How to apply

Application procedure

Before applying to undertake a PhD studies in 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 see the prospectus entry and read the admissions statement before making your application. Your completed application should contain:

  1. Postgraduate research application form
  2. Two academic references
  3. University degree transcripts to date (transcripts are documents showing your grades for individual units/essays/exams throughout your degree) and your University degree certificates
  4. Your IELTS certificate or equivalent documentation to show that you meet the minimum language requirements detailed in Profile E (for 18/19 entry only) please note that for 2019/20 entry the minimum language requirements will be those 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.

Applications will be processed on a rolling basis as soon as we have received all required documents. Incomplete applications will not be sent for academic review.

For applicants who wish to commence their studies in September a complete application should be submitted no later than 1 August (or the first working day thereafter). 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. Separate deadlines apply for funding applications.

Please note that your application is not considered complete until all of the above has been received.  Once we have all the required application materials, we will make a decision and notify you informally whether we plan to offer you a place.  Please note that only the Faculty Administrator, on behalf of the Graduate Dean of the Faculty, makes formal offers of admission.

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:

Applicants wishing to apply for SWDTP ESRC-funding should apply online by selecting the relevant PhD programme (Politics, Sociology or the relevant interdisciplinary pathway) and not the MSc Social Science Research Methods. This ensures that a research proposal is included in your application and we are able to consider whether we can offer suitable supervision. In addition to the 3,000 word research proposal required all applicants wishing to be considered for SWDTP funding must also complete the SWDTP Student Statement (Office document, 62kB) and upload this to your application.

You should then indicate under the 'Research Details' section that you are applying in response to a specific studentship advert, and in the free text box should indicate ESRC-funded 1+3 programme (or +3, if relevant). All 1+3 and +3 offer holders who have indicated they would like to be considered for funding will be contacted by email with details and further guidance (this only applies to offer holders, not applicants in general).

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 (for 2019/20 entry onwards). 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 Post Graduate 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 Timothy Fowler
11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol

Tel: +44 (0)117 928 8477

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