This programme is currently under development and may be subject to change
Duration: 4 years full time
Institution code: R72
UK fees*: £4,712
International/EU fees**: £18,200
The multidisciplinary Department of Law and Criminology is home to applied, theoretical and doctrinal research across Criminology, Forensic Psychology, Law, Social Work, and Sociology. In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), 100% of our submission was assessed as world leading or internationally excellent for research impact.
The Department is home to about 50 research active staff and 50 PhD students. We offer a stimulating research environment in which PhD students are expected to be a part of the multidisciplinary research groups and contribute to PhD-led seminars and development activities. Our students benefit from opportunities for research methods training and we have a network of external organisations who are willing to support optional short-term placements and knowledge exchange opportunities.
You can find detailed research profiles of our staff here, by selecting the Departmental Research Group of most relevance to your proposed research and following the links to staff profile pages.
Alternatively, you can find a list of staff here (select the drop down menu for Social Work to find staff with expertise).
Please note that by studying this degree your award title will not include the subject of study but will simply state you've completed a PhD.
From time to time, we make changes to our courses to improve the student and learning experience. If we make a significant change to your chosen course, we’ll let you know as soon as possible.
Research facilities and environment
Our activities are organised around the Departmental Research Clusters which cover interdisciplinary domains of Crime and Punishment, Families and Children, Health and Social Care, and Rights and Freedoms. Many staff and PhD students are members of more than one research group.
Research Clusters organise monthly seminars and annual research impact-related events with external stakeholders, which PhD students are invited to attend. During the academic year PhD students are expected to attend Departmental workshops and to attend research and professional development events organised by the College-wide Doctoral School. There are also opportunities for students to organise mini conferences or seminar series.
We understand the importance of fostering professional and transferable skills for doctoral students, and fully support 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, meeting deadlines, and career development.
Students register for an MPhil and then participate in an upgrade process before the 20th month of studies, if in full time study (40th month part time). The upgrade requires submission of thesis chapters for consideration by a panel of Departmental staff and a formal presentation to this panel. Following upgrade, students follow a PhD registration and are expected to submit the thesis by the end of their third year of full time study, or at the latest by the end of their fourth year (part time by the end of the 8th year).
Part of the training throughout the programme is attending internal and external seminars. In addition, we run a PhD seminar series where students present their on-going research and receive feedback from their peers and the faculty.
Candidates for a place on the MPhil/PhD programme will have undergraduate and taught Masters degrees in a relevant subject. The Masters degree would typically have included training in advanced research methods, and be awarded with a Distinction or high Merit.
The Department welcomes applications from suitably qualified and highly motivated candidates. The application process for our postgraduate research programmes is interactive.
Please follow these steps for enquiring about and applying for a PhD in Social Work:
1. Make an informal enquiry before you apply
In the first instance, you should check the research interests of members of academic staff to see who is active in the area that you are interested in. When you have identified a potential supervisor (with relevant expertise to your proposed research), send to them an outline research proposal and a CV, setting out your qualifications and experience. You should expect to have a series of discussions with this member of staff (by email, by telephone/MSTeams, or in person) about the project, options for funding, and 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, if they have availability for supervision.
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. Ensure that you indicate the name of the proposed supervisor/s.
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 the proposed supervisor(s) and, second, to make clear how the research will make an original contribution to theoretical and applied knowledge in the field.
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 should develop in discussion with a member of staff in the Department of Law and Criminology before you submit this formally.
The proposal should be approximately 2,000 words in length (excluding the reference list) and include the following sections:
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 focus, main research question and broad aims, and how it will make an original contribution to theory and practice. 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 make meaningful contributions.
d. Data and Methodology
Detail the sources of data (qualitative and/or quantitative) that you will require in order to answer your 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 research methods: 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?
Include a section 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.
For further information concerning applications for postgraduate research in the department, please contact Dr Caterina Nirta, Departmental Lead for Postgraduate Research.
English language requirements
All teaching at Royal Holloway is in English. You will therefore need to have good enough written and spoken English to cope with your studies right from the start.
The scores we require
- IELTS: 6.5 overall. Writing 7.0. No other subscore lower than 5.5.
- Pearson Test of English: 61 overall. Writing 69. No other subscore lower than 51.
- Trinity College London Integrated Skills in English (ISE): ISE III.
- Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) grade C.
For more information about country-specific entry requirements for your country please see here.
Your 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.
The Department actively supports the placement of PhD students in external organisations that can enhance PhD research impact, employability skills, and knowledge exchange.
Fees & funding
Home (UK) students tuition fee per year*: £4,712
EU and international students tuition fee per year**: £18,200
Other essential costs***: There are no individual costs greater than £50 per item.
* and ** These tuition fees apply to students enrolled on a full-time basis. Students studying on the standard part-time course structure over two years are charged 50% of the full-time applicable fee for each study year.
All postgraduate fees are subject to inflationary increases. Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees annually for overseas fee-paying students. Please be aware that tuition fees can rise during your degree. The upper limit of any such rise will be made clear on the relevant coursefinder listing for your year of entry, at the earliest opportunity. For further information, please see our terms and conditions.
Please note that for research courses, we adopt the minimum fee level recommended by the UK Research Councils for the Home tuition fee. Each year, the fee level is adjusted in line with inflation (currently, the measure used is the Treasury GDP deflator). Fees displayed here are therefore subject to change and are usually confirmed in the spring of the year of entry. For more information on the Research Council Indicative Fee please see the UKRI website.
** This figure is the fee for EU and international students starting a degree in the academic year 2024/25.
*** These estimated costs relate to studying this particular degree at Royal Holloway during the 2024/25 academic year, and are included as a guide. Costs, such as accommodation, food, books and other learning materials and printing, have not been included.
Royal Holloway reserves the right to increase tuition fees annually for overseas fee-paying students. Please be aware that tuition fees can rise during your research degree. The upper limit of any such rise will be made clear on the relevant coursefinder listing for your year of entry, at the earliest opportunity.