PhD TESOL Research



New for 2016, the PhD in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Research is a unique programme, offered at the University of Stirling.  This ground-breaking programme will develop your research skills to a professional level, which is characteristic of a PhD degree, and support your learning through seven modules, a feature of taught doctorates.  During your time at Stirling, your learning will be facilitated by tutors who have extensive expertise in TESOL, research methods and/or educational theories.  This is a novel PhD programme across the UK, which is entirely dedicated to TESOL Research.  If you are interested in investigating language use, teaching and/or learning, this PhD programme will be of interest to you.  The PhD will challenge the boundaries of your academic knowledge and will be a rewarding experience both personally and professionally.

Is a PhD in TESOL Research for me?

This program will appeal to you should you wish to develop your research skills and to become an autonomous researcher.  Our PhD in TESOL Research will provide you with an opportunity to go beyond what would be required from a Master’s of Research (MRes) and an Educational Doctorate (EdD) in that you will produce a more substantial 60,000-word thesis.  Before embarking on your thesis investigation, the program will foster your research skill development through seven taught modules on TESOL, research methods and educational theories.  This academic support is one of the key differences between the University of Stirling’s PhD in TESOL Research and other comparable PhD programs currently on offer in the UK. By attaining a PhD you will achieve something significant. This qualification will mark you out as an expert researcher in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages. You will achieve new skills in understanding complex matters, sharpen your problem solving abilities, increase your confidence as a researcher and expand your knowledge of the field while also enjoying the PhD experience, which is an often overlooked aspect of the process. The academic environment at Stirling will not only give you freedom and challenges, but it will also provide you with numerous chances for intellectual debate with fellow experts.  Your PhD journey will shape your future like no other qualification – academically, professionally and personally.


Key information

EU Applicants
EU students enrolling for a taught postgraduate degree in the 2017/18 and 2018/19 academic year will be admitted as Scottish/EU fee status students and will be eligible for the same tuition support as Scottish domiciled students.

  • Qualification: PhD
  • Study methods: Part-time, Full-time, Campus based
  • Duration: 3-4 years, full time. 5-8 years, part time.
  • Start date:

    January (part-time students) or September (part- and full-time students).

  • Course Director: Dr Vander Viana
  • Location: Stirling Campus
Download course leaflet
Download postgraduate prospectus

University of Stirling

  1. Educational research has a long and much admired history at the University of Stirling. In The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, Education had the highest quality of research outputs of any Scottish University, with 100% of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.
  2. You will make an original contribution to scholarship and will be awarded the title of PhD in TESOL Research, a unique qualification that highlights your thorough knowledge in this area.
  3. You will be affiliated with Education within the Faculty of Social Sciences, an excitingly vibrant academic division, which is consistently ranked within the top 10 in the UK across all ranking tables.
  4. Because of the distinctive design of this PhD programme, you will be supported in your knowledge/research development process from the very start of your studies.
  5. You will benefit from a flexible programme delivered intensively (mostly on Fridays), allowing you to read and research extensively.

Course objectives

This unique PhD programme provides you with an ideal opportunity to develop your knowledge and research skills in TESOL in a multicultural environment.  It will be of interest to those who have a background in Languages, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, or a related field as well as to language teaching practitioners who have a keen interest in research.

As a student on the programme, you will have the chance to investigate a topic of your choice in a systematic and thorough way.  You will have access to numerous options for further development offered by the Stirling Graduate School and by the Faculty of Social Sciences.  TESOL students are also invited to our reading group meetings as well as to our English Language Teaching and Research (ELTR) events, which are delivered by leading researchers/professionals.

On completion, you will be a well-rounded professional researcher who has knowledge of the wider educational field, is proficient in the use of both quantitative and qualitative methods, has the skills needed to research any area within TESOL, and is able to make a contribution to scholarly knowledge and professional practice.

What makes us different?

