Research Degrees

We currently have more than 150 research students who form a significant and valuable part of the University’s research community.


You may consider a research degree as a means of continuing professional development (CPD) as well as a route to an academic career.

QMU awards two higher degrees by research to students:

  • The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a degree awarded solely on the satisfactory completion of a supervised research project. Proposals are accepted in a range of research areas in which the University specialises.
  • The Professional Doctorate is equivalent in level to a PhD, but offers the opportunity to work towards doctoral qualifications through focusing on research and development in the work environment through work-based learning.

QMU also offers a Master of Research degree.

Our research identity

QMU is dedicated to improving quality of life and building the evidence-base for policy and practice through world leading multidisciplinary, translational research and international collaboration. The value of our work is measured by its impact and the social usefulness, practicality and applicability of its outcomes.

The vitality of our research environment and our commitment to researcher development promotes synergy between teaching, research and knowledge exchange to achieve maximum impact. Our strategic Research Centres work at the intersection of conventional disciplinary groupings to create innovative approaches to contemporary societal challenges and public discourse. All centres welcome applications for research degrees. Information on our research centres can be found on our website at

Our Research Centres

Centre for Health, Activity and Rehabilitation Research (CHEAR)

The Centre for Health, Activity and Rehabilitation Research (CHEAR) offers postgraduate research supervision expertise across our three sub-themes of physical activity and exercise; rehabilitation, musculoskeletal and orthopaedic rehabilitation; and clinical nutrition and biological science. We welcome applications from individuals with interests in research that focuses on health, nutritional status and quality of life of people, the professional practice of health and care professionals, and the development of health and care policy. A key driver of our postgraduate research training is the use of collaborative partnerships to facilitate applied research programmes of high relevance to our key stakeholder communities (eg consumers, patients, industry, NHS).

Contact: Professor Tom Mercer


The Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS)

The Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) conducts research into social issues that affect people’s lives locally, nationally, and internationally. Membership of the Centre includes researchers from Business, Enterprise and Management; Media Culture and Performing Arts; Occupational Therapy and Art Therapy; and Psychology and Sociology. Research is focused around the following strategic areas:

• identity, social inclusion/exclusion, citizenship and social participation;

• individual and social meanings of health and wellbeing;

• discourse, communication, mediation and negotiation in applied settings; and

• individual information-processing and decision-making.

Contact: Professor Chris McVittie


Centre for Person-Centred Practice Research (CPcPR)

The Centre for Person-Centred Practice Research (CPcPR) has a focus on research that enhances service users’ (patients, residents, clients) experiences of care across a variety of care settings. We are particularly interested in research that makes a difference to the lives of people who experience health and social care services, as well as those who provide these services. Person-centredness is a concept that is focused on placing ‘the person’ at the heart of decision-making and to do that effectively requires a commitment to understanding how the context of care impacts on individual, team and organisational experience. We especially welcome applications for research that involves collaboration with practitioners, policy-makers and other research users in the fields of gerontology, dementia  care, public health, long-term conditions and palliative/end-of-life care.

Contact: Professor Jan Dewing


Centre for Communication, Cultural and Media Studies (CCCMS)

This centre carries out world-class and internationally excellent research on cultural and creative industries, public relations, film and media. Critical theoretical research is clustered around media and cultural policy, production and consumption; professionalised applied communication practices; analysis of film and television; and critical media industry studies. Our work has tackled areas such as: screen and on-demand industries, production studies, cultural spaces and cultural intermediaries, creative labour, adaptation, identities, and media audiences. We welcome applications for research that combine theoretically robust critique with an interest in practices, be they creative, discursive, industrial or institutional in nature.

Contact: Professor Philip Drake


Clinical Audiology, Speech and Language Research Centre (CASL)

The Centre structures its work under three themes:

The sounds of words - this phonetic theme examines the consonants and vowels of speech in fine detail: how they are acquired by children, how their pronunciation is affected by speech disorders, how they are heard and perceived, and how they are formed into words and altered by context, all in the context of cross-linguistic and sociolinguistic variation, and with a view to clinical impact.

Communication & discourse - This linguistic theme examines language in all its forms (spoken, signed and written) and in all its grammatical and prosodic complexity. We focus on how language is perceived and expressed, and on how communication and translation are influenced by social, physical and psychological factors. Our impact strategy is influenced by the importance of effective communication in facilitating social cohesion and in people’s access to education, work and services.

Innovation in practice - the focus of this theme is the advancement of practice and policy in the professions associated with the division of Speech and Hearing Science: especially Audiology, Speech and Language Therapy, and British Sign Language Interpreting. We also aim to develop and disseminate tools and resources for vocational higher education and for research laboratories, addressing the needs of a range of external partners and stakeholders.

Contact: Professor Jim Scobbie


Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD)

The Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) is a multidisciplinary centre for postgraduate education and research addressing contemporary health and development in low- and middle-income countries. Our research clusters are focused on work on health systems, particularly in fragile settings, and studies on the themes of psychosocial wellbeing, protection and integration.

Health Systems Cluster – Since 2011, our team has been significantly involved with the UK Department for International Development-funded ReBUILD Consortium (https://rebuildconsortium. com/), which produces research for stronger health systems during and after crisis. QMU provides technical codirection to ReBUILD and is currently leading research on performance-based financing, as well as demographic and distributional impact of conflicts and implications for health systems. Research is being carried out in Cambodia, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Zimbabwe and since 2017 also in Timor Leste, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Central African Republic. Our team is also leading the National Institute for Health Research’s Research Unit on Health in situations of Fragility (RUHF), which focuses on research analysing the challenges of delivering health services and promoting health in fragile situations, with specific attention to the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases and mental ill-health in West Africa (Sierra Leone), the Middle East (Lebanon) and El Salvador. Other current health systems work is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the National Institutes of Health. Our work addresses issues ranging from NCDs and mental health in fragile settings, results-based financing for TB care in Georgia, to analyses of systems resilience in the Middle East and transmission of drug-resistant TB in South Africa.

