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Aston Business School Research Proposal

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Course overview

  • Course level
    Postgraduate, Research / PhD
  • Course type
  • Duration
    3 Years
  • Course options
    No placement
  • School

Entry requirements

  • Qualifications:
    First or Upper Second Class Honours Undergraduate Degree.
  • Further requirements:
    Masters Degree - 65% weighted average. Two academic references. TOEFL - 93 (Reading 23, Writing 26, Listening 19, Speaking 19) IELTS - 6.5 (Reading and Writing 6.5, Listening and Speaking 6.0).
More information

Key Dates

  • Start date(s)
    October or April

100% of our business research achieved 3*and 4* impact in the latest Research Excellence Framework

We are one of just 1% of business schools in the world to hold AACSB, EQUIS AND AMBA accreditation

We are one of only three business schools in the UK to receive the Small Business Charter Award

Course summary

At Aston Business School our PhD programme is designed to train Doctoral students who aspire to become future academics or professional industry researchers.

Our research expertise is embedded in our academic departments, and you are strongly recommended to explore these departmental web pages (via Our Current Research Themes link below), before applying, so that you can better position your research proposal to fit with academics' current research interests.

Our Current Research Areas

Our research expertise is embedded in our academic departments below, and you are strongly recommended to explore these departmental web pages (via the links), before applying, so that you can better position your research proposal to fit with academics' current research interests.

Entry Requirements


All candidates should hold the equivalent of a UK First or Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree from an approved university or higher education institution. They should also hold an approved masters degree in business, management, and/or the social sciences (or related disciplines), with a significant research/dissertation component, having achieved an overall weighted average of 65%. 

While neither degree needs to be directly related to your proposed subject/topic of research, you must be able to demonstrate your ability to undertake research - at an advanced level - in this field. 

Where candidates have successfully completed a masters degree that does not contain a significant research/dissertation component, they may be required to provide alternative evidence of their ability to undertake research at an advanced level. 

Language Proficiency

For applicants from non-English speaking countries, it is necessary to have taken either the British Council IELTS test with a minimum score of 6.5, or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL score of 93). ITELTS or TOEFL certificates must be no more than 2 years old. However, if the candidate holds a Master's degree from a UK university, this requirement may be waived if it was awarded in the past 2 years.

Please note that due to Test Centre closures, we are now able to accept both the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition and the IELTS Indicator. The required scores for these tests will be the same as those detailed for the standard TOEFL and IELTS tests respectively.


  • UG Degree - 2:1 or above
  • Masters Degree - 65% in both taught and dissertation elements
  • Two academic references (no more than 2 years old) 
  • TOEFL - 93 (Reading 23, Writing 26, Listening 19, Speaking 19)
  • IELTS - 6.5 (Reading and Writing 6.5, Listening and Speaking 6.0)
Dean's Scholarship

Dean's Scholarship

Value of the Scholarship

  • Stipend of £15,480 per annum and
  • Full fee waiver (for all UK, EU, and International students)

Duration - Three years (full time)

Eligibility and Assessment Criteria

Scholarships are open to UK/EU and overseas applicants who hold an unconditional offer on the ABS PhD Programme. In addition to meeting all of the programme's entry criteria (including undergraduate and language requirements), applicants require either   

  1. A UK masters degree, with 70% in both the taught and dissertation components
  2. A non-UK masters degree, with 65% in both the taught and dissertation components AND a GRE/GMAT* test score of 70% across all areas.

NB: Applicants who hold a UK Masters degree who have not met the 70% threshold but have an overall average of 65% or more can qualify for the Deans Scholarship by taking the GRE/GMAT test and achieving 70% across all sections.

*GRE/GMAT are independently administered tests that assess quantitative, analytical, and verbal skills.  These tests allow for a rigorous degree of bench marking between applicants. The minimum requirement of 70% applies to each section.  A score of 70% means that the applicant has obtained a better score than 70% of all tested participants. Details on GMAT/GRE can be found here: GMAT and GRE

The criteria listed above applies to the Aston Business and Aston Law School.

Application Process

  • Complete the online application form for entry to the Aston Business School PhD programme here, and provide all relevant additional documentation
  • Indicate in this application that you are applying for the Dean’s Scholarship
  • All candidates will be informed of the outcome within six weeks of their application.

