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Research degrees in Law

PhD (3 years Full-time / 6 years Part-time)


The PhD in Law programme at Queen Mary is one of the largest in the UK, with more than 150 research students. As a PhD student at the School of Law, you will be part of a diverse and cosmopolitan research community, as students come to Queen Mary from all over the world.

PhD students are a vital part of our research culture and you will be invited to attend regular research seminars at which faculty members, visiting scholars and PhD students present their work in progress.

This programme will:

  • Allow you to specialise in virtually any field of law you choose. All supervisors are qualified members of staff with their own major research projects and publications.
  • Give you research training, through a series of seminars at which you will be required to present your work, and through a formal research methods training course run at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. Participation in these courses is a compulsory part of the first year of research.
  • Allow you to study additional courses which are provided by the college on different aspects of the PhD research process.

Why study your PhD in Law at Queen Mary?

The School of Law has consistently been ranked in the top 10 law schools in the UK for the quality of our research, and many of our internationally recognised staff act as advisers to governments, industry and NGOs, both nationally and internationally.

The Postgraduate Law Centre is based in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Holborn, the legal district of London, near to numerous law firms, chambers and the Royal Courts of Justice and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, one of the leading law libraries in Europe.

We have a number of active research centres and institutes across a diverse range of legal areas, each one focuses on a particular area of law and brings together staff with similar research and teaching interests.

You will be able to join the School of Law Online Network (SOLON) and attend events organised by the group such as the postgraduate law research seminar series, social gatherings and writing retreats. You can also get involved with the Annual Postgraduate Legal Research Conference, one of the largest in the UK, organised and led by PhD students with support from Queen Mary academics.


  • You will have access to facilities and equipment, including the Postgraduate School of Law Centre in Lincoln's Inn Fields which comprises workstations, wireless internet access, projectors and a common room. You will also have access to the Lock-keeper's Cottage Graduate Centre dedicated solely to the use of graduate students in the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, with the use of a common room and interdisciplinary training workshops.
  • As well as housing the Law Library and a European Documentation Centre, the Queen Mary Library at Mile End provides access to all the main British, European and international textbooks, law reports and periodicals and also offers one of the best commercial law collections in the country. Through the University of London College network, you will have access to an unrivalled range of electronic law journals and databases.
  • Queen Mary provides free access to extensive online databases and collections including: Lexis, Nexis, Westlaw, Justis, Eur-lex, Hein-Online, Business Source Complete, Index to Legal Periodicals, International Court of Justice Reports, Kluwer Arbitration, Oxford Scholarship Online (Law), Reports of Patent, Design and Trademark Cases, UK Statute law database and United Nations Treaty Collection.
  • In addition to the Queen Mary Library and the British Library, you will be able to access the well-stocked law library at the University of London's Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (IALS). The Institute, located at Russell Square, a few minutes' walk from Lincoln’s Inn Fields, is one of the major law libraries worldwide. You will also have access to the University of London Library at Senate House.


The normal period of registration for the PhD in Law is three years full-time and six years part-time. Full-time students must complete within four years and part-time students within six years. You will be required to live in or around the London area for the duration of your doctoral studies.


Supervision is available in virtually all fields of law. All supervisors are qualified members of staff with their own major research projects and publications. Search our academic staff list to find staff in your proposed field of research.

Research training

Research training is offered through a series of seminars at which you will be required to present your work, and through a formal research methods training course run at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. Participation in these courses is a compulsory part of the first year of research. Additional courses are provided by the college on different aspects of the PhD research process.

Entry requirements

You will be expected to have a distinction on an LLM or equivalent qualification. In some circumstances the requirement will be applied flexibly, for example if an applicant has performed to distinction level in a dissertation or has an outstanding undergraduate qualification. In exceptional cases, vocational experience in the proposed area of research may compensate for the lack of a master's degree, or a grade below that specified above. For example, working as a magistrate, judge, lawyer or expert for a considerable period of time, such as five years, in the proposed area of research will be taken into account. A relevant undergraduate degree in Law or its relevant equivalent qualification is necessary in all cases.

Research proposal

In addition to the specified application documentation, the School of Law application process also specifically requires a research proposal and a personal statement. Please read our ‘How to apply’ information for details of the additional information that you will need to provide.

International applicants

Students from outside of the UK help form a global community here at Queen Mary. For detailed country specific entry requirements please visit the International section of our website. If your first language is not English, you must provide evidence of your English language proficiency. Non-native English speaking applicants will be required to demonstrate a proficiency in the English language (minimum IELTS 7.5  or above overall and in the written element or equivalent). You can find details on our English language entry requirements here:

How to Apply

There are two routes for applications to the PhD programme, Initial Opinion application and Full Application.

‘Initial Opinion’ application

The 'Initial Opinion' application allows you to find out whether or not the School of Law can offer supervision in your area of law, before you submit a full application. This route enables a quicker decision as it involves less documentation at the beginning of the process.

