Sociology PhD

Key information

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates

January 2023
April 2023
July 2023
Full-time - 4 years

Start dates

January 2023
April 2023
July 2023

Why choose this programme

Boasting an international reputation and a thriving academic environment, the Department of Sociology supervises PhDs in a wide range of subjects across sociology, criminology, digital media and communications and related areas.

We are proud to be ranked 6th in the UK by the Complete University Guide 2022 for sociology, and the Global Ranking of Academic Subjects (Shanghai Ranking) 2021 puts sociology at Surrey in the top 100. In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, our research quality overall has improved giving the Department a rank of 16th out of 37 on a key metric [Grade Point Average], one of the highest non-Russell Group institutions for our submission. In addition, we were 9th for research that is world-leading and internationally excellent (4* and 3* research combined). Our research environment has been ranked 11th for Sociology.

This reflects our strong postgraduate community, diverse research centres, research training activities, and funding successes. We're home to the following research centres:

A number of academic journals are based in or edited from the department.

As a postgraduate researcher in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey, you will join a diverse community of full and part-time PhD students from the UK, the EU and around the world. Our PhD students play an important part in the life and culture of our vibrant and friendly department.

We have a global reputation for our expertise and innovation in a wide range of research methods, from qualitative and ethnographic work to statistical analysis of large and complex data sets, and online research and social simulation. As a postgraduate researcher you will be offered the opportunity to undertake in-depth methodology training via a range of taught courses.

As a department we are renowned for our applied approach, something reflected in the way we work in partnership with a range of private, public and third-sector organisations. These include the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office, the Environment Agency, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the Police Dependants’ Trust.

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

Exactly what you'll study will depend on the topic of your PhD. We can supervise a wide range of areas relating to criminology, sociology and digital media and communications - please see the ‘Themes and Facilities’ tab for a full list.

The PhD programme centres on close individual tuition and guidance from your supervisory team, comprising a principal supervisor, a co-supervisor and, in some cases, an additional third supervisor. Supervisors offer advice, feedback and guidance on all aspects of the PhD process, as well as - where appropriate - on career and CV development, and research dissemination through publications and conference papers.

We formally review your progress twice a year, offering the opportunity for medium and longer-term research planning, the identification of training needs, and provision of CV and career advice. Progress reviews also offer you the opportunity to raise any queries, concerns or suggestions.

Close to the end of your first year, you will complete a PhD confirmation process in which you will receive detailed feedback and guidance on your work, from staff outside your supervisory team.

You will also attend a range of courses, workshops, seminars, conferences and other events as appropriate to your project. As well as offering training in research skills or different aspects of the PhD process, such events offer opportunities for you to present your work to one another, or exchange findings and ideas with staff or external speakers.

You will also have the option to take relevant modules from our MSc courses in your first year of study, to extend and deepen your field of knowledge.

Establishing a vibrant academic environment where PhD students develop supportive relationships with one another and with staff, is central to our approach. In addition to close one-to-one mentoring and tuition from supervisors, you will benefit from a range of bespoke departmental events.

Doctoral students can also attend the Department's day courses in Social Research and the extensive range of courses run by the CAQDAS Networking project. There is also an extensive Researcher Development Programme run at university-level where you can benefit from the extensive central resources and research training opportunities provided by the University’s Doctoral College.

You'll have access to an annual allowance to help with the cost of external conferences and other training events relevant to your work,  as well as other research expenses. Doctoral students are able to apply for graduate teaching assistant roles and have access to training, to support them in developing their teaching skills. 


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.

Research themes

  • Age and ageing 
  • Computational social science 
  • Crime prevention 
  • Criminology and criminal justice 
  • Digital media technologies and society 
  • Environment and sustainability 
  • Everyday consumption and food 
  • Families and parenting 
  • Gender and sexualities 
  • Hate crime 
  • Health and illness 
  • Higher education 
  • Identity and difference 
  • Media and communications 
  • Methodological innovations and developments 
  • Policing 
  • Prisons 
  • Race, ethnicity and migration 
  • Sociology of sleep 
  • Science and science policy 
  • Youth and youth cultures.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Department of Sociology.

Research facilities

PhD students have access to office space, a computer and a range of research tools and resources, from transcription equipment to data analysis software. The University Library offers access to extensive collections of physical and electronic resources to support research in sociology, criminology and digital media and communications. 

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold at least an upper second-class honours degree in sociology or a related discipline.

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 7.0 or above with a minimum of 6.5 in each component (or equivalent).

We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

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 process

Selection is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.

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


Start date: January 2023





Start date: April 2023





Start date: July 2023





For fees payable in 2022/23, 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 2022 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Additional costs

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.

How to apply

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

More information on the application process.

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) for the 2022/2023 academic year 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 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