Please note that scholarships are awarded on a rolling basis until all positions are filled.

Please contact if you have any questions or need further information.

Programme Structure

Year 1

In the first year you will undertake four ESRC approved taught Research Methods modules.  These modules are designed to provide you with the necessary skills to both successfully complete your PhD, and to develop as a well-rounded researcher. We also offer additional training in specific topics through our Summer School in Advanced Research Methods – which helps to develop advanced skills in areas related to your specific topic. 

In line with ESRC initiatives, the Research Methods course is co-taught by experts within ABS and the School of Languages and Social Sciences (LSS) and involves modules on (1) Philosophy of Social Science Research, (2) Research Design, Practice and Ethics, (3) Fundamentals in Quantitative Research Methods, and (4) Foundations in Qualitative Research Methods.   

These modules are designed to support the development of your research project and, ultimately, support the submission of a final Qualifying Report towards the end of Year 1. The Qualifying Report is an extended research proposal that details your proposed research aims and objectives, contributions to current academic and – where appropriate – practitioner knowledge, and the research strategy, design, and methods you intend to employ to meet these aims and objectives. You are required to defend your Qualifying Report through a viva voce oral examination involving two ABS academic examiners, one of whom will be familiar with the subject area. Upon successful completion of this examination, you will then be allowed to proceed onto the PhD Programme.

Year 2

During the second year you will typically concentrate on obtaining ethical approval for your research, before focusing on data collection and analysis. For some students this will involve travel to external research sites where data is collected. Towards the end of Year 2, you are required to communicate and defend your research progress. This is either through:

  1. An oral presentation of all, or part, of your research

  2. The write up of all, or part, of your research as a journal paper/article (without the requirement to submit for publication)

  3. The write up of all, or part, of your research in the form of an empirical chapter that would constitute part of your thesis

Year 3

Year three is typically a writing up year, where you will spend most of your time developing your thesis. We also encourage all students to submit to important academic conferences in order to communicate their research to an external audience and obtain essential feedback before submitting their final thesis for viva voce examination towards the end of Year 3. Attending conferences, and receiving feedback, is also an essential first step in getting your research published in top tier academic journals in your discipline.

Research Environment

We have an exciting and vibrant research environment at Aston Business School that enables our PhD students to be engaged in various research events and seminars (Aston Business School-wide and PhD-specific). Our PhDs have a dedicated research society which organises various social and academic related events throughout the year, including the ABS Annual Doctoral Conference. We strongly believe that these activities are an essential part of ensuring our PhD students are engaged and motivated throughout the duration of their PhD journey.

Our academic departments also run research seminar series (and other activities) where PhD students are encouraged to present their research and get feedback from colleagues. In addition, our Summer School in Advanced Research Methods offers additional training opportunities necessary for a successful academic career.

All students can access up to £1500 for presenting at academic conferences and an additional £1200 Research Support Training Grant is also provided to help further develop their research knowledge, skills, abilities and professional development. 

Teaching Opportunities

Many students are interested in gaining some teaching experience in preparation for their academic career. For these individuals, there may be opportunities to undertake paid teaching work in the second and third year of their PhD, once they have successfully completed their Qualifying Report. PhD students who wish to teach must have completed Aston University’s Induction to Learning and Teaching Practice (ILTP) course. 

How to Apply

Entry dates

The PhD programme recruits students to start in either October or April and, depending on the desired start point, applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible to avoid delays.

Please note, we cannot review individual eligibility before you apply, and there may be earlier closing dates for your application should you wish to be considered for funding.

Application procedure

You can apply online by clicking 

The following supporting documents are required as part of the application and, if not supplied, may lead to delays in processing your application: 

  1.  A research proposal. This should:
  2. - Outline your proposed research aims and objectives
    - Highlight your proposed contributions to knowledge
    - Provide a brief review of the relevant literature
    - Outline your proposed research methodology

    Click here for tips on writing a good research proposal 

  3. Copies of your qualifications - Masters and undergraduate transcripts and certificates
  4. Two academic of recommendation (these must be on headed paper, signed and dated no more than 2 years old)
  5. Confirmation of your TOEFL/IELTS results for those applicants from non-English speaking countries.
  6. Your CV
  7. A personal statement 
  8. A copy of your passport 

We can only consider applications that are complete and have all supporting documents.