World-class library and teaching facilities

Studying for a degree means learning in different ways; managing your own time; conducting research; mastering new computer skills. We have the facilities and advice on hand to help you do all this - and do it well.

Learn more

Library shelves

Life at Stirling

Of the many reasons students come to Stirling, such as academic reputation and research standards, one factor is always cited: the outstanding beauty of the University's Stirling campus. View our online films to get a picture of what it's like to live and study on our beautiful campus.

Watch our videos now

Live Life

Entry requirements

Academic requirements

In order to be considered for admission to the PhD in TESOL Research, you should usually have a minimum of a Master’s degree in TESOL, (Applied) Linguistics, Languages or cognate subject from a university in the United Kingdom (UK) or elsewhere (provided that the degree levels are comparable those in the UK).

We also welcome enquiries from you if you do not have this formal qualification but have relevant research experience through your professional practice.  In this case, you will be asked to undertake a task to demonstrate your research skills.

Irrespective of your academic background, you are expected to have excellent language and numeracy skills and a willingness to engage in depth and breadth with the research field in TESOL.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you should usually have one of the following minimum qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS: 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each of the skills
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade B
  • Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): Grade A
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic): 67 with a minimum of 60 in each of the four skills
  • IBT TOEFL: 100 with a minimum of 20 in each of the four skills

For more information go to English language requirements

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard. View our range of pre-sessional courses.

Flexible Learning

If you are interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email to discuss your course of study.

Application procedure

As part of the application process, you are asked to answer each of the following questions in 500-1,000 words.

(a) Why are you interested in the program?

(b) What problems or foci are you particularly interested in researching?

(c) What kind of research methods might you employ?

Question (a) should be addressed in your personal statement.  Although you do not have to submit a research proposal to apply for this PhD program, we would appreciate it if you could answer Questions (b) and (c) in the field dedicated to your research proposal.  This way, we will be able to check whether there is a suitable supervisor for you at the University.

Fees and costs

(2017 - 2018)

Year 1

Overseas £13,050
Home/EU £6,200

Year 2

Overseas £12,930
Home/EU £4195

Year 3

Overseas £12,930
Home/EU £4195

Year 4

Overseas £12,930 If Required
Home/EU £4,195
If Required

From 2016/7 onwards, the fees for all taught postgraduate courses are to be held at the level set upon entry.

Please note there is an additional charge should you choose to attend a graduation ceremony. View more information

Cost of Living

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

Find information on paying fees by instalments

Scholarships & funding

Tuition fees for the PhD in TESOL research are payable for a maximum of four years by full-time students and eight years by part-time students. Fees are payable annually and may also increase annually.  The University offers a range of ways for students to pay their fees including by instalments.

Funded opportunities at Stirling can be found on our Scholarships Finder and there are a variety of other sources of funding available to home/EU and overseas students. 

Scholarship finder

Structure and teaching

Structure and content

Autumn semester
Research Design in TESOL (TESPR01)

Core module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

TESOL is situated in a number of research disciplines, including education, applied linguistics, linguistics, and languages.  This module will recognise this reality and ensure that you have a broad overview of the research that informs TESOL and that you develop knowledge and understanding of research design for TESOL projects.

Quantitative Data Analysis (ASRP004)  Core module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

The module introduces quantitative data analysis, covering a selection of those statistical techniques which are most commonly employed in social science research. It also covers practical training in the application of quantitative methods to social science data using statistical software. The emphasis will be on the analysis of data collected in social surveys, particularly the secondary analysis of large scale surveys.

The Nature of Educational Enquiry (EDRP001)

Optional module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

Drawing upon specific research projects and debates, this module will introduce you to the differing ways of conceptualising the purposes of education, and the theories informing knowledge claims in research. It will enable you to engage with the different traditions of ideas informing research into education, and their strengths and weaknesses. The module therefore involves a critical examination of different approaches to and traditions in educational research and their underlying assumptions.

