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Anthropology PhD

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MPhil option - apply full time

MPhil option - apply part time


Subject area: Anthropology
Study mode

3-year full-time; 6-year part-time

UCAS code


Start date

Study location

Brunel University London campus

Anthropology PhD

MPhil option available This course has an MPhil option


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 strengths

In addition to historical strengths in the anthropologies of medicine and global health; childhood, youth and education; international development; histories and concepts of anthropological knowledge; and performance, politics and violence, staff are also quick to adapt to the research challenges of a fast-changing world. Current research also engages, for example, with international environmental crises, human-animal relations, and contemporary imaginings of the future.

Potential doctoral researchers should checkout our online individual staff profiles, but in general we welcome anthropological research in the following areas:

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Psychological and Psychiatric Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Education and Schooling
  • Anthropology of Childhood and Youth
  • International Development and Humanitarian Assistance
  • Global Conservation
  • Human/Animal Relations and Multi-Species Ethnography
  • Anthropology of Food
  • Anthropology of Emotion
  • Collective Memory
  • Suicide
  • Biography and Life History
  • Performance and Embodiment
  • Landscape, Time and Temporality
  • Religion and Ritual
  • Anthropocenic Discourses and Ontologies
  • Political Violence, the State, Nationalism
  • Visual Anthropology, Materiality, Museology


Contact our Enquiries team.
Course Enquiries: +44 (0)1895 265599 (before you submit an application)
Admissions Office: +44 (0)1895 265265 (after you submit an application)


Careers and your future

Paid work available to research students
Undertaking teaching and learning support duties represents an important professional and career development opportunity for postgraduate research students. Brunel offers two levels of paid work available to Postgraduate Research students. The first level post is as a Demonstrator and the second level post is as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA). Teaching and learning support duties will vary between Departments and research students should not rely on such opportunities being available. Find out more here.

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

  • Career path within academia
  • Career path within the international development sector or aid industry, working with non-governmental organisations (e.g., Oxfam, Save the Children, Green Peace) or with international governmental agencies (e.g . World Health Organisation, World Food Programme, UNESCO, etc.)
  • Career path with cultural organisations: museum curator, education officer, independent researcher
  • Career path in government or with the civil service (e.g., UK Department for International Development, the NHS, local Councils)
  • Career path with local or international corporations, as organisational consultants (Intel, IBM, Saatchi and Saatchi, Nike)

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

Entry criteria 2019/20

The general University entrance requirement for registration for a research degree is normally a First or Upper Second Class Honours degree. All international students must show evidence that they meet the English requirement for their course of study. The Senate reserves the right to assess the eligibility of applicants on an individual basis.

Research statement

As part of our application process for entry on our research degree (MPhil and PhD) programmes, we ask you to provide a 500-1,000 word research statement, excluding any references/bibliography you may include, setting out your research motivation, ideas and aspirations. Learn how to prepare a research statement here.  



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: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

You can find out more about the qualifications we accept on our English Language Requirements page.

If you require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK, you must prove knowledge of the English language so that we can issue you a Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS). To do this, you will need an IELTS for UKVI or Trinity SELT test pass gained from a test centre approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and on the Secure English Language Testing (SELT) list. This must have been taken and passed within two years from the date the CAS is made.

Should you wish to take a pre-sessional English course to improve your English prior to starting your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider for the same reason.

We offer our own BrunELT English Test and have pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet requirements or who wish to improve their English. You can find out more information on English courses and test options at the Brunel Language Centre.

