PhD/MPhil Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology

Start date
September. Other start dates can be negotiated.
PhD: 3 years full-time, 6 years part-time; MPhil: 2 years full-time, 4 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Doctoral research
For 2024-2025

PhD Full time £4,778, Part time £2,389
MPhil Full time £4,778, Part time £2,389
Distance Learning £2,389
PhD Full time £21,360
Distance Learning £10,680

We offer two types of research degree: an MPhil or a PhD - in any of the disciplines represented in our department, including social policy, criminology and sociology.

In the School of Social Policy we offer much more than a degree. PhD students have the opportunity to take part in a wide range of events including Departmental Research Seminars, Research Centre Seminars, Postgraduate Research Student Seminars, as well as a vibrant and engaged PhD researcher community. 

Prospective applicants for research degrees in any aspect of social policy, sociology and criminology are invited to apply, outlining their special interests through the submission of a research proposal and other relevant documents such as personal statement, a CV, and a confirmation of supervision statement from the main supervisor. We welcome applications to work in a wide variety of areas and encourage you to make prior contact with potential supervisors. Supervisors will typically be from the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology but Joint supervision, both between staff within the Department, and with staff in other departments is possible.

Our PhD programmes offer you a combination of taught courses in the first year and careful supervision throughout your study, with the aim of helping you to produce a thesis that makes a significant and original contribution to the discipline.

All research students have regular meetings with their supervisors. PhD students also have annual panel meetings to support and review progress. We encourage you to give conference papers and to publish your work.

For home students, a research degree programme may be undertaken either by full-time or part-time study or via distance learning. International students can only undertake full-time studies, but distance learning programmes may be undertaken full-time or part-time. 

Find out more about the research interests of doctoral researchers in Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology

Find out more about our staff and their research interests 


Fees 2024 - 2025


801C - PhD Full time £4,778
802C - PhD Part time £2,389
804C - MPhil Full time £4,778
804C - MPhil Part time £2,389
806C - PhD Distance Learning £2,389


801C - PhD Full time £21,360
806C - PhD Distance Learning £10,680

* UK fees to be confirmed in spring 2024.

Learn more about fees.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships and bursaries may be available. Details of any departmental scholarships are indicated on our website. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. More information about international scholarships.

College and School opportunities are advertised on and some supervisors use 'Find a PhD' which provides information about opportunities to conduct doctoral research. We also nominate our strongest applicants for studentships supported by the ESRC-funded Midlands Doctoral Training Partnership, of which we are one of the principal institutional partners.

Find out more about postgraduate research scholarships.

Postgraduate Loans

You may be eligible for a postgraduate loan. Find out more about the loan

How To Apply

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate research programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the research programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

Normally a first-class or upper second-class Honours degree in social policy, sociology or criminology or a relevant social science, or the successful completion of an appropriate postgraduate programme is required.

Post-qualification experience, including professional qualifications and experience, will also be taken into account when considering applicants.

Potential for research generally also needs to be indicated through the submission of relevant application materials including a research proposal on your selected topic, a personal statement, and a CV.

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

Our academic staff have wide research interests and these are detailed below. Joint supervision is generally standard, and we can provide this with other departments/Schools.

  • Youth Justice, Youth crime, Criminology and Mobilities.
    Contact: Sarah Brooks-Wilson

