Department of Education

Applying to study for a PhD in Education

The Department of Education at the University of Sussex is home to a large and diverse group of doctoral researchers. PhD researchers, like their supervisors, have research interests that span a wide range of contexts internationally and they also draw on a variety of methodological approaches.

At PhD level we have 2 routes of entry:

  • The +3 route for applicants who meet our entry requirements and have sufficient relevant prior research experience. Most PhD candidates start in September although entry is also possible at the beginning of the spring term (January).
  • The 1+3 route for applicants who do not meet our direct entry criteria or who would benefit from additional research training. This is delivered through the Msc in Research Methods and progression to the PhD is conditional on successful completion of this. Candidates offered a place on the 1+3 PhD start in September.

Prior research experience

If you are applying for the +3 route and have previous, relevant research experience that you would like us to be aware of, please provide an overview of this in an additional document headed 'Prior research experience'. This should include brief details of research methods courses that you have taken and  research studies you have been involved with, including the methods involved.

Step One:
Checking the fit between your research interests and those of potential supervisors

We are keen to receive PhD applications in the areas in which we have specialist expertise and renown. You can check how your research interests and  approach relate to those of our own below:

Centre for International Education
NameSubstantive research interestsMethodological interests and expertiseExamples of doctoral studies supervised
Dr Barbara Crossouard Sociological studies of schooling and higher education in international and UK contexts; gender; citizenship; youth identities; curriculum and assessment Qualitative; mixed methods

- Access and retention of girls in basic education in Rwanda: An exploration of stakeholder's views and perspectives

- Navigating the 'new South Africa': An ethnography of 'born free' youth developing future aspirations in post-apartheid South Africa

- An exploration of the production of classed subjectivities of young people in elite schools in India

Professor Mairead Dunne Sociological education studies of quality; equity and identity in the UK and low-income countries; curriculum practices Qualitative; mixed methods with descriptive statistics

- Social class and schooling in neoliberal times: A Bourdiusean analysis

- Of bellies and books: Pregnancy in Mozambique school girls

- Troubling sexualities: Young people in the context of HIV/AIDS in South Africa

Dr Louise Gazeley The relationship between social (dis)advantage and educational exclusion and inclusion; diversity and equality as issues for teachers' professional development; parental involvement in education Predominantly qualitative. Also critical theory and accessing the perspective of educationally and socially marginalised groups

- Early Years professionals' understandings of poverty in the UK

- Case study of the formation of boys' learner identities in a UK secondary school located in an area of social disadvantage

- A case study of parental involvement in basic education in Ghana

Dr Linda Morrice Migration and development; refugee education; informal learning; integration; social identities; citizenship; refugee resettlement and structures of exclusion. Qualitative and participative methodologies, especially narrative, creative and life history

- The gendered impact of migrant integration policies in three regions of Belgium; Unaccompanied children and young people: Constructing belonging in community through learning

Professor Mario Novelli Education and conflict; global governance of education; education and globalisation; foreign aid and education Critical political economy approaches to education; critical discourse analysis; ethnographic approaches to research incl Michael Burawoy's 'extended case method'; rigorous and systematic reviews; participatory research approaches; community engagement

- A critical analysis of discourses of inclusion in education, and contributions to peacebuilding in South Sudan

- Post-emergency educational response in Pakistan

Professor Yusuf Sayed Education assessment and rights; quality; education governance and leadership; financing; international aid    
Dr Jacqui Shepherd Autism; special educational needs and disabilities; inclusive education and pedagogy; learning difficulties; transitions for young people with disabilities across education phases and into work, training and adulthood Creative methods; visual methods; imaginative approaches to research – mostly qualitative approaches.

- Inclusive education in mainstream secondary schools in Zambia

- The use of tablet technology in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) schools: Autistic spectrum conditions

Dr Jo Westbrook Learning to read; reading and comprehension; wider reading of narrative texts; multilingualism; teacher education in the UK and developing countries; socially inclusive pedagogies  Case study; qualitative methods; action research; ethnographic and participatory approaches; mixed methods; systematic and rigorous literature reviews

- Teacher learning communities in the UK

- Complementary education programmes and the opportunity to learn in the northern region of Ghana

- The sustainability of village LEAP (Literacy Educational Awareness Project) community schools in rural Sindh, Pakistan

 

Centre for Innovation and Research in Childhood and Youth
NameSubstantive research interestsMethodological expertiseExamples of doctoral studies supervised
Dr Liam Berriman Digital technologies in children and young people’s lives; marketing, economics and consumption in relation to children and families; children’s everyday and material cultures; sociology of childhood; youth studies; children and young people’s media cultures; children’s agency and participation; video game studies

