Find out how to apply to study an MPhil/PhD programme at the Faculty of Laws
The admissions period for the September 2020/21 entry will open on 12 September 2019. The closing date for applications is Thursday 21 November 2019 at 4pm (GMT).
Please note that UCL Laws does not offer a long distance or non-resident MPhil/PhD programme.
We welcome applications from outstanding candidates from the UK, EU and other overseas jurisdictions.
We continue to welcome warmly applications from EU candidates. For up-to-date information please consult the UCL EU referendum advice page. Please also see the following statement from our Director of Research Studies, Professor Virginia Mantouvalou:
“UCL is a truly global university. At the Faculty of Laws, we have a vibrant and energetic community of UK, European and international students. We greatly value diversity. Today more than ever we want to emphasise that we welcome applications from students from the UK, Europe and overseas.”
In line with our strong commitment to diversity, applications from women and candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds are especially welcomed.
Please note that we only have one entry point to the MPhil/PhD every year in September. We do not accept applications for entry at other points during the year. Applications must be received within the admissions period.
These are the essential steps for applying for a PhD at UCL Laws
- Research your project proposal
- Contact a suitable potential supervisor
- Apply to the MPhil/PhD programme during the application window with your supporting documents (see below)
- Ensure your referees have submitted your references within 10 working days of the application closing date.
- Complete any external scholarship applications by their deadline
- Before applying
Before you apply you should research your project proposal. When you have a suitable outline of your research, identify and get in touch with a potential supervisor whose research interests align with what you want to study. You should email the academic you are interested in working with directly. This is an important step and you should consult the guidance on identifying a supervisor further down this page.
You are asked to identify and contact a potential supervisor simply to establish whether that individual would be interested in principle and also in a position to supervise your PhD should you ultimately be successful with your application. If you contact more than one potential supervisor, please ensure that all potential supervisors are aware of your expressions of interest.
Faculty members may already be supervising their maximum number of PhD students or may be on sabbatical and unable to take on any new students. Members of the Faculty will not provide any additional information to you about your application.
All decisions on PhD applications are made by a separate UCL Laws PhD Applications Team once all applications have been received.
- UCL Applicant Portal
All formal applications to UCL are made online through central admissions. You will be able to track the progress of your application via the UCL Applicant Portal (log in required).
- Supporting documents
To complete your application you must also submit the following supporting documents:
Your referees must submit your references within 10 working days of the application deadline.
- Academic transcript in English and in electronic format
- Proof of English language proficiency
- Research proposal: UCL general guidance notes for research proposals; UCL laws advice for drafting your research proposal can be found further down this page.
- Personal Statement. Note that a personal statement is not mandatory for the MPhil/PhD application but we would strongly recommend including it alongside your application to highlight your reasons for applying, career objectives, and other relevant information.
Use the links to find out more. You must submit all of these before our application deadline or your application will not be considered.
The minimum entry requirement for graduate research at UCL Laws is a UK bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject, awarded with First or good Upper Second-class Honours (2:1). If you have not previously studied in the UK, we will accept overseas qualifications of an equivalent standard from a university or other educational institution of university rank. See here for UCL accepted equivalencies.
It is not strictly essential to have a master’s degree to apply but this is strongly preferred (LLM or MA/MSc relevant to your proposed research) and we would normally expect a distinction overall. Entry to the programme is extremely competitive and the majority of students admitted onto the programme do have a master’s degree. This is because a master’s degree helps to develop your academic ability and foster research skills necessary to undertake the extended research in the PhD.
If you do not have a master’s/LLM, you must be able to demonstrate your research ability, usually through evidence of extended written work, to a first class standard. Note that an undergraduate dissertation would not usually be sufficient proof of this.
We welcome applications from candidates whose previous academic study has been in a relevant discipline other than law. In addition to the above formal academic qualifications, you must demonstrate a sufficiently deep and detailed understanding of the most closely relevant areas of law or legal thought, and explain in your application why your proposed research is best conducted at UCL Laws.
- English language requirements
If English is not your first language, you are required to show that your command of the English language, both spoken and written, is adequate to meet the demands of the degree programme. UCL demands that applicants should be able to demonstrate an ‘Advanced’ level of English.
UCL Laws reserves the right, in individual circumstances, to specify an additional language requirement for an applicant.
