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Law - PhD

  • Level: Postgraduate Research
  • Starting: September 2021, February 2022
  • Study mode: Full Time, Part Time, Distance Learning
  • Location: City Centre

Studying with us in 2021/22

It is possible that the 2021/22 academic year may be affected by the ongoing disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Any arrangements put in place by the University for the 2021/22 academic year will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, pandemic-related/health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

The School of Law supports a thriving PhD community, largely through its three main research centres: The Centre for American Legal Studies, The Centre for Human Rights and the Centre for Law, Science and Policy. We also contribute to the work of the University-wide Centre for Brexit Studies.

We are currently supporting students to undertake doctoral research on a variety of topics, including capital punishment, international human rights standards and trade agreements, and the interface of law and science in the context of public health and criminal justice.

Funded PhD Opportunities Available

There are currently both funded and self-funded PhD opportunities in the School of Law. Find out more about these proposals, and how to apply by clicking here.

What's covered in the course?

Doctoral research allows students to development advanced skills in research, project management, critical thinking, argument construction and drafting, and to be innovative.

Our PhD students benefit from regular supervision meetings with academics who are experts in their field; and have the opportunity to become members of our proactive research community made up of academics, postgraduate researchers and external partners.

Why Choose Us?

  • Our PhD students benefit from regular supervision meetings with academics who are experts in their field
  • Students can make use of library, ICT and social-learning space facilities at our new City Centre Campus
  • Where available, students can undertake teaching opportunities, collaborate with academics, and contribute to research dissemination events taking place in the School of Law. 
  • We aim to enhance your academic and personal development and equip you with the skills and resources to undertake high-quality research.
  • You will join a thriving research community, comprised of the Centre for American Legal Studies (CALS), Centre for Human Rights (CHR) and the Centre for Law, Science and Policy (CLSP).
  • Research students, who have access to a dedicated research room, are encouraged to publish in collaboration with their supervisors and to take part in research conferences.

Find out more

Students outside Millennium Point

Open Days

Attending one of our Virtual Open Days is a great way to find out more about the courses we offer and get answers to any questions you might have. Our next postgraduate Virtual Open Day is taking place on Wednesday 28 April.

Book now

This course is open to International students

School of Law

Discover the School of Law

Visit our School site for more student work and extra information.

Visit the School website

Midlands4Cities feature box

Midland4Cities Scholarships

Find out about applying for funding for this course.

Learn more

Shakespeare and the Articulation of Human Rights in the United Nations

The project will contribute to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s focus on Shakespeare’s creative and global legacies. It will provide a new investigation into Shakespeare’s exposition on the human condition, through considering how human rights issues, presented in Shakespeare’s works, find their reflection in the institutions, values, and mission of the modern United Nations (UN) and international human rights.

Find out more

The School of Law supports cutting-edge research that falls broadly within the themes of our three research centres, and aims to inform the resolution of global challenges. Our academics collaborate with international organisations, including the United Nations, Amicus, and the Nuffield Foundation, and their research has been cited widely by scholars, courts and practitioners.

You can find out more about our scholarship, external partnerships and members by visiting the centres’ websites.

Current interests

Our research interests include topics that fall broadly within the themes of our three main research centres, which are: 

And the School of Law actively participates in research in the following areas:

  • Human rights law
  • Environmental law
  • Law of the USA
  • Property law
  • Commercial law
  • Medical law and ethics
  • Employment law
  • Criminal law and criminology
  • Teaching and learning the law

Past and current research projects

At present, we have students undertaking doctoral research on a variety of topics including projects examining:

  • Intersections of law, science and policy in the context of vaccines, shaken baby syndrome, judicial assessment of agency science, and public health regulation
  • Human rights in the context child-marriage laws, and the Universal Periodic Review
  • American constitutional law in the context of healthcare, and capital punishment 

You can view a full list of our research projects here.

  • UK students
  • International students

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 Years
  • £4,500 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 Years
  • £2,250 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4-7 Years
  • £2,815 per year

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 Years
  • £4,500 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 Years
  • £2,250 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4-7 Years
  • £2,815 per year

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2021

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 Years
  • £13,200 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 Years
  • £6,600 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4-7 Years
  • £8,250 per year

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 Years
  • £13,200 per year
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 Years
  • £6,600 per year
  • Distance Learning
  • 4-7 Years
  • £8,250 per year

If you’re unable to use our online application form for any reason, please email University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Entry Requirements

Applicants are required to hold a minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree, in a discipline related to law, to be considered for a PhD. Some PhD opportunities, such as those funded by a particular research council, may additionally require a Masters level degree. 

