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Research degrees in Law

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



Applications for September 2017 entry are now open. To apply for this programme please go to the QMUL Research Degrees in Law page and apply for the September entry Full-Time or Part-Time courses only.


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 seven 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.

How to Apply

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

Research Proposal

In addition to the specified application documentation, the School of Law also specifically requires a research proposal and personal statement. Read 'how to apply' for more information.

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 you wish to apply for funding and the deadline is within the next two months, you should follow the full application route from the start to ensure there is time to process your application and meet the deadline. Also, applicants to the PhD programme who want to be considered for the next (upcoming) September entry point should go directly to the full application stage from the beginning of April onward each year.

How to seek an 'Initial Opinion'

 To seek an 'initial opinion' send the following documents direct to the PhD Admissions Administrator by email

  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' On one side of A4 paper, explain why you want to carry out this research and how it will help your life and career. 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. Please also include details of how you intend to fund your studies and living costs in each year of study (year 1, 2, 3 and 4).
  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 application

To receive a formal decision you must complete the online application and submit all the required documentation.

Important - Documents Required

Read this information to make sure that you provide all the required documents.

If we ask you to provide missing documents after you've applied, you must scan the documents and send them as an email attachment directly to our Admissions Department (not to the School of Law) on

Start date

The PhD programme is open for entry in September only. We recommend that you apply early:

  • The application process can take a number of months, and applicants should be aware that the deadline for applying to the PhD programme for entry in September is at the beginning of June each year. The application system will close for new applications at this point, meaning new applications cannot be submitted from that date. Applicants wanting entry in the September of the following year should note that the PhD application system will reopen for new applications in late September each year. 
  • Non-EU applicants who need to receive an offer before September in order to apply for a student visa should apply even earlier, in April or May.
  • If you are currently taking your LLM and the date of your graduation (not the date of your last class or assessed work) falls after September, you will have to apply for entry in the following year.


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 Queen Mary, 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 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 reviewed an application and supporting documentation, and if we are interested in supervising your PhD, the final stage of the process is an interview 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.

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

Entry Criteria and Required Documents

  1. Online Application
  2. Qualification documents
  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 research degree application guidance notes provided on the online application page. You must read both guides when completing your application.

The notes on this page 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. Online application form

To apply online use the links at the top right side of this page and follow the instructions.

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 an IBTOEFL 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 Visas and Immigration (UKVI) definition of an English speaking country (meaning you wouldn’t need to provide documentary proof of English competency), please go to the following web-page. If this page confirms that you do not come from a country which is categorized as English-speaking by the UKVI, 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:

  • IELTS: 7.5 (with writing 7.5)
  • IBTOEFL: 109 (with writing 28/30)
  • Pearson Test of English: 73 (73 in writing).

Exemption from this requirement:

  • Only 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) are exempt from our English language entry requirements. Please note, you can check if the country where you took your degree meets the UKVI's definition of a country where ‘English is the mother tongue’ by visiting their web-page.

Important Note – Applicants to the School of Law PhD programme must be aware the English language requirements for the PhD in Law are determined by the School of Law. As such, they are not the same as the general Post-graduate Research application and English entry-requirement guidelines as set out on the College’s central admissions and International Office web-pages, and the admissions policies confirmed on this web-page take precedent over the advice given in those web-pages.

4. Employment History - CV

You should include an up to date copy of your CV. This should include details of any legal vocational experience relevant to your proposed area of research, in addition to your academic background.

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. 

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 (and supporting documents) by that funding deadline date. Details of eligibility criteria are available on the funding page. 

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 in the first year of study to check that your progression is satisfactory. If you are a full-time student you will be required to submit written work and prepare a presentation for two assessors. If you have attended all the mandatory research training and your written work and presentation are deemed satisfactory, you will continue on the next stage of 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. Your progress will be assessed in each year of study.  Failure to demonstrate progression to the required standard may result in de-registration from the programme.


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.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees for Home and EU students

2017 entry

Tuition fees for International students - 2017 entry

You can either take out a Tuition Fee Loan (see Funding section below) to pay your fees or, if you are paying them yourself, you can pay in instalments.

You can also contact us using the following details:

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 7676 or email:


  • The School of Law provides a number of Law PhD Studentships and Scholarships, awards full details are usually announced in September / October each year.
  • Queen Mary funding information on funding a PhD
  • 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. Detailed information about postgraduate funding options is available in our Postgraduate Funding Guide [PDF]. 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.

