Postgraduate legal research for a changing world

Join our progressive environment for research degree study. Our academic staff supervise across a wide range of research areas.

Postgraduate legal research is a field that the University of Essex has excelled in for decades and this has led to an enviable international reputation. Our postgraduate legal researchers become part of a diverse community where there are many opportunities to engage with cutting-edge research amongst colleagues and staff.

Within the Essex Law School, you can choose from three PhDs; PhD Law; PhD Human Rights; and PhD Human Rights and Research Methods. We also offer an MPhil Law, and all can be studied part-time.

Many of our academic staff are open to supervision and have a huge variety of research interests, ranging from commercial law to health law and human rights. Our key themes of research within the School are visible through our eight research clusters, which we encourage you to join. You can also look at the breadth of research our academics are actively engaged in, and explore our additional interdisciplinary centres and hubs, which includes the world-leading Human Rights Centre,

Learn more about the benefits of postgraduate study at Essex including how to apply and preparation information. If you're ready to make your application, you can apply online or download our guidance for writing your proposal if you're not quite ready.

For general information regarding postgraduate research study in Essex Law School, you can contact us at


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Why choose Essex?
  • Top 10 (9th) for Law in the UK in THE World University Rankings by Subject 2023 
  • 3rd in UK for research power in Law (Times Higher Education research power measure, REF2021)
  • We’re ranked 17th for promoting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions (Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2023)

Our research centres, hubs, clusters, and networks

Why study a research degree at Essex Law School?

Expert research supervision

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 our 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 on your plans for the following six months.

You can discover more about our academic expertise and supervision opportunities by visiting our academic staff profiles.

You can also search for supervision opportunities via our research-finder tool by entering in your interests. The search results will provide you with a list of staff from across the University who are open to postgraduate research supervision, and which areas they cover.


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Studying your PhD amongst leading staff and scholars

Many members of staff have worked on projects for the United Nations and other international institutions, as well as for national and regional governments, corporations, human rights organisations and NGOs across the globe. Individual members of staff have also been recognised at the national level for their contributions to law and society through individual awards and commendations. We have an excellent record in winning major research grants from funding bodies including the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the Nuffield Foundation and the Leverhulme Trust.

For an insight into our staff's research interests and recent publications, visit our academic staff profiles.


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An active research community

At Essex University we are particularly proud of the proactive nature of our research community. By engaging in research that relates directly to legal issues facing citizens, communities, businesses, governments, societies and the international community as a whole, the Essex Law School and the Human Rights Centre play important roles in the development of law and policy and the furtherance of justice worldwide.

Our research students play an active part in this too through their engagement with the different research groups, centres, hubs and specific projects which they can make valuable and recognised contributions to ongoing research.

Through the ‘Postgraduate Roundtable,’ the Essex Law School 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.

We are also very proud that our large and vibrant research community is part of one of the most internationally diverse universities in the world. This diversity has become a trademark of who we are and the values that we hold.

If you are working in the area of human rights, you can link up with fellow researchers across our university and at other institutions by joining the Doctoral Affiliates Network.

Scholarship and funding opportunities

The University of Essex belongs to consortia that provide funding for postgraduate students.

Consortium for the Humanities and Arts South East England (CHASE) - scholarship funding

CHASE provides different types of postgraduate funding and support across a range of subject areas and it includes doctoral scholarships for UK and international students. This consortium opens its scheme for student led applicants in September / October each year and the closing date is in January of the following year. Successful applicants will receive funding to start their PhD programmes in October of that year.

This scheme requires applicants to have made a prior application to the University of Essex (although acceptance by the University is not a pre-requisite to apply). Applicants will need to identify a supervisor within the School who will agree to act as one of the supervisors for the proposed project and endorse the application by submitting a supporting statement. Therefore, those who wish to apply are encouraged to begin the process early to enable them to engage with a potential supervisor accordingly. 

South-East Network for Social Sciences (SeNNS) – scholarship funding 

SeNNS provides different types of postgraduate funding and support across the social sciences and it includes doctoral scholarships for UK and international students. Within the field of law, it provides scholarships for research that can be categorised as ‘socio-legal’ in nature. One of the features that distinguishes this scheme is that it not only provides scholarships for PhD research but also for those seeking to undertake a Masters programme followed by a PhD. Scholarships can also be tailored in length to provide specific research training in advance of a PhD programme.

This scheme requires applicants to have made a prior application to the University of Essex (although acceptance by the University is not a pre-requisite to apply). Applicants will need to identify a supervisor within the School who will agree to act as one of the supervisors for the proposed project and endorse  the application by submitting a supporting statement. Therefore, those who wish to apply are encouraged to begin the process early to enable them to engage with a potential supervisor accordingly.

Other sources of scholarship funding

In addition to the above funding consortia, there is a range of other alternative funding sources for research degrees. The University of Essex Scholarship Finder can be of assistance in identifying them. You can browse our Scholarship Finder for more information.


Alumni loyalty discount

  • We'll give you a loyalty discount of up to 33% on the tuition fee for your first year of postgraduate study at Essex if you're one of our graduates, studied abroad with us, or have a spouse or partner studying here as a full-time international student paying overseas fees. Learn more about the postgraduate funding opportunities at the University.
  • There may also be funding opportunities through our School. Visit our scholarships and funding page for more information.

Join in events and seminars

You can get involved in our regular programme of seminars and conferences that allow you to broaden your experience beyond your study and to contribute to ongoing debates in our School. Our students also organise an annual conference which provides opportunities for you to present your research among peers and academic staff.

Professional development

Some of our research students work as Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) during their studies. These paid positions give you vital experience of teaching and marking essays at undergraduate level, a distinct advantage when applying for academic positions.

Proficio is our unique professional development scheme for doctoral students. PhD students receive up to £2,000 spread across their study to fund specialist training in areas such as research skills, managing your PhD, presenting your work and getting published. You can use your Proficio credit to attend our Essex Summer School in Human Rights Research Methods at a reduced cost.

Reading texts and accessing sources in their original languages are great ways to enhance your research. Our University’s Languages for All scheme allows you to study a language alongside your course at no extra cost.

Our blogs

In Essex Law School and Human Rights Centre, our community of students and staff contribute to two exciting blogs; The Essex Law blog, and the University's Essex blogs platform. From student success stories and life at Essex to reforming Corporate Criminal Liability, explore our blogs, podcasts and videos, and get to know our Essex Law community.

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Be a part of the law community at Essex

Join the conversation on our student blog. You will find the best advice on what it's like to be a law student at Essex, find out about the latest competitions and tips to help you make the most out of your degree.

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Need some guidance?

If you're applying to study a postgraduate research degree in Law or Human Rights, download our comprehensive guide for applicants which will give you advice on how to draft your proposal, and information on research funding and how to apply,

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Essex Law School Postgraduate Research