PhD study is substantially different from other types of postgraduate work as each candidate devises their own independent research project. At the University of Bristol Law School, comprehensive research training is provided by expert academics, who also offer guidance and supervision of your research project. If you are undertaking socio-legal research, initial research training can take the form of the MSc Socio-Legal Studies programme, which is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

As a PhD Law student you will join a vibrant and diverse research community that includes primary units organised around research specialisms and a variety of centres of research excellence. You will be invited to participate in the Law School's staff seminar programme and many other frequent research events that happen in the school. There may also be opportunities to undertake some part-time teaching within the school. Travel and conference funding is available for research students.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class honours degree in law (or equivalent) and normally at least a merit at master's level (or equivalent). Alternatively, a first-class honours degree in law (or equivalent) and evidence of ability to conduct independent and original research.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level B.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£4,758 per year
UK: part-time
£2,379 per year
Overseas: full-time
£20,700 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

Alumni discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2024/25

The Faculty of Social Sciences and Law has an allocation of 1+3 (MSc and PhD) and +3 (PhD) ESRC scholarships. Applicants may also be interested in applying for funding from the AHRC, the University of Bristol scholarship fund or the Law School Graduate Teaching Assistantship scheme.

ESRC funding: Internal deadline - 11 December 2023. ESRC deadline - 12 January 2024 at 12 noon.

For details on applying for ESRC funding, please visit the South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) website.

There may be a graduate teaching assistantship available in the Law School. Visit the school's fees and funding webpages for further information.


Further information on funding for prospective UK and international postgraduate students.

Career prospects

The PhD offers useful preparation for several different careers. The first of these is academic work, particularly if the thesis or parts of it are published in well-respected academic journals. The ability to plan, research and write a sophisticated thesis, including an ability to conduct, for example, detailed doctrinal analysis, to think in broad theoretical terms and to engage in empirical research can provide a firm foundation for a career in the academy.

A second possible career is that of working for an NGO or policy organisation, drawing on skills in research and writing, which are invaluable for work of this kind. A third possibility is working within governments, again building on analytical, doctrinal or empirical research skills developed through the PhD, which incorporate both an ability to undertake rigorous research and to see the bigger picture.

Finally, some students choose to enter the legal profession, carrying with them a rich understanding of legal principles and practice.

Research groups

A wide variety of subject areas are covered in the Law School. This reflects a range of different approaches to legal research - doctrinal, socio-legal/interdisciplinary and theoretical. The school has a strong portfolio in immigration and citizenship, socio-legal studies, environmental law, gender and law, legal history, corporate governance and regulation, international law, employment law, and health law and policy.

The school usually has 80 research postgraduates at any one time, working in a wide variety of subject areas and adopting a range of different approaches to legal research.

Please visit our research webpages for more information on our vibrant research community.

Explore the various research areas that the academic staff in Law are particularly interested in supervising on our website.