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Research degrees in Law

The application process and documentation required

  1. Online Application
  2. Qualification documents
  3. English language qualifications
  4. Employment history - CV
  5. Funding
  6. References
  7. Additional documents
    1. Research proposal
    2. Statement of purpose

Applicants should be aware that the deadline for applying to the PhD programme for entry in September 2023 is midnight on Tuesday 6th  June 2023. The application system will close at that point, meaning new applications cannot be submitted from that date and time onwards.  We will be open for applications in October 2023 for applicants wanting entry in September 2024.

The following guidance notes are in addition to the central College research degree application guidance notes provided on the online application page. You must read both guides when completing your application.

The notes on this page are specific to the School of Law PhD programme, and take precedence over the College notes. For example, we only consider applications that include a Research Proposal, CV, Statement of Purpose and 2 references. Failure to submit all the documents that the School of Law requires (even if the online process has been completed) will mean that your application will not be processed and could delay your application.

Also, while the College’s On-line PhD application system requires applicants to confirm the name of a proposed supervisor (in the ‘Research Proposal’ section), the School of Law has no requirement here, applicants can simply name their proposed supervisor as a ‘School of Law supervisor’, without having to name a specific member of staff (although they are free to do so if they wish).

1. Making on online application

To apply online, please click on the buttons at the bottom of this web-page under the ‘full-time application’ or ‘part-time application’ titles, depending upon which mode of study you want. These buttons are portals to the on-line application system - one you are in the application system, please follow the instructions.

2. Qualification Documents - academic entry requirements

You will be expected to have a distinction on an LLM or equivalent qualification. In some circumstances the requirement will be applied flexibly, for example if an applicant has performed to distinction level in an LLM dissertation or has an outstanding undergraduate qualification. In exceptional cases, vocational experience in the proposed area of research may compensate for the lack of a master's degree, or a grade below that specified above. For example, working as a magistrate, judge, lawyer or expert for a considerable period of time, such as five years, in the proposed area of research will be taken into account. A relevant undergraduate degree in Law or its relevant equivalent qualification is necessary in all cases.

Applicants need to provide copies from their most recently taken academic qualification. This should include both the transcript showing the breakdown of your mark, including specifically the mark for any dissertation component taken), and a copy of the certificate confirming the overall grade. If you have also previously taken an under-graduate degree in Law, please include copies of your certificate from this degree, confirming the overall grade.  For degrees taken in non-English speaking countries, applicants must submit transcripts translated into English by a notarized interpreter.

If you are a current LLM or MA student, you should include documentation relating to your previous course of study (for example, your LLB).

3. English Language Qualifications

Documentary proof of English Language Competency, such as an IBTOEFL or IELTS test result certificate.

Applicants whose first language is not English are required to provide proof of proficiency in English as part of the application process. To see if your nationality counts as the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) definition of an English speaking country (meaning you normally wouldn’t need to provide documentary proof of English competency), please go to the following web-page. Applicants must note, however, that in additional to holding a passport from such a country, the applicant must have both predominantly resided and received the majority of their schooling in that country. This will be determined by the College’s Admissions Office during the application review process and be confirmed to the applicant by the time of any offer decision.

For applicants who must provide English, then you will need to provide proof of English proficiency, in the form of a certificate showing you have taken an English language test recognised and accepted by our Admissions Office no more than two years prior to your proposed entry point and you meet our entry criteria.

Our English language webpage provide information on both the main English testing schemes we use and the marks required to meet our requirements (for example, in the IELTS testing scheme, we look for 7.5 overall (and 7.5 in the written component).

The English Language webpages also list the various types of English test we may accept results from.

Successful applicants who are required to provide proof of English and who haven’t done so by the time of the submission of their application will receive offers conditional upon their providing documentary proof they have taken a relevant English test and met the required mark prior to their enrolment date. Therefore, International applicants should be aware that student visas can only be applied for once an applicant holds an unconditional offer to their proposed programme of study, meaning English documentation must be submitted in sufficient time prior to their proposed entry date to ensure the applicant is able to attend the UK).

Pre-sessional English

If you fall below our standard English Language requirements, you may consider one of our Pre-Sessional English courses. You will require a UK government approved secure English Language Test for entry to Pre-Sessional courses. Only IELTS for UKVI and Trinity ISE are currently accepted. The minimum entry requirement for the PSE course is 6.0 overall (and 6.0 in writing) for the IELTS programme.

We offer a Summer Pre-sessional Summer programme. As this course can start in mid-June, applicants are advised to submit their PhD application no later than mid-March to ensure an offer and then a visa application (if required) can be made in time for attendance by then.