We accept the following English language proficiency tests:
- IELTS: overall grade of 7.5 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the subtests
- Pearson Test of English (PTE): 75 overall, with a minimum of 62 in each component
- TOEFL: Score of 109 overall 24/30 in reading and writing and 20/30 in speaking and listening
- UCL Pre-Sessional English Course: 75% overall, with a minimum of 65% in each of the subtests
- UCL Diploma in English for Academic Purposes (DEAP): 75% overall, with a minimum of 65% in each of the subtests
- Cambridge Proficiency in English (CPE): CPE Grade B, an overall minimum score of 56, and at least a ‘good’ pass in each skill
- Cambridge Advanced English (CAE): CAE pass of 74 points, with a minimum of 58 point in each subject
In accordance with UK Visas and Immigration requirements, students who require a Tier 4 (General) Student Visa to enter the UK must meet these English language requirements. The language qualification must have been taken within two years of any issuance of a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) from UCL.
UCL Laws may also accept evidence of recent substantial education (minimum 12 months) or work experience (minimum 18 months) in the UK or a majority English speaking country undertaken no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment.
- UCL pre-sessional English courses
We would urge you to take a language test in your own country in order to meet the English language condition. If it is not possible for you to complete a language test in your country, you may be able to take a pre-sessional English course at the UCL Language Centre. These courses are very popular, so please check availability and your eligibility for the programmes in advance.
We do not normally accept results from any language centre other than UCL. If you do take a pre-sessional English language course elsewhere, you will need to sit/resit IELTS/PTE in order to meet the English language requirement for the MPhil/PhD programme.
Visit the UCL Centre for Languages and International Education website for further details of courses, tuition fees, and how to apply.
Choosing to undertake graduate research is a big decision and it is extremely important that you identify a research project that really excites you. Identifying the right supervisor is critical as this relationship provides you with invaluable support and guidance from a leading academic in your field.
Before you apply to the MPhil/PhD programme, you should ensure that UCL Laws offers the subject area expertise in which you propose to conduct your research.
Every applicant will be asked whether they have contacted any prospective supervisors in the Faculty in advance of submitting their application, and will also be asked to indicate whether their research falls within any of the UCL Laws Research Centres or Institutes.
It is important to note that finding a prospective supervisor who is in principle willing to supervise your thesis does not guarantee acceptance. Admission to the PhD programme at UCL Laws is very competitive, and final decisions are ultimately made by a committee rather than by individual supervisors. The purpose of contacting a prospective supervisor before submitting your application is to make sure that there is someone in the Faculty who is available to supervise your project.
- How to identify a suitable supervisor at UCL
- Thoroughly research your options on the UCL Laws website
- Read research papers written by UCL Laws academics in UCL’s research repository: discovery.ucl.ac.uk
- Make contact with either the specific academic you are interested in working with, a Research Centre or Institute or the Director of Research Studies, to explore research opportunities in more depth.
This process helps define your interests and aspirations, contributes to making your application successful, and also serves to ensure the identification of the best possible supervisor for your needs.
- How to make a research enquiry
Academic members of staff are extremely busy people and receive a lot of research enquiries. In a recent survey 67% of UCL staff said they receive research enquiries that do not relate to their interests. It is extremely important for you to research potential supervisor’s interests thoroughly before you contact them.
If they do not think your enquiry is related to their research they may not have time to respond to you.
- Guidance for contacting potential supervisor
- Take time over your email and make sure you highlight your strengths clearly
- Do not use the same email template to contact different academics. Enquiries should be tailored to the academic’s area of interest and refer to their current work
- Include information such as your funding status (secured funding, self-funded, will apply for a scholarship); whether you are a UK, overseas or EU student; whether you want to conduct your research full time or part time.
- Potential supervisors will usually expect to see a well thought-through Proposal for the research that you want to conduct. This research will often be closely related to research recently conducted by the supervisor.
- As the development of the Proposal is part of the admissions criteria for the PhD programme, potential supervisors may be unwilling to give feedback on a draft.
- Remember that a prospective supervisor cannot agree to admit you to UCL, and is unlikely to be able to evaluate the strength of your application or its chances of success without comparing it to the broader field of applicants. The purpose of contacting a prospective supervisor before submitting your application is to make sure that there is someone in the Faculty who is available to supervise your project.
Your research proposal should provide a detailed account of what you propose to research. You should write the research proposal separately, and not in the Supplementary Personal Statement section of the application form.
All good proposals must be both informative and persuasive. You need to clearly describe the topic, its aims and objectives, and its methodology. This should be done as concisely as possible. Your proposal should be approximately 3,000 words and include a preliminary bibliography.