Grammar for TESOL (TESP004) 

Optional module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

This module provides an introduction to the grammar of spoken and written English for English language teaching. We will explore areas of difficulty for learners from different language backgrounds, and discuss principles of sequencing and clarifying grammar. As well as this pedagogical focus, the module will also demonstrate principles and practices of descriptive and corpus-based language analysis which are central to a wide range of research into the use of language and discourse.

Introduction to CALL (TESP005)

Optional module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)
 The aim of this module is to provide participants with an understanding of the potential and limitations of information and communications technologies in language teaching and learning and to enable participants to identify, select and critically evaluate online resources to enhance their teaching of English.
Spring semester
Approaches in Discourse Analysis (TESPR02)  Core module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

Discourse is an area of interest for a number of researchers (e.g. linguists, educationalists, pedagogues): it lies in the heart of our communicative practices.  It is also a key methodological approach to data analysis in TESOL.  This module will introduce students to the description and analysis of both spoken and written discourse from an applied linguistic perspective.  A number of contexts will be considered, but special attention will be given to those directly related to TESOL practitioners/researchers.

Qualitative Data Analysis (ASRP005) Core module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

This module introduces students to qualitative data analysis. It aims to provide them with understanding and experience of conducting the analysis of qualitative data (including visual data), as well as a critical awareness of the role of computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS).

Theory & Methods of Digital Social Research (EDRP002)  Optional module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

The aim of this module is to enable participants to develop theoretically and critically informed digital research practices through the study of theories of digital social research, understanding of contemporary digital research practices and issues, and the application of digital research methods through the collaborative creation of digital artefacts. Enhanced knowledge and development of digital research fluencies will be emphasized, enabling students to conduct digital research to contribute to new knowledge in professional or academic contexts.

Corpora in English Language Research and Teaching (TESP009) Optional module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

This module will introduce you to computer tools aimed at the analysis of empirical data, which may range from a single text to large corpora.  The module will cover some of the language levels (e.g. lexis, syntax and discourse) in which corpus studies have been carried out to date.  You will be learn how to carry out your own corpus-based/driven research projects from inception to completion, showing evidence of methodological understanding as well as critical analysis and informed interpretation of how language is used.

Sociolinguistics and Varieties of English (LINPP04)  Optional module (20 credits at SCQF level 11)

This module introduces a selection of sociolinguistic topics in conjunction with focused case studies looking in detail at existing research.  The module aims to furnish students with knowledge and understanding of diverse current issues and perspectives in sociolinguistics as well as with knowledge and understanding of how sociolinguistic theory can be applied to aspects of language use in a variety of social contexts.

Summer semester (full time) or Year 3 (part time)
TESOL Research Practice (TESPR03) Core module (60 credits at SCQF level 11)
This module will provide you with the opportunity to conduct a small-scale project which will inform your main research project.  In so doing, you will be able to develop knowledge and understanding of research design, rehearse many of the issues that you may encounter in your main project and design appropriate responses to these issues.  In addition, the module will provide you with the opportunity to present your research through a poster/paper presentation.
From Year 2 (full time) or Year 4 (part time)
Thesis (60,000 words) (TESPR04) Core module (360 credits at SCQF level 11)
You are permitted to progress to the thesis phase as a probationer following successful completion of all assignments in the taught phase. After 6 months in the thesis phase, you must successfully undertake a formal assessment review of the completed thesis proposal and literature review coordinated by your supervisors and a lead reviewer in order to progress. Some students may be required to complete additional preparatory work as a condition of formal progression. Thereafter, progress will be monitored formally in line with University procedures for progress reporting.
  • Students who have passed three of the 20-credit modules (including two core) but do not proceed to the other taught modules will exit with a Postgraduate Certificate in TESOL Research.
  • Students who have passed six of the 20-credit modules (including the four core) but do not proceed to TESOL Research Practice (TESPR03) will exit with a Postgraduate Diploma in TESOL Research.
  • Candidates who have passed all the seven taught modules but do not proceed to the Thesis (TESPR04) will exit with an MRes in TESOL Research.

