Exit Menu

Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences PhD

Enquire now How to apply

Find a supervisor

Apply full time

Apply part time

MPhil option - apply full time

MPhil option - apply part time


Subject area: Life Sciences Subject area: Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences
Study mode

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

UCAS code


Start date

Study location

Brunel University London campus

Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences PhD

MPhil option available This course has an MPhil option


Brunel offers a number of funding options to research students that help cover the cost of their tuition fees, contribute to living expenses or both. See more information here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/research/Research-degrees/Research-degree-funding. Recently the UK Government made available the Doctoral Student Loans of up to £25,000 for UK and EU students and there is some funding available through the Research Councils. Many of our international students benefit from funding provided by their governments or employers. Brunel alumni enjoy tuition fee discounts of 15%.)

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 community 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 research centres Centre for Human Performance, Exercise and Rehabilitation (CHPER) and Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience (CCN). The CHPER is led by Professor José González-Alonso, Professor of Exercise and Cardiovascular Physiology, and the CCN by Professor Veena Kumari, Professor of Psychology.

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 Louise Mansfield, Professor of Sport, Health and Social Sciences.

These groups work closely together to provide a unique multidisciplinary environment for world leading research that integrates the needs of governments, industry and not-for-profit sectors and brings economic, social and cultural benefits. There are possibilities to obtain a prestigious Gran Union DTP PhD studentship within the Health and Wellbeing pathway of the Grand Union DTP at Brunel University London: ESRC-Doctoral funded studentships in social science research. An ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership uniting Brunel University London, the Open University and the University of Oxford.

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

  • Join an internationally recognised environment for research excellence – Brunel is ranked #5 in the UK for sport and exercise research in terms of research power (REF2014), and highest for sport, health and exercise research in London.
  • Be part of an expert community that publishes world-leading research addressing priority challenges in sport, 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 athletes, 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.

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.

Welfare, Health and Wellbeing

  • Sport, health and exercise research in the Welfare, Health and Wellbeing theme:
  • Sport, health and physical activity
  • Sport, culture and wellbeing
  • Community sport development, inequalities, diversity and social justice
  • Understanding inactivity
  • Sport and physical education
  • Child safeguarding in sport
  • Athlete welfare and wellbeing
  • Health and wellbeing in the workplace 


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

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

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 local and community sport organisations and charities


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 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

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

All academic staff in Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences are potential supervisors and are listed here.

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.

Find out more about working with the Supervisory Team here.

Special features

Specialist equipment and facilities

Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences offer training in cutting edge research techniques and methodologies. 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 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.

Study environment for research students
Find out more: Study environment for research 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

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 the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, Public Heath England, Macmillan Cancer Support, Diabetes UK, Sport England, the Arts Council for England, Historic England and sportscotland 

Facts and figures

Recent grants

  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) (2018-2020). Culture, Sport, Communities and Wellbeing – conceptualising wellbeing and qualitative evidence synthesises, £195, 000. PI Professor Louise Mansfield Co-Is Professor Christina Victor (Brunel University London) Professor Norma Dayin (Tampere University Finland) Profess Catherine Meads (Anglia Ruskin University), Professor Alan Tomlinson (University of Brighton)

  • ERSC (2019-2020). Riding along in my automobile: musically-induced emotions and driving behaviour. Value £230,037. PI, Professor Costas Karageorghis, Co-I Professor Andrew Parkes (University of Coventry).

  • Sport England (2019). Evaluation of Essex Local Delivery Pilot; communities, inequalities, physical activity. University of Essex Consortium. Value £736,885. PI Dr Val Gladwell and Dr Paul Freeman (University of Essex) Co-I Professor Louise Mansfield (Brunel University London), Professor Rob Copeland (Sheffield Hallam University), Dr Anna Pettican (University of Essex), Dr Gina Reinhardt (University of Essex), Dr. Gavin Sandercock (University of Essex), Dr Tarek Baghal (University of Essex), Dr Gundi Knies (University of Essex). 

  • World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) (2020-23). Do Anti-Doping Interventions Work? A comparative intervention mapping of anti-doping programmes in Austria, Russia, South Africa and the UK. Value $70,000. PI Dr Vassil Girginov; Co-Is, Professors Cornelia Blank (University of Innsbruck), N Peshin (Moscow State University), K Badrak (St Petersburg University), C Burnett (University of Johannesburg) and M McNamee (Swansea University). 

Prestigious appointments

Professor José González-Alonso is member of the Scientific Committee of the European College of Sport Science (ECSS) and was member of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) subpanel 26 – Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism. Professor Louise Mansfield is an academic advisor to Sport England and UEFA informing evidence-led approaches to the design, implementation and evaluation of community sport both nationally and internationally.

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

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 projects undertaken within the Department of Life Sciences in the areas of Biosciences; Environmental Sciences; Psychology and Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences may require an annual bench fee. Research projects undertaken within the Department of Clinical Sciences in the areas of Physiotherapy; Occupational Therapy; Health Sciences and Social Work may also require an annual bench fee. The amount is variable dependent on the requirements of the project and will be discussed and agreed between the applicant and the supervisor at interview stage. This amount will be additional to tuition fees and will be stated in the offer letter from Admissions.”

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.