English language requirements 2020/21

6.5 overall with a minimum of 6.0 in each category

If you do not meet the required IELTS score, you may be eligible for one of our pre-sessional English courses. Please note that you must have a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to study on the pre-sessional English course. More information.

Other accepted qualifications Visit our English language page

Your research proposal should be no more than 1500 words excluding bibliography.

Research proposal guidance

Your research proposal should address the following areas:

The Working Title of Proposal
Justification for Study 

Why do you consider this subject worthy of study at PhD level? This should be considered in some detail providing sufficient background for the non-specialist to be able to gain an idea of the background to the study, its general purpose and its importance.

Outcome of the Study

How will the completed PhD contribute to the body of knowledge associated with this subject? Remember that we will expect a PhD to generate novel data and/or novel interpretations or ideas within a subject area and it must be made clear in your proposal how this will be attempted

Research Methodology

This should include an assessment of the physical, technological, human and literary resources required to undertake quantitative or qualitative research. The research committee is unlikely to look favourably on a proposal that fails clearly to demonstrate what the necessary resources are and that they are readily available (or will be).

Literature Review

This should include a summary of the current debates, areas of contention or controversy, the principal commentators and the seminal works within the subject area.

Research phds blog

Thinking about a PhD?

Our PhD section is the place to go for application tips, FAQs, funded opportunities, helpful blogs and more!

Find out more

A day in the life of a PhD student

If you're considering doing a PhD there's probably a lot of questions going through your mind: how am I going to pay for it? Should I quit my job? Will I cope with the workload? But most importantly, what is it really like? Karen Patel, a full time PhD student, shares her experiences of juggling life, a part time job and her studies. 

The PhD Journey

Students will be expected to achieve certain goals throughout each year of their PhD.

Generally, in year one, students will be expected to successfully complete the PgCert in Research Practice, define their research questions, and complete full drafts of their literature review and methodology chapters. In Year Two, students will be expected to apply their methodology, complete data-collection and undertake data analysis. In Year 3, students will be expected to write-up their findings and complete their thesis.

Students will also be expected to contribute to the academic community through attending and disseminating their research at internal and external conferences throughout their studies. Students in the later stages of their PhD will also be expected to consider writing papers for publication in law journals.

Students will also be expected to successfully complete regular progress reviews as required by the Faculty.

The School of Law uses a ‘Model of Supervision’ to support students to achieve their goals.

Course structure

All research students are required to undertake a Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice when they begin their research degree at Birmingham City University. The Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice is specifically designed to meet the needs of all students at Birmingham City University who are embarking on a programme of research for Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and Professional Doctorates. The course lasts one semester and is intended to complement and support the traditional practice of research degree supervision, which remains central to the teaching and learning of research. 

The course will provide students with:

  • Preparation for carrying out academic work for a research degree
  • An introduction to the research skills, practices and procedures that are essential with postgraduate research study
  • An opportunity to explore a range of theoretical and practical research issues and their application to particular phenomena
  • A supportive environment in which to develop a specific area of research interest into a viable research proposal
  • A structured programme that assists in the development of an individual research project.

How the PhD is assessed

The criteria to be awarded a PhD is to make a ‘unique contribution to knowledge.’ Whether a student has achieved this is determined by a panel of experts, including internal and external academics. The panel will assess the student’s written thesis, and the student’s oral defence of that thesis in a viva voce.

Modes of study

Our PhD programmes are offered full-time or part-time. These modes of study ensure that we can create a PhD research plan around your lifestyle needs, even if you are in full-time employment or overseas.

Full-time PhD Research: three to four years

As a full-time PhD research student you will undertake your research both on and off-campus. 

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 36-43 months.

Part-time PhD Research: four to seven years

You would chose part-time PhD research if you opt to study whilst in employment or if full-time study is impractical.

You will be encouraged to use the campus facilities when you can and may often work from home.

You will be expected to complete your research and submit your work for examination within 48-72 months.

Extracurricular activities

The School of Law offers PhD students, where available, opportunities to teach, contribute to and/or organise research events, and to collaborate with academics and external partners. Supervisory teams will support PhD students to apply for funding to travel to conferences and other such events as appropriate.  

Student work - Alice Storey

Alice talks about her research into the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review mechanism and the abolition of the death penalty in the United States.  

PGCert in Research Practice

For the first six months of your PhD you will undertake the PGCert in Research Practice, which is a taught and compulsory part of the PhD programme. You will meet with your supervisors and attend classes every week. This is an essential part of the PhD which will help you to get your research started and set you up for the rest of your PhD journey. The PGCert programme covers literature review and research methods which are specific to your faculty.

Employment Opportunities

The PhD award is well established and valued professional qualifications within the legal sector and will enhance your career prospects. Should you want to follow a career in teaching and researching academic law in higher education, a PhD is highly desirable.