- Suggested structure
A good proposal should have the following basic elements, though their order and weighting can of course vary:
A working title: make this clear and descriptive.
Some background and rationale: explain the background and issues of your research.
- What are your aims and objectives?
- What are the parameters?
- Why have you chosen them?
Clear and defined research question that is answerable within a set timeframe.
A description of your theoretical framework and methodological approach: why is this best suited to your topic?
- What are the theoretical and research issues related to your research question?
- What sources/data will you use?
- What are the activities necessary for the completion of your project?
- Are there ethical considerations?
- How realistic is your project in practical terms?
A brief analytical discussion of the scholarly research to date on your topic: what is the current state of your field?
- Who are the main contributors in this field?
- In what ways will your research create valuable and useful knowledge?
A brief statement on your particular qualifications: have your previous degrees given you the necessary knowledge of the field, discipline, and methodologies you require?
- What research training will you need to undertake?
Your proposal will allow us to consider whether your topic is suitable and whether it is capable of generating a doctoral level thesis. It is important to realise that your application may be refused admission on the ground that it is of insufficient depth, and in particular, that it does not disclose what advance in human knowledge might arise from the research.
We are aware that after admission and initial talks with the supervisor or after some months of work you might well modify your original account.
Tuition fees cover all elements of your tuition, registration and examination. If applicable, any additional research expenses will be specified on your formal offer of admission.
Full details of the tuition fees for each academic year can be found under the Fee Schedule pages of the UCL Current Students website.
Tuition fees for subsequent years are subject to increase. You should make provision for such increases and this is implicit in accepting the offer of a place at UCL.
You must pay at least 50% of your tuition fee before or at enrolment to be fully enrolled, or provide a letter of sponsorship indicating who should be invoiced for your fee.
- UK/EU students
UCL’s tuition fees for UK/EU students registered on graduate research programmes at UCL Laws for 2019-20 are £5,210 for full-time students, and £2,605 for part-time students.
Tuition fees for 2020-21 may increase. Further information can be found on Fees and costs section of the UCL Graduate Degrees website.
- International students
UCL’s tuition fees for international students registered on graduate research programmes at UCL Laws are £18,790 for full-time students and £9395 for part-time students for the academic year 2019-20.
Tuition fees for 2020-21 may increase. Further information relating to on tuition fees can be found in the Money section of the UCL Current Students website.
There are a number of different scholarships available to fund your PhD. All are awarded on the basis of academic excellence and are competitive.
Each requires a different application process and deadline so please do read the following information carefully and adhere to the deadlines specified. No late applications will be accepted.
The UCL Laws Scholarship Panel can nominate up to two current PhD students for an MLR scholarship. Please note that in this regard the UCL Laws Panel is acting on behalf of all of UCL, because MLR only allows two nominations per institution. So our practice has been to consider a PhD student from another faculty if someone in Laws is serving as second supervisor.
- Faculty Research Scholarships
All successful applicants to the UCL Laws PhD programme are automatically considered for our prestigious Faculty Research Scholarships (FRS), awarded directly by the faculty. There is no separate application form. These scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence, research potential and research area. Candidates must have an outstanding academic track record, an excellent research proposal and strong references as competition for these scholarships is high. Financial need is not an essential criterion but will be taken into account in tie-break cases, namely when there are two equally well qualified candidates on the basis of academic excellence.
A UCL Laws FRS covers the cost of tuition fees, plus a maintenance stipend per annum for full time study. The stipend for 2019/20 is £18,000 per annum. Costs are pro-rated for part-time students.
Awards are made initially for one year but will be renewed for a second year, subject to satisfactory completion of studies during your first year. They will be renewed for a third year, provided the student has been upgraded to full PhD status and continues to make satisfactory progress in the programme. Scholarships may be held with a Teaching Fellowship or other salaried position in the faculty.
To be considered you must have submitted a complete application by the general MPhil/PhD Laws admissions deadline.
There are four Faculty Research Scholarships available, each named after distinguished legal figures associated with the Faculty.
Orme Scholarship: Eliza Orme was the first woman to earn a law degree in England, graduating from UCL with an LLB in 1888. This followed UCL’s groundbreaking decision to become the first UK university to permit women on an equal footing to men, in 1878. While women at the time were not permitted to qualify as a barrister or solicitor, Orme made a career drafting legal documents from her office in Chancery Lane. She was also involved in the National Society for Women’s Suffrage.
