Law (MPhil / PhD)

An MPhil/PhD is an advanced postgraduate research degree that requires original research and the submission of a substantial dissertation of 60,000 to 100,000 words. MPhil/PhD researchers in law at Birkbeck benefit from the supervision of internationally renowned experts, classes in legal theory and research and presentation skills, seminars, and extensive library facilities. The unifying themes of our research are social and legal theory and interdisciplinary study. Accordingly, we welcome applications both from lawyers and non-lawyers who wish to undertake research within the broad range of substantive areas of national, European and international law. 

We also offer financial assistance for conference attendance, comprehensive independent monitoring of each student's yearly progress, and postgraduate student representation on the School of Law board. Ours is a vibrant community of researchers that organises, with the support of the School, a series of workshops, reading groups and a work-in-progress group, as well as frequent social events. 

Concentrating on a number of clearly defined research areas in which our expertise is internationally recognised, we aim to: 

  • specialise in distinctive and innovative research 
  • establish and foster critical and multidisciplinary scholarships, by building links with other disciplines and by introducing the scholarly values and methods of the humanities and social sciences into the discipline of law 
  • promote a culture of joint research, publications and other forms of collaboration among our staff 
  • pursue a programme of national and international links. 

Our key areas of research are:

  • race, gender and culture
  • law and humanities
  • policy, practice and activism
  • regulation, risk and surveillance
  • human rights.

At Birkbeck, you are initially registered on an MPhil and you upgrade to a PhD after satisfactory progress in the first year or two. 

Highlights

  • Research students in the School of Law are an important part of our research culture. We have succeeded in recruiting very high-quality research students and the number of UK and overseas PhD students has increased fivefold since 2001. This reflects the School's growing reputation as a training ground for early-career academics working from critical and socio-legal perspectives.
  • Birkbeck’s research excellence was confirmed in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF), which placed Birkbeck 30th in the UK for research, with 73% of our research rated world-leading or internationally excellent.
  • We are among the top 10 law schools in the UK and in the top three in London in the Times Higher Education 2014 REF rankings, while our research environment was judged conducive to producing research of the highest quality.
  • The PhD programme is recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK's leading research council addressing economic and social concerns. The PhD is tailored to students' needs and can include generic modules from our postgraduate Master's programmes such as Research Frameworks and Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods.
  • In-house seminars, the Bloomsbury Postgraduate Skills Network and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Interdisciplinary Research Training Network provide additional training. Students have received awards from the AHRC, British Academy, Overseas Research Students Awards, ESRC and Natural Environment Research Council, and internal Birkbeck and Law School Studentships.
  • Reading groups are encouraged, focusing on particular writers such as Agamben, Foucault and Deleuze as well as issues such as critical international law, feminist theory, Latin American culture and politics and Continental philosophy. There is an informal doctoral 'work-in-progress group' open to staff and research students, allowing the latter to develop their presentation skills and invite general comment on projects. There are a number of other events designed to support research students. Additionally, an annual postgraduate conference is held to showcase current doctoral research, and our academic staff and research students regularly attend and present papers at the annual Critical Legal Conference. The upgrade viva examination, whereby students progress from MPhil to PhD registration, gives students experience of a more formal arena in which they have to defend their work to academic staff.
  • Entry Requirements

    Entry requirements

    Good honours degree in law or a related discipline from the humanities or social sciences.

    International entry requirements

    If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, the requirement for this programme is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 7.0, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

    If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

    Visit the International section of our website to find out more about our English language entry requirements and relevant requirements by country.

    Visa requirements

    If you are not from the European Economic Area (EEA) and/or Switzerland and you are coming to study in the UK, you may need to apply for a visa.

    The visa you apply for varies according to the length of your course:

    • Courses of more than six months' duration.
    • Courses of less than six months' duration.
    • Pre-sessional English language courses.

    International students who require a Tier 4 visa should apply for our full-time courses (with the exception of modular enrolment certificates of higher education and graduate certificates), as these qualify for Tier 4 sponsorship. If you are living in the UK on a Tier 4 visa, you will not be eligible to enrol as a student on Birkbeck's part-time courses (with the exception of some modules).

    For full information, read our visa information for international students page.

  • Fees

    Fees

    Part-time home/EU students: £2260 pa
    Full-time home/EU students: £4260 pa
    Part-time international students: £6225 pa
    Full-time international students: £12325 pa

    Students are charged a tuition fee in each year of their programme. Tuition fees for students continuing on their programme in following years may be subject to annual inflationary increases. For more information, please see the College Fees Policy.