Delivery and assessment

The taught modules in this ground-breaking PhD in TESOL Research programme are delivered on a face-to-face and blended basis.  The delivery types (e.g. lectures, workshops and student presentations) are carefully selected to suit the module content and your needs.  The modules in your first year of full-time study (or first three years of part-time study) are delivered in a concentrated way mostly on Fridays, providing you with the time you need for reading and conducting your research. 

Summative assessment for the taught modules will vary depending on their respective learning outcomes (e.g. presentation, annotated bibliography, essay, research proposal).  For each 20-credit module, you will be asked to produce a piece of work which is equivalent to a 3,000-word essay.  Your final assignment will be the production of original research to be reported in a 60,000-word thesis.

Modes of study

Full time: 3-4 years

Part time: 5-8 years

Study method

Face-to-face and blended classes as well as self-study.

Example timetable

The timetable below is a typical example, but your own timetable may be different.

Programme of study – Full time (3-4 years)
Year 1   Autumn TESPR01 ASRP004





Spring TESPR02 ASRP005





Summer TESPR03

Year 2 onwards


Why Stirling?


In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, our Educational research had the highest quality of research outputs of any Scottish university, with 100% rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.


Currently, Education studies ranks as:

  • 1st in Scotland and 9th in the UK, The Guardian University Guide, 2017
  • 12th in the UK, The Independent Complete University Guide, 2017
  • 9th in the UK, The Times Good University Guide, 2016

Displaying our commitment to achieve a high level of; Satisfaction with Course, Satisfaction with teaching, Satisfaction with Assessment Feedback, Student/ Staff Ratio, Value Added, Career after 6 months, and research in Education. In the most recent study by QS, staff from the University of Stirling received 5 out of 5-star rating for teaching.

International Students

The University of Stirling welcomes students from around the world. Find out what studying here could be like for you .

Study abroad opportunities

As one of our TESOL students, you will be able to avail of fantastic opportunities to gain valuable work experience in teaching English to speakers of other languages in 33 European countries through the Erasmus+ traineeships, or through our partnership with the São Paulo State University (UNESP) in Brazil.  These traineeship/placement opportunities also provide you with a chance to network with colleagues in other institutions and/or to collect data for your study.  Please check the overseas placements page for additional information.

Our staff

"The PhD in TESOL Research is an exciting new way to achieve a PhD. The taught modules in the first year focus on key skills and knowledge that will feed directly into the thesis, including a pilot study. The thesis itself is a substantial piece of work that students do over two years.  We believe this innovative programme will be welcomed by students who want support with research methods and design but who also want to achieve a PhD qualification".

Fiona Copland, TESOL Professor

Careers and employability

Career opportunities

There are thousands of qualified teachers of English to speakers of other languages worldwide; however, only a small proportion of these practitioners actually know how to conduct a high-quality systematic research in TESOL.  Your PhD in TESOL research will equip you with much needed research skills, allowing you to produce research which is at the forefront of our discipline.  The PhD degree will open up numerous possibilities for furthering your professional and academic careers.


The University of Stirling is committed to enhancing your employability.  Once you register for the PhD in TESOL Research, you will have access to the first-class range of services offered by the Career Development Centre, which you can avail of even after your graduation.  Within TESOL, we additionally provide you with a tailored workshop series entitled “My career in TESOL” aimed at developing your awareness of continuous professional development, your knowledge of job market requirements and your confidence in applying for jobs.  Your time as a PhD student at Stirling will not only help you to develop your research skills, but it will also provide you with a thorough understanding of how to evidence these skills when seeking a new post or applying for a promotion.

Industry connections

The programme is taught by experienced researchers who have extensive connections in the field of TESOL, including publishers and governmental organizations such as the British Council.  You will have a chance to network with a range of other key players in the field who are invited to deliver workshops and seminars in our ELTR (English Language Teaching and Research) event series.

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
Portal Logon