Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Social and Political Science PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities


Programme website: Social and Political Science

This is a generic PhD programme for the School of Social and Political Science. Most PhD applicants should apply to a discipline-specific PhD programme, usually the home discipline of your intended lead supervisor. Interdisciplinary research can take place within the named discipline programmes.

If you intend to apply for the generic PhD in Social and Political Science, you must email the [Director of Postgraduate Research](mailto: with your research proposal and reasons for applying for this programme in advance of making a formal application.

The main content of this PhD programme is an independent doctoral research under the supervision of at least two members of academic staff from the Social and Political Science subject area.

Our expertise and interests range across the following subject areas:

  • African Studies
  • Global Health Policy
  • International Development
  • Medical Anthropology
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Social and Public Policy
  • Social Anthropology
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Socio-cultural Studies
  • South Asian Studies

Your application must clearly state the potential supervisor you have contacted.

In undertaking this PhD you will also be able to choose from a range of courses which provide research training in a wide range of social science methods, including qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods.

You can also take courses addressing aspects such as research ethics and positionality, as well as substantive taught courses in the School of Social and Political Science as relevant for your thesis.

You will be part of the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science and can participate in all offered courses, events and initiatives such as internships.

You will have access to a suite of professional development courses and workshops offered by the University’s Institute for Academic Development and the School’s Student Development Office.

Research library and archive facilities in Edinburgh are outstanding.

All research students are members of the Graduate School of Social & Political Science, with full access to the Graduate School’s facilities in the Chrystal Macmillan Building.

Other library and archive facilities include the:

  • University’s Main Library
  • National Library of Scotland
  • Scottish Records Office.

Proximity to the Scottish Parliament and other institutions of national government provides further research opportunities.

On completion of your PhD in Social and Political Science you will have:

  • a critical understanding of theories and concepts in the social and political sciences
  • a critical, detailed and often leading knowledge and understanding of literature at the forefront of the specialist research area
  • designed and generated original research that makes a significant contribution to knowledge in the field
  • knowledge of the principal research methods in the social sciences
  • applied relevant research methods and techniques of enquiry on a specific research question.
  • exercised critical judgement with regard to both your own work and that of other scholars in the same general field
  • applied an integrated approach to critical analysis, evaluation and synthesis of new and complex ideas, information and issues
  • communicated to a range of audiences including communication to a specialist audience through published academic work
  • demonstrated substantial authority and exercise of a high level of autonomy and initiative in academic and equivalent activities
  • if appropriate, practised in ways which are reflective, self-critical and based on research/evidence
  • managed complex ethical and professional issues

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

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

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

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. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 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.

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 (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

Featured funding

For specialised guidance on submitting a competitive scholarship application, please follow the requirements and recommendations and how to contact relevant academic staff as advised here:

(Revised 10 November 2023 to update featured funding opportunities.)

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

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 a research proposal demonstrating your knowledge of your field of research, which will be closely scrutinised as part of the decision-making process. We request that PhD research proposals are no more than four A4 typed pages in Times New Roman, 12pt font. This includes charts and figures but does not include references or a bibliography.

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

[Revised 29 March 2024 to remove application fee requirement]

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