School of Government guidance for PhD applicants

Key contacts

In the School of Government

Contact for information relating to scholarship and Doctoral Training:

Dr Emma Foster, Head of Postgraduate Research
Email: e.a.foster@bham.ac.uk

Contact for general information relating to a PhD application in School of Government:

Tricia Thomas, Doctoral Research Administrator, School of Government
Email: gandspgr@contacts.bham.ac.uk

Departmental leads and admissions contacts

Enquiries relating to doctoral study, supervision, and admissions should be directed to the following department contacts:

POLSIS

Professor Pete Burnham, POLSIS Director of Doctoral Admissions
Email: p.burnham@bham.ac.uk

Professor Kataryna Wolczuk, POLSIS Director of Postgraduate Research
Email: k.wolczuk@bham.ac.uk

IDD

Dr Danielle Beswick, IDD Director of Postgraduate Research & Admissions Contact
Email: d.beswick@bham.ac.uk

Dr Martin Ottmann, IDD Director of Postgraduate Research & Admissions Contact
Email: m.ottmann@bham.ac.uk

INLOGOV

Dr Koen Bartels, INLOGOV Director of Postgraduate Research & Admissions Contact
Email: k.p.r.bartels@bham.ac.uk

University of Birmingham Postgraduate Admissions Office

  • Phone: +44 (0)121 414 5488
  • Email: pgadmissions@contacts.bham.ac.uk
  • Contact for technical information relating to the PhD application process, including: admission requirements; documentation requirements; fees; language requirements.

Timetable and deadlines for applicants

October 2020 - Applications for a PhD place, commencing September 2021, open.

Tuesday 26 January 2021 - Applications for ESRC competition closes.

June 2021 - All applicants intending to start in September 2021 should have their applications in by June 30th at the latest.

August 2021 - Successful applicants will receive additional information relating to PhD orientation and doctoral research training

September 2021 - New doctoral researchers will start their studies at the beginning of the new academic year

Important note:

  • This timeline is indicative only, and deadlines are subject to change
  • You must hold an offer of a PhD place at the university to be eligible for funding. As such, we recommend that you apply for a PhD place by the end of November. If you wish to apply for funding, contact the Departmental PGR Director (and cc the School PGR Director) as soon as possible. Advance consultation when preparing your application is key to success.Links to further info on ESRC scholarships can be found here.
  • PhD applications should not be rushed. Successful applications require time and effort to put together
  • It is important to establish whether the department you are looking at in the School of Government is the right fit for your research plans and qualifications and to make initial contact with a prospective supervisor
  • A full list of departments with links to staff and research interests in the school can be found here

The stages of a PhD application in the School of Government

1. Develop your research proposal

2. Make contact with a potential supervisor

3. Finalise the material for your application

4.  Complete your online application (with supporting documents, see checklist section below)

For more detailed advice on preparing a PhD research proposal, see: Patrick Dunleavy, Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation (Palgrave, 2003). 

Information on scholarships 

The University of Birmingham offers a range of scholarship options available each year for doctoral researchers who meet the eligibility criteria and can demonstrate an excellent academic track record. 

Scholarships are highly competitive, with limited funding available. It is essential that all applications for scholarships are carefully prepared, and include all necessary documentation. Incomplete applications cannot be considered for scholarship funding.

The deadline for scholarship applications is 26 January 2021. If you wish to be considered for a scholarship, please contact the relevant departmental lead (see contacts section above) and cc. Dr Emma Foster (e.a.foster@bham.ac.uk) as soon as possible, and well in advance of the January deadline.

PhD research proposal ingredients

  • A project title and abstract / summary
  • A brief introduction to / background on the topic and its significance within the relevant field
  • Central research question (with sub-questions where appropriate)
  • A concise literature review of the key existing debates in the field relating to this topic, with appropriate references to key academic sources
  • The proposed theoretical framework for the project (including discussion of potential alternative approaches where appropriate)
  • The proposed research methodology (with clear justifications for why a particular methodology is appropriate for this research, and what methodological limitations, if any, you may encounter)
  • A succinct discussion of the potential original contribution of the project to existing scholarship in the field
  • A proposed timeline and detailed chapter outline for the project
  • A list of references

Important note on word limits

For the purposes of your application for a PhD place, admissions allow candidates to submit PhD Research Proposal up to 2500 words (excluding the bibliography). However, the PhD Research Proposal word limit for both the  ESRC and School scholarship is  1000 words (plus one page of references). If you are considering applying for  funding, we recommend that you limit your PhD research proposal for the PhD place to approximately 1000 words to avoid the need to edit the proposal significantly for funding competition purposes.

Application checklist

  • Personal e-mail address (in addition to a university e-mail address)
  • Contact with a potential supervisor in POLSIS, IDD, or INLOGOV
  • A completed online application (please follow this link to a hub from which you can select the appropriate programme and then find the right application link)
  • 2–3 page CV, with previous educational achievements and grades
  • 1000-2500-word PhD Research Proposal (see guidelines on page 7)
  • For applicants to the Distance Learning programmes only: complete ‘checklist’ in consultation with your supervisor (please contact p.a.thomas.1@bham.ac.uk for details)
  • Academic references and copies of academic transcripts / degrees
  • Successfully completed English Language Test (if applicable)

Criteria for a successful PhD application

  • Educational background and academic achievements
  • The strength and quality of your proposed research project
  • The capacity of the department to supervise a particular topic (i.e. is there a supervisor available with the right expertise?)
  • The support of your prospective supervisor for your application
  • Fluency in English
  • Evidence of your ability to fully finance your studies (for self-funding students)