Skip to main content

Postgraduate Study

Postgraduate Study

The Department of Law and Criminology offers taught courses in MSc Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism Studies, MSc Forensic Psychology, and MSc Social Work. We welcome postgraduate research proposals in law, criminology, sociology, forensic psychology and social work. Our growing postgraduate community emphasises on engaging with current intellectual debates along with development of skills to enhance employability. Many of our postgraduate students who are also from outside UK enjoy a friendly and stimulating research environment and regular, tailored supervisory sessions. 

All students who have graduated from an undergraduate programme at Royal Holloway will receive an automatic discount on fees for the on-campus postgraduate degrees. For details and scholarships information, see here.

About us

The Department of Law and Criminology is highly regarded for its research and has an active and vibrant research culture. We conduct research on a wide range of subjects spanning law, criminology, sociology, social policy, and forensic psychology. Our main research areas can be found here.

To read detailed research profiles of our staff, and find information about their publications and projects, please click here.

To read more about our PhD programme, click here.

Research Facilities and Environment

Our postgraduate research students enjoy a friendly and stimulating research environment and regular, personally-tailored supervisory sessions. Participating fully in the life of the School, our doctoral students are valued members of a close-knit group of academics.

We provide regular workshops on topics of relevance to life as a doctoral student and opportunities to develop transferable skills relevant to employment.

Our lively annual Postgraduate Research Day is always well-attended and gives postgraduate researchers the opportunity to showcase their work to staff and students in the School of Law. We understand the importance of fostering doctoral students' professional skills, and fully support them in presenting papers at academic conferences in the UK and abroad. We are committed to our students' success, providing mock vivas, annual reviews, and personal advice on issues such as managing time pressures and meeting deadlines. Students are also actively encouraged to join one of the School’s four thriving research groups.  Many members of the School's postgraduate community are from outside the UK, providing an opportunity for the exchange of ideas within an international context.


Students register for an MPhil and then participate in an upgrade process before the 20th month of their studies if full time (40th month part time). This requires them to submit chapters of their work for consideration by a panel of staff members and then make a formal presentation in front of this panel. Having upgraded students are expected to submit their thesis by the end of their third year, or at the latest by the end of their fourth year if full time (part time by the end of their 8th year).

Entry Requirements

The Department welcomes applications from suitably qualified and highly-motivated candidates. The application process for our postgraduate research programmes is interactive. We place great emphasis on matching prospective students to supervisors’ interests, building on our existing research activities. Interested potential applicants should first refer to our website to obtain a good idea of the School’s research expertise. The School is only able to consider applications in research areas of interest to its full-time academic staff.  

In order to apply to undertake a postgraduate research degree in the department, you should:

1. Make an informal enquiry before you apply

In the first instance, you should check the research interests of members of academic staff in the department to see who is active in the area that you are interested in. It is helpful at this stage if you can provide any member of staff you contact with an outline research proposal and a CV, setting out your qualifications and experience. You should expect to have a series of discussions with the member of staff (by email, by telephone/Skype, or in person) about the project, about options for funding, and about your career aspirations. These discussions will help the member of staff decide whether or not they would be an appropriate supervisor for your proposed project.

2. Submit an application

When a member of staff has agreed in principle to supervise your project, you should then submit an application form using the online application system. One of the most important aspects of your application is the research proposal.

The purpose of the research proposal is two-fold: first, to help determine whether your topic corresponds with the interests and expertise of its proposed supervisor(s) and, second, to make clear how the research will make an original contribution to political and philosophical knowledge.

The proposal is important as it will allow the department to assess your aptitude for doctoral-level research, to allocate supervision appropriately, and to ensure we are fully able to support the study you propose. Although you are required formally to submit the proposal with your application for doctoral study, it is a document you may wish to develop in discussion with a member of staff in the Department of Law and Criminology.