Psychosocial, Integration and Protection Cluster - the focus of work in the area of psychosocial wellbeing, protection and integration is marked by strong engagement with a broad range of governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental actors. With funding from Terres des Hommes, Freedom from Torture and World Vision International, our projects look at mental health and psychosocial wellbeing for youth in both migration and humanitarian contexts in Romania and Jordan, faith leaders as child protection advocates in Senegal, Uganda and Guatemala, and how social connections can help improve recovery from complex trauma here in the UK.

We welcome applications for full or part-time doctoral study in these areas, particularly from students who have recent or ongoing employment with ministries of health, inter-governmental or non-governmental organisations.

Contact: Professor Alastair Ager


Duration of study

Research students may register on a full-time or part-time basis for a PhD or Professional Doctorate. Normal study periods are: ull-time 3-4 years full-time OR 6-8 years part-time.



Studentships and scholarships

Many self-funding students have secured scholarships from funding bodies (including employers, foundations and trusts) themselves, and students are recommended to rigorously pursue such opportunities as the number of QMU-funded scholarships is heavily oversubscribed.

Each year QMU offers a small number of PhD studentships, which cover all tuition and bench fees and offer support towards living costs. Applications for studentships will be invited once per year (normally in February) and publicised on our website. Studentships can only be awarded for research proposals in the advertised topics.

Fees and funding

All other applicants must pay their own fees and living costs, or find an external sponsor to support them.

Entry qualifications

To apply for a research degree, you should hold, or anticipate gaining, a good honours degree from a United Kingdom higher education institution, or a degree from an overseas institution accepted by the University as an equivalent. Applicants without an honours degree may only be considered if they can demonstrate equivalent professional experience in a relevant field. All overseas students must provide evidence of their English language ability. A minimum score of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent, with no element of performance lower than IELTS 6.0, is the entrance requirement for applicants who have not completed a degree which was delivered and assessed in English.

Additionally, you must produce an outline research proposal which we judge to be feasible and appropriate for the level of study, and which is in a field we can supervise. Finally, you will need to be interviewed. Interviews may take place in person or by telephone.

Support for research degree students QMU is a forward-thinking higher education institution with an exciting future.

It is a particularly good time to consider study at QMU. With a dedicated team of supervisors for each student and specialist training offered in key aspects of academic research, we believe that you will have the best possible chance of success in your studies.

Each student is allocated a team of two or three supervisors to provide support and advice. In addition, we provide:

  • a research training programme at the beginning of your programme to help you get started;
  • opportunities to attend further workshops for training in specific skills;
  • a dedicated research librarian to help you make the most of our library and electronic databases;
  • a network of peer support from other research students in our Graduate School and
  • opportunities to attend research seminars and learn from other experienced researchers.

How to apply for a doctoral degree

QMU offers two routes for doctoral level study, the PhD and Professional Doctorate. You may apply for either part-time or full-time study. Normally you will be based at QMU. In certain circumstances applications may be considered for non-resident students. Such applications will only be considered where appropriate support can be provided locally and on the understanding that the student will visit Edinburgh at least once per year to meet with their supervisory team.

To apply you must complete the online application form and provide the following documents:

• a research proposal

• a copy of certificates for your highest level academic qualifications (normally master’s/ undergraduate degree) including official translations into English if required

• evidence of English language ability

• two academic references

We strongly recommend that you make contact with potential supervisors before submitting your application.


Visa information

International students (Tier 4) – the Tier 4 Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES) allows students who are nearing completion of a PhD or Professional Doctorate to apply for a 12 month period of extension to their visa. During this period the student can look for and undertake work, set up as an entrepreneur, or gain practical work experience in their field.

Research proposal

All applicants must provide a proposal. This allows us to check how well you understand the research process and to make sure the topic is in an area we can supervise.

The research topic must be within the expertise of our staff. The topic must have academic merit and it must be capable of generating new knowledge. Research which is linked to the applicant’s creative work may be considered.

It is essential that you check whether QMU has any expertise in your chosen field. See our website at study-here/postgraduate-research-study/graduate-school-and-doctoral-research/ for further information on the areas we


The proposal should be around 1000 words long. The proposal should:

  • summarise what the research is about and say why it is important, making reference to current literature
  • identify provisional research questions
  • suggest how the questions can be investigated

The QMU Graduate School

All doctoral students are members of the QMU Graduate School. The Graduate School’s aims are to:

  • Ensure high quality graduate education
  • Maximise the quality of the student experience
  • Ensure timely research progression and completion rates
  • Share good practice on research supervision 
  • Represent graduate issues within and outside the University
  • Oversee and continuously review doctoral degree administration
  • Maintain a vibrant community of doctoral students
  • Grow the doctoral student population and seek opportunities for new international business
  • Promote an inclusive and interdisciplinary research environment for PhD and Professional Doctorate students
  • Promote collaboration within the University and with external partners

The Graduate School works in partnership with the University’s Department of Governance and Quality Enhancement, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management, the Centre for Academic Practice and a range of support departments in order to support doctoral students effectively.

If you have any general queries regarding the School please email or visit the Graduate School website at for further information and resources.

QMU is also a member of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science ( and a member of the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (, both of which provide a high level of support for students.

Find out more information on how to apply for a course at QMU.