Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences

Qualification(s) available: PhD

Entry requirements
3 years
6 years
Start date
1 January, 1 April, 1 July or 1 October
UK fee
To be confirmed
International fee


Our world-leading School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences is renowned for fundamental and applied research which supports knowledge advancement and informs the practice of organisations worldwide.

We have extensive links and research contracts with industry and education partners, and with sport and health organisations. Together, our research activity encompasses a broad range of social and natural sciences within the themes of:

  • performance in sport
  • lifestyle for health and wellbeing
  • participation in sport and exercise.

Our staff are renowned internationally for the quality of their teaching and research, which has influenced policy and practice around the world. 100% of our research impact was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) and we have been ranked first in the world for sports-related subjects for the fourth year in a row by the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020). Our research and our academics also regularly see us making headlines and appearing in the media, such is our prominence in the fields of health, sport, exercise and biomedical science.

We have extensive state-of-the-art facilities, including within the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine – East Midlands (NCSEM-EM), to give you advanced skills and techniques to conduct leading research. Our facilities cover:

  • physiology, nutrition and biochemistry
  • psychology
  • human biology
  • sports policy and management
  • physical activity and health
  • biomechanics
  • physical education

Our expertise, combined with ongoing investment in buildings, laboratories and equipment make our School a stimulating and multidisciplinary environment in which to undertake your research.

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Why you should choose us

Where you'll study

We are proud to offer postgraduate students the most advanced facilities for learning and research. The School is based across four buildings, including the state-of-the-art National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine – East Midlands, housing laboratories with specialist equipment for the study of physiology, psychology, biomechanics and biosciences.

These include the latest physiological, molecular and environmental technologies, two climatic chambers and bespoke training and testing equipment. Some of the laboratories include:

Our research

Sports Performance

Our sports performance research aims to understand and enhance sport and exercise performance across all abilities by investigating influencing factors and improvement methods. Our multidisciplinary approach encompasses physiology, biochemistry and nutrition; biomechanics and motor control; sports psychology; and sports sociology, policy and management.

Lifestyle for Health and Well-being

Research within this theme aims to improve human health and well-being throughout the lifespan. We consider the social, behavioural and biological determinants and consequences of human lifestyles, with emphases on physical activity, nutrition and chronic disease. Our expertise covers psychology, epidemiology, physiology, nutrition, sport science, human biology and the social sciences.

Participation in Sport and Exercise

Our participation in sport and exercise research theme analyses the sociological, economic, psychological, political, organisational and behavioural factors which inhibit and facilitate participation and engagement.

Our research considers casual and informal physical activity, as well as formal, organised and elite sport across local, national and international contexts. We also explore the implementation of exercise medicine to the general public for physical and mental health and well-being. There is a specific focus on culture and citizenship, life course and transitions, organisation and facility, and sport integrity.

Gender and Sport Centre for Doctoral Training

This multidisciplinary mini Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) was formed in 2018 and is led by our School in collaboration with the School of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the School of Design and Creative Arts. Together, our research employs a diverse set of methodologies to explore the critical issue of gender diversity in sports participation, from grassroot to elite level.

For more information, please contact Dr Gemma Witcomb.

Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)

We are proud to be part of the ESRC Midlands Graduate School DTP in partnership with the universities of Warwick, Nottingham, Birmingham, Aston and Leicester. The DTP offers 17 different funded PhD training pathways across the social sciences, including in sport and exercise science.

As a DTP PhD student, you will benefit from networking and research opportunities with collaborating institutions, along with advanced training workshops and courses.

For more information, please contact Dr Daniel Rhind.

Your development

Throughout your research journey, your primary and secondary supervisors will provide academic and pastoral support, along with our School’s Director of Doctoral Programmes, who will oversee your academic progress.

Undertaking a PhD will give you the opportunity to develop new and highly sought-after skills, which you can apply to a range of careers in academia, industry and beyond. You will be able to make a novel contribution to knowledge, giving you the chance to become a world expert in your field and opening up opportunities with a range of leading employers. You will also further develop your transferable skills, such as advanced research skills, time and project management, and networking and relationship building.

Our extensive training provision, supported by the Doctoral College, will also enhance your skills and experience as a researcher. These include seminars and modules in advanced research methods, our School research student conference and research café, and the Doctoral College’s Café Academiques, Research Conference and Summer Showcase.

Your future career

Graduates who have undertaken postgraduate research degrees in the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences are ideally prepared for research careers in academia or with research institutions.

Our recent graduates have also gone onto careers with the NHS, Archery GB, the English Institute of Sport, the Chamber of Advocates - Malta, Kuwait Television, and the British Wheelchair Rugby Association.

Graduate roles include Research Associate, Senior Lecturer in Sports Science, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Senior Bioinformatician, Performance Nutritionist, and Sports Scientist.

Entry requirements

Our entry requirements are listed using standard UK undergraduate degree classifications i.e. first-class honours, upper second-class honours and lower second-class honours. To learn the equivalent for your country, please choose it from the dropdown below.

Entry requirements for United Kingdom

A 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent international qualification) or a master’s degree in a relevant subject.

English language requirements

Applicants must meet the minimum English language requirements. Further details are available on the International website.

Fees and funding

UK fee

Full-time degree per annum
To be confirmed

International fee

Full-time degree per annum

Tuition fees cover the cost of your teaching, assessment and operating University facilities such as the library, IT equipment and other support services. University fees and charges can be paid in advance and there are several methods of payment, including online payments and payment by instalment. Fees are reviewed annually and are likely to increase to take into account inflationary pressures.

Find out more about research degree funding

How to apply

If you can't find an advertised project that fits your interests and experience, you can submit a research proposal to the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences to find a supervisor who will work with you on your project. You can view our list of academic staff on our School website or you can email us for guidance.

Your research proposal should be a maximum of 1,000 words and include the aims of your study, a brief literature review, an outline of the proposed research methods, and your preferred member of staff to supervise the project. Further information on preparing your proposal can be found here.

You are strongly recommended to contact us before applying to discuss your topic, availability and funding.

Apply now