The proposal should be approximately 2,000 words in length (excluding the bibliography) and include the following sections:

a. Title

At this stage, a working title that summarises the proposed focus is more than adequate.

b. Introduction, Research Question and Rationale

The introduction should, in a succinct way, provide an overview of, and rationale for, the proposed project. You should explain the project’s focus, its main research question and broad aims, and how it will make an original contribution to political knowledge. The introductory section needs to outline the basic argument the thesis intends to advance, as well as what it will aim to demonstrate. In simple terms, explain what the project is about, why it is innovative, why the project matters, why you are the right person to undertake it, and why the Department of Law and Criminology is the most appropriate place to be based.

c. Literature Review

Any proposed project should make clear how it relates to existing research on the topic (or related topics). In this section, you should summarise the current state of scholarship on your topic and explain the ways in which your project will draw from, and build on, that work. In this part of the proposal, you are demonstrating your knowledge of the field and the ways in which your project will add meaningfully to it.

d. Data and Methodology

If you intend to do empirical research, in this section you should detail the sources of data (qualitative and/or quantitative) that you will require in order to answer your project’s research questions and the specific methods you intend to apply in order to collect or generate those data. You should offer a clear explanation for your selection of investigative techniques. Why one method rather than another?

This section should also offer an account of your analytical strategy. How will you make sense of your data? Will you require any specialist software to complete that analysis? Will your project involve fieldwork? If so, to where? How will that fieldwork be financed and supported?

In this section you should, finally, reflect on the ethical implications of your proposed topic. Which ethical issues are raised by your project? How do you intend to address them?

e. Proposed thesis structure and timeline

In this section you should outline the structure of your thesis, and demonstrate that you have thought about how you are going to structure and organise the argument put forward in your thesis. Additionally, you should propose a timeline for your project, and demonstrate how you think you will organise your time in the three years you will work on your thesis.

f. Reference list

List here, using the citation system common to your discipline, the sources referred to in the proposal.

3. After applying

All applications are subject to review by a panel of academic members of staff in the Department of Law and Criminology. Applicants will be informed of the outcome as soon as the panel has met.

Further details

For further information concerning applications for postgraduate research in the department, please contact Dr Emily Glorney, Departmental Lead for Postgraduate Research.

English Language requirements

English Language requirements for overseas PhD students to be accepted for study in the Department of Law and Criminology are as follows:

IELTS: 6.5 overall with 7 in Writing and no sub-score below 5.5

PTE: 61 overall with 69 in Writing and no sub-score lower than 51

TOEFL: 88 overall with Listening 17, Reading 18, Speaking 20 and Writing 26

Country-specific requirements

For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.

Future Career

Our PhD programme is very successful and our alumni have gone on to undertake careers in a variety of roles, particularly in the criminal justice, education, and health and social care sectors. Our graduates have also gone on to have extremely successful careers in a variety of Universities including here at Royal Holloway, University of London as well as at other institutions both inside and outside the UK.

Fees and Funding

View our Postgraduate Research degree fees.

Find out about sources of funding.

Our department is part of the prestigious ESRC SEDarc Doctoral Training Partnership. Departmental deadline: 8 January 2024, 5pm.

AHRC Techne Doctoral Training Partnership. Departmental deadline: 7 January 2024, 11.59pm.

We’re pleased to confirm the launch of a range of postgraduate law courses by University of Law at Royal Holloway, as part of a newly created partnership starting in September 2023. The courses include the Legal Practice Course, LLM in Legal Practice (SQE 1 & 2), SQE and Postgraduate Diploma in Law. Read more on the University of Law website

What our graduates say

Subject: Medical Sociology

Year of Graduation: 2019

What first attracted you to Royal Holloway, University of London?

I chose RHUL to do my PhD because I valued the type of research being done at the university and wanted to be part of its teaching/research environment. I also liked the idea of being at a campus based university in such beautiful surroundings.

What did Royal Holloway teach you?

Doing my PhD at RHUL expanded my perspective and enabled me to develop transferable skills. By the end of my studies my confidence developed, my communication skills improved and I learnt how to reflexively engage with issues in my research and everyday life.

What’s happened in your career?

