Postgraduate Research Course

PhD Applied Social and Economic Research

PhD Applied Social and Economic Research


The details
Applied Social and Economic Research
January 2022
4 years
Colchester Campus

For our PhD Applied Social and Economic Research, we offer supervision in quantitative research in sociology and other social sciences. This involves the use of secondary data to answer socially relevant research questions and we offer supervision in: social stratification, social class and other forms of disadvantage; social behaviour, beliefs and values; occupational choice and mobility; migration; social change; life cycle and biography; social group identity; sociology of education; and family and socialization.

Studying with us will open doors to an academic career for you, as well as to a professional life in government departments, international organisations and statistical institutions. Several of our PhD students now work at: Department of Economics, University of Chicago, USA; Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia; Department of Economics and Public Finance, University of Turin, Italy; Department of Economics, University of Linz, Austria; Centre for Research on Social Dynamics, Bocconi University, Italy; Applied Microeconomics Research Unit, University of Minho, Portugal; and School of Health Administration, Dalhousie University, Canada.

We also offer an MPhil in this subject.

Please note, part-time research study is also available.

Why we're great.
  • Our Institute for Social and Economic Research enjoys an outstanding reputation at both a national and international level for cutting-edge and high profile research
  • our research is used by academics and researchers around the world, by policy makers, by politicians and by journalists involved in ongoing debates about society.
  • Our University has outstanding Research Assessment Exercise ratings for economics and sociology

Our expert staff

Within our Institute for Social and Economic Research, you will be allocated a supervisor whose role it is to guide you through the different stages of your research degree. In some cases, you may have joint supervision by two members of our staff.

The support provided by your supervisor is a key feature of your research student experience and you will have regular one-to-one meetings to discuss progress on your research. Initially, your supervisor will help you develop your research topic and plan.

Twice a year, you will have a supervisory board meeting, which provides a more formal opportunity to discuss your progress and agree your plans for the next six months.

Specialist facilities

Our Institute for Social and Economic Research is home to the ESRC Research Centre on Micro-Social Change, an interdisciplinary centre with a prestigious team of staff who have a wide range of expertise in social science disciplines, including economics, sociology, demography, geography, health research and statistics.

We are also home to the UK Longitudinal Studies Centre (ULSC), funded by the ESRC, which aims to promote longitudinal research. Our experienced and talented team support users of longitudinal data through the provision of advice, information, training in longitudinal analysis and resources to make data easier to use. Methodological research is carried out to improve longitudinal survey methods and to ensure the production of high quality data for users. We run the British Household Panel Survey, which has interviewed the same sample members since 1991, and Understanding Society, the world’s largest longitudinal survey with 100,000 sample members from 40,000 households.

Our PhD students are provided with their own desk, usually in a shared office, and have access to specialist resources such as The Hilary Doughty Research Library, with significant holdings of published and unpublished material on longitudinal and panel data methodology, and its application to economic and policy issues. In addition, you can use our variety of longitudinal and panel data sets, including the British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and Understanding Society. Access to such unique materials enhances and furthers your individual research.

Your future

Some of our PhD students now work at:

  • Department of Economics, University of Chicago US
  • Social Policy Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Australia
  • Department of Economics and Public Finance, University of Turin, Italy
  • Department of Economics, University of Linz, Austria
  • Centre for Research on Social Dynamics, Bocconi University, Italy
  • Applied Microeconomics Research Unit, University of Minho, Portugal
  • World Bank, US
  • School of Health Administration, Dalhousie University, Canada.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

You will need a good Masters degree, or equivalent, in a related subject.

You are also required to submit a well developed research proposal

You will normally be required to attend an interview/Skype interview for acceptance, and acceptance is subject to research expertise in the department.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, then we will require you to have IELTS 6.5 or equivalent


Course structure

A research degree doesn't have a taught structure, giving you the chance to investigate your chosen topic in real depth and reach a profound understanding. In communicating that understanding, through a thesis or other means, you have a rare opportunity to generate knowledge. A research degree allows you to develop new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks. It can open doors to many careers.

Teaching and learning disclaimer

Following the impact of the pandemic, we made changes to our teaching and assessment to ensure our current students could continue with their studies uninterrupted and safely. These changes included courses being taught through blended delivery, normally including some face-to-face teaching, online provision, or a combination of both across the year.

The teaching and assessment methods listed show what is currently planned for 2021 entry; changes may be necessary if, by the beginning of this course, we need to adapt the way we’re delivering them due to the external environment, and to allow you to continue to receive the best education possible safely and seamlessly.


Within our Institute for Social and Economic Research, our students invest time mainly working on their thesis under the supervision of one or two researchers. Most of the theses in ISER are organised in three main chapters, plus introduction and conclusions. Ideally, you should produce a complete draft of a new main chapter by the end of each academic year. If your chapter is judged of enough good quality, you can progress to the following year. You can decide to structure your thesis differently, if needed, but you should discuss and agree the structure with your supervisor.

We encourage our PhD students to attend training courses whenever their research requires acquiring new skills. You are also invited to take part in our Institute for Social and Economic Research group meetings and to attend research seminars. You should also present your research work at our research student seminar series at least once per year.


Within our Institute for Social and Economic Research, our students are supposed to have a supervisory board meeting every six months to discuss progress, training needs and other issues. Any potential issue is considered at the Student Progress Research Committee.

You can enter into completion if, by the end of your third year, you have a complete draft of all thesis chapters (excluding introduction and conclusions) and these are of good quality.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


EU students commencing their course in the 2021-22 academic year will be liable for the International fee.

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next


You can apply for our postgraduate courses online. You’ll need to provide us with your academic qualifications, as well as supporting documents such as transcripts, English language qualifications and certificates. You can find a list of necessary documents online, but please note we won’t be able to process your application until we have everything we need.

There is no application deadline and we aim to respond to applications within four weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

We encourage you to make a preliminary enquiry directly to a potential supervisor or the Graduate Administrator within your chosen Department or School. We encourage the consideration of a brief research proposal prior to the submission of a full application.

Colchester Campus

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Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

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