The value of PhD to employability

The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is recognised worldwide and is often an essential requirement for those wishing to follow an academic or research career in industry, government, policy-making, or commerce. Our law-based PhD research degree has been designed to help you achieve a career in research or academia. 

After the PhD

Completing a PhD in law can open many doors, including to careers in academia, government, non-profit organisations, and private business. 


PhD researchers funded under the Midlands 3 Cities Doctoral Training Partnership have the opportunity to undertake industry placements as part of their research. For more information visit the Midlands 3 Cities website.

For those students not funded by Midlands 3 Cities, the PhD still allows you the opportunity to work with other institutions and companies as part of your research. You can discuss your options with your potential supervisors, if you feel a placement would benefit your research.

More about our placement opportunities...


OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC)

International students who have a serious interest in studying with us but who perhaps cannot meet the direct entry requirements, academic or English, or who have been out of education for some time, can enter Birmingham City University International College (BCUIC) and begin their degree studies.


BCUIC is part of the global Navitas Group, an internationally recognised education provider, and the partnership allows students to access the University’s facilities and services and move seamlessly through to achieving a Bachelor’s degree from Birmingham City University.

Learn more about BCUIC

Curzon facilities eatery
Curzon facilities staircase
Curzon facilities student hub

Our Facilities

We are constantly investing in our estate and are currently in the process of spending £260 million on new learning facilities.

The Curzon Building

This course is based at the City Centre Campus – and specifically The Curzon Building, alongside other Law, Business, Social Sciences and English courses

The £63m building offers students a unique social learning space, including a dedicated student hub incorporating student support services, in the heart of Birmingham’s Eastside development.

The facilities at the Curzon building include two bespoke Law Courtrooms, replicating a Crown court and a Magistrates court. These rooms will play a key part in your learning experience, allowing you to try your hand in mock court cases, whilst also being the venue for our Mooting and Debating Societies.

On top of this, the Curzon building houses an extensive Law library, with books covering every aspect of Law history.

The Curzon Building also features:

  • An impressive new library with access to over 65 million full text items and stunning views of Eastside City Park
  • Your Students’ Union which is located in a beautifully restored 19th century pub, The Eagle and Ball
  • A modern 300-seat food court with space to study and socialise
  • Brand new, accessible IT facilities with full Office365 for all students for free
  • Shared facilities with the wider campus including the Parkside Building and Millennium Point


Our academics collaborate with international organisations, including the United Nations, Amicus, and the Nuffield Foundation, and their research has been cited widely by scholars, courts and practitioners. You can view a full list of the current research areas here.

Jon Yorke

Professor Jon Yorke

Professor of Human Rights and Director of the Centre for Human Rights

Jon Yorke is the Professor of Human Rights in the School of Law and is the Director of the Centre for Human Rights. His qualifications include LL.B. (Hons) (BCU), LL.M. and Ph.D. (Warwick). He currently teaches LL.B. International Human Rights and LL.M. Human Rights in the Wider World.

Full Profile

Sarah Cooper Staff Profile Picture 2017 100x150

Dr Sarah Cooper

Director of Research, Reader in Interdisciplinary Legal Studies

Dr Sarah Cooper is a Reader in Law and Interim Director of Research in the School of Law. Sarah teaches English Criminal Law, and leads the School of Law’s modules in American Criminal Procedure and Evidence, and American Legal Practice, which prepares students to be interns in the United States.

Full Profile

Jill Molloy

Senior Lecturer

Jill Molloy is a Senior Lecturer in Law, and LLB Year 1 Tutor. She is the module leader for Evidence, Proof and Argument and co-teaches the lectures in Criminal Law on the LLB.

Full Profile

Richardson Oates Anne

Dr Anne Richardson Oakes

Associate Professor and Director: Centre for American Legal Studies

Anne Richardson Oakes is a Reader in American Legal Studies in Birmingham City University's School of Law. She currently teaches US Constitutional Law, Public Law, and Equity and Trusts.


Dr Ewan Kirk

Senior Lecturer

Ewan Kirk is currently the Senior Personal Tutor on the LLB Programme within the Law School. Ewan currently teaches EU Law and Intellectual Property Law at undergraduate and postgraduate level. His areas of research interest include intellectual property law and internet law.

Full Profile

Chipo Mwale

Chipo Mwale

Senior Lecturer

Chipo Mwale is Programme Director for LLM International Human Rights and also a Senior Lecturer in the School of Law. She currently teaches the following courses: LL.B.; LL.M. Corporate and Business Law; LLM International Human Rights; BA Joint Honours Programme (Business Law Pathway).

Full Profile