Qualitative and mixed method research approaches with children and young people; ethnographic methods; digital and creative methods; qualitative longitudinal research

- The relationship between video games, history and alterity

Professor Janet Boddy Parents and families; parent and child health and wellbeing; parenting and family support; children in or at the edges of care; social pedagogy; cross-national research Qualitative and mixed methods approaches, including creative methodologies and qualitative longitudinal methods; research ethics; cross-national research

- The experience of transition from special school to mainstream further education for young people with autistic spectrum conditions

- Meanings of environment in children's everyday lives in India and the UK

- Narratives of food poverty over time: an action research study of arts-based group work

Dr Louise Gazeley The relationship between social (dis)advantage and educational exclusion and inclusion; diversity and equality as issues for teachers' professional development; parental involvement in education Predominantly qualitative. Also critical theory and accessing the perspective of educationally and socially marginalised groups

- Early Years professionals' understandings of poverty in the UK

- Case study of the formation of boys' learner identities in a UK secondary school located in an area of social disadvantage

- A case study of parental involvement in basic education in Ghana

Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith Gender and higher education - staff and students; gender, education, employment and work-life balance; lone and teenage parents and educational participation; widening participation in higher education  - equity, diversity, student experience, progression and internationalisation Qualitative methods incl online, longitudinal and timeline methodology; feminist methodology; ethics

- The intergenerational effect on educational and social outcomes for the children of single parents

- Working mothers' experiences of changing the way they work

- The daughters of working women: What they want from work and work-life balance

Dr Jacqui Shepherd

Autism; special educational needs and disabilities; inclusive education and pedagogy; learning difficulties; transitions for young people with disabilities across education phases and into work, training and adulthood

Creative methods; visual methods; imaginative approaches to research – mostly qualitative approaches.

- Inclusive education in mainstream secondary schools in Zambia

- The use of tablet technology in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) schools: Autistic spectrum conditions

Dr Rebecca Webb

Sociological, anthropological and philosophical areas of education: especially discourses of Early Years education and care; schools and schooling; and learning in HE contexts. 

Ongoing interests in exploring discourses of gender; difference; rights; citizenship and the citizen subject; equality and diversity; and well-being (in local, national and international contexts.

Qualitative - with particular interest in ethnography and different ideas of representation.

- Ideas of ‘transformational’ educational practice and pedagogy across the 0-25 age range and ‘what this looks like’

- Practices and approaches in school that attend to the voice and participation of the child/young person

 

Centre for Teaching and Learning Research
NameSubstantive research interestsMethodological expertiseExamples of doctoral studies supervised
Dr Emily Danvers

Critical thinking and academic writing in higher education; university student identities and experiences; higher education learning, emotion and affect; student protest; widening participation and educational inequalities and inclusive higher education pedagogy

Qualitative, feminist poststructural and new-materialist feminist research methodologies

- Widening participation, increasing social mobility and providing deeper learning though engagement with social media

Dr Louise Gazeley The relationship between social (dis)advantage and educational exclusion and inclusion; diversity and equality as issues for teachers' professional development; parental involvement in education Predominantly qualitative. Also critical theory and accessing the perspective of educationally and socially marginalised groups

- Early Years professionals' understandings of poverty in the UK

- Case study of the formation of boys' learner identities in a UK secondary school located in an area of social disadvantage

- A case study of parental involvement in basic education in Ghana

Professor Gillian Hampden-Thompson Social justice; comparative education; student achievement; participation in science; impact of background characteristics on student learning; drop-outs; parental involvement and parent-school relationships Quantitative data analysis; secondary data analysis of large-scale datasets; combined methods

- The association between parental involvement and student outcomes

- Factors related to the participation of students in post-16 education. Including subject-specific participation

- The impact of social policy on educational outcomes cross-nationally

Dr Christina Hancock Autism and severe learning difficulties; special educational needs; practitioner research; special schools; play; interventions

Mixed methods; grounded theory

- Parental support for learning in the home in the early school years

- Mentoring for autistic young people

Dr Jacqui Shepherd Autism; special educational needs and disabilities; inclusive education and pedagogy; learning difficulties; transitions for young people with disabilities across education phases and into work, training and adulthood Creative methods; visual methods; imaginative approaches to research – mostly qualitative approaches.

