Outdoor and Environmental Education

PhD Programme

This page gives an overview of issues to consider in the PhD process and our views on creating a stimulating environment where students enjoy studying and successfully complete their degrees.


The research community

Here at Moray House School of Education and Sport, not only do we have more PhD students in outdoor education than anywhere else in the world, we also have a large staff with wide-reaching interests who are keen to support PhD students towards successful completion of their research. All of our previous doctoral students have completed their studies successfully.

Through our experience of over 35 years, we have talked with current and former students, reviewed other programmes and practices, and taken a lot of time to understand factors that influence PhD students' experiences. We have also completed PhDs ourselves and can draw on staff who work in outdoor education and related areas—most of whom have doctoral supervision experience. In addition to the specific subject area, the quality of supervision, and the institution, we have found that the learning environment has a strong influence on students learning experience. The University of Edinburgh in general and the Outdoor Education Section in particular has created a strong learning community supporting students and making their PhD experience more productive and enjoyable.

"The programme's most notable success, in my view, is its creation of a learning community between staff and students"

External Examiner Prof. John Smyth OBE, 2004

Throughout your PhD studies, your main points of contact will be your supervisors. You will meet with them regularly and they will assist you in getting 'up and running', guide you with specific aspects of your research, your research training, setting up office-space, and introducing you to other PhD students and University staff. In the outdoor education section we consider the PhD experience to be part of an 'apprenticeship' for a career in a leading academic or professional position in the sector. In order to add to your portfolio for such a career we work with you to develop four main areas:


An academic career requires teaching skills and experience in higher education. Here at the University of Edinburgh, there are ample opportunities to sit in on classes and observe people teaching, to do some co-teaching and sometimes to teach classes alone. We also encourage students to give brief inputs on their research topic as part of class sessions. There may also be opportunities for paid teaching work. These teaching activities are helpful for easing into a first job after completion of the PhD, but also in developing ideas throughout the PhD process


A publications profile helps PhD students to develop confidence, get feedback on their work and to secure employment on completion of the PhD Staff work with students and encourage them to write papers for journals and magazines. Dependant on experience and skills students develop their publications profile by initially taking a minor role in the preparation of papers and then growing into the leading role with staff supporting them.


The university has a fund to support PhD students to attend events as part of their learning and development. Conferences and seminars create opportunities to gain confidence in your subject area and your presentation skills, get feedback on your work and meet people who have similar research interests. Students are encouraged to begin by co-presenting with supervisors and staff and then to 'flying solo'.


Outdoor education involves a significant range of practical skills. Because we run an extensive practical programme for our post-graduate students such as PhDs, there are also numerous opportunities to join in on the activities as a participant or, depending on experience, as an assistant teacher in the field.


To have an informal discussion about undertaking PhD study with us, please contact Dr Robbie Nicol or Dr Simon Beames.

More information on the application process can be found at the PhD section of the School of Education’s website.