When not to choose an Initial Opinion application

If a funding application deadline or entry point deadline is approaching (within the next six weeks), you should follow the full application route from the start, to ensure there is time to process your application and meet the deadline.

How to seek an 'Initial Opinion'

Applicants should send the following by email direct to the PhD Admissions Administrator

  1. Your Research Proposal (follow the template given in our Research Proposal Guide),
  2. Your up to date CV - which must include the degree classification awarded, for awards already obtained, as well as a breakdown of grades for each specific module taken including that received in any research/dissertation module.
  3. 'Statement of Purpose' (one to two pages long, include any relevant additional information regarding your application, such as your reasons for wanting to do a PhD).
  4. A copy of the transcript relating to the most recently completed academic degree course (this would usually be a postgraduate degree in law, such as an LLM).

This will then be reviewed by our Director of Graduate Studies and relevant academic staff. If we are able to offer supervision and we consider that your proposal is suitable, you will be informed of your provisional success and advised to submit a full application. If the full application (and all required documentation), meets School of Law entry requirements, a formal offer of study will follow.

Full applications

If you want to receive a formal decision you should complete the online application and submit all the required documentation.

Important - Documents Required

You must read this information to make sure that you provide all the required documentation.

Applicants who submit their application and are then contacted to provide missing supporting documentation should always submit this information as a scanned email attachment sent directly to our Admissions Department (not to the School of Law) on

Start dates

There are two entry points each academic year, September and January. The application process can take a number of weeks, so you should aim to submit your application at least three months prior to the entry point. When applying for funding you must check that your proposed entry point would still leave you eligible to apply for the award. See our funding pages for more information.

Current UK LLM students, who graduate in November, should be aware that they will be considered for entry for the following January, meaning they cannot apply for the September entry point before the November they graduate.


There are a limited number of supervision places with each academic, so apply early to ensure that we can match you with an appropriate supervisor. Search our staff list to find staff in your proposed field of research.

Unlike other programmes at the University, we do not advise you to contact individual academic staff members about supervision before you apply and, while you can name your proposed supervisor on your online application form, it is not a requirement. This is because all new applications are first reviewed by our Director of Graduate Studies. The Director has an overview of the supervisory capabilities and availability of all academic staff within the school. If your application is considered strong enough, the Director will ensure that it is reviewed by academics with expertise relevant to your proposed area of study.

The Application Process

When we have received and reviewed an application and supporting documentation, and if we are interested in supervising your PhD, the final stage of the process is an interview with you to discuss your proposed research and other details of your application. You should therefore be available for interview if requested. We will carry out telephone interviews for overseas applicants or UK applicants who currently live or study overseas. Offers of study will only be made following a successful interview.

It takes three months to process an application so you will need to apply at least three months before to the start of the programme.

We receive a high volume of applications so we cannot offer individual feedback on unsuccessful applications.

Entry Criteria and Required Documents

  1. Online application form
  2. Qualification documentation
    1. Entry criteria
  3. English language qualifications
  4. Employment history - CV
  5. Funding
  6. References
  7. Additional documents
    1. Research Proposal
    2. Statement of Purpose

The following guidance notes are in addition to the central College Application Guidance Notes provided on the online application page.

You must read both documents when completing your application.

However, the these notes are specific to the School of Law PhD programme, and take precedence over the College Notes. For example, we will not consider applications which do not include a Research Proposal, CV and Statement of Purpose. Failure to submit all the documents that the School of Law requires (even if the online process has been completed) will mean that your application will not be processed and could delay your application.

1. Application Form

2. Qualification Documents

Proof of your most recently taken academic qualification. This should include both the transcript showing the breakdown of your mark, including specifically the mark for any dissertation component taken), and a copy of the certificate confirming the overall grade.

If you are a current LLM or MA student, you should include documentation relating to your previous course of study (for example, your LLB).

3. English Language Qualifications

Documentary proof of English Language Competency, such as a TOEFL or IELTS test result certificate.

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to provide proof of proficiency in English as part of the application process. To see if your nationality counts as the UK Border Agency's definition of an English speaking country (meaning you wouldn’t need to provide documentary proof of English competency), please check our International Office web page ‘Important information for applicants applying for Tier 4 Immigration permission’ and click on the phrase ‘If you are a national of a majority English-speaking country’. If this page confirms that you do not come from a country which is categorized as English-speaking by the UKBA, then you will need to provide proof of English proficiency, in the form of a certificate showing you have taken the test no more than two years prior to your proposed entry point, and you meet our entry criteria in any of these testing formats:

  • TOEFL: 630 (with TWE 6)
  • IELTS: 7.5 (with writing 7.5)
  • IBTOEFL: 109 (with writing 28/30)
  • Cambridge Proficiency: A
  • Pearson Test of English: 73 (73 in writing)

Exemption from this requirement:

  • Applicants who have completed another degree (example: LLB, BA, BSc, LLM, MA, MSc) requiring at least one year of full-time study at university level in a country where English is the mother tongue (not necessarily where the course was taught in English). Please note, you can check if the country where you took your degree meets the UK Border Agency’s definition of an ‘English-speaking country’ by visiting our International Office web page ‘Important information for applicants applying for Tier 4 Immigration permission’ and click on the phrase ‘If you have a degree taught in English from a majority English-speaking country'.

