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Research degrees in Social Sciences PhD

  • Level(s) of Study: Postgraduate research
  • Start Date(s): All year round depending on project
  • Duration: 4 / 8 year(s)
  • Study Mode(s): Full-time / Part-time
  • Campus: City Campus
  • Entry Requirements:
    More information


Undertaking a PhD

The School of Social Sciences offers opportunities to study for a PhD by research. Supervision is available by full-time or part-time study and can sometimes be provided by distance learning. Please find further details of who to contact here.

Supporting your studies

Carrying out research for a PhD, DPsych or ProfD requires different skills from undergraduate or taught postgraduate study. You will mostly work on your own research project, but we also emphasise the importance of regular meetings with your supervisory team.

The team consists of a director of studies (who will usually have expertise in your subject area) and at least one other supervisor selected for their complementary expertise such as relevant research methods.

The Doctoral School Team will support you from your initial enquiry, through the application process and the various stages of your degree, until your viva voce examination and subsequent graduation. Once you begin your studies, you will have induction sessions to introduce you to the University, help you settle in and meet other researchers.

Researcher training

In addition to studying for a research degree, students undertaking traditional route PhDs will participate in researcher training. This combines general research training with specific topics associated with your discipline. The training focuses on the requirements of external research funding bodies and government requirements.

We also provide a structured programme of transferable skills training and career development. This is informed by the work of Vitae, the national organisation which supports researchers throughout their careers.

What you’ll study

The School of Social Sciences has a strong focus on both applied and theoretically informed research on contemporary social issues and policy. Research is grounded in the disciplines of:

  • Politics and International Relations
  • Psychology
  • Social Work and Health, including Social Policy
  • Sociology including Criminology.

Both cross-School and discipline specific research is flourishing and is supported by School-wide research conferences and events, bursary competitions, and multidisciplinary research groups.

Carrying out research for a PhD (or DPsych or ProfD) is very different from being an undergraduate. You will work on a unique project in a field of your own choice or one that has been developed by colleagues within the School of Social Sciences. We will provide you with the support you need, through expert supervision from experienced researchers, a well-chosen programme of research training and the support of the University's Doctoral School.

You will need to carefully assess the research opportunities available in your chosen area, and we suggest that you seek the advice of the University's Doctoral School and our disciplinary research leads in the School of Social Sciences. They will be able to put you in touch with a potential supervisor, and will also provide advice about the most appropriate course of supporting studies for you.

Research students are supervised by nationally and internationally recognised researchers in the School of Social Sciences.

External links and collaborations

The Schools of Social Sciences has developed extensive links with a wide range of external organisations and are actively involved in collaborations with other universities, both in the UK and abroad. These links ensure the business, policy and professional relevance of our research degrees and our postgraduate and professional courses. They have also contributed strongly to NTU's sustained track record in scoring very highly for graduate employability in national league tables. In recent years, researchers have been especially successful in responding to the needs of our external partners. We have been awarded grants from:

  • ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
  • British Academy
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation
  • European Commission
  • Leverhulme Trust
  • Nottingham Probation Service
  • Nuffield Foundation
  • Home Office
  • Cabinet Office
  • Department for Education and Science
  • National charities
  • A wide variety of public services in the East Midlands and beyond

Most of our part-time research students, including a high proportion of our international research students, come to us from the public services (including health, policing and local government), the professions (e.g., social work and social care, forensic psychology) and business organisations, to work on research projects directly related to their work. Some PhD projects are designed and managed collaboratively with external organisations. Such projects enable their employing organisations to benefit from contact with leading-edge research. We therefore particularly welcome applications from people wishing to work on projects directly related to business, professional or public services practice or policy.

Staff Profiles

Matt Henn


School of Social Sciences

Matt Henn is Professor of Social Research and Research Director for the Department of Social and Political Sciences at Nottingham Trent University.

Careers and employability

Nottingham Trent University prides itself on the real-world relevance of its courses, placing particular emphasis on helping students to develop the academic and practical know-how that encourages initiative, innovation and academic excellence.

All our research degrees incorporate a programme of supporting studies designed to develop knowledge and skills of all aspects of the research process, including the funding and dissemination of research. This programme will ensure that you have the necessary expertise in research to complete your doctoral programme successfully. It will also lay sound foundations for those students who wish to pursue a research orientated career.

Participation in academic conferences, seminars and external networks contributes significantly to students' professional development. They cultivate contacts, skills and knowledge essential for successful practice as researchers: this knowledge and these skill are also transferable to a wide range of other careers. Participation in such events is therefore strongly encouraged.

There are some opportunities for research students to prepare for an academic career by teaching undergraduate students or supervising laboratory work. Students may take part in our bespoke teacher training programme for PhD students.

Although formal placements are not a requirement of PhDs and related awards, the University has strong links with professionals in business and industry.

There are opportunities to participate in ERASMUS overseas university exchanges in some subject areas. The University has links with many other institutions such as:

  • Eötvös Loránd University (Budapest)
  • Sapienza Università di Roma
  • Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
  • l'Université d'Angers
  • Universitat Ramon Llull (Barcelona)
  • University of Zadar (Zadar, Croatia).

Campus and facilities

As a Social Sciences student you will have easy access to the fantastic facilities in the Chaucer and Taylor buildings including:

  • Lecture theatres and teaching classrooms;
  • Open access PCs and secure wireless points;
  • Study areas and social spaces;
  • Chaucer cafe serving drinks and light snacks;
  • Our brand new School of Social Sciences reception, providing you with easy access to our helpful and friendly support staff.

Fees and funding

Please visit our fees and funding page.

How to apply

Entry requirements

You will need:

An applicant for admission to read for a PhD should normally hold a first or upper second class honours degree of a UK university or an equivalent qualification, or a lower second class honours degree with a Master's degree at Merit level of a UK university or an equivalent qualification.

International students will also need to meet the English language requirements - IELTS 6.5 (with minimum sub-scores of 6.0).

Applicants who have taken a higher degree at a UK university are normally exempt from the English language requirements. Applicants who do not meet the English language proficiency requirement will normally be asked to complete an English Language course.

Application process

To apply for a PhD/DPsych/ProfD please submit a research proposal (between 1,000 and a maximum of 2,000 words) which addresses the following points:

  • Provisional title
  • The topic or area to be investigated (the subject or field that you are going to investigate)
  • The problem or hypothesis to be tested (the research questions or problem you want to address, the research objectives)
  • The relationship of the proposed research to the published literature and to current research in the field (how your project relates to other work)
  • An indication of the unique contribution to knowledge that the thesis is anticipated to make (the gap in research that your work will fill and what you hope to find out)
  • The methods and techniques to be used in the research (how you propose to go about the research)
  • A provisional timetable for the project, indicating anticipated activities
  • If applicable, details of your previous work in the proposed field, or relationship to prior experience or study
  • Bibliography of sources already consulted or identified as of relevance to your proposal.

As you’re applying for a Research degree, you may also like to have a look around our Research pages. This may help you to spot academic staff, research areas or projects that interest you.

How to apply

For a step-by-step guide and to make an application, please visit our how to apply page.