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Human Performance, Exercise and Rehabilitation PhD

Subject area: Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences Apply full time
Mode of study



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Human Performance, Exercise and Rehabilitation PhD


About the course

Research students are welcomed to Brunel as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community. A research degree provides the opportunity to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. A PhD involves demonstrating through original research or other advanced scholarship the creation and interpretation of new knowledge, a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of knowledge at the forefront of an academic discipline or professional practice, the ability to conceptualise, design and implement a project for the general of new knowledge, applications or understanding at the forefront of the discipline. Both full-time (3 years) and part-time (6 years) study routes are available.

MPhil degree option An MPhil involves the exploration of a research topic and is typically studied over a shorter period of 1 year for a full-time student and 2 years for a part-time student. MPhil students are required to demonstrate a systematic understanding of knowledge and a critical awareness of current problems and/or new insights informed by the forefront of their discipline, field of study or professional practice.

Research profile
The Centre for Human Performance, Exercise and Rehabilitation (CHPER) includes researchers from the departments of Clinical and Life Sciences, working in the cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal and neurological research areas linked to human performance, health and rehabilitation. The centre brings together strong research groups in physiology and biomechanics from the previous Centre of Sports Medicine and Human Performance in Life Sciences that are focused on cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal health across the life span with a number of staff in physiotherapy and occupational therapy in the Department of Clinical Sciences with complementary research interests.

  • Professor José González-Alonso is member of the Scientific Committee of the European College of Sport Science and was member of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) subpanel 26 – Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism.
  • Dr Jenni Jones is Expert Adviser for NICE's Centre for Clinical Practice; Member of the Advisory Panel for the World Heart Federation Global Alliance in Education; Member of Advisory Board of the MAGIC - Horizon 2020 PHC-27 Mobile Assistance for Groups Individuals within the Community - stroke rehabilitation; Member of Scientific Programme Committee for the European Society of Cardiology’s Council on Cardiovascular Nursing and Allied Professions; Executive Director of the National Institute for Preventive Cardiology, Ireland; Past-President of the British Association for Cardiovascular Prevention and Rehabilitation (BACPR); Past-President of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Cardiac Rehabilitation.  
  • Dr Mandy Jones is an academic member of CORU - Regulating Health and Social Care Professionals in the Republic of Ireland and a review panel member for South African Medical Research Council and UK Consensus Group on Acute Medicine.

Find out more


All research degrees are administered by the Postgraduate Research Programmes Office in Colleges. Once you have identified your area of research and a potential supervisor, you can complete your application online. Please use the contact details below for enquiries. You may also approach your potential supervisor directly.

College of Health and Life Sciences
Tel: +44 (0) 1895 268161

Prof José González-Alonso – CHPER Director
Tel: +44 (0)1895 267324


Special Features

  • CHPER offers training in cutting edge research techniques and methodologies in sport, exercise, health and rehabilitation sciences. A training programme will be provided by the College to assist students with achieving targets.  The programme will include the underpinning principles such as philosophy of science, research integrity, ethics and specialist methodology.  Sessions in core, specialist and advanced research methods will prepare students for an independent research career. Students will also enrol in the Graduate School Researcher Development Programme, which ensures all students are equipped with generic research skills including presentational skills and impact activities. 
  • CHPER researchers use state-of-the art cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal and neuro-muscular laboratories and associated equipment to gain new knowledge and understanding of the body systems regulation and adaptation to exercise and training and the factors regulating human performance, health and rehabilitation.  
  • The centre offers well-equipped research laboratories and study facilities that can accommodate 50-60 PhD students at any given time. There are also plans to build a new suite of specialist laboratories to extend our research portfolio.
  • Join an internationally recognised environment for research excellence – Brunel is ranked #3 and #5 in the UK for sport and exercise research in terms of research intensity and power, respectively (REF2014), and highest for sport and exercise research in London.
  • Be part of an expert community that publishes world-leading research addressing priority challenges in sport and exercise, health and wellbeing.
  • Benefit from our excellent relationships with sport performance and health organisations in the public, private and third sector, including policymakers, health professionals, professional sport, and local delivery partners in health, sport development and education.
  • In physiotherapy, you will join a group with internationally renowned expertise in cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal and neurological health and rehabilitation and in quantitative, qualitative and mixed research methodologies.
  • In Occupational Therapy, you will join researchers with the breadth of UK and international practice, from neurorehabilitation, to assessment and professional decision-making, components of driving skills, physical and cognitive developmental changes and supportive interventions, to psychoanalytic and narrative approaches to research.
  • Benefit from established relationships between physiotherapy and occupational therapy with health, government, professional and research funding bodies.
  • Enjoy being part of a well-resourced, collegial research environment - all our research students are based in our dedicated postgraduate study rooms alongside academic staff offices and play a full part in the activities of the Divisions

