About the course
The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree entails the carrying out of a research project and writing a thesis of between 75,000 and 100,000 words.
The thesis must make a significant and substantial contribution to the field of socio-legal studies. You will be expected to develop a topic that contributes to an understanding of law in society, drawing on empirical data, to a greater or lesser degree, and adopting theoretical and analytic perspectives from any social science discipline, or a combination of disciplinary perspectives.
During the first year you will attend weekly seminars convened by members of staff at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) on ‘Theory and Methods in Socio-Legal Research’. Part-time students will be able to tailor their study and methods training in liaison with their supervisor, and may attend the seminars over a two-year period. The seminars are intended to develop an appreciation of law as a social phenomenon, to introduce various theoretical perspectives and to consider the variety of practical empirical techniques by which research questions may be addressed.
Throughout the course, you will be able to take part in an extensive range of seminar programmes and discussion groups, affording plentiful opportunities for interaction both with your peers and with academics working in the same or similar research areas.
Part-time attendance details
- As a part-time student you will be required to attend 18 two-hour seminars in Theory and Methods, each followed by a 90 minute research seminar, in Oxford over the course of two years. There is some flexibility in the pattern of attendance, which will be determined by mutual agreement with your supervisor.
- You should expect to attend regular supervision sessions in Oxford throughout the first two years of the DPhil and thereafter in person or online as agreed with your supervisor.
- You should expect to spend, on average, the equivalent of 50% of a working week on your doctoral studies over the course of at least six years.
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the CSLS and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. In exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the CSLS.
Throughout the period of your studies, you will work with a supervisor with whom you will meet individually at regular intervals to discuss your project and who will provide feedback and advice. In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to acquire a new range of skills, additional support may be made available after consultation with the supervisor.
All students will be initially admitted to the status of Probationer Research Student (PRS). Within a maximum of four terms as a full-time PRS student (eight terms as a part-time student), you will be expected to apply for, and achieve, transfer of status from Probationer Research Student to DPhil status by taking a qualifying test (QT) which is assessed by two examiners. This requires you to submit a well-developed research outline plus a substantial piece of written work. This application is normally made by the third term for full-time students (sixth term for part-time students). A similar exercise then takes place in your sixth term, or later (twelfth term for the part-time pathway), when you report on your progress and submit a substantial part of the proposed thesis for a further assessment, which leads to a confirmation of DPhil status.
After three or at most four years (no later than eight years for the part-time pathway), you submit your final thesis to two examiners, respectively internal and external to the University. The examiners will read your thesis and then conduct an oral examination with you, known as a viva voce, before providing a written report to the Law Faculty. On that basis, your thesis may be judged to have passed, so that you can be awarded a DPhil, or to be in need of revision, in which case it is referred back to you for re-submission at a later date; in extreme cases, the thesis may not be passed.
DPhil students pursue a range of career paths after completion of the doctorate. Many take up academic posts, or pursue postdoctoral research. Some enter legal practice and others develop careers in consultancies, government, regulatory agencies, non-governmental organisations and private companies.
Changes to this course and your supervision
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic, epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, in certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.
Entry requirements for entry in 2024-25
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the following UK qualifications or their equivalent:
- a first-class or strong upper second class undergraduate degree (average mark of 65% or above) with honours in law, or in any other social science discipline including sociology, anthropology, politics, and economics, or in a relevant humanities discipline.
Equivalent qualifications may include a postgraduate diploma or a master’s degree.
Most students admitted to the programme have a previous master's qualification but this is not a formal requirement.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Part-time applicants will also be expected to show evidence of the ability to commit time to study and, if applicable, an employer's commitment to make time available to study, to complete coursework, and attend course and University events and modules. Where appropriate, evidence should also be provided of permission to use employers’ data in the proposed research project.
- Publications are not expected. They may, in certain circumstances, advantage an application but it is appreciated that the opportunity to publish may vary considerably depending on factors such as the stage the student has reached in their graduate career and the structure of the course(s) they have studied. Consequently, a lack of publications will not be assessed negatively.
English language proficiency
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.
|Test||Minimum overall score||Minimum score per component|
|IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713)||7.5||7.0|
TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'
(Institution code: 0490)
*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
†Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.