Since leaving RHUL I have been working full-time at The Bayswater Institute, a small charity which specialising in research, evaluation and training. I was working at the Institute part-time during my PhD, which helped me to fund my studies and gain experience of other research contexts.    

What advice would you give current students?

For me, connecting with other PhD students and friends on a regular basis was a vital part of finishing. Presenting at conferences was especially helpful because preparing to give papers meant synthesising ideas in a similar way to the latter stages of writing up.  


Subject: Forensic Psychology

Year of Graduation: 2018

Current places of work: University of Portsmouth as a Research Associate (Post-doc) and 3Pillars Project as Development Lead

What first attracted you to Royal Holloway, University of London?

The expertise in the School of Law in relation to prison research made Royal Holloway a very exciting prospect, and to learn on such a beautiful campus whilst still being able to live in London was a bonus.

What did Royal Holloway teach you?

I think the most valuable thing I learnt from Royal Holloway was how to conduct inter-disciplinary research and how important it is that disciplines such as psychology and sociology work together and learn from one another. I was also given extensive teaching experience throughout my PhD which I thoroughly enjoyed, enabling me to complete my Higher Education teaching qualification and equipping me to teach and manage others confidently.

What’s happened in your career?

Following my PhD I went travelling for six months and have only been back for three weeks, but in that time I have been able to secure two important roles through connections I made during my time at Royal Holloway. I am now conducting exciting and innovative research in the field of sport in prisons and sport for development, whilst using my expertise as a psychologist to develop sports-based programmes for a charity that aim to divert young people away from crime. I like keeping my work varied, and my time at Royal Holloway has allowed me to work this way by opening many doors whilst giving me hands on experience and introducing me to key figures and organisations in my field.

What advice would you give current students?

Take advantage of the Personal Development programmes that the university put on, get involved in teaching and enrol into the higher education teaching qualification and the Brilliant Club as early as possible, and present at an interdisciplinary conference. Treat your research as training for your future career, learn as much as you can and don’t be afraid of asking questions, no one expects you to have all the answers, it will not be perfect and that’s fine! And finally, if you feel a bit out of your depths at times I guarantee others are feeling the same as you, confide in others and you will be surprised at the response.

Subject: Social Work

Year of Graduation: 2017

What first attracted you to Royal Holloway, University of London? 

I wanted to study at Royal Holloway because it is an centre for expertise and research into social work. The people there are friendly and welcoming, and from the outset of my initial visit I felt valued and supported. The Social Work staff foster an environment of curiosity and reflection, and they are passionate about social work, and the impact of research and learning for people who experience social worker involvement in their lives. The facilities at Royal Holloway are excellent, including a lovely campus in Egham, and offices and resources in central London.

What did Royal Holloway teach you?

My time at Royal Holloway taught me to be much more focused in my research and to adopt a structured, planned approach, so that I am able to take my personal experiences and interests, and look at a wide field of existing research and knowledge, to develop research that has clear methods and outcomes. This was important for me in learning to take the broad areas of study I was looking at, and to be able to shape and craft my ideas into a clearer, analytic research study. 

My supervisor Professor Tony Evans, gave me significant practical and emotional support across the course of my PhD to develop this more focused approach, and to be straightforward and more engaging in my writing. He and many other members of the Social Work staff helped me to develop and hone my ideas through interesting conversations and debates, and through departmental teaching and research activity. These experiences were invaluable to me in questioning my practice and research.

What’s happened in your career?

I was supported in my time at Royal Holloway to take on teaching experience, and this helped me to gain a subsequent university teaching post and a foundation for an academic career. I chose to return to social work practice, as I wanted to test and develop my research as a practitioner and to continue to work directly with people. My current role as a Principal Social Worker combines these roles as I am involved in learning from practice and research, and practice development with social workers, and the way I do this work is very much influenced by the critical thinking and collaborative learning approaches that defined my time at Royal Holloway.

What advice would you give current students?

To try and develop a support network of people you can talk to about your research, who can offer support when you feel are struggling and feeling stuck, and who can challenge you and get you to think really clearly about what you want to say and how you are saying it. And knowing what to leave out of your research is probably harder than knowing what to include!