Lawrence Scholarship: Reina Lawrence was London’s first woman councillor. After receiving her LLB from UCL in 1893, Lawrence served on the Hampstead Distress Committee, helping the unemployed, before the Qualification of Women Act 1907 opened the way for female candidates in council elections. Lawrence stood for Hampstead Borough Council and was elected for the Belsize Ward with a large majority.
Clarke Scholarship: Ellis Clarke graduated from UCL Laws in 1940, being called to the Bar at Gray’s Inn the following year. Clarke returned to his native Trinidad and Tobago and served as a lawyer and, following that country’s independence from Britain, in a number of government posts including Ambassador to the United States and Ambassador to the UN. Knighted in 1963, Sir Ellis was instrumental in drafting a new republican constitution for Trinidad and Tobago and following its adoption was appointed President, serving in that capacity from 1976 to 1987.
Elias Scholarship: Taslim Olawale Elias graduated from UCL with an LLB in 1946, being called to the bar at the Inner Temple the following year. Elias completed his LLM and PhD at UCL, becoming the first African to earn a PhD in Law from the University of London in 1949. In the run up to Nigerian independence in 1960, Elias played a key role in drafting the constitution and on its adoption was appointed Attorney General and Minister of Justice. In 1972 he became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and served in a number of important international roles including Chairman of the UN International Law Commission, and helping to draft the Constitutions of the Congo and the Organisation of African Unity (forerunner to the African Union). In 1976 he was appointed a judge at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, becoming its President in 1982.
- UCL Laws Research Opportunity Scholarships
The UCL Faculty of Laws offers two UCL Laws Research Opportunity Scholarships. The scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic excellence, research potential and research area. Candidates must have an outstanding academic track record and excellent research proposal. Financial need is an essential criterion for the scholarship. These scholarships are only available for UK-domiciled applicants.
A UCL Laws Research Opportunity Scholarship covers the cost of tuition fees, plus a maintenance stipend per annum for full time study. The stipend for 2019/20 is £18,000 per annum. Costs are pro-rated for part-time students.
Awards are made initially for one year but will be renewed for a second year, subject to satisfactory completion of studies during your first year. They will be renewed for a third year, provided the student has been upgraded to full PhD status and continues to make satisfactory progress in the programme. Scholarships may be held with a Teaching Fellow or other salaried position in the faculty.
- IBIL Intellectual Property Scholarship – PhD Scholarship for 2020/21
The UCL Laws Institute of Brand and Innovation Law is offering a scholarship in 2020/21. The scholarship will fund one PhD student to undertake research in the field of Intellectual Property, and will provide a stipend of £18,000 per year for 3 years. Fees at the Home/EU rate are covered (the scholarship is open to international students as well; if successful, an international student would receive a discount on the international fees equivalent to the value of the Home/EU fees, and would need to cover the difference with their own funds)
All applicants to the UCL Laws PhD Programme in the field of Intellectual Property will be considered for the scholarship. The applications period runs from September to November each year – to put yourself forward for the scholarship, simply submit an application to the programme by following the admissions instructions on this page.
For more information about the Institute for Brand and Innovation Law, including a list of academic staff open to supervising PhD research, please see the Institute website.
The Institute of Brand and Innovation Law would like to thank its sponsors for their generosity, which has made this scholarship possible. Details of IBIL's sponsors can be found on our website.
- UCL Graduate Research Scholarships
UCL Graduate Research Scholarships (GRS) aim to attract high-quality students to undertake research at UCL. The university usually awards approximately 20 UCL GRS annually to prospective and current UCL research students from any country.
These are highly competitive scholarships and are awarded only to the most outstanding potential and existing research students from all UCL departments and faculties.
The scholarships consist of fees equivalent to the standard postgraduate UK/EU rate (2019/20: £5,210) plus a maintenance stipend (2019/20: £17,050 - tbc) for full-time study (benefits are calculated 'pro rata' for part-time students). The scholarship also includes additional research costs of up to £1,200 per year for the stated duration of the programme. Awards are normally tenable for years 1, 2, and 3 of a full-time research degree programme (or years 1-5 of a part-time programme), subject to annual review and renewal.
The UCL Laws PhD Scholarship Team is responsible for determining which individuals to put forward to the university for a GRS, and it chooses from amongst all successful PhD applicants and existing students.