Declaring extenuating circumstances
If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.
You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview
Interviews for short-listed candidates are normally held in late February and early March.
A shortlist is compiled after an assessment of each application by two (or three, if there is a discrepancy of views) senior members of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS). If you are shortlisted you will be interviewed, either in person or online or, if electronic communication is problematic, by telephone. There will be a minimum of two interviewers.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading.
References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process. Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed.
Shortlisting and selection
Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:
- socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
- country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
- protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.
Processing your data for shortlisting and selection
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
Other factors governing whether places can be offered
The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
- the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
- minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.
Offer conditions for successful applications
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about offers and conditions.
In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) will provide you with an individual study space in the form of a desk and a PC that is supported by the University’s IT services for your first year. You will have access to a wide range of electronic resources, including a large number of online journals.
In the socio-legal field you are engaged in interdisciplinary research and can benefit from several of the Bodleian libraries. The two most heavily used are close at hand: the Social Science Library (SSL) is housed on the ground floor of the Manor Road Building and the Law Library is in the adjacent building, the St Cross building. Both libraries offer a selection of study spaces including graduate study rooms, individual study carrels and group discussion rooms which are available for booking. You also have access to all the other Bodleian libraries and in some cases also to one or more college libraries.
The CSLS benefits from having seminar rooms in the Manor Road Building available for academic events.
The CSLS research community is vibrant. Members convene research seminars, workshops, book colloquia and a prominent Annual Socio-Legal Lecture. In addition to participating in these academic events, our students have initiated and successfully run their own Socio-Legal Discussion Group and other specialist events. All these events bring staff and students together to exchange ideas, to meet visiting speakers and to engage in discussion of a variety of socio-legal issues. You will receive multiple opportunities to gain experience of presenting and discussing your work in progress.
The CSLS also holds social events, including weekly coffee afternoons throughout the year, so that staff and students can interact and network.
Oxford’s Faculty of Law, one of the largest in the UK, offers you the opportunity to study alongside some of the best law graduates of your generation, under the direct supervision of some of the world’s leading legal scholars.
Oxford's reputation for master's-level legal education has few equals. All of the courses on offer involve intensive work to a very high academic standard, and the BCL and MJur are exceptional in their use of tutorials as a principal means of course delivery. Both of these programmes offer an extensive variety of options and the opportunity to specialise in certain fields or to select a diverse combination of courses. For those with more specialist interests, the faculty also offers the MSc in Law and Finance, the MSc in Criminology and Criminal Justice, the MSc in Taxation, and the Postgraduate Diploma in Intellectual Property Law and Practice, the MSc in Intellectual Property, and the MSc in International Human Rights Law (formerly known as the MSt in International Human Rights Law and offered by the Department of Continuing Education).
For its research students, the faculty offers a wider range of legal and interdisciplinary specialisms corresponding to the diverse interests of faculty members. For many research students the ultimate goal will be a DPhil, the Oxford term for a doctoral qualification, but the faculty also offers a one-year MPhil course which can either be taken in its own right or as a route into the DPhil. As a research student, you can expect to work closely with a specialist supervisor who will help you develop your ideas and pursue your thesis to a successful conclusion.
Research students play a central role in the intellectual life of the faculty, collaborating in numerous discussion groups and colloquia and participating in many BCL, MJur and MSc course seminars.
Centre for Criminology
Pursuing an innovative programme of criminological research and delivering high quality education.
The Centre for Criminology is an independent unit of the University’s Faculty of Law. The centre is dedicated to pursuing an innovative programme of criminological research and to delivering high-quality graduate education in criminology. It has a vibrant programme of research, aimed principally at fostering and developing clusters of research activity around seven substantive areas:
- security, rights and justice
- penal culture, policy and practice
- politics, legitimacy and criminal justice
- crime and the family
- psychology, criminal justice and law
- victims and victimisation
- criminal justice, citizenship and migration.
Members of the centre are committed to:
- connecting criminological work to the broader concerns of the social sciences;
- thinking comparatively about crime and punishment;
- bringing together sociological and normative approaches to the analysis of crime and justice; and
- working at the intersections between criminology and public policy.
