Why choose this programme
Our PhD in Law aims to train the next generation of legal thinkers, law reformers, policy advisors, political activists, and academics. The School of Law's emphasis on combining theory and practice makes us unique in the UK, and a world-class centre for deep and creative legal research.
Surrey’s specialisms in law offers you the opportunity to explore a diverse range of areas. We have particular research strengths in legal philosophy and legal theory, neuroscience and law, criminal law, Roman legal history, environmental law, health sciences and law, artificial intelligence and law, finance law and ethics, human rights law, European law, and public international law. Our unique concentration of expertise in legal philosophy and legal theory is largely unparalleled worldwide.
Our academic staff are internationally recognised for their research and are experienced legal practitioners, providing consultancy to law firms, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses around the world. As a School of Law doctoral student, you’ll be part of this thriving community of researchers engaged in a wide range of projects, and – depending on your area of study – will be able to join a subject or research group, as well as participating alongside academic staff in the activities of the School of Law.
The School also enjoys excellent links with local, national and international legal communities. You’ll benefit from stimulating roundtables seminars, workshops and lectures delivered by distinguished academics, eminent judges and law practitioners.
Careers and academic placement record
Our PhD programme has an excellent track record of placing our PhD students in academic posts and other high-level careers.
In the 15-year period between 2004 and 2019, we awarded 29 law PhDs and of these, 14 were fully successful in attaining permanent academic posts at universities across the UK and two more obtaining academic posts at universities overseas. The remainder have gone on to successfully pursue career paths at the Bar, as corporate counsel, in government posts and research-intensive positions in industry.
Between 2014 to 2020, our PhD graduates and current PhD students have attained lectureships at a range of institutions including:
- University of Brighton
- University of Buckingham
- University of Chichester
- Coventry University
- University of Essex
- University of Exeter
- niversity of Westminster.
We have strong academic networks domestically and abroad, and we use these to provide intensive training and preparation for the academic job market for all students on our PhD programme.
Find out more about our research community within the School of Law.
What you will study
Through a variety of approaches, from doctrinal to philosophical, contemporary to historical, single jurisdiction to comparative, we will help you challenge ideas, hone your skills and develop the hallmarks of a leading researcher. You will work on a structured, supervised programme of research in one of the areas of law in which we have expertise.
You’ll be able to develop your teaching skills, as well as the ability to think theoretically and provide innovative practical solutions to legal problems. We encourage our postgraduate research students to present work and discuss ideas in both formal and informal settings. We can also support you intellectually and financially to present and exchange ideas and discuss your research in an international fora.
At the end of your time as a PhD researcher at Surrey you’ll be expected to submit an extended thesis for examination. This thesis will demonstrate your ability to pursue scholarly research which makes an original contribution to knowledge. You will also be expected to answer questions on your thesis and your research in a viva voce examination.
Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.
The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.
- Artificial intelligence and law
- Criminal law and neuroscience
- European Union law
- Health sciences and law
- Human rights law
- Kantian legal philosophy and other intellectual historical approaches to legal problems, such as terrorism, human rights and refugee law
- Language and law
- Mental health law and neuroscience
- Methodology of intellectual legal history
- Philosophy of constitutional law
- Philosophy of contract law
- Philosophy of criminal law
- Philosophy of humanitarian law
- Philosophy of neuroscience and law
- Philosophy of tort law
- Philosophy of WTO
- Public international law
- Roman legal history and private law
- Rule of law and transnational law
- Socio-legal approaches to mental health and law, sex crimes, sentencing
- Technology and law
- Terrorism and law
- The logic of war
- The nature of law
- The normativity of law
- The philosophy of law and economics
- Criminal justice and AI
- Topics in international public law, such as state succession.
Our academic staff
See a full list of all our academic staff within the School of Law.
The research centres at the School of Law are a core part of our research activities, and provide an important platform for the intellectual development of our research students.
You’ll get an office space, computer, access to major electronic databases and a wide range of online research tools and resources. You’ll also have access to the latest e-resources and to our Library and Learning Centre facilities.
Applicants are expected to hold at least a 2:1 Bachelors degree along with a Masters degree at a minimum of a merit level in Law, or other relevant discipline, from an approved university.
If you are unable to offer these qualifications, you may still be considered for admission if you hold a first-class Bachelors degree in Law, or other relevant discipline, from an approved university, or a professional or other qualification deemed to be appropriate and equivalent.
International entry requirements by country
English language requirements
IELTS Academic: 7.0 or above (or equivalent) with 6.5 in each individual category.
View the other English language qualifications that we accept.
If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.
Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.
Before applying, please download our research proposal guidance document for information on submitting a suitable research proposal.
Applicants should submit an academic essay or other writing sample, written in English. If the text is an excerpt, please preface the text by a short note that puts the writing sample in context. The essay will be assessed for:
- general understanding of the relevant area and its main problems
- the ability to analyse and assess, and to construct and defend arguments
- the clarity, structure and coherence of expression.
The dropdown below shows the available start months for this course. Please select from one of these available months when you are asked for your preferred start date within the application form.
Start date: October 2021
Start date: January 2022
For fees payable in 2020/21, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).
Overseas students applying for 2021 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.
There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.
A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.
Code of practice for research degrees
Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.
Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).
Terms and conditions
When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.
This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read more.