Outdoor and Environmental Education

FAQs for PhD study

Here you will find frequently asked question specifically relating to the PhD.


What does "PhD by research" mean, exactly?

A PhD at the University of Edinburgh is by research—meaning that you do not have to take any classes, but may choose to depending on your topic. You work on a thesis under the direction of two supervisors.

The expectation is that you independently complete a substantial study, usually over a period of three-years full time (though part-time is possible). During that time staff in the Moray House School of Education and Sport supervise the work and we meet regularly with students to discuss their progress and guide where necessary. The allocation of supervisors is primarily according to research interests of the staff.

Would the PhD be in Outdoor Education?

It can be in any area of outdoor or environmental education that you choose and we agree with. The best way ahead, if you are keen to pursue this, is to suggest some areas you are interested in.

What does your PhD programme look like?

This is tailored to the background, needs and topic of each student and it also depends to some extent on your supervisors. Essentially it comprises independent study, meetings, and possibly some classes. One of the advantages of the university is that we can supervise with people who have other areas of specialism (e.g. physiology) easily and draw together different disciplines as if often required in outdoor education.

What classes would I attend?

This depends on your background and in particular your research skills. We normally advise students to attend certain research methods courses but there may well be other courses in outdoor or environmental education or indeed others in the School of Education that are appropriate. Unlike in some universities there is no requirement that you attend an academic year of research training.

How much of my work would be done on campus, as opposed to field research or telecommute?

This very much depends on the topic of your research study. However there are residency requirements, particularly in the first year of study. We have had (and currently have) Doctoral students working full-time on projects in Scotland and others with aspects of their work in Norway, Zimbabwe, Alaska, Canada etc.

Can I take part in the Professional Development Programme?

As a member of our programme you will have the option of joining-in with our postgraduate students on other programmes of study on practical outdoor activities courses within what is referred to as the Professional Development Programme. These courses in for example hillwalking and canoeing are intended to aid in the development of skills which can ultimately lead to qualifications relevant to taking people outdoors for teaching purposes (e.g. the Mountain Leader Award is the standard qualification for leading groups in the mountains of the UK in summer conditions). These courses are entirely optional and are charged at a basic cost. The selection of appropriate courses will depend on the experience and skill level of the student, and attendance will be by negotiation with the Professional Development Programme Organiser.

Are there any other PhD students?

We have about a dozen PhD students at any one time; there are more PhD students in outdoor education here than anywhere else in the world.

Do you have any students from outside the UK?

We are well versed in working with international students—we currently have had PhD students from Norway, Zimbabwe and Canada. Next year we will have one more from USA and one more from Canada. In our Masters courses we regularly have students from all around the world—in recent years USA, Singapore, Canada, NZ, and Slovenia, to name a few—so we have a strong research community relating to outdoor education and sensitivity to cultural differences.