These approaches to the study of crime and criminal justice inform teaching and doctoral supervision in the centre. They create an intellectually stimulating and collaborative environment to pursue your study in criminology.
Centre for Socio-Legal Studies
At the forefront of multidisciplinary research into the nature and role of law in society.
The Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS) brings together scholars with diverse academic backgrounds and ambitions, who pursue their own research topics and are also encouraged to collaborate widely and develop multifaceted research programmes. Researchers address fundamental questions about the nature of law, its relations with morality, religion, and justice, and its role in regulation, government and community, the nature of rules and legalistic thought, the development of laws, legal systems and legal cultures, and the social character of the rule of law.
The CSLS welcomes students who wish to pursue research in any aspect of socio-legal studies, broadly defined. The centre's staff have a range of expertise in socio-legal research and methodologies and draw on a range of cognate fields, including anthropology, jurisprudence, political science, regulation studies, economics and sociology. Supervision can be offered in most areas of social-legal studies.
The CSLS has a community of around thirteen full-time research staff and thirty-three graduate research students. Links with leading scholars in Oxford’s Faculty of Law and throughout the University enhance the breadth of the centre’s research and the resources made available to students.
The University expects to be able to offer over 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2024-25. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential.
For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.
Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:
Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.
Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the faculty's website.
Annual fees for entry in 2024-25
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Annual Course fees
Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.
Information about course fees
Course fees are payable each year, for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay course fees). For courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on changes to fees and charges.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) and living costs. However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
Please note that you are required to attend in Oxford for a minimum of 30 days each year, and you may incur additional travel and accommodation expenses for this. Also, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur further additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2024-25 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,345 and £1,955 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our living costs page. The current economic climate and high national rate of inflation make it very hard to estimate potential changes to the cost of living over the next few years. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2024-25, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of around 5% each year – although this rate may vary depending on the national economic situation. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.
If you are studying part-time your living costs may vary depending on your personal circumstances but you must still ensure that you will have sufficient funding to meet these costs for the duration of your course.
Students enrolled on this course will belong to both a department/faculty and a college. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 43 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as societies and permanent private halls (PPHs).
If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. Before deciding, we suggest that you read our brief introduction to the college system at Oxford and our advice about expressing a college preference. For some courses, the department may have provided some additional advice below to help you decide.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on this course:
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on this course:
Before you apply
Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. If it's important for you to have your application considered under a particular deadline – eg under a December or January deadline in order to be considered for Oxford scholarships – we recommend that you aim to complete and submit your application at least two weeks in advance.
Application fee waivers
An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:
- applicants from low-income countries;
- refugees and displaced persons;
- UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and
- applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.
You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.
Readmission for current Oxford graduate taught students
If you're currently studying for an Oxford graduate taught course and apply to this course with no break in your studies, you may be eligible to apply to this course as a readmission applicant. The application fee will be waived for an eligible application of this type. Check whether you're eligible to apply for readmission.
Do I need to contact anyone before I apply?
It is suggested that you look at the list of CSLS research staff to check that your research interests fall within an area in which the CSLS has research expertise. Academic members of staff cannot answer general enquiries about projects and supervision. General queries should be directed to the course administrator via the contact details provided on this page. However, do check the CSLS FAQs webpage before contacting the administrator.
Completing your application
You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents.
If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.
Proposed field and title of research project
Under the 'Field and title of research project' please enter your proposed field or area of research if this is known. If the department has advertised a specific research project that you would like to be considered for, please enter the project title here instead.
You should not use this field to type out a full research proposal. You will be able to upload your research supporting materials separately if they are required (as described below).
If known, under 'Proposed supervisor name' enter the name of the academic(s) who you would like to supervise your research. Otherwise, leave this field blank.
This will not affect your application.
Three overall, academic and/or professional
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and motivation.
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for this course. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
A maximum of 1,000 words
You should submit a detailed outline of your proposed research, written in English, covering areas such as the background to the research, methodology, expected results and the contribution to the field of learning.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography. Footnotes should be included in the word count.
If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.
This will be assessed for:
- the coherence of the proposal
- the originality of the project
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course.