DPhil in Socio-Legal Studies | University of Oxford
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DPhil in Socio-Legal Studies

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 the ‘Theory and Methods in Socio-Legal Research’ course over a two-year period. 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.

Supervision

The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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. In exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

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. 

Graduate destinations

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. 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 sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

All graduate courses offered by the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • 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. In exceptional cases, the degree may be in the humanities.

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 requirement

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.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

Supporting documents 

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

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.

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

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.

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

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.

Resources

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 workshops, regular book colloquia and a prominent Annual Socio-Legal 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.

Funding

There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Full-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£22,050

Part-time study

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£3,985
Overseas£11,025

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.

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.

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.

Additional information

Full-time study

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.

Part-time study

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.

Living costs

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 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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 2020-21, 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.

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:

Official transcript(s)

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.

CV/résumé

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.

Research proposal:
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.
It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this stage of the application.

Written work:
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: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply - Full time Apply - Part time

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