Before you submit an application we also recommend that you refer to our entry requirements (see tab above) to make sure you are eligible to apply.


Fees for 2020/21

  • Home/European Union Students Full-time fees per year: £4,407
  • Overseas Students Full-time fees per year: £14,500

Fees for 2019/20  

  • Home/European Union Students Full-time fees per year: £4,327 
  • Overseas Students Full-time fees per year: £14,200

If you consider applying for the Dean’s Scholarship, and your application is successful, your fees will be covered in full.


Contact us

PGR Administration Graduate School
MB652 Aston University
Aston Triangle Birmingham
B4 7ET
United Kingdom

Dr. Jonathan Crawshaw

Position: PhD Programme Director
Phone: +44(0)121 204 3130
Room: SW8011


ESRC DTP Collaborative PhD Studentship

ESRC DTP Collaborative PhD Studentship (3 years) Aston University, Leicester University and Punch Records (Birmingham)

Organising for Positive Social Change: The Case of Punch Records

Contract Type: Fixed Term
Basis: Full Time
Closing Date: Monday 2nd March 2020
Interview date: week commencing 9th March 2020
Supervisor: Prof Monder Ram

The Midlands Graduate School is an accredited Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). One of 14 such partnerships in the UK, the Midlands Graduate School is a collaboration between the University of Warwick, Aston University, University of Birmingham, University of Leicester, Loughborough University and the University of Nottingham.

Aston University and Leicester University, as part of Midlands Graduate School, are now inviting applications for an ESRC Doctoral Studentship in association with our collaborative partner Punch Records (Birmingham) to commence in October 2020.

Financial Support
ESRC studentships cover fees and maintenance stipend and extensive support for research training, as well as research activity support grants. Support is available only to successful applicants who fulfil eligibility criteria. To check your eligibility, visit:

Background to the Project
The collaborative studentship is for an action research study with two leading research Centres: the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME), based at Aston University; and CAMEo Research Institute for Cultural and Media Economies at Leicester University. The two Centres will collaborate with Punch Records, an innovative music promotion company in Birmingham. The studentship, which will be based at Aston University, adopts an action research approach to study how a small, market based organisation (Punch Records) promotes positive social change (PSC).

The main research questions are:

  1. How can small market-based organisations promote PSC?
  2. What strategies are used to pursue PSC and how can they be supported?
  3. How are PSC projects experienced by internal and external stakeholders?

The study will be interventionist in nature and will be undertaken in collaboration with Punch Records. The student will work closely with Punch Records as well as the supervisory team at CRÈME and CAMEo. An interdisciplinary approach to action research will be employed because of its capacity to produce sound explanations of social reality, and its practical utility in helping the Collaborating Organisation to promote meaningful change. The intervention will support Punch Records to promote PSC in Birmingham, particularly amongst diverse communities engaged in the creative sector.

Entry Requirements
An undergraduate degree in a social sciences or related discipline with at least 2:1 is essential. A Masters degree with a high grade (65% or above) is desirable for a 1+3 award and essential for a +3 award. Applicants who do not hold a Masters with 65% or above would be required to undertake the MSc Social Science Research and to achieve a result of 65% or more in order to progress to the PhD programme and the +3 award.

Contact information
Informal enquiries about the research or the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship prior to application can be directed to: Professor Monder Ram or the CREME Centre Manager, Andrew Maile

Submitting an application
To be considered for this PhD, please complete the Collaborative Studentship application form available online: and email this along with a copy of your Undergraduate and Masters transcripts, a current CV and two references to: Andrew Maile

What's it like to study at Aston?

"I chose Aston University because of the strength of its Business School and the expertise of the staff affiliated with its Economics department. Since arriving, I have enjoyed the serenity, beauty and sense of community I get on campus. So far, I have attended several seminars, workshops and trainings that have equipped me with more skills to complete my PhD and also make me more attractive to the job market."

Uzoamaka Chigoziri Nduka
What's it like to study at Aston?

"I enjoy studying with students from a diverse range of nationalities as well as the high level of support from both academic and non-academic staff. Aston’s research facilities supports high-level data collection and analysis in my study. I also enjoy the teamwork and support of the student community. The wonderful team of supervisors are keeping me on track and I am confident that I will be able to achieve my dream of becoming a lecturer by publishing my work in a top quality journal."

Richard Mochoge Ondimu

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