Teaching and learning

The Anthropology staff and their research interests:

  • Nicolas Argenti - Youth, childhood, performance, political violence and collective memory; Cameroon, Greece
  • Andrew Beatty - Psychological and psychiatric anthropology, emotion, religion and ritual, new approaches to ethnographic writing; Indonesia and Mexico
  • Liana Chua - Anthropology of conversion, ritual and religion; development and conservation; human-animal relations and multispecies ethnography; ‘anthropocene’ discourses, politics and ontologies; materiality, museology, visual anthropology; Malaysian Borneo
  • Peggy Froerer - Education and schooling; childhood and youth; poverty and development; inequality and social mobility; nationalism and ethnic conflict; South Asia
  • Eric Hirsch - Historicity and landscape; myth, personhood and ritual; power and property relations; Papua New Guinea, Britain
  • Maria Kastrinou - Sectarianism, nationalism and minorities; the state, authoritarianism, statelessness; Islam and Druze religion; Syrian war, refugees; social politics of energy and electricity; post-conflict reconciliation and development; Middle East, Greece, Europe
  • Isak Niehaus - Political anthropology; witchcraft and cosmology; HIV/AIDS; masculinity and sexuality; history of anthropology; Southern Africa
  • Will Rollason - Development and the post-colony; the future; youth; football; Rwanda, Papua New Guinea
  • James Staples - Medical anthropology (leprosy, disability, the body and pain); suicide; anthropology of food; biography and life history; South Asia

Special features

Diversity and openness

PhD students come to Brunel from diverse cultural backgrounds and belong to a genuinely international anthropology department. (The Times Higher Educational Supplement recently described Brunel as “the most international university”.) Brunel’s teaching and research reflect this diversity. Our supervisors have expertise in a wide range of topics and countries and our students have carried out research in five continents. Unlike some departments where students are expected to follow the research agendas of their supervisors, we are open to any proposal where we think we can help PhD students fulfil their objectives. Glance at a list of recent Brunel PhDs to confirm this. The diversity in our student cohort lies partly in the fact that many of our PhD students come to us mid-career – perhaps taking time off from work in the health or social sectors. Others have recently obtained their Masters at Brunel and want to research more deeply into their chosen field. There is an established path from career break to a Brunel Masters to PhD and back into career - usually at a higher level. For example, a Thai dentist came to us to study an MSc in Medical Anthropology. For her PhD she spent a year in Northern Thailand studying the relation between health and kinship. She has now returned to Thailand where, in addition to dentistry, she lectures on medical anthropology.

A multidisciplinary ethos in a leading centre of social sciences

Socially and culturally diverse, Brunel anthropology also benefits from its position within a multidisciplinary social sciences school in which students are able to take modules in the sister disciplines of psychology, social psychology, and sociology/communications. (Even if, as a PhD candidate, you do not want to opt for a psychology module, you may find it stimulating to sit in on lectures in the evolutionary psychology series or catch the odd distinguished visiting lecturer.) Anthropology students join with other social sciences students in the Graduate Research Skills and Professional Development module which helps them with presentation skills, and gives them the know-how necessary to get research published and make the most of career opportunities.

A friendly and supportive research environment

Added to Brunel’s diversity and openness is the friendly and supportive atmosphere of its anthropology department: something not possible in a large impersonal institution. In a middle-sized department, what we can offer is a high level of personal attention, with training and supervision tailored to the interests of individual students. You will be assigned two supervisors, often with complementary expertise, but you will of course benefit from the broader range of knowledge in our anthropology team.

Facts and figures

Brunel University London REF2014 Submission: Anthropology and Development Studies

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.

Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 - A Guide for PhD Students

Excellent research support and training 

Extensive training and support is offered to all research students by the Graduate School, with regular Masterclasses and individual advice on academic issues as part of the Researcher Development Programme. Read more about the available Research Support and Training.

Library services

Brunel's library is open 24 hours a day, has 400,000 books and 250,000 e-books, and an annual budget of almost £2m. Subject Information Specialists train students in the latest technology, digital literacy, and digital dissemination of scholarly outputs.

  • state-of-the-art research information management tools including a research publication and grant database
  • one of the largest UK’s full text repository 
  • an integrated data management system 
  • analytical tools such as Altmertic and InCites 
  • Open Access centrally managed fund

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019/20 entry


Home/EU students:

International students:

Fees (per year):




Part-time (for students not requiring Tier 4 visa)











Research funding

We offer a range of PhD studentships, partial scholarships, and academic prizes, to help with your research fees.  Explore external funding, particularly the Research Councils, as well as other support.

Some courses incur additional course related costs. You can also check our on-campus accommodation costs for more information on living expenses.

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