  • Experiences of disability and impairment (including mental distress); Individual and family experiences of social care and health services
    Contact: Harriet Clarke
    Tel: +44(0)121 415 8479
  • UK trade unionism and union renewal; Social unionism;  Evaluating the efficacy of non-traditional agendas as vehicles for union renewal (and their behaviour as employee relations negotiables). 
    Contact: Tom Farnhill
  • Integration and cohesion; Poverty and social exclusion; Gender and health; Approaches to welfare provision for migrants in an age of super-diversity.
    Contact: Dr Lisa Goodson
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 4993
  • Poverty; Inequality; Asset-based welfare; Conceptual and ideological debates about the nature of welfare systems; Young people and social welfare support; Social Security and anti-poverty practices; Alternative/Community currency systems
  • Prison sociology; The ways in which prisoners experience the pains and deprivations of prison, especially long-term prisoners and serious offenders.
    Contact: Anna Kotova
  • The perceptions, measurement, and dimensionality of immigrant adaptation; Ethnic inequalities in education and the labour market; The transnational behaviour across immigrant generations; and Social inequalities and social mobility.
    Contact: Laurence Lessard-Phillips
  • The development of large-scale databases on voluntary organisations, including registered charities, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutual; The geographical and sectoral distribution of these organisations including UK-wide comparisons and small-area analyses; Long-run trends in the formation and survival of organisations; The pattern of funding, including the balance between public service provision and voluntary finance; and patterns of voluntary action and the relationship between voluntary action and social capital
    Contact: John Mohan
  • Methodological Issues Related to Complex Social Interventions; Nutritional Approaches to Behaviour, Learning and Mood; Brief Psycho-Social Interventions for Mental Health Problems (in particular sleep problems)
    Contact: Paul Montgomery
  • Older people and personal finance (and personal finance-related issues), including financial security, financial advice, and the regulation of consumer financial services.
    Contact: Louise Overton
  • Labour economics: Labour market impacts of international migration and cultural diversity, overeducation and skills mismatch, innovation, human capital and knowledge spillovers, economics of population, migration policy
  • New migration and superdiversity; migrant integration and settlement; organisational adaptation and migrant welfare needs; small scale refugee, migrant and ethnic third sector activity; innovative qualitative research methods; refugee and migrant health and migrant maternity; community research methodology; sexual and gender based violence (SGBV).
    Contact: Dr Jenny Phillimore
    Tel: +44(0)121 414 7822

  • Forced displacement and globalisation; Sociology of statelessness; Dual citizenship and the experiences of dual citizens; The intersection between migration, rights and citizenship; Everyday experiences of superdiversity; Neoliberalism, globalisation and governance of human mobility; The politics of refugee voices and silences; Romani politics and anti-Gypsyism; Undocumented migrants and experiences of ‘illegality’ through generations; Child and family migration; Transnationalism and diasporas; Policy and practice of migrant integration and ideas of membership in the EU; Freedom of movement and intra-EU mobility
    Contact: Nando Sigona
  • Comparative social policy; Fuel poverty / energy poverty; The European Union polity; Climate change; Domestic energy efficiency; Institutional theory
    Contact: Harriet Thomson
  • Causes and consequences of income and wealth inequality, comparative and EU social policy, welfare state reforms and new policy proposals (e.g. universal basic income), socio-economic drivers of populism (Brexit/radical right and radical left populism), labour market insecurity, privatization of social policy and welfare mixes, young people's social policies, higher education policies, philosophy of social policy (postcapitalism, neo-marxism,  World System Theory), mixed methods (qualitative comparative research; large-N analysis; Q-methodology)
    Contact: Lorenza Antonucci 

The Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology, is a leading multi-disciplinary academic team committed to providing world-class research and innovative degree programmes. The department is part of the School of Social Policy, which is located in the Muirhead Tower - a sophisticated, hi-tech learning environment. There are nine libraries supporting your learning through access to one of the biggest research library facilities in the UK. Open access computing facilities are widely available across campus.

Assessment Methods

The MPhil requires a thesis of 60,000 words, while the PhD thesis is 80,000 words in length.


If I gain a postgraduate research degree in this area, what are my career prospects?

Graduates from the School of Social Policy are able to develop analytical skills and the ability to gather, assess and interpret data, all of which require clear and logical thinking, making them an attractive prospect for employers.

Birmingham's School of Social Policy postgraduates enter a wide range of occupational sectors: the majority in the public sector but others including events, sales, administration and education. Graduates also opt to continue in academia.

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

The College of Social Sciences, to which the School of Social Policy 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.