Cranfield School of Management’s PhD programmes are internationally renowned, for their rigour, structure, faculty support and global perspective.

The majority of PhD students will study our PhD in Leadership and Management, we also offer a PhD in Economics and Finance for those seeking to undertake research in these specialist areas. The programmes are ideal for scholars wishing to build their careers in academia, excel academically, make significant strides on their career path and shape new realities for business, management and policy. The Research Excellence Framework 2021 (REF) assessed that 88% of Cranfield University’s research is world-leading or internationally excellent.


  • Start date29 January 2024, 30 September 2024
  • Duration3 years full-time
  • DeliveryResearch supported by appropriate training
  • QualificationPhD
  • Study typeFull-time
  • CampusCranfield campus

Participants receive a tailored training programme to support their specific research needs. Topics include research techniques, academic writing and presentation. All PhD students are encouraged to attend international conferences and to study overseas.

Cranfield enjoys unrivalled links with leading practitioners and policy communities and has a reputation for making theory relevant for the real world. There are around 80 international PhD researchers, a supportive environment and many opportunities for personal development.

Class Profile 2020/21

55% Male 45% Female
Average age:
Number of nationalities: 7
Class size: 11

Cranfield is a unique place to enjoy the forming moments of professional development. It not only offers a world leading education delivered by world leading academics but also takes pride in the strong industrial relationship and position it enjoys globally.

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The training and mentorship I received at Cranfield fully prepared me for a truly international research career.

Programme Structure

Researchers on the PhD programme are registered for 3 years full-time

The PhD programme begins with an induction week, immersing you in the essential research philosophy, methodologies and skills required to carry out doctoral level research and exposing you to the rigour required of research at this level. This will allow you to hit the ground running with your own research project. Your studies will be further supported through relevant research training over the course of the programme.

Throughout your PhD you will meet frequently with your supervisors, who will support and guide you through the research process,. In addition, your progress will be formally assessed through progress reviews, which enable us to ensure resources and support are in place so that all researchers get the most from their studies.

All PhD researchers are required to complete a thesis that demonstrates an original contribution to knowledge. Examination is based on the written work and its defence at a viva voce.

Doctoral Training

At Cranfield, we believe that all our doctoral researchers should receive world-class training in research methods, but that this training should be tailored to the individual researcher.

You will complete an annual Development Needs Analysis that will help us to identify the most appropriate training for you. This will include the core training undertaken during orientation week which is then extended through a series of masterclasses that you will attend over the course of the programme. Outside of this core requirement, your training will be tailored to the development needs of you and your specific research project. This may include attending the University Doctoral Core Research Methods Training (DCRMT) Programme courses, directed reading and individually identified external training provision.

Personal development

Throughout the course of your studies you will be given every opportunity for personal academic development through publishing and attendance at conferences and will be encouraged to fully participate in the wider research activities of the School.

In addition you will be able to benefit from:

  • Seminars and Events:

    These include lunchtime research seminars from faculty and visiting academics, and the Doctoral Colloquia which is a forum for researchers to present research in a supportive environment.

  • Publishing papers:

    From year one the school will support you in developing your publishing potential and we regularly organise writing workshops to support researchers in this important activity.

  • Supervisors:

    At Cranfield we place great importance on supervision and the relationship a student has with his or her supervisor. The relationship is intended to be a stimulating and fruitful partnership, in which the supervisor provides guidance on the nature of research and the standards expected, and the student develops as a competent researcher, fully utilising the wide range of resources available within the School.

PhD Opportunities

There are various ways in which you can come and study with us and benefit from the expertise and network that the University offers its students.

At Cranfield School of Management our faculty are actively recruiting PhD candidates to collaborate with to further their research agendas.

Learn more about the different ways you can get involved:

  • Visit our Research Interests and Potential Doctoral Research Projects pages for more information on specific research areas and potential doctoral research projects which are of current interest to our faculty:
  • Contact members of faculty from across the school for an informal discussion about PhD opportunities.
  • You can propose your own project provided it is positioned within the School’s core research areas.

How to apply

The School of Management is located on the Cranfield Campus, if you wish to apply for a place on the PhD programme, you will need to submit an online application. Once you have submitted your online application we will email you to confirm that we have received it. Within two working days, we will also provide you with a username and password so you can access the student portal, EVE. In EVE you will be able to:

  • view your application and personal details
  • view the progress of your application
  • upload additional documents, if required, in support of your application
  • contact us with any questions you may have about your application
  • update your contact details
  • withdraw your application (prior to receiving a decision)

To help speed up the application process, please provide your supporting documents (e.g. degree certificate) as soon as possible.

We only require electronic copies of these documents during the application process. Photocopies sent by post will be scanned and uploaded to your electronic record. Please do not send us hard copies of your original documents but keep them to hand as you may need to show them to us at registration when you arrive.

In addition to meeting our entry requirements we also require you to submit a research proposal – outlining the research you would like to carry out. This needs to:

  • Formulate and define a clear, interesting research question or problem.
  • Establish the relevance and value of the proposed research question in the context of current academic thinking, highlighting its originality and significance. We expect you to have read some relevant literature in the area that you are planning to research and to provide a review of this.
  • Outline the methodology you propose to use to carry out your research, including the data sources and source material you plan to use.
  • Suggest what you hope to discover at the end of your research and what new areas it might open up (your contribution)
  • Provide a provisional timeline for your research

Your proposal should demonstrate to us and your potential supervisor your interest and your potential to carry out independent research.

Each application will be considered on its merits.

We recommend you read our research proposal writing guide for prospective students.


Read our Application Guide for a step-by-step explanation of the application process from pre-application through to joining us at Cranfield.

Apply now

PhD in Leadership and Management

PhD in Economics and Finance