Postgraduate study


Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

Programme website: Law

Edinburgh Law School is renowned for its research excellence. We strive to produce work that has real-world reach and influence. Our postgraduate research body is key to the School’s research activities and we work hard to ensure that our research students are fully engaged with staff and projects across all our legal disciplines.

Edinburgh Law School was ranked fifth in the UK for research excellence in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. We have a strong international reputation for high-quality research and for contributing to real-world changes arising from that research. Our people produce an extraordinary range of scholarly and policy-oriented publications and they shape legal, policy, and social changes in Scotland, Europe and beyond.

PhD Law

The degree of PhD can be undertaken in any of the core areas of research activity covered by Edinburgh Law School. PhDs are awarded to an original piece of work that makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of study and contains material worthy of publication.

If you undertake a PhD with us you will be assisted by the appointment of two academic supervisors, a principal supervisor and an assistant supervisor. Supervisors are carefully chosen to provide you with the best possible support to develop your thesis. They will also help you identify specific requirements, such as empirical methods or language training.

You will also be assisted by a comprehensive programme of support and training. Doctoral training has two strands: a formal programme of classes and events, and a range of informal opportunities that the School encourages and facilitates, such as self-led student reading groups and the organisation of PhD conferences and other events to build PhD networks. A PhD steering committee is elected each year to work closely with staff and candidates and to develop informal opportunities and other initiatives to foster a dynamic research environment.

The PhD programme offers structured legal research courses in the first year of study, alongside more specific training as needed, depending on your project requirements. The focus of the second year is on supporting the external dissemination of work. In third year all students participate in our Graduate Student Seminar Series.

Candidates for the doctoral research degree submit a thesis, which is examined orally by an external examiner, who is an expert in the subject, and also by an internal examiner.

LLM by Research

We believe it’s important to foster a strong research ethos at all stages of an educational career. Our LLM by Research programmes will allow you to pursue more in-depth legal research, while also having the opportunity to extend your knowledge in a specialised field by taking taught courses. These programmes provide an excellent foundation for further research and also impart skills useful for any career path.

LLM by Research in Law

For this programme, you will consolidate and build on legal research and writing skills acquired through undergraduate legal studies by planning and completing a 30,000-word dissertation. You will work independently but under specialist academic supervision, within your chosen field of law.

The programme will enhance and develop your ability to manage and engage with both primary legal sources and academic literature on your chosen topic, present critical and engaged legal arguments, and maintain the coherence of those arguments over a substantial piece of written work.

The framework of the LLM by Research allows you time and intellectual space to work in your chosen field, and to refine and develop this initial phase of the project for future doctoral work.

As the programme does not have formal coursework elements, the LLM by Research is a particularly attractive option for those wishing to undertake postgraduate research on a part-time basis, while pursuing legal practice or other employment.

LLM by Research in Legal Research

The LLM in Legal Research is an innovative programme preparing you to undertake high-quality doctoral research in one of the UK’s leading law schools. It provides the bridge between undergraduate studies in law and doctoral work.

The programme is designed to simultaneously offer you the opportunity to undertake more in-depth, guided study in an area in which you may plan to specialise in the future; understand the basics of legal research, legal scholarship and research methods; and undertake a piece of supervised, independent research, involving practice in using research methods skills, leading to a dissertation. This LLM is suitable for students wanting to specialise in any field of legal studies in which we have supervisory expertise.

Courses are taught by seminar and assessment is primarily by essays. You will be expected to prepare by reading the required materials and by reflecting on the issues to be discussed.

You are required to complete 180 credits of study, which are broken down as follows:

  • 15,000-word dissertation under academic supervision (100 credits)
  • compulsory course Theories and Philosophies of Legal Research (20 credits) in Semester 1
  • compulsory course Legal Research Methods (20 credits) in Semester 2
  • one 40-credit course, or two 20-credit courses from the Law School’s LLM or MSc programmes. With approval, you may also be able to take courses from postgraduate programmes of other schools.
  • PhD Law: A UK 2:1 honours degree in law, arts or social sciences, and a UK masters degree with a strong mark in the dissertation, or their international equivalents.
  • MScR Law: a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in law, or a social science subject.
  • MScR Legal Research: a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in law, or another humanities or social science subject.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module)
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 61 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than two and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Find out more about our language requirements:

  • Postgraduate Office (Research)
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 2010
  • Email:
  • School of Law (Postgraduate Office)
  • Old College
  • South Bridge
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9YL

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit two references with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Office (Research)
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 2010
  • Email:
  • School of Law (Postgraduate Office)
  • Old College
  • South Bridge
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9YL