    Fees and finance

    From 2018-19, PhD students resident in England can apply for government loans of up to £25,000 to cover the cost of tuition fees, maintenance and other study-related costs.

    Flexible finance: pay your fees in monthly instalments at no extra cost. Enrol early to spread your costs and reduce your monthly payments.

    Fees discounts: If you are a member of a union that is recognised by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), you may apply for a 10% discount off your tuition fees.

    The School of Law attracts funding for studentships that ensure researchers of the highest standard can pursue their research with us. We offer a limited number of fully funded research opportunities.

  • Our Research Culture

    Our Research Culture

    The School of Law is an internationally recognised centre for critical and interdisciplinary legal research. It provides an exciting and innovative environment for a wide range of research with a strong theoretical and policy focus. The School publishes Law and Critique: The International Journal of Critical Legal Thought, and many of our students publish their work in this journal. Read more about our research.

    Study resources include an induction programme for all postgraduate students, which offers classes on methodology, and regular research seminars, workshops, reading groups and conferences. We are at the centre of the intellectual hub of Bloomsbury in London, and there are regular conferences at Birkbeck and other universities nearby. We also host an annual Writer in Residence whose seminars in June are primarily focused on our postgraduate research students.

    Birkbeck Library has an extensive collection of books, journals and electronic resources in law and related disciplines such as economics, politics and sociology. For example, it provides access to over 17,000 electronic journals, which are available online 24 hours a day. You can also take advantage of the rich research collections nearby, including those of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, Senate House Library, the British Library of Political and Economic Science (LSE Library) and the British Library.

    Birkbeck is also home to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) and the Centre for Law and the Humanities.

    Read more about our vibrant research culture.

  • How to apply

    How to apply

    Follow these steps to apply to an MPhil/PhD research degree at Birkbeck: 

    1. Check that you meet the entry requirements, including English language requirements, as described on this page. 

    2. Find a potential supervisor for your MPhil/PhD research. You can look at the Find a Supervisor area on this page for an overview, or search our Experts’ Database or browse our staff pages for more in-depth information. 

    3. Contact the academic member of staff - or the department they teach in - for an informal discussion about your research interests and to establish if they are willing and able to supervise your research. (Please note: finding a potential supervisor does not guarantee admission to the research degree, as this decision is made using your whole application.) Find out more about the supervisory relationship and how your supervisor will support your research.

    4. Draft a research proposal. This needs to demonstrate your knowledge of the field, the specific research questions you wish to pursue, and how your ideas will lead to the creation of new knowledge and understanding. Find out more about writing a research proposal

    5. Complete and submit an expression of interest form to us

    6. Apply directly to Birkbeck, using the online application link on this page. All research students are initially registered on an MPhil and then upgrade to a PhD after making sufficient progress. 

    Find out more about the application process, writing a research proposal and the timeframe.

    AREAS OF RESEARCH INTEREST 

    • access to law
    • company law
    • constitutional theory and national identity 
    • criminal justice
    • criminology 
    • European law 
    • feminist legal theory 
    • human rights 
    • insurance law 
    • intellectual property
    • international economic law
    • international refugee law
    • the law in relation to: 
      • bioethics
      • children and childhood
      • development
      • environment
      • film
      • gender and sexuality 
      • language
      • literature 
      • media 
      • multinational corporations 
      • political economy 
      • 'race' 
    • legal aesthetics
    • legal history
    • legal theory
    • medical law and ethics 
    • postcolonial theory
    • public law 
    • socio-legal studies. 

    Current research topics 

    • Real-world dynamics of commercial-contractual relations 
    • The orthodox, neoliberal approach to land tenure reforms in sub-Saharan Africa
    • The history of copyright law in Latin America 
    • A critical defence of the rule of law 
    • The quest for legitimate governance and social justice: the emerging trend in postcolonial African political philosophy 
    • Pharmaceutical ethics 
    • The ephemeral art form of dance and copyright law. 

    Application deadlines and interviews

    You can apply throughout the year. Entry months for the programme are October and January of each year.

    With your application you must send a research proposal of 300-1000 words containing a statement outlining the main themes of your proposed research project, a section addressing questions of methodology, an overview of the literature in the field and a statement relating to the project's intended contribution to legal scholarship.

    If you wish to apply for funding, you will need to apply by certain deadlines. Consult the websites of relevant bodies for details.

  • Finding a supervisor

    Finding a supervisor

    A critical factor when applying for postgraduate study in law is the correlation between the applicant’s intellectual and research interests and those of one or more potential supervisors within the Department.

    Read more about the expert supervision we offer in a wide range of legal subjects, from administrative law and bioethics through criminal law and development to legal theory and refugee studies.