Exceptions and Exemptions from this requirement:

Applicants who are not from a majority English speaking country, or do not hold an approved English test that meets our requirements can be considered exempt from this requirement if they can provide documentary evidence:

  • They hold a degree from a Majority English Speaking Country (MESC) (and provided QMUL recognises the degree and deems it equivalent to UK degree), you may use this degree to satisfy the English language requirements for entry if it was delivered in the MESC. Such degrees must have sufficient minimum years of study.
  • They have at least one year of recent employment using English as the main language of communication. QMUL can consider on an individual basis a letter from your employer confirming your English language proficiency in all four component scores provided you additionally have a Queen Mary approved English language test outside the standard validity period.
  • Applicants should note this documentation should either be provided with the other supporting documentation when the application is submitted or, should your application be successfully reviewed, after you have received the offer you must submit the documentation to our Research Admissions Office directly, following the instructions given in the offer.

For further queries regarding acceptable English language qualifications, please contact the Admissions team directly via email to

In addition to the section on the School of Law PhD programme, applicants should read the ‘Postgraduate Guidelines’ section given on the Postgraduate Research English Language Requirements page.

4. Employment History - CV

You should include an up to date copy of your CV. This should include details of any legal vocational experience relevant to your proposed area of research, in addition to your academic background.

5. Funding deadline

There are a variety of different deadlines for submission of funding applications. In order to be considered for the funding award, you must also submit your main PhD application (and supporting documents) by that funding deadline date. Details of eligibility criteria are available on the funding page.

6. References

Applicants must provide two written references (not one, as mentioned in the central College Guidance Note), in the form of a letter of support from you referee. One of these references must be from an academic who taught you on your most recent course of study (which is normally the LLM degree or equivalent). Applicants who are current LLM students should obtain their references from staff currently teaching them on their LLM. For applicants without recent academic qualifications, vocational references may sometimes be accepted.

7. Additional Documents

In addition to the specified documentation, the School of Law application process also specifically requires a Research Proposal and a Personal Statement. Although you will be able to submit an online application without these documents, your application will not be reviewed without them.

a) The Research Proposal

You must demonstrate, through a research proposal submitted with your application form, that you have a coherent and viable research project. There is no template for this proposal but it should be sufficiently detailed for a potential supervisor to assess your understanding of the area of interest and the viability of the proposed research. The research proposal should set out the research methods which will be adopted and include a short bibliography of the key relevant literature in the area.

For guidelines on writing a PhD proposal see our Research Proposal Guide [PDF 224KB].

There is no word limit for the research proposal, but research proposals which are well-written, clear and concise are usually more successful. Please disregard any other guidance note which suggests that the Research Proposal should be no longer than 500 words.

b) The Statement of Purpose / Personal Statement

Your statement of purpose should explain why you want to undertake this particular research and how it will help your life and career. It should be one side of A4. This document gives you the opportunity to include any information that you believe is relevant to your application which you haven’t included in another part of your application papers. For example, if you do not have an LLM, but would like to apply on the basis of vocational experience, you could include your justification for doing so here. Please also include details of how you intend to fund your studies and living costs in each year (year 1, 2, 3 and 4).

Important Additional Information about the application process

Interviews and feedback

When we have reviewed an application and supporting documentation, and if we are interested in supervising your PhD, the final stage of the process is an interview to discuss your proposed research and other details of your application. You should therefore be available for interview if requested. We will carry out telephone interviews for overseas applicants or UK applicants who currently live or study overseas. Offers of study will only be made following a successful interview.

We receive a high volume of applications so we cannot offer individual feedback on unsuccessful applications.

Entry Points

The PhD programme is open for entry in September only. We recommend that you apply early:

  • The application process can take a number of months, and applicants should be aware that the deadline for applying to the PhD programme for entry in September is at the beginning of the preceding June. The application system will close for new applications at this point, meaning new applications cannot be submitted from that date. Applicants wanting entry in the September of the following year should note that the PhD application system will reopen for new applications in late September each year.
  • Applicants who need to receive an offer before September in order to apply for a student visa should apply even earlier, in April or May.
  • If you are currently taking your LLM and the date of your graduation (not the date of your last class or assessed work) falls after September, you will have to apply for entry in the following year.


There are a limited number of supervision places with each academic, so apply early to ensure that we can match you with an appropriate supervisor. Search our staff list to find staff in your proposed field of research.

Unlike other programmes at Queen Mary, we do not advise you to contact individual academic staff members about supervision before you apply and, while you can name your proposed supervisor on your online application form, it is not a requirement. This is because all new applications are reviewed by our Director of Graduate Studies. The Director has an overview of the supervisory capabilities and availability of all academic staff within the school. If your application is considered strong enough, the Director will ensure that it is reviewed by academics with expertise relevant to your proposed area of study.

Therefore, applicant’s should note that, while the College’s On-line PhD application system requires applicants to confirm the name of a proposed supervisor (in the ‘Research Proposal’ section), the School of Law has no requirement here, applicants can simply name their proposed supervisor as a ‘School of Law supervisor’, without having to name a specific member of staff (although they are free to do so if they wish).

Contact us

For general enquiries about the application process contact Gareth Skehan, PhD Admissions Administrator

School of Law, 
Queen Mary University of London, 
67-69 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London WC2A 3JB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7882 8214 
Fax: +44 (0)20 7882 8101

Apply online

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