Postgraduate Research Course

PhD Law

PhD Law


The details
October 2024
3 - 4 years
Colchester Campus
Essex Law School

The PhD in Law facilitates research in a wide range of areas that are represented through the Essex Law School's eight research clusters. These relate to: human rights, law and technology, business law, socio-legal studies, public law, law and society, health law and criminal justice.

Essex Law School is also home to specific inter-disciplinary research centres including the Human Rights Centre, the Essex Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub, and the Essex Transitional Justice Network. Additionally, through the strong relationship between the Essex Law School and the Human Rights Centre, other inter-disciplinary clusters and initiatives have developed which include the Essex Business and Human Rights Project, the Human Rights and Big Data Project, and the Human Rights and Environment cluster.

Research in the Essex Law School and the Human Rights Centre is cross-cutting and has had a wide range of applications at the national and international levels. Many of our staff have strong working relationships with international organisations such as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation. At the national level many of our staff are consulted by governments at home and abroad. Essex Law School continues with a tradition of undertaking cutting-edge research that has practical application to the challenges that face citizens, governments, business and the international community. Through the excellence that Essex Law School has exhibited it is ranked as 51st in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021.

We also have an excellent record of winning major research grants from funding bodies including the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Nuffield Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust. Our former students have gone on to work in legal practice, international organisations, commerce and industry, NGO's and academia, including Essex Law School at Essex.

In addition to the PhD programmes, we also offer an MPhil in law which can be an appropriate option for those interested in undertaking in-depth research that is shorter in length than a PhD.

Part-time study is also an option for those research students who wish to spread their research over a longer period.

Funding Schemes

We belong to the CHASE consortium (Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South-East England) which provides doctoral scholarships for UK and international students related to a number of different areas of study, including law. Further details can be found here.

We are also a member of the SeNNS consortium (South-East Network for Social Sciences) that provides doctoral scholarships for UK and international students related to a number of different areas of study, including socio-legal research projects. Further details can be found here.

In addition to these, a range of other alternative funding sources can be found on our Scholarship Finder.

Why we're great.
  • We are ranked 49th for Law in THE World University Rankings by subject 2024.
  • We are 3rd in the UK for research power in law (THE research power measure, REF2021).
  • Many of our staff have strong working relationships with organisations such as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation.

Our expert staff

Within Essex Law School, you will be allocated two supervisors whose roles will be to guide you through the different stages of your research degree. One of the strengths of Essex Law School's PhD programmes is the dual supervisor system which enhances the supervisory process itself, ensures continuity in the event of staff research leave and provides you with the opportunity to draw on different types of expertise applicable to your research project.

The support provided by your supervisors is a key feature of your research student experience and you will have regular one-to-one meetings to discuss progress on your research. Your supervisors will also provide guidance relating to training needs, future career plans, publishing, presenting at conferences and where applicable building an appropriate network.

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 following six months.

Specialist facilities

Within Essex Law School, many activities are run throughout the year that you may wish to be involved in.

All research students are encouraged to engage actively with one or more of the eight research clusters. These provide the opportunity for students to present their work within a friendly and supportive environment and also to become involved in ongoing projects that the clusters are engaged with. Apart from the clusters themselves, the various centres and initiatives such as the Human Rights Centre, the Essex Business and Human Rights Project, the Essex Transnational Justice Network, the Essex Armed Conflict and Crisis Hub, the Human Rights and Big Data Project, provide opportunities for research students to actively engage in work at the cutting edge of legal development. For example, some students engage in advocacy and consultancy work, the preparation of policy documents, organising conferences, and contributions to amicus curiae briefs.

Each student is provided with support through the University's ‘Proficio' system which enables you to access training that relates to your own specific training and developmental needs.

Essex Law School also runs a Postgraduate Research Roundtable which meets on a regular basis and provides a space in which research students can discuss specific thematic issues with other students and members of staff, learn from the experiences of others, and present their own work in a supportive environment.

Your future

Essex Law School research graduates have gone on to a wide variety of careers including those in international and intergovernmental organisations, governments throughout the world, commerce and industry, non-governmental organisations and, as might be expected, in the legal profession and the judiciary.

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

You will need a Masters degree in law and a first or 2:1 LLB honours degree, or equivalent. A well-developed research proposal is also essential.

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 contact our Graduate Admissions team at to request the entry requirements for this country.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, we require IELTS 6.5 overall, and 6.5 in writing, with a minimum of 5.5 remaining components


Course structure

The structure of PhD programmes in the Law School provides you with the opportunity to investigate a chosen topic in real depth and reach a profound understanding. In communicating that understanding, through a thesis or other means, you have the rare opportunity of generating knowledge in a particular field.

To facilitate this, a clear structure throughout the course of a PhD with regular supervision and milestones enables you to develop your work in a well-supported environment. PhD programmes do not include formal compulsory taught modules, but specific training to support you in your own area of research is made available. As such all students will undertake training needs analysis to assist in identifying the training that would be most useful. For example, you may need specific support in developing their methodological skills, interviewing skills, presentation skills and the necessary training can be made available.

With this structure in place, a research degree in the Law School at Essex will allow you to develop new high-level skills, enhance your professional development and build new networks. It can open doors to many different types of careers.

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 approved for 2022 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.

Components and modules explained


Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.


Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms


Law - Research

This is for Postgraduate Research Students Only.

View Law - Research on our Module Directory


Within our Essex Law School, your PhD thesis must normally be submitted for examination within four years of first registration. The maximum length for a PhD thesis by research is 80,000 words, excluding appendices and the maximum length of an MPhil thesis is 50,000 words.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee

£4,786 per year

International fee

£18,750 per year

What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, graduate employability, student support and more
  • talk to our Fees and Funding team about scholarship opportunities
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2024 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday 21 September 2024 - September Open Day
  • Saturday 26 October 2024 - October Open Day


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we'll ask you to provide as part of your application.

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.

We aim to respond to applications within four weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply' information.

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Visit Colchester Campus

Set within 200 acres of award-winning parkland - Wivenhoe Park and located two miles from the historic city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

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Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

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.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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