Subject: Sociology

Year of Graduation: 2017

Job title: Senior Statistical Support Officer / Data Governance Manager

What first attracted you to Royal Holloway, University of London?

Royal Holloway is a beautiful campus with a relaxed and collegial atmosphere. The picturesque surroundings and the busy and thriving campus community are balanced with the closeness to London by train to have an occasional day in the city.

What did Royal Holloway teach you?

Royal Holloway introduced to me to sociological theories and concepts and showed me how these applied to real world events and challenges. I was taught to think critically and to identify research problems and think of research methods and approaches to address these.

What’s happened in your career?

Following my academic studies I started working at the Office for National Statistics as a Statistical Support Officer and later as a manager for the same team. My PhD studies gave me lots of transferable skills. My experience designing and conducting my own independent research project for my PhD helped me to develop research at pace and to manage my time and heavy workload effectively in a fast-paced government department.

What advice would you give current students?

My advice would be to think as early and as hard as possible about what you want from your working life and what you need to do to prepare to get there. Plan, do your background research, seek relevant further qualifications and work experience, and network as much as possible - email and telephone any contacts you have - keenly and shamelessly - to get your dream job. With hard work and hopefully a bit of luck you will land it.


I started my PhD in 2004 and successfully defended my thesis in 2009.

The department was extremely supportive in creating a suitable atmosphere for me to carry out my research, by providing me access to a good infrastructure and mechanisms of support from staff and students.  

My faculty also helped me create links with other administrative departments in the university where I was later able to get a part time administrative position to support myself.

My supervisor was brilliant. She was sensitive to my needs as an international student and supported me to be able to live and study well at RHUL. She also encouraged and supported me to attend various conferences, apply for grants and subsequently plan my future after my research.

In 2005-07 I studied for an MSc in Social Work at Royal Holloway, and after qualifying went on to work for a local authority child protection team.

A couple of years later I happened to see an email advertising a number of PhD scholarships funded by the Southwest London Academic Network (SWan). Suddenly I knew that was what I wanted to do!

I contacted my MSc course director, who was very helpful and supportive, and encouraged me to make an application. Then I was fortunate enough to make it through the selection interview.

Along with my lead supervisor, I was also provided with two other supervising academics linked to SWan. They were all brilliant. My lead supervisor was there right from the start and stayed with me through every stage of the process, culminating in the nerve-shredding experience that is the PhD Viva.

Doing a PhD was transformative in many ways. My supervisors encouraged me to present at conferences and publish papers, and gave me opportunities to teach and contribute to other research projects. In the end, it has completely changed my career path.

Doing my PhD study at Royal Holloway has given me exposure to an outstanding academic experience and research environment which has helped expand my intellectual inquiry.

The institutional support and the resources made available for doctoral students for research were excellent. I never stopped working: reading, thinking and writing.

I was fortunate to have a committed and dedicated supervisor. She was exceptional from day one of my doctoral study. She was sensitive to my needs, intuitive, supportive and a superb mentor.

My supervisor's high expectation, confidence in me, and enthusiasm for my research project were the driving force to give my best and to be the best that I can be.

Related topics

Explore Royal Holloway

Get help paying for your studies at Royal Holloway through a range of scholarships and bursaries.

There are lots of exciting ways to get involved at Royal Holloway. Discover new interests and enjoy existing ones.

Heading to university is exciting. Finding the right place to live will get you off to a good start.

Whether you need support with your health or practical advice on budgeting or finding part-time work, we can help.

Discover more about our academic departments and schools.

Find out why Royal Holloway is in the top 25% of UK universities for research rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.

Royal Holloway is a research intensive university and our academics collaborate across disciplines to achieve excellence.

Discover world-class research at Royal Holloway.

Discover more about who we are today, and our vision for the future.

Royal Holloway began as two pioneering colleges for the education of women in the 19th century, and their spirit lives on today.

We’ve played a role in thousands of careers, some of them particularly remarkable.

Find about our decision-making processes and the people who lead and manage Royal Holloway today.