Local Government Studies PhD by distance learning

Course details: Details | Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply | Academic staff research interests.

Our distance learning MPhil and PhD degrees in Local Government Studies offer the opportunity to pursue original research under the guidance of an academic supervisor in a more convenient manner for those unable to live and work on campus on a regular basis. We are particularly interested in receiving applications on the modernisation agenda, changing patterns of local governance, the impact of public policy changes, democracy, public participation and community involvement. Applications to study for research degrees on a part-time basis are welcomed.

The only attendance requirements are that the student visits the university for two weeks each year for an organized programme of research training and/or supervision and is also present on campus for their final viva examination. Travel and accommodation costs for these events must be borne by the student.

Distance learning does present challenges and applicants need to have a high capacity to work independently and in a disciplined fashion to pursue their research goals. However, the supervisory team are there to assist you and will draw up a training plan for each student to ensure you have the skills and knowledge to complete your thesis.

Learn more about the research interests of our staff and how to contact them.

The School of Government and Society brings together academic staff, research fellows and doctoral researchers across the Social Sciences. The School is one of the leading UK and international centres for Politics, International Relations, International Development, Sociology and European Studies.

Course details: Fees and funding | Entry requirements | How to apply | Academic staff research interests.

We offer two types of research degree: the MPhil and PhD degrees are taken by research with a coursework element. Applications to study for research degrees on either a full- or part-time basis are welcomed.

We are particularly interested in receiving applications on the modernisation agenda, changing patterns of local governance, the impact of public policy changes, democracy, public participation and community involvement.

We have some 15 research students, and more than 400 taught postgraduates, most of whom are practitioners registered with us on part-time programmes.

Fees and funding

PhD by distance learning 2017-18
Fee band Part time
Home/EU students £2,098
Overseas students (Band D) £7,605

Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

INLOGOV offers occasional teaching assistantships for those enrolled on a full-time research degree. These provide bursaries to cover living costs, payment of the fee and the opportunity to gain additional income through a limited amount of tutorial work.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or visit studenthelp.bham.ac.uk.

Entry requirements

Applicants for the distance learning PhD/MPhil must provide evidence of prior research experience and/or training suitable for their intended programme of study. When they apply, they are expected to consult with their supervisor who can assess their skills, background and capacity to undertake independent study at a distance. 

Besides formal qualifications, a key factor determining whether the Department decides to accept a candidate for either degree is the quality of his or her research proposal and its relevance to our own interests. Successful completion of a research thesis demands a high level of self-discipline, motivation and commitment to the subject of research. Great importance is placed on work experience, when relevant. Please contact the Department for more details.

International students:

We accept a range of qualifications from different countries – learn more about international entry requirements.

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

You will contact your supervisor approximately fortnightly (monthly for part-time students) over the course of your study. Supervisors are experienced in managing the research process and are chosen to complement your area of interest. You will discuss your research with a panel every six months (part-time: every 12 months). The panel is chaired by an experienced researcher from the department, and includes your supervisor and another member of staff. It provides an important opportunity to present progress on your research and to have a wider discussion about your work.

Your supervisor will read and comment on drafts of your thesis before it is finally submitted. An external and an internal examiner (who will not be your supervisor) will then examine it, and will meet with you for a viva. They will judge whether your thesis demonstrates:

  • Knowledge of the relevant academic literature
  • Skill in use of research methods
  • Independent investigation
  • Clear presentation of information
  • Arguments presented in a coherent and appropriate form

MPhil students must show original work of merit that is worthy of publication. The requirement for PhDs is that the work is an original contribution to knowledge that is worthy of publication.

Research interests of staff

Dr Karin Bottom 
Email: k.a.bottom@bham.ac.uk

  • The role of small parties
  • Comparative politics
  • Policy analysis
  • Elections and quantitative methodologies

Dr Catherine Durose
Email: c.durose@bham.ac.uk

Catherine is interested in supervising doctoral researchers working on issues connected to her main research interests, set out below. Catherine also welcomes proposals from qualified and motivated scholars to undertake PhD or post-doctoral research.

Situated within a broader intellectual project exploring the intermediation of relationships between the state, the market, other social institutions, communities and citizens, my research focuses on the practices of community work and the politics of participation and co-production. I have forged an inter-disciplinary nexus between social policy, public administration and community studies, spanning issues of policy analysis and implementation, democracy, participation and community action. I have a growing passionate interest in how to challenge traditional research practice, using co-productive and participatory approaches to innovate and generate progressive social change. 

Dr Stephen Jeffares
Email: s.r.jeffares@bham.ac.uk

Stephen is interested in supervising projects that draw on social media data to understand change or controversies in public policy. 

Professor John Raine 
Email: j.w.raine@bham.ac.uk 

  • Criminal and civil justice, management and organisation
  • Local government organisation and political structures
  • Central–local relations
  • Local authority parking enforcement

Professor Chris Skelcher
Email: c.k.skelcher@bham.ac.uk

  • New forms of local authority accountability, management and government of public services;
  • Development of partnership working and service quality;
  • Quangos, partnerships, hybrids and appointed bodies;
  • Standards of conduct and the wider question of improvement in local authority performance.

Dr Peter Watt
Email: p.a.watt@bham.ac.uk

  • Scrutiny of finance and budgeting
  • Comprehensive Area Assessment
  • Economics of contracting and procurement
  • Local government finance and international comparisons
  • Public sector efficiency and performance management
  • Financial management
  • Public choice theory
  • Organisational review
  • Risk management and quantitative techniques, statistics and econometrics

Mr Philip Whiteman
Email: p.whiteman@bham.ac.uk

  • Policy implementation studies
  • Central and local government relations
  • Regulation of local government
  • Local authority corporate management scrutiny
  • Public sector performance, procurement and efficiency
  • Public consultation and participation
  • Organisation dynamics.

If I gain a postgraduate research degree in Local Government Studies, what are my career prospects?

The University of Birmingham has recently been ranked 9th in the UK, and 55th in the world, for post-qualification employability in a global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Over the last five years, an impressive 99.5% of Local Government Studies postgraduates have been in work and/or further study six months after graduation.

In addition to the academic knowledge gained through their course, postgraduates from Birmingham’s Institute of Local Government Studies develop transferable skills that are useful in many occupations. These include familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large and diverse quantities of information; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; judging and evaluating complex information; and making reasoned arguments, both orally and in written work.

Institute of Local Government Studies graduates are attracted to careers in both public and private sectors. These include local government, policing, health services, transport, legal services, prison services and housing. Some of these careers require further professional training, and/or building a portfolio of relevant work experience. Many PhD graduates of the Institute of Local Government Studies also successfully gain academic research and teaching posts.

What type of career assistance is available to doctoral researchers in this department?

The College of Social Sciences, to which the Institute of Local Government Studies belongs, has specially designated careers advisors and careers consultants who can provide guidance for doctoral researchers on career paths, CVs, training opportunities, application and interviews. The University’s central Careers’ Service also runs workshops and offers personally tailored advice and guidance including 1-1 careers advice, 1-1 CV advice. The Career’s Service also runs CV writing workshops especially for postgraduates in the College of Social Sciences, giving advice on how to compile CVs for both employment and for academic roles.

The University also has dedicated careers advisors for International students who run workshops and networking opportunities with potential employers. These are especially popular with International postgraduate researchers.