Postgraduate study

Law PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

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 researchers are 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.

We provide a supportive and inspiring environment to help you carve out your own research specialism. In the last Research Excellence Framework we were ranked 2nd in the UK by research impact Grade Point Average (Times Higher Education, impact ranking, REF 2014) and 4th in the UK by research power (Research Fortnight REF 2014).

We have research excellence in a range of fields, spanning the spectrum of law, socio-legal studies and criminology.

You’ll find opportunities in the following fields: company and commercial law; comparative law; constitutional and administrative law; criminal law; criminology and criminal justice; environmental law; European law, policy and institutions; European private law; evidence and procedure; family law; gender and sexuality; human rights law; information technology law; intellectual property law; international law; labour law; legal theory; media law; medical law and ethics; obligations, contract delict, unjustified enrichment; property, trusts and successions; Roman law and legal history; socio-legal studies; and tax law.

We offer excellent research training and support for PhD students through the Doctoral Research Training Programme - which is aligned with the Vitae Researcher Development Framework.

In the first year of the programme, PhD students take part in a structured course covering legal research methods and transferable skills (such as presentation skills), with the option of taking more specific training as required by the project (such as empirical research skills).

The focus of training in the second year is on supporting the external dissemination of work. In the third year, all students participate in our Student Presentation Series while they also work on refining their thesis in readiness for submission.

As a postgraduate research student, you will be able to draw upon a fantastic range of resources and facilities to support your research while at Edinburgh Law School. The Law School’s library is one of the best of its kind in the UK, while the University’s Main Library has one of the largest and most important collections in Britain. All University of Edinburgh postgraduates also have access to the legal collection of the National Library of Scotland.

Edinburgh Law School can offer expert supervision across an exceptional range of subject areas for PhD study. A PhD at Edinburgh Law School involves undertaking independent research, culminating in the submission of a thesis of up to 100,000 words, which should be an original piece of work that makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of study and contains material worthy of publication. As a doctoral student, you will join a diverse community of around 100 postgraduate researchers and will become an integral part of the intellectual life of the School.

Upon completion of the PhD, the majority of our students progress to postdoctoral research or lecturing and teaching roles. Recent graduates have also found employment in roles as diverse as prison governor, solicitor and policy adviser for organisations including the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Anderson Strathern and HM Prison Service.

  • PhD Law: a minimum UK 2:1 honours degree in law, arts or social sciences, and a UK Masters degree with at least 60% in the taught section and 65% or more in the dissertation, or their international equivalents.

  • LLM by Research: a minimum UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in law, or a social science subject.

Entry to these programmes is competitive. Meeting minimum requirements for consideration does not guarantee an offer of study

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

For 2020 entry we accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 23 in each module)

  • PTE Academic: 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

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 7.0 in the writing component and 6.5 in each other module)

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 25 in writing and 23 in each other module)

  • PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 67 in writing and at least 61 in each of the other "Communicative Skills" sections)

  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 185 in writing and 176 in each other module)

  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDLaw3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDLaw6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Office (Research)
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 2022
  • Contact: phd.law@ed.ac.uk
  • 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.

Start date Application deadline
14 September 2020 30 June 2020
11 January 2021 30 September 2020

*(Revised 14 November 2019 to include application deadline information.)

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 2022
  • Contact: phd.law@ed.ac.uk
  • School of Law (Postgraduate Office)
  • Old College
  • South Bridge
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9YL