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Why study for a research degree?

We currently have more than 130 research candidates who form a significant and valuable part of the University’s research community and enrich our research environment.

QMU awards the following higher degree by research:   

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): This 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. We offer the standard route, both a prospective and retrospective publication route, and a creative practice route. 
  • Master of Research

Each of our research centres welcomes applications for research in their fields.

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.

We are signatories to the UK Research Concordat and are committed to working with The Vitae Researcher Development Framework and the research supervision practice standards set out by The UK Council for Graduate Education.

The value of our work is measured by its academic, social, cultural and economic impact or usefulness.

Duration of study

Research candidates may register on a full-time or part-time basis. Normal study periods are shown below.

  PhD (incl. PhD by Publication (prospective) and PhD by Creative Practice) PhD by Publication (Retrospective)
Full-time 3-4 years 2 – 15 months
Part-time 6-8 years 2 – 15 months

Studentships and scholarships

Many self-funding students have secured scholarships from funding bodies (including employers, foundations and trusts) themselves, and students are recommended to pursue such opportunities rigorously 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 a year (normally in January) 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 master’s research degree, you should hold, or anticipate gaining, a good honours degree from a UK 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 taught and assessed in English. You must also produce an outline research proposal that we judge to be feasible and appropriate for the level of study, and that 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 candidate 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 candidate is allocated a team of two or three supervisors to provide support and advice. In addition, we provide:

  • three doctoral development weeks per year offering various workshops and training 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

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 twice per year to meet with their supervisory team, attend doctoral development weeks, undertake assessment points, including the final viva and connect with the QMU research community. To apply you must complete the online application form and provide the following documents:

  • a research proposal  
  • a copy of certificates and transcripts for your highest level academic qualifications (normally master’s/undergraduate degree) including official translations into English and if required evidence of English language ability  
  • two references, one of which must be academic if you have studied within three years of the start date 

Those applying for PhD by Publication should also include a publication plan and, where appropriate, a list of prior publications, indicating their contribution to each.  We strongly recommend that you make contact with potential supervisors before submitting your application.   

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 that 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 Graduate School webpages for further information on the areas we cover.  The proposal should be approximately 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; and  
  • suggest how the questions can be investigated.

Visa information

Since 1 July 2021, international students who have successfully completed a PhD are able to benefit from three years’ work experience in the UK upon graduation, through the new Graduate Route. For more information and everything you need to know about the application process, visit the UK Government’s Graduate Route guide.

More information

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. 

The Graduate School

The QMU Graduate School

The Graduate School’s aims are to:

  • ensure high quality graduate education 
  • maximise the quality of the candidate 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 that contributes to the University’s research environment 
  • grow the doctoral candidate community and seek opportunities for new international business 
  • promote an inclusive and interdisciplinary research environment for PhD and Professional Doctorate candidates
  • promote collaboration within the University and with external partners

All doctoral candidates are members of the QMU Graduate School. The Graduate School works in partnership with the University’s Division of Governance and Quality Enhancement, the School of Health Sciences, the School of Arts, Social Sciences and Management and a range of support departments in order to support doctoral candidates effectively. 

If you have any general queries regarding the Graduate School, please email the Graduate School or visit the Graduate School webpages  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.

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 the areas 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, including  education, 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).
The Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS) 
CASS conducts research into social issues that affect people’s lives locally, nationally and internationally. Membership of the Centre includes researchers at QMU 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
individual information-processing and decision-making
Centre for Person-Centred Practice Research (CPcPR) 
The Centre for Person-Centred Practice Research (CPcPR) has a portfolio of international research and scholarship activities that are underpinned by the concepts of persons, personhood and person-centredness.  Essentially, this means placing the personhood of persons at the heart of decision-making and action in health and social care. Our research has four themes: person-centred interventions; experiences of person-centredness; person-centred cultures and person-centred curricula.

We are particularly interested in research that makes a difference to the lives of persons  who experience health and social care services, as well as those who provide these services. 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, acute care and for those persons with long-term conditions and palliative/end-of-life care.


Centre for Culture in Society
The Centre for Culture in Society 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 combines theoretically robust critique with an interest in practices, be they creative, discursive, industrial or institutional in nature.
Institute for Global Health and Development (IGHD) 
IGHD is a multi-disciplinary 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, which produces research for stronger health systems during and after crisis. QMU provides technical co-direction 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, 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 (NCDs) 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: Our work addresses mental health and psychosocial wellbeing, protection and integration of people in humanitarian contexts and other situations of migration or fragility. Since publishing our original Indicators of Integration report for UK Government in 2004, we have been engaged in ongoing research, practice and policy leadership to support refugee integration. UK Home Office published an updated and expanded Indicators of Integration toolkit in June 2019. Members of the team are leading research into the role of faith-based organisations in humanitarian response (MENA), and in child protection (West & East Africa, Latin America, Asia). We have a particular focus on mental health and wellbeing in areas of conflict and humanitarian disaster. Our research is characterised by strong engagement with community perspectives.
Clinical Audiology, Speech and Language Research Centre (CASL)
CASL 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 and 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.


Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation
The Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation was establish in 2014 in response to the growth of Scotland’s food and drink industry. The Centre consists of a team of qualified and experienced food scientists, nutritionists and sensory specialists.
The team carry out projects with food and drink companies, with industry partners and other academic institutions. industrial clients range from small start-ups to large enterprises. 
Services are divided into; Food and Drink Innovation, Consumer Insight and Sensory Analysis and Food Industry Training.

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