Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates:
October 2024
January 2025

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates:
October 2024
January 2025

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
  • 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 – you’ll be able to join a subject or research group, as well as participate 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 roundtable seminars, workshops and lectures delivered by distinguished academics, eminent judges and law practitioners.

The School of Law is ranked 6th in the UK for research outputs – research articles and other published works – with more than half of its research outputs rated world-leading (4*) by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. The University as a whole is now also ranked in the top 20 in the UK by REF for the overall quality of research outputs.

In the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey for 2022, 91.7% of our PhD students reported that they were satisfied overall with the experience of their research degree programme.’

100 per cent of our law postgraduate research students go on to employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes 2023, HESA).

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

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 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 be required 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.

Research support

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.

Our PhD students have gone on to academic positions as lecturers and postdoctoral researchers in the UK and overseas, including institutions such as:

  • University of Buckingham
  • University of Chichester
  • University of Coventry
  • University of Exeter
  • London South Bank University
  • Westminster Law School.

Research themes

  • Artificial intelligence and law
  • Civilian protections in war
  • Criminal justice and AI
  • Criminal law and neuroscience
  • Environmental law
  • 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
  • Plastics governance
  • 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 law of armed conflict
  • The nature of law
  • The normativity of law
  • The philosophy of law and economics
  • 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.

Research facilities

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 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, as well as access to the Law School's Court of the Future.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold at least a 2:1 bachelors degree along with a masters degree at a minimum of 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 (1st) 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.

These are the English language qualifications and levels that we can 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.

Application requirements

Applicants are advised to contact potential supervisors before they submit an application via the website. Please refer to section two of our application guidance.

Research proposal

Before applying, please refer to our research proposal guidance for information on submitting a suitable research proposal.

Writing sample

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.

After registration

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants:

  • Meeting the expected entry requirements
  • Being shortlisted through the application screening process
  • Completing a successful interview
  • Providing suitable references.


Start date: October 2024


To be confirmed


To be confirmed

Start date: January 2025


To be confirmed


To be confirmed
  • Annual fees will increase by 4% for each year of study, rounded up to the nearest £100 (subject to legal requirements).
  • Any start date other than September 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).

View the list of fees for all postgraduate research courses.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

Apply online

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, please provide details of the project instead of a research proposal.

Read our application guidance for further information on applying.

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 to study at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to follow our policies and procedures, student regulations, and terms and conditions.

We provide these terms and conditions in two stages:

  • First when we make an offer.
  • Second when students accept their offer and register to study with us (registration terms and conditions will vary depending on your course and academic year).

View our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2023/24 academic year, as a guide on what to expect.


This online prospectus has been published in advance of the academic year to which it applies.

Whilst we have done everything possible to ensure this information is accurate, some changes may happen between publishing and the start of the course.

It is important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read our full disclaimer.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions

Contact Admissions Team


University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH