About the course
The Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree entails the carrying out of a research project in the field of socio-legal studies and writing a thesis of between 75,000 and 100,000 words under the guidance of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, an international leader for the study of laws in societies.
The thesis must make a significant and substantial contribution to its field. Students are encouraged to develop a topic that contributes to an understanding of law in society, drawing on empirical and theoretical perspectives.
As a DPhil student you will in the first instance be admitted to Probationer Research Student (PRS) status. During the first year you must take the Theory and Methods in Socio-legal Research course. Part-time students will be able to tailor their study and methods training in liaison with their supervisor, and may undertake certain training later. The Theory and Methods in Socio-legal Research course is intended to develop your 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.
In your third term (sixth term for the part-time pathway), you can apply for transfer from probationary status to full 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. A similar exercise then takes place in your sixth term (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 that 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.
Throughout the period of your studies, you will work with a supervisor with whom you should meet individually at regular intervals to discuss your project and who will provide feedback and advice. You will also 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.
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.
Other courses in this area
Changes to the course
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. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2019-20
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in law, or in any other social science discipline including sociology, anthropology, politics, and economics. In exceptional cases, the degree may be in the humanities. A high upper second class is normally defined as one in which an average mark of 65% or above is achieved.
Equivalent qualifications may include a postgraduate diploma or a master’s degree. For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.
Most students admitted to the programme have a previous master's qualification but this is not a formal requirement.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
Interviews are normally held as part of the admissions process in late February.
A shortlist is compiled after an assessment of each application by two (or three, if there is a discrepancy of views between two) senior members of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies (CSLS). If you are shortlisted you will then be interviewed, preferably in person or if necessary by Skype (with or without video). If electronic communication is problematic, the interview is conducted by telephone. There will be a minimum of two interviewers.
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.
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.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work.
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff.
- Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.
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 sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
In the case of students who require specific help to adjust to an academic programme or to a new range of skills, appropriate additional support will be made available through the supervisor and the Social Science Division.
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. Students also 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 and strong; Fellows and Research Officers hold ad hoc workshops, regular book colloquiums and a prominent Annual Lecture series, as well as events organised as part of the Regulation Discussion Group. In addition to participating actively in these academic events, our students have initiated and successfully run their own socio-legal discussion group and public law discussion group. 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’s student community is also fostered by a new student-led Journal of the Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies. This is an online journal which provides an opportunity for the publication of short opinion pieces and longer academic papers on topical socio-legal issues by students at the CSLS and by members of the international socio-legal community more widely.
The CSLS holds social events, including weekly coffee afternoons throughout the year, so that staff and students can interact and network.
There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
Further information about scholarships and funding opportunities available through this academic department and for this course (if applicable) can be found on the department's website. These may include Grand Union DTP ESRC studentships, and in order to be considered for an award you will need to complete the scholarships section of the course application form and submit additional supporting material. The programme’s website provides more details about the application process, as well as any eligibility criteria that may apply.
Annual fees for entry in 2019-20
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£7,730|
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£3,865|
The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.
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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.
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 likely increases to fees and charges.
Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
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.
The following colleges accept students for full-time study on the DPhil in Socio-Legal Studies:
- Balliol College
- Brasenose College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Corpus Christi College
- Exeter College
- Green Templeton College
- Hertford College
- Keble College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Lincoln College
- Merton College
- New College
- Nuffield College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- The Queen's College
- Regent's Park College
- St Anne's College
- St Antony's College
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Hilda's College
- St Peter's College
- Somerville College
- University College
- Wolfson College
The following colleges accept students for part-time study on the DPhil in Socio-Legal Studies:
How to apply
You do not need to make contact with academic members of staff before you apply. However, it is suggested that you consult the list of CSLS research staff to check that your research interests fall within an area in which the CSLS has research expertise.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
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 all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Around 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 or brief footnotes.
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
- your ability to present a reasoned case in English
- the feasibility of successfully completing the project in the time available for the course.
One essay of 2,000 words
An academic essay or other writing sample from your most recent qualification, written in English, is required. This may be an extract from a longer piece - in such cases, the piece should be prefaced by a note which puts the work in context.
The work must be written in English. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or footnotes.
This will be assessed for comprehensive understanding of the subject area; understanding of problems in the area; ability to construct and defend an argument; powers of analysis; and powers of expression.
References/letters of recommendation:
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.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Carefully read the entry requirements on this course page to make sure you meet all the criteria.
Step 2: Check above what documents are required and prepare to apply by reading our Application Guide.
Step 3: Apply as soon as possible. Consult the Application Guide for more information about deadlines.