Skip to main content

Law and Social Change at Birkbeck (MPhil/PhD)

Applications for this course will open in October

The Law School’s full-time MPhil/PhD programme in Law and Social Change is offered under an international consortium arrangement led by the University of Roma Tre. The programme provides the opportunity to obtain a double doctoral qualification at Birkbeck and at the University of Roma Tre, spending one year of your doctoral research programme at the University of Roma Tre. You will also participate in annual consortium activities, involving students and academic staff from the other four universities that are members of the consortium: University College Dublin, University of Lyon 2, University of Luxembourg and the University of Vilnius. Entry into this programme is limited to a maximum of three students per year for each of the consortium members.

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 and at the University of Roma Tre 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.

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.

This international doctoral programme aims at studying and better understanding the impact of social changes arising from the increasing exposure of national legal systems to transnational influences. The main focus of the programme is on the governance of transnational markets and on the interplay between transnational regulation and European law. Increases in global trade and investment flows, the opening of new markets, the development of new technologies (in particular ICTs and biotechnologies), have led in many areas to significant shifts in the axis of regulation: from the domestic to the transnational; from the public to the private; from the formal to the informal. Such developments in the regulatory arena raise a set of important questions, which deserve careful analysis. They may be grouped along two major dimensions: (a) phenomenology, features, and consequences of transnational private and public regulation; and (b) impact of transnational regulation on national legal systems.

The research conducted as part of this programme will contribute to a deeper understanding of transnational regulation and assess its impact on the development of national and European law. The programme attributes great importance to the cultural dimension of legal phenomena, understanding the law as part of a tradition. You should, therefore, be capable of engaging in synchronic and diachronic comparisons. Interdisciplinary approaches are welcomed.

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

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 most recent 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 latest Times Higher Education 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.

    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

    To be confirmed

    Fees and finance

    PhD students resident in England can apply for government loans of over £26,000 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 ThoughtRead 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 Crime and Justice 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. 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 and entry is during October and January. For October entry, applications must be submitted by 15 August. For January entry, applications must be submitted by 15 November.

    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.