PhD (Professional)

Key Information


3-6 years

Entry Requirements

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Brayford Pool

Entry in October

Programme Overview

The PhD (Professional) Education is a doctoral research programme of equivalent standing to the traditional Doctor of Philosophy, with a focus on research and professional practice. The course is designed for current and future educators who wish to conduct original research relating to their professional context or area of educational practice, and aims to support the dissemination, development, and management of a range of professional practice and policy development.

Students undertake four core modules and one optional module, followed by a thesis stage, during which they conduct field work, analyse their data in light of existing knowledge, and write a thesis for examination.

The modular stage aims to help students refine their research topic and identify specific research questions through a critical review of literature. Optional modules offer students the opportunity to design a pilot study for their thesis research or gain research experience by assisting on a research project led by academic staff.

The thesis stage requires rigorous data collection and analysis in order to produce a 60,000-word thesis that systematically presents the research, learning, and contribution to knowledge.

Throughout the duration of the programme, students are part of a diverse, supportive, and intellectually challenging research environment in the School of Education. In addition to the programme requirements, all students are encouraged to engage in broader postgraduate training opportunities, present their work to academic audiences, and communicate the significance of their research to colleagues and peers.

Achieving the award of PhD (Professional) is recognition not only of an original contribution to knowledge, but also of the students' ability to continue to undertake pure and/or applied research and development at doctoral level.

Key Features

Optional modules which allow you to tailor your qualification

Opportunities to conduct exciting research

Supervision and support from expert academic staff

Designed for both current and future educators

Students sat at a table smiling

How You Study

All students are expected to attend scheduled teaching on the programme - this takes place on a weekly basis and at two weekend study schools and one three-day summer school.
Weekly online seminars are held for each module at times that are intended to be accessible to part-time students. They are supplemented by the use of interactive technologies that are used to extend the dialogues that are crucial to students' learning. An example is the use of Talis Elevate to read and discuss selected texts and multimedia.

The VLE also provides students with access to a range of structured resources, including digitised texts, recordings of lectures and various teaching materials, allowing for a significant degree of independent study and revision of topics covered. Flipped learning through the use of digital tools, directed learning and assigned tasks may also be used in and outside of the class as appropriate.

Study schools include lectures, student presentations, seminars, visiting speakers and workshops. An emphasis throughout is placed on encouraging candidates to share and discuss their own work, and to provide structured activities that build on students' research interests, and those of academic staff.

Study school attendance is not restricted to the modular stage, but candidates are encouraged to continue to attend study schools throughout their time on the programme. This is intended to provide a stronger and more supportive framework for candidates, aiding progression and retention.


Education Research: Conceptualising Your Research Problem (Core)

Initiating Research: Exploring Existing Knowledge (Core)

Research Design: Understanding Disiplinary Approaches (Core)

Research Progress Report and Defence (Core)

Thesis (Core) 

Research Experience Work Placement (Optional) 

Education Research: Planning a Pilot Study in a Professional Context (Optional)

Lincolnshire Learning Lab

Lincolnshire Learning Lab has been established to help improve the learning of children, and the working environments for teachers within Lincolnshire. One of the main aims of the group is to bring academic rigour and evidence-based research into the classroom by engaging with teachers, academics, and other stakeholders in the education system, such as parents and educational consultants.

Explore the Lincolnshire Learning Lab
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Research Areas

A key feature of the PhD (Professional) Education is the School’s belief that students’ learning is most effective when it is the product of an on-going dialogue with others, either teaching staff or fellow students, and when they are constantly challenged to refine their understanding of key concepts in the field of education, alongside personal development of their research ideas. Emphasis is placed on creating the conditions in which such dialogues can flourish. Academic staff principally act as supervisors of the student's own research rather than teachers of others' research. In this way, roles of teacher and student are progressively minimised and both students and supervisory staff become part of a joint research project.

Students will be allocated an academic supervisor as soon as they commence the programme and will meet with them on a regular basis. This person will have a key role in providing individual support throughout the programme. Face-to-face supervision takes place at study schools, and support is offered through electronic means or by telephone in between.

Applicants are encouraged to review the research profiles of academic staff in the School of Education and where possible, align their research topics with our existing expertise. Alongside the Lincolnshire Learning Lab, we have a wide range of research areas within the School which include:

  • Educational leadership and management
  • Professional learning and professional development
  • Higher education pedagogy and practice
  • Teacher recruitment and retention
  • STEM education and social justice
  • Applied linguistics and education
  • Sexuality education
  • Religious education
  • LGBTQ+ inclusivity in education
  • Difficult/controversial topics in classrooms
  • Inter/multi/transdisciplinary education
  • Epistemology in education

How you are assessed

Assessment and feedback are structured to identify students' existing strengths and constructively highlights areas for further academic development. Thesis and viva examination forms the final assessment.

In addition, students should expect to participate in formative peer review of each other's ideas and work throughout the programme through active group discussion and a variety of presentation methods (e.g. annual student conference presentations, poster sessions, and 'PechaKucha' sessions).

Further details of assessment for each course, and information about how particular kinds of work are supported academically, can be found in the individual module specifications.

Research Proposals

You will need to produce a research proposal as part of your application for this programme. This is a project outline identifying what you want to study, why you want to investigate this area, and how you intend to conduct the research. You will also need to identify a potential supervisor at Lincoln whose research interests align with your own, and share your proposal and ideas with them before submitting your application. You can find more details on our School staff pages.