- Inclusive education in mainstream secondary schools in Zambia

- The use of tablet technology in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) schools: Autistic spectrum conditions

Dr Julia Sutherland English and literacy education; classroom discourse and dialogism; reading comprehension; teacher education

Qualitative, participatory and mixed-method approaches, including case study, action research and ethnography 

- Dialogic talk to enhance students’ reading comprehension

- Informal collaborative learning in HE in Cameroon

- Teacher development through research

- Sociocultural approaches to developing creative writing at A Level

Professor Simon Thompson Teachers' professional knowledge; Initial Teacher Education; history of education; history education; teachers' lives; mass observation and education Life history research; narrative enquiry using critical incidents; living graphs; mass observation directives - Distance education for teacher education in Ghana: Untrained teacher experiences
Dr Rebecca Webb

Sociological, anthropological and philosophical areas of education: especially discourses of Early Years education and care; schools and schooling; and learning in HE contexts. 

Ongoing interests in exploring discourses of gender; difference; rights; citizenship and the citizen subject; equality and diversity; and well-being (in local, national and international contexts.

Qualitative - with particular interest in ethnography and different ideas of representation.

- Ideas of ‘transformational’ educational practice and pedagogy across the 0-25 age range and ‘what this looks like’

- Practices and approaches in school that attend to the voice and participation of the child/young person

Dr Jo Westbrook Learning to read; reading and comprehension; wider reading of narrative texts; multilingualism; teacher education in the UK and developing countries; socially inclusive pedagogies  Case study; qualitative methods; action research; ethnographic and participatory approaches; mixed methods; systematic and rigorous literature reviews

- Teacher learning communities in the UK

- Complementary education programmes and the opportunity to learn in the northern region of Ghana

- The sustainability of village LEAP (Literacy Educational Awareness Project) community schools in rural Sindh, Pakistan

 

Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research
NameSubstantive research interestsMethodological expertiseExamples of doctoral studies supervised
Dr Barbara Crossouard Sociological studies of schooling and higher education in international and UK contexts; gender; citizenship; youth identities; curriculum and assessment Qualitative; mixed methods

- Access and retention of girls in basic education in Rwanda: An exploration of stakeholder's views and perspectives

- Navigating the 'new South Africa': An ethnography of 'born free' youth developing future aspirations in post-apartheid South Africa

- An exploration of the production of classed subjectivities of young people in elite schools in India

Dr Emily Danvers

Critical thinking and academic writing; student identities and experiences; learning, emotion and affect; student protest; widening participation and educational inequalities and inclusive pedagogy

Qualitative, feminist poststructural and new-materialist feminist research

- Widening participation, increasing social mobility and providing deeper learning though engagement with social media
Dr Louise Gazeley The relationship between social (dis)advantage and educational exclusion and inclusion; diversity and equality as issues for teachers' professional development; parental involvement in education Predominantly qualitative. Also critical theory and accessing the perspective of educationally and socially marginalised groups

- Early Years professionals' understandings of poverty in the UK

- Case study of the formation of boys' learner identities in a UK secondary school located in an area of social disadvantage

- A case study of parental involvement in basic education in Ghana

Dr Tamsin Hinton-Smith Gender and higher education - staff and students; gender, education, employment and work-life balance; lone and teenage parents and educational participation; widening participation in higher education  - equity, diversity, student experience, progression and internationalisation Qualitative methods incl online, longitudinal and timeline methodology; feminist methodology; ethics

- The intergenerational effect on educational and social outcomes for the children of single parents

- Working mothers' experiences of changing the way they work

- The daughters of working women: What they want from work and work-life balance

Professor Louise Morley

International higher education, with particular interest in:
- Higher education policy sociology
- Gender equity and diversity
- Women in higher education leadership in Europe, South Asia and South East Asia
- Equity and internationalisation
- Quality and power in higher education
- Micropolitics
- Roma in higher education in Europe
- Widening participation in higher education in Ghana and Tanzania 
- Gender equity in Commonwealth higher education
- Feminist theory, methodology and epistemology

Mixed methods; qualitative methods; equity scorecards; feminist methodology; ethnography

- Critical thinking in UK higher education

- Roma participation in Serbian higher education

- Constructing higher education experiences through narratives: Selected cases of mature undergraduate women students in Ghana

Dr Linda Morrice

Refugee and migrant education, with particular interest in:

  • Pathways through education and access to higher education
  • Informal learning, inclusion and belonging
  • Participation of unaccompanied children and students with refugee backgrounds in higher education.
Qualitative and participative methodologies, especially narrative, creative and life history

Unaccompanied children and young people: Constructing belonging in community through learning; Perceiving the value of Higher Education: a Mass Observation perspective   

Dr Rebecca Webb

Sociological, anthropological and philosophical areas of education: especially discourses of Early Years education and care; schools and schooling; and learning in HE contexts. 

