Postgraduate study

Social Work PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Social Work

Our social work researchers are leading the field in a range of key social work research domains including mental health, child and family services, and forced migration. We have excellent links with leading professional bodies, policy making organisations and professional and social work services in statutory and voluntary sectors throughout Scotland and the UK.

We also have a number of partnerships with agencies and organisations providing social work in the Global South.

The research interests of staff cover the full range of applied service specialisms and theoretical issues in social work.

In Scotland this includes:

  • criminal justice
  • children and families
  • vulnerable adults
  • community care

International and European perspectives are also part of academic staff interests, and staff have particular expertise in migration and refugee studies and global mental health.

Our work is enriched by the perspective of both international students and UK/EU students who are experienced professionals studying part-time while working.

Social work research offers a wide variety of methods and topics, often geared at understanding the experiences of those who are disadvantaged, challenges in social work practice, or contemporary social problems.

Many research students collaborate with practitioners or policy-makers in the development or undertaking of their research, embedding their work in the realities of professional practice.

The potential to undertake cutting-edge research on contemporary real-world problems makes this programme an exciting opportunity to generate knowledge that may offer solutions to the challenges faced by individuals and families.

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

Together with students in all disciplines across the School, you will undertake research methods courses in first year (and second year if part-time) before proceeding with your thesis.

Each student has two supervisors with the possibility of the second supervisor coming from an outside discipline.

There are weekly group seminars for our PhD community which include staff, students and visiting scholars. Students are also invited to take park in method workshops and have opportunities to link into special interest groups in the wider School of Social and Political Science (see for example the RaceED and GenderEd). Staff also play leadership roles in a range of innovate research hubs and Centres (see for example the Binks Hub and the ACRC), bringing opportunities for PhD students to be involved in other research projects and knowledge exchange initiatives.

For more information about the range of courses on offer to our PhD students, go to:

You can take advantage of our world-class library resources and can also access the National Library collections.

There are shared working spaces for PhD students within the School of Social and Political Science.

We promote the work of our students on social media.

You can follow our department on Twitter, and read about some current research projects on our subject area blog.

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.

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

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