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Design PhD

MPhil option available This course has an MPhil option


PhD student loans

The UK Government has introduced PhD loans of up to £25000 to UK and EU nationals, residing in England, for postgraduate research programmes. Read more here

About the course

Research Culture at Brunel Design

Research students are welcomed as valued members of our thriving, research-intensive community in Brunel Design. Our doctoral researchers join the Made in Brunel team in annual final year project showcase and lead-up events. In addition, our yearly Design Doctoral Symposium as well as social events enable you to foster vibrant connections with the outside research community. The Brunel Graduate School also hosts a range of personal, professional and career development opportunities for you to network and to enhance your professional profile. Brunel’s Three Minute Thesis (3MT©) Competition and the Annual Brunel Doctoral Research Poster Conference are some of the wider activities being organised by the university.

Research at Brunel Design

Brunel Design has a well-established record of research excellence, with multidisciplinary, product related design research grounded on strong engineering design traditions. The department started offering PhD degrees in the 1980s and you can view the list of our current students here. Research in Design is organised according to following four thematic priorities:

  • Human Centred Design through inclusive design, design for aging demographics, perception and enhancement.
  • Sustainable Design through social responsibility, cleaner electronics and advanced materials and manufacture.
  • Advanced Technologies through engineering methods, optimization techniques, computer-aided-design and other emerging technologies.
  • Products, services and digital design through design innovation management, open design, design entrepreneurship, creativity, the digital economy, digital production and interfaces, and Information Architecture.

Academic Staff from Brunel Design

You may wish to contact an academic member of staff as your proposed supervisor as part of your application process. The department’s scope of research includes but is not limited to:

  • Human Centred Design
  • Trust in autonomous vehicles
  • Inclusive Design and Design of Healthcare Systems
  • Perception Enhancement
  • Design and Sustainability - theory, methods and tools
  • Design for 3D Printing (Additive Manufacturing) and Printed Electronics
  • 4D Printing /  Shape Memory Materials for Additive Manufacturing
  • Social impact of Distributed Manufacturing Systems
  • Design Innovation Management
  • Digital Design, Interfaces and Digital Production
  • Open Design and Co-Design
  • Social Innovation
  • Pedagogy and Curriculum

Find out more


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)

Course content

PhD Degree Programmes

Research activities within the design programmes at Brunel cover a wide ranging and diverse field of topics. Academic staff involved within these programmes combine human centred design for autonomous vehicles, ageing demographics and healthcare systems; from incorporating sustainability in design by developing cleaner electronics, design for 3D and 4D printing, and incorporating social responsibility; to using innovative design for creative industries and information architecture. There are three PhD degree programmes, and applicants have the choice of route when they access the on-line application. There are also Part-time and MPhil option options.

  • Design PhD
  • Design Integrated PhD
  • Design for Sustainable Manufacturing PhD

A PhD involves demonstrating original research through the creation and interpretation of new knowledge. It is carried out using a systematic acquisition and understanding of a substantial body of academic knowledge and being 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 degrees evolve in different ways according to discipline. Find out about what progress might look like at each stage of study here: Research degree progress structure


Careers and your future

Paid work is available to research students by undertaking teaching and learning support duties that represent 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). Brunel University London has received the European Commission HR Excellence in Research Award, in recognition of its continued commitment to the career development and management of its research staff. The award recognises our success in supporting the professional development of our researchers and in implementing the national Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers

 Find out more here.

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.

The Application Process

A research degree provides the opportunity for you to investigate a topic in depth, and contribute new knowledge to your discipline. As part of the application process for research degree (MPhil and PhD) programmes, you should provide a 500-1,000 word research statement, excluding any references/bibliography you may include, setting out your research motivation, ideas and aspirations. A list of currently available self-fundedPhD projects will enable you to search for PhD opportunities within particular subject areas and to browse individual PhD projects proposed by supervisors. 

There are generally three steps towards your application process which can be found here. Your research proposal or research statement is an important part of your application and you can contact an academic member of staff as your proposed supervisor as part of your application procedure. You can find member of our academic team from Design for feedback to help you finalise your statement. 

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.  

Start Dates

January, April, October

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

Academic Supervision

Working closely with your Research Supervisors throughout the duration of your studies will ensure that you have regular contact and good engagement. Each student is assigned a supervisory team consisting of a Principal Supervisor, a Secondary Supervisor and a Research Development Advisor (RDA). The RDA’s role is to provide guidance and support the student’s academic training, skills development and careers advice. At times, industrial/specialist advisors may also be involved in providing support to students, particularly in cases where the research is being carried out in an industrial setting. Members of the supervisory team will ensure an appropriate coverage of topic, methodological, transferable skills training and a balance of expertise and experience. Good quality supervision helps to ensure that students get high quality research training throughout the duration of their studies at Brunel Design.


Special features

Excellent Research Support and Training 

First year doctoral researchers within Brunel Design are encouraged to enrol and attend the Design Research module to enable a head-start towards their studies. Extensive training and support is also offered to all research students by the Graduate School, providing regular Masterclasses and individual advice on academic issues as part of the Researcher Development Programme. The university also provides Doctoral Researchers with in-sessional English Language support if required as a condition of admission or if recommended by the supervisory team.  In addition to the College Conference Fund, the Vice-Chancellor’s Travel Prize supports doctoral researchers for conference attendance and research presentations. 

Study Environment for Design Research Students

The University provides research students with access to a safe work environment, including the use of a desk and networked computer with bespoke software and 24 hour access in areas designated as being for PGR students/staff only. Each department will have access to high-spec research facilities and equipment available to researchers to enable them to conduct internationally leading research. 

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

Facts and figures

Brunel University London REF2014 Submission:

Art and Design: History, Practice and Theory

Aeronautical, Mechanical, Chemical and Manufacturing Engineering and General Engineering.  

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

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.

You can also check our rough guide to indicate what students might typically spend per month while studying at Brunel University London. Actual living costs will vary according to lifestyle. 

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.