4. Employment History - CV

While you should follow the instructions on the application form and complete all fields required, the School of Law PhD programme (unlike the central College Guidance Notes) requires that all applications are submitted with a CV attached to them. The CV is thus a mandatory piece of supporting documentation. Please note there are no relevant entry criteria with regard to the CV.

5. Funding

You can find more information including deadline dates, eligibility and application forms, on the School of Law funding awards on our funding page. The funding application form must be submitted directly to the School of Law, and not via the online application process. 

Funding Deadlines

There are a variety of different deadlines for submission of funding applications. In order to be considered for the funding award, you must also submit your main PhD application by that funding deadline date.

6. References

Applicants must provide two written references (not one, as mentioned in the central College Guidance Note), in the form of a letter of support from you referee. One of these references must be from an academic who taught you on your most recent course of study (which is normally the LLM degree or equivalent). Applicants who are current LLM students should obtain their references from staff currently teaching them on their LLM. Failure to supply references will mean that your application will not be considered. For applicants without recent academic qualifications, vocational references may sometimes be accepted. Applicants who have received references in sealed envelopes and wish to include them in their onine Application should contact for advice on how to do this.

7. Additional Documents

In addition to the specified documentation, the School of Law application process also specifically requires a Research Proposal and a Personal Statement. Although you will be able to submit an online application without these documents, your application will not be processed without them.

a) The Research Proposal

You must demonstrate, through a research proposal submitted with your application form, that you have a coherent and viable research project. There is no template for this proposal but it should be sufficiently detailed for a potential supervisor to assess your understanding of the area of interest and the viability of the proposed research. The research proposal should set out the research methods which will be adopted and include a short bibliography of the key relevant literature in the area.

For guidelines on writing a PhD proposal see our Research Proposal Guide [PDF 37KB].

There is no word limit for the research proposal, but research proposals which are well-written, clear and concise are usually more successful. Please disregard any other guidance note which suggests that the Research Proposal should be no longer than 500 words.

b) The Statement of Purpose / Personal Statement

Your statement of purpose should explain why you want to undertake this particular research and how it will help your life and career. It should be one side of A4. This document gives you the opportunity to include any information that you believe is relevant to your application which you haven’t included in a another part of your application papers. For example, if you do not have an LLM, but would like to apply on the basis of vocational experience, you could include your justification for doing so here. Please also include details of how you intend to fund your studies and living costs in each year (year 1, 2, 3 and 4).

Contact us

For general enquiries about the application process contact Gareth Skehan, PhD Admissions Administrator

School of Law, 
Queen Mary; University of London, 
67-69 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London WC2A 3JB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8214 
Fax: +44 (0)20 7882 8101

Academic support


You will be assessed after six-months to check that your progression is satisfactory. If you are a full-time student you will be required to submit a 3,000-word piece of writing for your initial six-month review. Supervisors produce a progress report based on this piece of work and your performance in general, including attendance at mandatory training. If your report is satisfactory you will continue on the PhD programme. If your report is unsatisfactory you will be set a number of academic targets that you will need to meet or you will be will be de-registered.


The thesis, which must be presented in accordance with University of London regulations, is read by at least two examiners appointed by Queen Mary University of London, who also examine the candidate orally. A PhD thesis must form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality, shown either by the discovery of new facts or by the exercise of independent critical power. The length of a PhD thesis is a maximum of 100,000-words. College regulations require that each student is normally allocated two supervisors and you may expect to see your primary supervisor every two weeks or so during term-time in the initial stages of your research.



There are a number of sources of funding available for Masters students.

These include a significant package of competitive Queen Mary bursaries and scholarships in a range of subject areas, as well as external sources of funding.

Queen Mary bursaries and scholarships

We offer a range of bursaries and scholarships for Masters students including competitive scholarships, bursaries and awards, some of which are for applicants studying specific subjects.

Read more about funding a masters

Alternative sources of funding

Home/EU students can apply for a range of other funding, such as Professional and Career Development Loans, and Employer Sponsorship, depending on their circumstances and the specific programme of study.

Overseas students may be eligible to apply for a range of external scholarships and we also provide information about relevant funding providers in your home country.

Detailed information about postgraduate funding options is available in our Postgraduate Funding Guide (pdf).

Read more about funding a masters.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 5079

Other financial help on offer at Queen Mary

We offer one to one specialist support on all financial and welfare issues through our Advice and Counselling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.

Our Advice and Counselling Service also has lots of Student Advice Guides on all aspects of finance including:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8717

Graduate Employment


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