How to apply

Application procedure

Before applying to undertake PhD studies in the School for Sociology, Politics and International Studies (SPAIS), prospective students should explore whether their proposed field of research is a 'good fit' with the SPAIS research areas and individual staff interests. Please read the relevant prospectus entry and admissions statement carefully before making your application. Your completed application should contain:

  1. Completed online postgraduate research application form
  2. Two academic references. References should comply with our standard requirements outlined on our guidance pages
  3. University degree certificates and transcripts to date (transcripts are documents showing your grades for individual units/essays/exams throughout your degree) 
  4. Your IELTS certificate or equivalent documentation to show that you meet the minimum language requirements detailed in Profile B.
  5. A 3,000 word research proposal (stating the aims and objectives of the research, detailing the research design and methods, and including a bibliography). See section below.
  6. A personal statement highlighting the motivation for applying for the course, and any relevant experience and/or skills
  7. A Curriculum Vitae (CV) which might include details of other relevant work experience and qualifications to support your application.

Please note that your application is not considered complete until all of the above has been received. 

Once your complete application has been received and checked it will be assigned to two or more potential supervisors to review. Following these reviews, the admissions tutor will make a decision on whether we can offer you a place. This decision will then be processed and published to you via the online application portal. Please note that it can take a number of weeks to review an application and make a decision.

Applications for PhDs starting in September 2022 will be accepted from 4th October 2021 until 1st July 2022 (or the first working day thereafter). Separate deadlines apply for scholarship applications. Please note that if you are wishing to commence your study at any time after September (such as January) this is only possible at the discretion of your supervisors. 

Online application form

You can access the online application and referee forms here.

Disciplinary PhD programmes that are offered by SPAIS are:

Interdisciplinary* programmes that are administered by SPAIS are:

*'PLEASE NOTE: As these are interdisciplinary PhD pathway, applicants are required to articulate clearly and substantively, within their proposal, how and in what ways their proposed research is interdisciplinary in nature. Further to this, applicants should also be aware that an offer of a place on this programme is dependent upon the availability of co-supervision from two staff members from different disciplines relevant to the proposal, and so applicants are also required to identify this in the 'proposed supervisor' section of their application.'


If you are interested in being considered for any scholarships, we strongly advise that you submit your completed application form for the PhD programme you wish to apply to in advance of the advertised deadline. 

In the funding section of the form, please tick any of the following boxes that apply to your application: 'University of Bristol scholarship' (for UOB scholarships), 'UK Research Council' (for ESRC scholarships) or 'other' and specify the award. This will highlight to our admissions tutors that you wish to be considered.

SWDTP funding 

Applicants wishing to apply for 1+3 or +3 SWDTP ESRC-funding should apply to the relevant PhD programme directly and not the MRes or MSc Social Science Research Methods. This ensures that a research proposal is included in your application to enable us to consider whether we can offer suitable supervision.

**Note: You must hold an offer from the University of Bristol before submitting an application for any ESRC studentship.**

The SWDTP ESRC scholarship application is a two-step process and therefore SPAIS has set an early deadline for those intending to apply for SWDTP funding. Complete PhD applications must be submitted online by 5pm on 10th December 2021.

This will ensure that the PhD application can be reviewed and offers can be made. Candidates would then need to contact their confirmed supervisors as detailed on their offer letter and complete the SWDTP Student and Supervisor statements by the SWDTP deadline of January 14th 2022.






Entry requirements

Applicants should normally hold a Masters degree from a UK university (or the equivalent) in addition to a minimum of a 2.1 undergraduate Honours degree (or the equivalent). International applicants whose first language is not English are required to meet the minimum language requirements outlined in Profile B. This is equivalent to a score of at least 7.0 overall, with a minimum of 6.5 in other bands. Further information for international students wishing to apply is available from the University International Office.

Application assessment criteria

The criteria we use to assess applications and to decide whether or not to make a offer of a place include:

  • The strength of your academic record
  • The quality of your research proposal
  • The strength of your references
  • Whether the Department can offer appropriate supervision
  • Whether your project fits well with School research priorities

Download the SPAIS guidelines for drafting a research proposal (Office document, 26kB)

Visits and interviews

There is no formal interview process, but the School welcomes you to arrange a visit to see the Postgraduate Research Director, the Postgraduate Research Admissions Officer, and your potential supervisors if you wish.

You may be required to attend an interview if you are shortlisted for funding.

If you are admitted, we strongly recommend that you do visit the School and meet with your proposed supervisors prior to commencing study.


If you have any questions, please contact the Postgraduate Research Admissions Officer for SPAIS:

Dr John Downer
11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol

Tel: +44 (0)117 928 8477

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