This decision is made in January, and is based solely on academic merit. Those selected to be put forward to UCL to be considered for a GRS will be notified straight after PhD application decisions are made, at which point the nominee will need to submit an application and will be assisted in this by the Laws PhD Office.
So there is no action required at the time of applying to the PhD programme.
- London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP) and Arts and Humanities Research Council Scholarship
The AHRC-funded London Arts & Humanities Doctoral Training Partnership are funding a number of research studentships in 2020-21. These studentships, which normally cover fees and maintenance allowance (stipend), are available only to UK and EU students.
Candidates should be aware that the LAHP studentship competition is a twin-track process, and they will need to:
- Apply for a place of study on their chosen PhD programme at one of the LAHP partner institutions
- Apply separately and directly to LAHP for a studentship.
Please see http://www.lahp.ac.uk/apply-for-a-studentship/ for further information and guidance on the application process.
The deadline for LAHP scholarship applications will be announced soon. For more information please see the LAHP website as LAHP runs this process themselves, it is not run by the Faculty of Laws.
- Modern Law Review Scholarship
The criteria are broadly stated on the MLR website http://www.modernlawreview.co.uk/about-mlr-scholarships/
To be eligible for nomination, students must have completed the first year of their PhD research and passed any necessary upgrades to PhD status at the time of the award (though not necessarily the time of application). Those who have not yet commenced their PhD at the time of nomination are not eligible for consideration.
In general the MLR are looking for strong, original proposals that are likely to be completed within 3-4 years. The scope is coterminous with the scope of MLR, so it is wide.
If any applicant has less than a year remaining in their PhD programme, then MLR will only award a corresponding fraction of the award.
- Joseph Hume Scholarship
One scholarship worth £1,000 is available for prospective or current MPhil/PhD research students at UCL Laws. This scholarship is awarded on the basis of academic merit and research potential.
Applications for this scheme open in September and close on 21 November 2019 at 4pm (GMT). To apply for this scholarship, please send a copy of your CV, a covering letter and a reference letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your cover letter should include why you are applying for this fund, what makes you a suitable candidate and if you are in receipt of any other funding. Your letter should not be longer than one side of A4. You should hopefully receive the outcome of the Joseph Hume Scholarship by the end of April and only those successful will be notified by email. If you receive no notification by the end of April , then you should assume that you have unfortunately not been successful.
- Peter Birks Scholarship
All successful applicants who plan to research private law will be automatically considered for the Peter Birks memorial scholarship made available by a generous anonymous donation to the faculty. Three scholarships were previously awarded and we are grateful for an additional donation that has allowed us to offer up to three further scholarships for 2020/21.
Peter Birks (1941-2004) was an outstanding legal scholar, best known for this prolific and influential writings on the law of unjust enrichment but also known for his work on the classification of private law. Peter Birks studied for the LLM at UCL and later returned as a lecturer from 1971-81. He maintained his links with the faculty for many years after through teaching and public lectures. We are proud to honour and celebrate his memory with these scholarships.
The Peter Birks scholarship is worth £10,000 per annum, with an additional £8,000 per annum provided by the Faculty of Laws and a fee waiver for successful candidates. Up to three scholarships will be awarded for 2020/21. The scholarship will be awarded on the basis of academic merit for students undertaking research in private law, broadly defined as any comparative, doctrinal, historical or theoretical treatment of any aspect of obligations or property law.
Awards will initially be made for one year but will be renewed for the subsequent two years subject to satisfactory progres
We welcome applications from research students registered at other universities who would like to spend 3-12 months at UCL to undertake research. Our academics can give you informal guidance or supervision during your time here, and as a visiting research student you can also take advantage of all facilities and resources available to UCL students.
To undertake doctoral level research under the supervision of a UCL academic, you can take part in an established programme such as Erasmus or come independently. Before you submit an application, you must first ensure that there is an academic who works in your field and is in principle willing to supervise your research.
To explore this, please see our academic staff page and research centres and groups page. Before making a formal application, please email the academic to enquire whether they are potentially available to support you as a visiting research student. You should specify which academic you wish to supervise you when you make the application.
It is important to note that finding an academic who is in principle willing to support your visit does not guarantee acceptance. Acceptance as a visiting research student at UCL Laws is very competitive. The purpose of contacting a prospective supervisor before submitting your application is to make sure that there is someone in the Faculty who is available to supervise your project.
Please see the admissions website page on applying as an independent visiting research student, which gives more information on making a formal application.