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PhD TESOL Research

The PhD in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) Research is a unique course helping you to develop your research skills to a professional level and supporting your learning through taught modules.

TESOL Research

Key facts

  • Award PhD
  • Start date September (all students) or January (part-time students)
  • Duration PhD full-time: 36 to 48 months, PhD part-time: 60 to 96 months
  • Mode of study Campus based, Stand-alone modules

This PhD course is entirely dedicated to TESOL Research. This doctorate 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.

This course will develop your research skills and set you on the path to becoming an autonomous researcher. The PhD is a significant qualification which will mark you out as an expert researcher in the field of teaching English to speakers of other languages. You’ll 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.

We’ll support you throughout your time on the PhD TESOL Research. Before embarking on your thesis investigation, the course will foster your research skills development through seven taught modules on TESOL, research methods and educational theories. Our PhD in TESOL Research will provide you with an opportunity to go beyond what would be required from a Masters of Research (MRes) and an Educational Doctorate (EdD) in that you’ll produce a more substantial 60,000-word thesis.

The academic environment at the University of 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.

By graduation you’ll 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
  • is able to make a contribution to scholarly knowledge and professional practice
  • Top reasons to study with us
  • Flexible learning

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

  • Research

    In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, Educational research at the University of Stirling had the highest quality of research outputs of any Scottish university, with 100% classed as either world-leading or internationally excellent. Our expert teaching team are on hand to introduce you to cutting-edge empirical and theoretical research in a multi-disciplinary and professional environment.

  • Academic requirements

    You should usually have a minimum of a Masters degree in TESOL, Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Languages or similar subject from a university in the United Kingdom or elsewhere (provided that the degree levels are comparable to those in the UK).

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

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

  • Application procedure

    As part of the application process, you’re asked to answer each of the following questions in 500 to 1,000 words:

    • Why are you interested in the course?
    • What problems or foci are you particularly interested in researching?
    • What kind of research methods might you employ?

    The first question should be addressed in your personal statement. Although you do not have to submit a research proposal to apply for this PhD course, we would appreciate it if you could answer the second and third questions in the field dedicated to your research proposal. This way, we will be able to check whether there are two suitable supervisors for you at the University.

    Please use our PhD TESOL Research Application Further Questions form to answer the second and third questions and upload it to your online application.

  • English language requirements

    If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

    • IELTS 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each sub-skill
    • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 185 overall with a minimum of 176 in each sub-skill
    • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 185 overall with a minimum of 180 in each sub-skill
    • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 67 overall with a minimum of 60 in each sub-skill
    • IBT TOEFL 94 overall with 19 in reading, 24 in writing, 20 in listening and 22 in speaking
    • Trinity ISE III Pass overall and in all sub-skills, ISE IV Pass overall and in all sub-skills

    Last updated: 5 December 2019

    For more information on ways that you can meet our English language requirements, including options to waive the requirement, please read our information on English language requirements.

  • Pre-sessional English language courses

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

    Find out more about our pre-sessional English language courses.


The modules listed below are those currently intended for delivery in the next academic intake of this course. These may be subject to change as the University regularly revises and refreshes the curriculum of our taught programmes.

Course Details

  • Teaching

    The taught modules in this ground-breaking PhD in TESOL Research course are delivered on a face-to-face and blended basis. The delivery style such as lectures, workshops and student presentations are carefully selected to suit the module content and your needs.

    You’ll benefit from a flexible course delivered intensively (mostly on Fridays), allowing you to read and research extensively.

    TESOL students are also invited to the TESOL Researcher Development Group meetings as well as to our English Language Teaching and Research (ELTR) events, which are delivered by leading researchers and professionals.

    In the most recent study by QS, staff from the University of Stirling received a 5 out of 5-star rating for teaching (QS World University Rankings 2018).

  • Assessment

    Assessments for the taught modules will vary depending on their respective learning outcomes and may include presentation, annotated bibliography, essay, and research proposal. For each 20-credit module, you’ll 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.

    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 seven taught modules but do not proceed to the Thesis (TESPR04) will exit with an MRes in TESOL Research.

  • Study abroad

    As a student on our PhD TESOL Research course you have the fantastic opportunity to gain valuable work experience teaching English to speakers of English as a foreign language in 33 European countries through Erasmus+ traineeships.

    The University of Stirling has also developed close working partnerships with two universities around the world to make finding a placement as seamless as possible and give you tailored teaching and learning opportunities. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you can apply for a placement with:

    Leuphana University of Lüneburg, Germany

    Undertake class observation, small-group supervision and teaching assistance in a local high school. During the school holiday, you will have a chance to work with materials development or with writing support at the university.

    Széchenyi István University, Hungary

    Get involved in class observation and teaching at the university or the university’s practice school.

    Application information will be provided to students undertaking our PhD TESOL Research.

  • Course director
  • Key staff

    The TESOL unit within Education Studies includes a number of internationally renowned academics such as Professors Adrian Blackledge, Angela Creese, and Fiona Copland. Prof Copland is the Associate Dean of Research in the Faculty of Social Sciences and combines teaching experience with research expertise, having worked in several countries including Nigeria, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK. Her research interests include language teaching pedagogy and the feedback given to trainee teachers.

    Ask an expert in TESOL

  • Fees and costs
    2019/20 fees

    Home/EU students

    Overseas students

    Full programme fee £15,060  £41,460 
    2020/21 fees

    Home/EU students

    Overseas students

    Full programme fee £15,400 £43,450

    If you need to extend your period of study, you may be liable for an additional fee.

    If you are not studying full-time, the fee for each year will be calculated based on the number of credits you enrol on each year. Your fees will be held at the same level throughout your course.

    For more information on courses invoiced on an annual fee basis, please read our tuition fee policy.

    Doctoral loans

    If you're domiciled in England or Wales you may be eligible to apply for a doctoral loan of up to £25,700 from your regional body:

  • Scholarships and funding

    If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

    Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

  • Additional costs

    There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

  • Cost of living

    If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

    EU and overseas students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support.

    Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

  • Payment options

    We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

There are thousands of qualified teachers of English to speakers of other languages worldwide but only a small proportion of these practitioners actually know how to conduct 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 education. The PhD degree will open up numerous possibilities for furthering your professional and academic career.

  • Employability skills

    We’re committed to enhancing your employability. Once you register for the PhD in TESOL Research, you’ll have access to the first-class range of services offered by the Career Development Centre, which you can use even after your graduation. Within TESOL, we additionally provide you with a tailored workshop series entitled “My career in TESOL”. This is 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.

    You’ll have access to numerous options for further development offered by the Institute for Advanced Studies and by the Faculty of Social Sciences.

  • Companies we work with

    The PhD is taught by experienced researchers who have extensive connections in the field of TESOL, including publishers and governmental organisations such as the British Council. You’ll 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.

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