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Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences 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

Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences at Brunel hosts a vibrant community of researchers with expertise in both natural and social sciences. 

Natural science research focuses on integrative aspects of human physiology, biomechanics and psychology of sport and exercise. A primary aim is to further our fundamental understanding of the regulation and adaptation of the cardiovascular, respiratory and neuromuscular systems to exercise and training, as well as the physiological, biomechanical and psychological limitations to human sport performance and exercise tolerance.

Social science research focuses on the role of sport, health and wellbeing in contemporary society and their relevance to policy and practice.  Work spans a wide remit, from analysis of healthy lifestyles and recreational sport participation, to research into elite sport systems and performers.

More about research in this area

The Division’s natural science researchers are members of the College Research Centres Centre for Human Performance, Exercise and Rehabilitation (CHPER) and Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN).

The Division’s social science researchers are members of the Welfare, Health and Wellbeing Theme in the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies, where they form a specialist group for sport, health and wellbeing research. The Theme is led by Professor Tess Kay, Professor of Sport and Social Sciences.

 These groups work closely together to provide a unique multidisciplinary environment.


Prestigious appointments

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. Professor Tess Kay is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Potential research projects

Our research is highly regarded and offers talented researchers the opportunity to:

  • 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.
  • 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 Division.

A list of research areas is included below according to the research centres and research institute theme:

Centre for Human Performance, Exercise and Rehabilitation:

  • Human performance, cardiovascular, respiratory and musculoskeletal health research.
  • Mechanisms regulating muscle blood flow and the role of muscle mechanisms and breathing in cardiovascular control.
  • Respiratory physiology and pathophysiology as applied to exercise, hypoxia and chronic disease states; role of the respiratory system (gas exchange, airway mechanics and respiratory muscle work/fatigue) and its cardiovascular interactions (mechanical and reflex) as significant contributors to oxygen transport and exercise performance limitations in healthy endurance athletes as well as in COPD and asthma.
  • Dysfunctional breathing, breathing retraining and exercise in the management of dysfunctional breathing, physiotherapy management of breathing conditions.
  • Mechanisms of in vivo muscle-tendon and joint function during maturation in children, young athletes and across the lifespan.
  • Reduction of musculoskeletal loading and prevention of injuries in athletes and among people with neuromuscular or musculoskeletal pathologies.
  • Movement and coordination in children and the effects of acquired and developmental disorders in children and young adults.

Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience:

Three main research strands, and encouragement for research that integrates two or more of these strands:

  • Vision – visual attention, visual perception, face perception, visual language.
  • Action – motor control, executive control, performance (e.g. dance/sport).
  • Plasticity – lifespan changes, acquisition of expertise (e.g. in areas above such as vision, action and performance), neurodegeneration/rehabilitation.

Sport , health and exercise research in the Welfare, Health and Wellbeing theme:

  • Sport, health and physical activity
  • Sport, culture and wellbeing
  • Community sport development
  • Understanding inactivity
  • Sport and physical education
  • Child safeguarding in sport
  • Athlete welfare and wellbeing
  • Health and wellbeing in the workplace 


All research degrees are administered by the Postgraduate Research Programmes Office in Colleges. Potential research students are encouraged to contact members of staff in their area of interest to receive guidance on how to develop a research project on their preferred topic. Staff provide tailored individual guidance to assist potential students in writing a high quality research proposal which will form the basis of their research.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 - Division PGR Officer
Tel: +44 (0)1895 267324

Dr Predrag Slijepcevic – Department PGR Director
Tel: +44 (0)1895 266302            

Prof Tess Kay – Division Social Science lead

Special Features

Specialist equipment and facilities

Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences offer training in cutting edge research techniques and methodologies in sport, health and exercise sciences. The natural science researchers use state-of-the art cardiovascular, respiratory, biomechanics and motor behaviour laboratories and associated equipment  to gain new knowledge and understanding of the body systems regulation and adaptation to exercise and training and the factors limiting human skill and physical performance.  The social science researchers offer expertise in a wide range of established and more innovative quantitative, qualitative, mixed methods and evaluation methodologies.  Our strong networks provide students with invaluable access to the sport and health sector, e.g. our current PhD projects working with Public Health England, Macmillan Cancer Support, UK Sport and UNICEF. The Division of Sport Health and Exercise Sciences offers well-equipped research laboratories and study facilities that can accommodate 30-40 PhD students at any given time.

Training and development

All students participate in the training programme provided by the College to equip students to undertake their research successfully.  The programme includes the underpinning principles such as philosophy of science, research integrity, ethics and specialist methodology.  Sessions in core, specialist and advanced research methods 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. 

Collaborative partnerships

The Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences Division 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.  We work extensively with organisations promoting health and wellbeing through sport, from community organisations to major national agencies including Public Heath England, Sport England and sport scotland. 

Facts and Figures

Recent grants

  • ESRC – Culture, Sport and Wellbeing Evidence Review: Social Diversity and Context Matters. £1, 001, 076 awarded to Brunel to lead the project in collaboration with LSE, University of Brighton and University of Winchester.
  • Sport England – Get Healthy Get Active award of £354,000 with in-kind support from the London Borough of Hounslow (circa £40k). Led by Dr Louise Mansfield, Senior Lecturer in Sport, Health and Wellbeing.
  • BBSRC, UK Sport, BBSRC – Behavioural and Biological Mechanisms Underpinning Elite Performance in Aiming Tasks. £220,000 awarded to Brunel for a project led by Prof Mark Williams
  • Protecting children’s health and wellbeing: Evaluation of International Safeguarding Standards for Sport projects was awarded £150,000, funded by the Oak Foundation and the International Working Group on Protection in Sport. The project was led by Dr Daniel Rhind, Senior Lecturer in Youth Sport.
  • Gatorade Sports Science Institute, Pepsi Co Inc. USA awarded £129,369 to Prof José González-Alonso to investigate if dehydration and hyperthermia compromise brain and muscle blood flow during exhausting exercise in humans

Awards and accolades

Professor Celia Brackenridge was awarded an OBE* in 2012 for her leading role in preventing abuse in children in sport.

*(OBE stands for Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire given by Queen Elizabeth II).

Brunel University London REF2014 Submission

Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

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. Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences is ranked #3, #5 and #11 in the UK for sport and exercise research in terms of research intensity, research power and overall research quality profile, respectively (REF2014). Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 - A Guide for PhD Students

Teaching and Assessment


All academic staff in Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences are potential supervisors and are listed on link below:

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.


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, etc)
  • Career path within Sport organisations and charities

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

Fees per year for 2016/17

Home/EU students

Full time: £4,121
Part time: £2,060

International students

Full time: £17,200
Part time: £8,600

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

Entry Criteria 2016/17

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. 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.

IELTS 7.0 (with no less than 6.0 in any section)

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.