Writing a Research Proposal

Remember that your proposal is the starting point of your research. It is normal for your ideas to evolve and develop, and for plans to change as you engage more deeply with the literature and begin working with your supervision team.

Length of Proposal

Your proposal should be around 1,500 to 2,000 words (and no more than 2,500 words).

Structuring Your Research Proposal

There isn’t a prescribed format for the structure of a research proposal but the following section headings are generally considered to be important:

Working Title

A clear and succinct description of your research should be encapsulated in the title. Although this may not be the title of your final thesis, your proposal title should give a clear indication of the area you are interested in exploring.


The introduction should set the context, explaining what you will research, why it is of value, and how you propose to conduct your research. The introduction is your opportunity to demonstrate that your proposed research can make a significant contribution to existing bodies of literature, detailing how your research will fill a gap or develop/complete findings from previous research. Overall, you will be expected to show that you have a good knowledge of the wider context in which your research belongs and that you have awareness of methodologies, theories, and conflicting evidence in your chosen field.

Overview of Your Research

You should provide a short overview of your research and where it fits in existing academic discourses, debates, or literature. This should also cover your research objectives, why the research is needed, and what original contribution it can make. Make sure your overview is intelligible to someone who is not a specialist in this field

Literature Review

You won’t have had chance to review all the relevant literature at this stage, but you should be able to incorporate the major debates and issues, demonstrating that you understand your chosen field. Show how your research is original and how it will address the gaps in current knowledge. The conclusion of the review should include a statement of your research problem or question.


Your methodology section should detail how you will conduct your research and consider the following:

  • Methods of data collection and analysis
  • How you will access and recruit participants (if relevant)
  • Number of participants to be included (if relevant)
  • Ethical implications of your work
  • Any potential problems and challenges with your proposed methods and how these might be overcome.


You should provide a clear plan of how you will carry out the research from start to finish, breaking it down into the main components of the research project and identifying what you expect to do in each year of your studies.

Top Tips for a Good Research Proposal

  • Have a clearly stated research idea, question, or problem and be persuasive.
  • Demonstrate how it is addressing a gap in the current knowledge and research.
  • Develop a well-structured proposal (poorly formed or rambling proposals may raise concerns that the thesis could be the same).
  • Be reasonable and realistic in terms of scope.
  • Show passion for the topic.
  • Refine and edit your proposal before it is submitted.
  • Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors.
  • Leave the reader interested, excited, and wanting to know more.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of research methods and research approaches and be clear that these are appropriate for your research question(s).
  • Refrain from using discipline-specific jargon unless it is absolutely necessary to communicating your idea effectively.

How to Apply

Postgraduate Research Application Support

Find out more about the application process for research degrees and what you'll need to complete on our How to Apply page, which also features contact details for dedicated support with your application.

How to Apply
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Entry Requirements 2024-25

Entry Requirements

First or second class honours degree or equivalent professional experience.

If you have studied outside of the UK, and are unsure whether your qualification meets the above requirements, please visit our country pages: for information on equivalent qualifications.

Overseas students will be required to demonstrate English language proficiency equivalent to IELTS 6.0 overall, with a minimum of 5.5 in each element. For information regarding other English language qualifications we accept, please visit the English Requirements page

If you do not meet the above IELTS requirements, you may be able to take part in one of our Pre-session English and Academic Study Skills courses. . These specialist courses are designed to help students meet the English language requirements for their intended programme of study.

Programme Fees

You will need to have funding in place for your studies before you arrive at the University. Our fees vary depending on the course, mode of study, and whether you are a UK or international student. You can view the breakdown of fees for this programme below. Research students may be required to pay additional fees in addition to cover the cost of specialist resources, equipment and access to any specialist collections that may be required to support their research project. These will be informed by your research proposal and will be calculated on an individual basis.

Programme Fees

Funding Your Research

Loans and Studentships

Find out more about the optional available to support your postgraduate research, from Master's and Doctoral Loans, to research studentship opportunities. You can also find out more about how to pay your fees and access support from our helpful advisors.

Explore Funding Options
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Rachael Shaw

Rachael Shaw, PhD (Professional) in Education

Headteacher at Branston Junior Academy

Rachael completed her thesis  to help develop her own personal, professional, and pedagogical skills, as well as gaining further knowledge and an understanding of gender development in children. She is now eagerly sharing this knowledge across the wider education profession.

I was inspired to study at Lincoln due to its excellent reputation for supporting PhD students. I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities and experiences, where Master's and PhD students were able to come together to participate in workshops and discussions no matter what research area each individual was exploring.

Career Development

The PhD (Professional) Education aims to enable individuals to make a significant contribution to understanding and improving professional practice in education through research. The programme is specifically designed for current and future educators, and can be understood as an advanced form of research-based professional development or training. Graduates from the programme may go on to senior positions in their existing field as well as entering academic careers.

The University’s Doctoral School provides a focal point for Lincoln’s community of researchers, where ideas and experiences can be developed and shared across disciplines. It also offers support and training to help equip you for both academic and non-academic careers.

Doctoral School

Academic Contact

For more information about this course, please contact:

Dr Joss Winn

Research at Lincoln

Through our research, we are striving to change society for the better. Working with regional, national, and international partners, our academics are engaged in groundbreaking studies that are challenging the status quo. We also understand the importance of providing the best possible environment for pursuing research that can support our communities and make a tangible difference to the world around us.

Explore Our Research
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The University intends to provide its courses as outlined in these pages, although the University may make changes in accordance with the Student Admissions Terms and Conditions.