Facts and Figures

  • Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences is ranked #3, #5 and #12 in the UK for sport and exercise research in terms of research intensity, power and overall quality profile, respectively (REF2014).
  • Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy were submitted to the Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy unit of assessment in REF 2014.  The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The results of the REF2014 have been made public in December 2014, replacing the previous REF conducted in 2008.  The next REF will be undertaken in 2020. Read more: Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 - A Guide for PhD Students
  • Recent grants awarded:
    • Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Pepsi Co Inc. USA – Do dehydration and hyperthermia compromise brain and muscle blood flow during exhausting exercise in humans? £129,369. PI Prof José González-Alonso. 
    • EUFA – Risks versus benefits: should youth football players be encouraged to take creatine? €20,000. PI Dr Pascale Kippelen
    • UK Occupational Therapy Research Foundation (UKOTRF) – National guidance for measuring home furniture and fittings to enable user self-assessment and successful fit of minor assistive devices. £79,185. PI Dr Georgia Spiliotopoulou.


Teaching and Assessment


Each student will be allocated a supervisory team consisting of the principal supervisor, second supervisor and a research development advisor. The supervisory team will set teaching and learning targets and advise the student how to achieve them. The progress of each student will be assessed by the supervisory team at regular meetings and by a formal Progress Review Panel at 9 months for full-time students (18 months for part-time students) and then annually. All academic supervisors receive university supported training in the supervision of PhD students.

All academic staff in CHPER are potential supervisors and are listed here. For details of potential research topics please visit this webpage.



Following the completion of the course students may follow several career paths:

  • Career path within academia starting as a University Lecturer/Assistant Professor
  • Career progression within research institutes commencing as a post-doc researcher and progressing to senior researcher
  • Career path within government agencies (e.g., Sport England, UK Sport, English Institute of Sport, Department of Health, Hospitals, etc.)
  • Career path within Sport organisations and charities
  • Career path in Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy research
  • Professional Education and Training of Physiotherapists or Occupational Therapists

The Division of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences has strong links with local NHS trusts, national and international governing bodies of sport, hospitals and professional sports clubs such the Premier League, FIFA, UEFA, English Institute of Sport, UK Sport, GB Shooting, Lawn Tennis Association, etc.  The Division of Physiotherapy and the Division Occupational Therapy and Community Nursing have also strong collaborative links with several key London hospitals and NHS trusts.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Fees for 2016/17 entry

Home/EU students

Full time: £4,121 Part time: £2,060

International students

Full time: £17,200 Part time: £8,600

Additional course related costs

Fees quoted are per annum and are subject to an annual increase.

Entry Criteria 2017/18

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree and additionally, for a PhD, a Master’s degree or equivalent.  All international students must show evidence that they meet the English requirement for their course of study: IELTS 7.0 (with no less than 6.0 in any section). This applies even if English is the native language of your home country. An appropriate level of English language competence is also expected as listed below. Find out which alternative English language qualifications we accept. Applicants may also be required to attend compulsory in-sessional English language support. The Senate reserves the right to assess the eligibility of applicants on an individual basis.

Potential research students are encouraged to contact members of staff in the area of interest to receive guidance on how to write the research proposal.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU Entry Requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English Language Requirements

  • IELTS: 7 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 64 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 70% (min 60% in all areas)

Brunel University London strongly recommends that if you will require a Tier 4 visa, you sit your IELTS test at a test centre that has been approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) as being a provider of a Secure English Language Test (SELT). Not all test centres have this status. The University can accept IELTS (with the required scores) taken at any official test centre or other English Language qualifications we accept as meeting our main award entry requirements.

However, if you wish to undertake a Pre-sessional English course to further improve your English prior to the start of your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider. This is because you will only be able to apply for a Tier 4 student visa to undertake a Pre-sessional English course if you hold a SELT from a UKVI approved test centre. Find out more information about it.

Brunel also offers our own BrunELT English Test and accepts a range of other language courses. We also have Pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet these requirements, or who wish to improve their English.

Our International Pathways and Language Centre offers a number of foundation and pre-masters courses to provide you with the academic skills required for your chosen course.