How to apply

Application procedure

Before applying to undertake 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. Completed postgraduate research application form
  2. Two academic references. References should comply with our standard requirements outlined on our guidance pages
  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 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.

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. It can take 6 weeks to review an application and make a decision. Please note that only the Faculty Administrator, on behalf of the Graduate Dean of the Faculty, makes formal offers of admission.

Applications for PhDs starting in September 2021 will be accepted from 5th October 2020 until 1st July 2021 (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.

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.'


In order to apply for a scholarship, you must complete an 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.

**In order to be eligible to apply for an SWDTP ESRC studentship we require you to have submitted your application to the relevant PhD programme by the 7th December 2020.**

Applicants wishing to apply for 1+3 or +3 SWDTP ESRC-funding should apply to the relevant PhD programme and not the 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. You need to have received an official offer from the University of Bristol before you are able to submit your SWDTP application which requires the support of your confirmed supervisory team.






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 John Downer
11 Priory Road, Clifton, Bristol

Tel: +44 (0)117 928 8477

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