

How we support your research

As you can see the programme is very flexible and it will be largely up to you to decide how you wish to follow the PhD programme. We will do what we can to advise and support you.

PhD StudentStudents can access further support for their research from the Graduate School of Education's Virtual Research Centre. This is an internet site and is available to all our research students wherever they are in the world. It provides direct links to the university's electronic library as well as recordings of the MSc lectures and interviews with staff about a number of topics relevant to your work.

Students working on-campus are supported by a Research Support Unit (RSU) providing 24hour access work space, ICT facilities and a technician. The RSU can also loan equipment to support students' research (e.g. laptops, video cameras, tape recorders and transcribers).

The student's main source of academic support is from his/her supervisors. Wherever possible students also become part of a general research group. Some of our research students create study groups which look into areas of inquiry which interest them. Most of our research students come to our lunchtime and evening seminars which feature visiting researchers discussing their latest work.


You'll find full details of funding available on our Financial Support page.

Further Details

For further details of these programmes and an application form contact the Student Support Office by completing this request form. You can also download the MPhil/PhD handbook:

If you have particular questions you wish to ask please look through the course handbook, if that does not help you then please email