Ongoing interests in exploring discourses of gender; difference; rights; citizenship and the citizen subject; equality and diversity; and well-being (in local, national and international contexts.

Qualitative - with particular interest in ethnography and different ideas of representation.

- Ideas of ‘transformational’ educational practice and pedagogy across the 0-25 age range and ‘what this looks like’

- Practices and approaches in school that attend to the voice and participation of the child/young person

You can find out more about the research centres to which our doctoral supervisors are affiliated by clicking on the relevant link below:

For more information about doctoral studies at the University of Sussex, visit the Doctoral School website.

Step Two:
Developing your Research Proposal

If there is a good fit between your research interests and our research profile, you can use the guidelines below to shape your research proposal before submitting it to us to review. The proposal helps us to consider your preparedness for PhD study but also the feasibility of the proposed study and its potential contribution to knowledge. The proposal therefore needs to describe as clearly as possible what you want to research, why, and how you plan to conduct the study.

The guidelines are for both the 1+3 and +3 PhD routes. However,  the research proposal for the +3 PhD will be longer (6-8 pages in length) than that for the 1+3 (2-3 pages). It will also be expected to show a deeper understanding of social science research methodology and research design.

The structure of your proposal

  1. Your proposal should start with a working title which clearly reflects its focus.
  2. The opening section should explain the research focus and context and provide a rationale which introduces what you propose to research and why it is important - both to you and more generally.
  3. This section should end by making it clear how your research can contribute new knowledge or understanding and with a set of research questions that will guide your research. Like your working title, these will probably change as you refine your project, but they are an important starting point.
  4. The next section should provide a focused overview of the key debates in the  literature that are most clearly most relevant to your study. You should end this section by making it clear how your research relates to existing research in the field.
  5. The next section should include a discussion of  your methodological approach, so that it is clear how the design of the proposed study has been shaped by such things as your ontological and epistemological approach. It is also important to outline your research methods and explain what makes them appropriate for a study of the type proposed. 
  6. The proposal should conclude with a discussion of any ethical and practical issues that you have identified and an indicative timeline, including the time it will take to analyse your data and to write your thesis. A full-time PhD is undertaken over 3 years (maximum 4), or 4 years (maximum 6) if studied part-time.
  7. The proposal needs to include citations to the  literature used to support your arguments and finish with a full list of references.

Step Three:
Submitting your application and supporting documents

When you have finished writing your proposal, you should submit it online as part of your application for either the 1+3 or +3 PhD. You will also need to submit the following documents and if any are missing this will slow down the review process.

  1. Research Proposal
  2. Masters Degree Transcript
  3. Masters Degree Certificate
  4. Bachelors Degree Certificate

If any of the above cannot be submitted at the point of application, you should send an email explaining why this is to eswpgradmin@sussex.ac.uk immediately after submitting your application.

It is helpful but not essential to also submit an up-to-date CV.

English language requirements

If you do not have a degree from the UK, or English is not your first language, you will be required to provide evidence of your English language proficiency. If you have evidence of this when you submit your application, this evidence should be submitted also. If not, any offer made would be conditional on your being able to supply relevant evidence before commencement of your studies.

References

You should nominate two academic referees who can testify to your capacity to engage with independent study and research. Please advise your referees that references should be submitted on headed paper.

Statement of academic interests

Please provide a brief account of your academic interests.

What happens next?

When your application has been received, its details will be checked by the University's Postgraduate Admissions team. Academic faculty within the Department of Education will then review your application.

In addition to the quality of the application and how it meets the criteria for either a +3 or 1+3 place, we consider whether we can supervise your project. In those cases where the academic selectors feel there is both the potential for a worthwhile and successful study at doctoral level and there are potential supervisors available, we will proceed to interview.  These interviews will be conducted  in person, or by telephone or Skype and allow us to explore your application with you in more detail while also allowing us to answer any questions you have.

Further details about the PhD in Education can be found in the Prospectus.

Chek out the Education PhD Leaflet.

Apply online.

General guidance for writing your research proposal can be found on the University's PGR Admissions pages.

NOTE:
Please be aware that general requests sent to faculty outlining research interests and/or attaching proposals will be forwarded to our administrators who will signpost you back to these guidelines.