Postgraduate study

Social Policy PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Social Policy

Social Policy has been taught in Edinburgh for more than a century, and we have a rich tradition of supervising students towards higher degrees as a route to careers in academia, research and public policy. Today our group is at the heart of the scholarly community in social policy in Scotland and the UK, but also resolutely turned towards the wider world.

Our highly regarded research draws on a variety of disciplinary perspectives and is methodologically diverse, spanning the full range of social science methods from action research to advanced quantitative approaches.

We are committed to scholarly advancement but also to the dissemination of our work beyond the academy to generate non-academic impact and effect social change.

We offer postgraduate supervision across the whole subject range, with particular expertise in:

  • social security
  • labour market policy
  • health policy
  • family policy
  • education policy

Our cross-cutting areas of expertise include:

  • comparative social policy
  • knowledge and policy
  • the governance of welfare states

Who this programme is for

We welcome doctoral students wanting to undertake advanced research on social problems and policy and practice responses to them locally, nationally and globally.

We especially encourage those seeking to do research projects closely aligned with our core research themes.

Undertaken full-time over three years, or part-time over six years, the PhD in Social Policy is a research degree in which you will make an original contribution to knowledge by pursuing an extended and focused piece of research on a topic of your interest.

The programme is supported by the Graduate School of Social and Political Science, which enables you to acquire a broader set of transferable skills during your time with us.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeProgramme structure 2021/22
PhD6 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2021/22

We offer a lively intellectual environment in which to undertake postgraduate research in social policy, with a range of thematic research groups and an active seminar programme.

You will benefit from our excellent links to other social policy scholars, policymakers and practitioners across the world.

The subject area hosts some of the leading academic journals in the field.

Postgraduate research students in the Graduate School of Social and Political Science can access core, intermediate and advanced research training courses tailored to the needs of their project.

There is also an extensive annual programme of methods workshops delivered through the School’s Research Training Centre.

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent, and a UK masters degree with an overall mark of 65% or its international equivalent.

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

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified*:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: 70 overall with at least 59 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

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
PhD3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhD6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

For specialised guidance on submitting a competitive scholarship application, we strongly recommend you contact the * Postgraduate Advisor for your subject area. You should advise which scholarships you intend to apply for and send your draft research proposal. The Postgraduate Advisor will then contact you with guidance.

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
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD
Programme start date Application deadline
12 September 2022 4 July 2022

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.

You must submit two references with your application.

We encourage PhD applicants in particular to contact potential supervisors before applying to discuss their research proposal so we can ensure there is adequate supervision.

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

Further information

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD