How to Apply

How to Apply

Edinburgh Law School welcomes outstanding applications from individuals wishing to join the PhD programme. You may apply to commence the PhD programme in September or January.

Application deadlines 

  • The deadline for applying to commence a PhD in September 2019 is 30 June 2019 (4pm UK time).
  • The deadline for applying to commence a PhD in January 2020 is 31 October 2019 (4pm UK time).
Our applications are dealt with in a two-step process. Once all your documents are correctly submitted we aim to make a decision within 6 - 8 weeks.

Step one

Once you apply online with all your supporting documentation, your application will be reviewed by an academic within the field in which you wish to study. Your written application will be evaluated against our rigorous admissions standards, and with a view to matching you to a suitable supervisor.

Step two

If we feel that your application is strong and if there is supervisory capacity in the field to which you have applied, your potential supervisor may arrange to discuss your application and your research proposal with you further by Skype. This is also an opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about studying for a PhD at Edinburgh Law School.

It is usually only after this stage that you will be made an offer.

Entry requirements 

You should ensure that you meet our entry requirements and have all the relevant documentation ready to submit in support of your application. Please note that missing documentation will delay the application process.

The minimum admission requirement for the PhD programme a 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.

The majority of our applicants have studied law, but we are a comprehensive Law School covering a range of approaches to legal topics including social science, historical and philosophical enquiry; applications from non-law students with relevant studies and experience will be considered and if you require further guidance please contact us.

Contact us 

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 three 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.


If you are not familiar with the university we would strongly recommend that you also consider a trip to Edinburgh to have a look around. Doctoral study is a minimum of three years and a big life decision so you must be happy with what we can offer you.

Contact us if you would like to arrange a visit.

What documents will I need to apply?

All applicants should supply the following supporting documentation:

  • Previous academic transcripts for all past degree programmes (please upload the full transcript showing results from all years of study). If you are currently studying and awaiting a result, please ensure that your current interim transcript is included.
  • Degree certificates (for all awards to date) showing award of undergraduate degree at a level equivalent to 2:1 or higher
  • Degree certificate and transcript from your postgraduate study
  • Two academic references which need to be signed, dated (within the last two years) and on institutional letter headed paper. We cannot accept references from personal email addresses.
  • An English language proficiency test (if required - see below)
  • A research proposal – this should be no more than 2,000 (see below for further guidance)

Please note that applications (with all relevant undergraduate and postgraduate* documentation uploaded) must be received by the deadline in order to be considered for entry in September 2018.

*If you have not completed your postgraduate degree, you should provide interim transcripts at this stage.

Research proposal guidance

Your research proposal should include:

Working title
What title, or title and subtitle, succinctly encapsulates your whole research topic?

Research questions
What are the key questions that you will ask that will enable your writing (or practice and writing) to be appropriately reflexive and interrogative?

Critical Framework and Theoretical Model
What is the context of your research proposal? What are your key concepts? How will you theorise, and position yourself in relation to, your primary sources? What secondary literature are you already aware of? Provide references to books, articles, websites, etc. 

How do you intend to go about your research? Is your research predominantly doctrinal, theoretical, empirical? Do you need to engage initially in some form of field research, such as observing and interviewing practitioners or conducting practical experiments? What, if any, critical and expositional methods do you then intend to employ for the development, documentation and production of your written work and in the exploration of your research questions?

Research training
Above and beyond training that we will provide in generic research methods, do you need specialised training in practical and/or theoretical skills in order to carry out your research? For instance, do you need training in methods of qualitative analysis, or in the use of digital technologies? Also, will you need to travel to receive this training? For instance, will you need to intermittently attend workshops elsewhere?

Resources and implications
Do you need access to specialist literature? Do you need to engage in archival research or field work, and if so where, for how long and at what cost? If you cannot study without a scholarship or bursary, what sources of funding have you identified where you might be successful?

What, in alphabetical order, are the full bibliographical details of any references you have made above? 

We have a downloadable model form which you will find helpful.

If your supporting information is not in English, you need to provide a certified translated version of all documentation.

We aim to have a response for you within eight weeks of complete submission of evidence.

We expect our doctoral candidates to be living in Edinburgh during their studies, in order to fully participate in our dynamic training programme and to reap as much benefit as you can from our thriving research culture. 

Apply online now