Cranfield Forensic Institute (CFI) is a specialised research and teaching unit, comprising experienced and dedicated researchers. It has developed a world class reputation in a diverse range of research areas which can lead to a PhD in Defence and Security, Archaeology, or Forensic Science and is lauded for the rigour, originality, international perspective, and relevance of its doctoral programme. PhD candidates are required to attend an initial one-week induction programme. Thereafter, regular progress reviews are undertaken to ensure students receive continuous advice and guidance. Cranfield is well-known for providing close and supportive supervision, and students will be allocated primary and associate supervisors to offer mentorship across the entire period of doctoral registration.

Research areas

Doctoral research programmes are offered in a broad array of defence and security Archaeology, or Forensic Science. Candidates are invited to submit research proposals that fit into any of the broad subject areas which can be found on the Research Areas  page.  You will also find links to related Staff Biographies on those pages which will enable you to contact them direct if you need advice or guidance on your area of interest.

Mode of study

Students can register for a three-year full-time PhD programme, and may be based at either Cranfield Campus, Cranfield Defence and Security, Shrivenham or in their home country.

Part-time registration is also available. The study period extends to six years, though it is possible for students to submit their doctoral thesis for examination from the three-year point. Candidates will not be based at Cranfield Campus or Shrivenham and may undertake their doctoral studies while in full-time employment at any location in the United Kingdom or overseas.

Annual fees

Find out more about our current local and international full-time and part-time fees.

How to apply

CFI is one of seven focused Centres that form part of Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS), one of four Schools at Cranfield University. It is located on two sites Cranfield Campus in Buckinghamshire, an hour north of London by train and at the Shrivenham site on the edge of England’s beautiful Cotswold region, just an hour West of London. The application process is uncomplicated, having the following requirements:

  • Completion of an online application form
  • Submission of a research proposal, with a wordage target of between 2-2,500 words. The proposal should include:

    • A clear and concise research aim/problem/question
    • Reference to the original contribution to knowledge
    • Brief identification of the seminal literature in the chosen field
    • Explanation of the research methodology for data collection
    • Emphasis on the research programme’s policy relevance
  • Compliance with the minimum entry requirements: a 2.1 first degree and/or master’s qualification

For further application information, please access more details about applying for a research degree:

MSc by Research

A highly flexible MSc for graduates who wish to explore an area of their work or other interests at depth.

The MSc by Research in Defence and Security, Archaeology or Forensic Science provides graduates with the opportunity to develop knowledge, understanding and expertise in their chosen field of research, in much greater depth than a taught master’s degree, but without the requirement to make a ‘contribution to knowledge’ as a doctoral student. Students develop broad skills in areas relevant to their field of research.  This course is designed for graduates with good first degrees who wish to explore an area of their work or other interests in more detail. Students will have the opportunity to utilise the specialist facilities within the Cranfield Forensic Institute (CFI) and Cranfield University as a whole to carry out a significant research project of their own under the supervision of one or more Cranfield specialists.

The MSc is highly flexible and much of the work can be done from home. Admission to the MSc by Research gives the student access to all the modules run by CFI, the laboratories, equipment and other facilities at either site, Cranfield Campus in Buckinghamshire or Shrivenham site in south Oxfordshire.

Potential students are encouraged to consult the Research Areas pages.  You will also find links to related Staff Biographies on those pages which will enable you to contact them direct if you need advice or guidance on your area of interest, and to identify a potential supervisor for your research.  A visit to the relevant University site can also be arranged to meet your potential supervisor.  Alternatively, email stating your interests and you will be put in touch with an appropriate person.

On arrival, the student and supervisors plan out the modules the student will take to conduct their project and the equipment needed - see 'Individual project' below for more detail. In consultation with their supervisor, students are usually encouraged to take modules from the related taught MSc, you can find a list of the courses with details of individual Modules on the relevant MSc Course Page from the Taught Postgraduate Courses page.

The MSc by Researach consists of a short introductory programme of one week, in which the student is introduced to Cranfield and the relevant site for their period of research. The student will meet their supervisor(s) and a research plan will be formulated. This plan will include a detailed look at the modules offered across the Taught Postgraduate Courses offered by CFI to identify which the student will attend and whether they should take the assessment for that module. Analytical techniques and a timeframe for the research are also identified. The student is then free to carry out their research in contact with their supervisor and other academics in CFI. The culmination of the project is the writing of a thesis which is examined in a similar way to a PhD thesis, by viva with an external academic.

Start date, duration and location

Start date: full-time and part-time - October, February, or June
Duration: one year full-time, two years part-time
Location: Cranfield Campus or Shrivenham site

Entry requirements

Normally a 1st or 2nd class honours degree or equivalent in archaeology, forensics or scientific discipline, or the professional equivalent. Students with other degrees who can show a knowledge of and interest in the scientific elements of the subject will also be considered.

English language

Students whose first language is not English must attain an IELTS score of 7.

For further application information, please access more details about applying for an MSc by Research degree: