Law PhD/MPhil


Fact file

PhD/MPhil Law
PhD: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time; MPhil: 2 years full-time, 4 years part-time
Entry requirements
LLM or masters degree in a relevant discipline, with an average mark of 65% or above in the taught component of the degree and a mark of 65% or above in the dissertation component, plus a 2:1 (or international equivalent) in law or a relevant social sciences discipline
7.0 (no less than 7.0 in writing, 6.5 in reading, and 6.0 in speaking and listening) If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
Other requirements
You will need a research proposal, two academic references and academic transcripts

Research overview

A PhD is the most advanced form of postgraduate study. It is awarded on the successful completion of a programme of supervised research and is assessed by a thesis and a viva voce examination.

An MPhil requires research skills and training similar to a PhD yet its scope and complexity are less than that required for a doctorate. The MPhil is assessed by the submission of a thesis.

The School of Law strives to promote research excellence among all of its scholars. We recognise that high-quality legal research may take many different forms, with a wide variety of legal research methods being employed in the numerous ongoing research projects within the school.

We are recognised by the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) as disseminating world class research of international significance, and are ranked 6th in terms of research power.

Supervision expertise

All doctoral students are allocated two research supervisors, who will have the appropriate topic and/or methodological expertise to support the research project being undertaken.

The School of Law offers supervision for research degrees in most subject areas of law, and also for interdisciplinary projects which have a legal aspect to them.

Please be aware that the school cannot guarantee that two appropriate supervisors may be found to oversee your project, as this is dependent upon the available capacity of colleagues in any given academic year.

Our students

The school currently has around 80 registered research students, who come from all over the world. We actively seek to encourage and promote a vibrant and diverse community, academically as well as socially.

The school takes the view that postgraduate research students and academics are all engaged in the same scholarly endeavours and can learn a great deal from one another. To this end, our doctoral students are actively encouraged to engage in the wider scholarly community of the school and play a full role in its research activities.

While legal research is often an individual activity, many collaborative research activities take place in the school, including co-authorship of publications, seminar series, and reading and discussion groups. Postgraduate research students are welcome to participate in all such activities.

Moreover, our research students organise their own seminar series, through which they have the opportunity to present their research to their peers. This also enables them to develop their presentation skills.

Key features of the PhD programme

  • A comprehensive induction to the school
  • Annual Research Presentation Day which involves the participation of all research students, with all academic colleagues invited
  • Compulsory Legal Research Methods module to support and embed methodological knowledge appropriate to research in the field of law
  • An annual review of progress for monitoring and support purposes
  • A minimum of 10 supervision meetings per year for full-time students, and a minimum of six supervision meetings per year for part-time students
  • Funding opportunities for conference, summer school and workshop attendance
  • Opportunities to apply for teaching experience in the form of delivering undergraduate tutorials
  • Access to free personal and professional development courses facilitated by the Graduate School
  • Submission of a 100,000 word thesis which is assessed by a viva voce examination

Important dates for applications

The School of Law's deadline for receiving applications for September 2017 entry is 30 June 2017. However, applicants are strongly advised to submit applications as early as possible. It should be noted that applications received by 31 January 2017 will be given priority consideration in the admissions process.

The School of Law offers a number of scholarships to PhD candidates each year. All full-time applications (Home/EU/International) received for a place on our research degree programme by 31 January 2017 will automatically be considered for School of Law funding unless a scholarship has already been awarded to the candidate by another funding body.



School facilities

The School of Law has its own dedicated office for PhD students. You will have 24-hour access to a private study space, with your own computer, lockable desk space and access to unlimited free printing. 

Library facilities

The Hallward Library, which is conveniently located directly opposite the Law and Social Sciences building, has its own dedicated section for law resources, providing an extensive range of textbooks, journals, reports and other resources.

Students are also entitled to 40 free inter-library loan vouchers per academic year, which allow them to obtain loans from other libraries and institutions. 

The Graduate School

The Graduate School is a unique facility that focuses on postgraduate education and represent the needs of postgraduate students within the University. It provides a world class research training and development environment for postgraduates and early career researchers.

The Social Sciences and Arts Graduate Centre is a space exclusively for postgraduate students and research staff in the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences. It offers networked computer stations and Wi-Fi access for laptops, a study area, a social area with comfortable seating, a quiet study zone, and kitchen facilities.


Research support

School support

The School of Law has a multi-faceted approach to supporting students within the department.

All postgraduate research students are allocated a Postgraduate Student Advisor (PSA), who will be a member of academic staff with detailed knowledge of the doctoral programme and supervision process. You will meet with your PSA regularly throughout your study period, with the purpose of the PSA acting as a source of confidential support for any problems you may be experiencing throughout your studies. In addition to the PSA, you are welcome to contact either of the Co-Directors of the Research Degrees Programme for support at any point.

Supervisors also act as an important source of support. Throughout the duration of your studies you will develop a strong working relationship with your supervisors, and they will provide you with the assistance and support needed as you undertake your research.

Funding support

The school has a generous fund to assist research students with expenses incurred in connection with their research work, such as attendance at conferences and workshops, field trips for data collection or to access specific resources. You will have your own allocated fund to support you for the duration of your registered studies.

In addition to the allocated funding, you will have the opportunity to apply for other school funding, such as the JC Smith and Reuben Lipmann Travelling scholarships, and our Postgraduate Fund for Short Courses in Europe, which offers financial support for attendance at a range of different summer schools.


The School of Law provides a one-semester module in Legal Research Methods, which is compulsory for all PhD students in the autumn term of their first year. This module considers the diverse spectrum of legal scholarship and methodologies. You will refresh or enhance your legal research skills and receive training in a range of research methods and techniques. On completion it is expected that you should be able to:

  • identify various approaches to legal scholarship and characterise your own research interests and scholarship
  • apply research skills and methods, including being able to use, interpret and locate legal sources, as is necessary to address a research topic
  • design and write a research proposal and evaluate it

You are also encouraged, where appropriate, to undertake any of the modules offered as part of the school's thriving LLM programme, which is one of the most extensive LLM programmes in the country.

The University is an advocate of Vitae's Researcher Development Framework, and as such, we provide significant opportunities for students to develop on both a personal and professional level. You will be able to subscribe to the Researcher Development Framework Planner which allows you to map the training you have undertaken against the core competencies and behaviours needed in order to be a successful career researcher. In this way, you are able to take ownership of your own developmental needs and identify areas in which further training may be required.

Bespoke courses (both online and face-to-face) are offered to target areas such as methodological training, presentation skills, understanding the doctorate process, preparing for the viva and many more.

All students will undertake a Training Needs Analysis with their supervisors upon commencing the programme, so that relevant opportunities for development can be identified.

Teaching opportunities

Research students in their second and third year of study are given the opportunity to apply to undertake paid undergraduate tutorial teaching. The Graduate School provides training courses on teaching methods for research students involved in teaching.

The availability of teaching opportunities does depend on the subjects for which teaching is needed in any particular year, as well as the student's academic background. As such, teaching opportunities cannot be guaranteed.

Student Services

Student Services provide a range of support, information and specialist services to enhance your student experience and form part of a comprehensive network of services at the University designed to support you throughout your studies, including academic and disability support, counselling, financial support, and childcare services.

International Office

Our International Office is dedicated to the needs of our international and EU students. The International Office will ensure you have all the information you need to live and study at Nottingham and offers a Welcome Programme just before the start of the academic year.

Centre for English Language Education

The University's Centre for English Language Education (CELE) provides high-quality preparation and English language support before and during your studies, as well as providing a social programme for its students.

Students' Union

The Students' Union is an important source of support with their own Student Advice Centre.

Researcher Development Programme

Working closely with academic schools, the Graduate School's dedicated training team contribute to faculty specific and doctoral training programmes. They also deliver core training in line with the standards set out by the UK's major research funders through their Researcher Development Programme. This means that as well as helping you to develop your research skills, you will have opportunities spanning communication skills, careers, time management, and entrepreneurship - and the chance to meet and work alongside researchers from other disciplines.


Find a supervisor

All doctoral students are allocated two research supervisors, who will have the appropriate topic and/or methodological expertise to support the research project being undertaken. The School of Law offers supervision for research degrees in most subject areas of law, and also for interdisciplinary projects which have a legal aspect to them. Details of research supervisors at the University can also be found on our research A to Z page.



There are many ways to fund your research study. Our research funding page provides a step-by-step guide to funding.

The Graduate School hosts a list of sources of funding. Studentship opportunities may also be available. Our school site also provides information about scholarships.

Midlands Graduate School

Nottingham is part of the Midlands Graduate School ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership, which offers funding opportunities for postgraduate students each year. For more information, visit the Midlands Graduate School website.

International and EU students

The University of Nottingham offers a range of research scholarships for outstanding international and EU students.

Applicants must receive an offer of study before applying for our scholarships. Please note the closing dates of any scholarships you are interested in and make sure you submit your research course application in good time so that you have the opportunity to apply for them.

The International Office also provides information and advice for international and EU students on financing your degree, living costs, external sources of funding and working during your studies.

Find out more on our scholarships, fees and finance webpages for international applicants.



Many PhD students enter academia upon completion of their PhD, both in the UK and abroad. Others enter the legal profession or return to their prior career with their prospects enhanced by their PhD experience. Still others work for governments, non-governmental organisations or international organisations.

Career prospects and employability

Our award-winning Careers and Employability Service will help you to plan your career throughout your time at the University and beyond. Services available include:

  • presentations and drop-in sessions with employers
  • one-to-one careers guidance and CV sessions with our advisers
  • careers events held each academic year
  • a specialist careers adviser for research postgraduates

Once you are a student with us, and even after you graduate, you will have access to our service for life.

Flexible paid placements

Postgraduate Placements Nottingham offers flexible paid placements with a range of employers from small local businesses to multinational organisations. These placements are open to all postgraduates and are designed to fit in with your studies and give you the opportunity to learn transferable skills, improve your CV and enhance your employment prospects during your postgraduate studies.


Get in touch

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