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 Counseling Service, which you can access as soon as you have applied for a place at Queen Mary.

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

For more information see our Advice and Counselling pages, or contact us on: +44 (0)20 7882 8717.

Graduate Employment


Natalie Gail Simone Corthésy (Year III PhD candidate CCLS)

CCLS offers an excellent academic environment teaming with outstanding scholars, academic supervisors as well as a robust postgraduate professional development programme. There is a constant flow of international experts in a wide field of research competences, many occasions to share your research with other postgraduate students and the wider academy, and ongoing opportunities to learn new skills including academic publishing and teaching.

CCLS provides the perfect enabling environment for research. It also ensures students receive pastoral care in respect of preparation for the job market.

Dr Jo Braithwaite

I received my PhD in 2008 having completed the second half of my PhD studies at Queen Mary. My project was an empirical study of equality and diversity policies in City law firms. My motivation in undertaking a PhD was to investigate and write on a topic which struck me as interesting and significant. I also wanted to develop my legal research and writing skills and gain experience of university teaching. I received excellent and expert support from my supervisor and I learned a great deal in terms of my research project and more broadly. In addition, QMUL offered methodology training and practical workshops which were very helpful, and a lot of peer support. I also enjoyed teaching as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. All in all, I found the experience of studying at QMUL a very positive one, and it certainly helped me to take the next steps in my career.

Dr Luke McDonagh

I did my PhD at QMUL from 2007-2011. My PhD research was in the area of Intellectual Property law and it involved using empirical and theoretical insights to shed light on interesting (and sometimes controversial) aspects of intellectual property, such as the interplay between property owners and users in free-sharing creative environments. My specific PhD project focused on the empirical analysis of the relationship between Irish traditional music and copyright using interviews and survey data gathered from traditional musicians. I found QMUL to be a highly supportive environment, and I participated in many research and social events throughout my time there. I still have a lot of friends from my time as a PhD student at QMUL and occasionally I still go back for academic events and conferences. It’s an excellent Law School.

Luke is a Lecturer in Law at the City Law School, City, University of London.

Dr Jack Simson Caird

My PhD was titled “Identifying the value of parliamentary constitutional interpretation”. Essentially my aim was to work out the significance of parliamentarians using the rules and principles of the UK constitution in their scrutiny of legislation. I had a great time working on my PhD at Queen Mary. My supervisors were outstanding, they provided expert supervision as well as practical and moral support. I made great friends on the PhD programme, and the thriving community of graduate students made the process a lot less than lonely and more fun than it might have been. The facilities were perfect, I based myself at the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, which is the perfect environment for legal research. There is a thriving academic community in London, with so many world-class law schools, which means there are always interesting seminars going on throughout the year. It was so good, I would almost be willing to do it all again!

Jack is Library Clerk in the House of Commons Library.

Dr Hélène Tyrrell

I began my PhD studies at QMUL in October 2010 and was awarded my PhD in 2014. My thesis ‘The Use of Foreign Jurisprudence in Human Rights Cases before the UK Supreme Court’ is now under contract to be published as a monograph. QMUL was an obvious choice for me since there was clear research expertise in my interest area and the London location made my empirical work a great deal easier. Working towards a PhD can be difficult but the process was made a lot easier by my incredibly supportive supervision team and the strong collegiate atmosphere among my fellow PhD colleagues. Weekly research skills seminars, and the student-led subject seminars, annual conference and social activities helped to bring everyone together as a strong research community.

Hélène is a Lecturer in Law at the Newcastle Law School, Newcastle University.

Miss Alicia de la Cour Venning, ESRC researcher at QMUL

Alicia de la Cour Venning

I was encouraged to take up doctoral studies at QMUL’s School of Law having worked previously with Professor Penny Green and the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI), and given Queen Mary’s reputation for excellent scholarship and diverse research culture. My research investigates the motivations of non-state armed groups to comply with international humanitarian norms, using Myanmar as a case study. Doctoral students in QMUL’s School of Law are exceptionally well supported, having the opportunity to: engage in thorough research methods training; attend general doctoral research seminars; present work at the QMUL conference and seminars; and participate in regular social events with other students.

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