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Social Sciences

The School of Social Sciences has an exceptionally strong and interdisciplinary research culture, and offers expert supervision across a wide range of research topics.

Our PhD programme is characterised by a strong focus on research training leading to theoretically-informed research that advances academic and policy debates.

There are different options of study:

  • 3-4 years full-time PhD
  • 5-7 years part-time PhD

The School of Social Sciences has the following research themes that represent the School’s main areas of expertise. There is also the opportunity for interdisciplinary research. We encourage applications in all these areas:

Research students join a vibrant academic and research environment with supervision by leading experts in their field.

We are committed to theoretically informed research with a clear policy focus; and offer research opportunities for postgraduate study in sociology, social policy, criminology, science and technology studies, social work and education (see full list below). We welcome students who wish to pursue their studies in an interdisciplinary way. We collaborate with major universities and international agencies around the world, as well as with local policy makers and practitioners.

Our research environment includes a wide range of active research groupings, seminar series, and informal study groups. Our PGR Café - a student-led initiative - provides a unique intellectual forum and support network for those pursuing doctoral studies.

We are delighted to be part of the Wales Doctoral Training Partnership (Wales DTP), funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Programme aims

The programme offers students the opportunity to undertake a sustained and independent research project, pursued at the highest level, as Doctoral candidates. The attainment of a research degree provides an entry to a variety of career paths, including (as for many of our students) a career in academia.

Distinctive features

  • The School of Social Sciences is home to a large, flourishing and interdisciplinary postgraduate community of over 100 research students.
  • The School offers a range of PhD awards suitable to the stage of your career and background.
  • Each year the School is successful in obtaining many funded study awards from public, private and third sector organisations that provide financial and other support to PhD students
  • PhD students have access to a large study space within the School containing personal storage, computing facilities with university-wide connection to email, internet and up-to-the minute, disciplinary-specific, research applications and resources.
  • PhD students are invited to participate in the School’s research community and attend research groups, seminar series and informal study groups to introduce them to - and with opportunities to act as leaders in - contemporary debate and expert opinion in their field.
  • PhD students have access to a suite of excellent training opportunities (including research skills and methods) to support their studies and prepare them for the next stage of their career.
  • There are opportunities for PhD students to contribute to teaching in the School’s undergraduate courses, and with additional training and mentoring, students may work towards HEA Associate/Fellow status.

Key facts

Mode of study Full-time, part-time
Qualification PhD
Full-time duration PhD 3 years
Part-time duration PhD 5-7 years
Start dates January, April, July, October
Application deadline(s) Your complete application must include certificates & transcripts (with translations if needed), English Language evidence (if required), research proposal and personal statement. Complete applications are welcomed until the following dates (unless a specific deadline is indicated for an advertised studentship): October entry = 9 June; January entry = 15 October; April entry = 14 January; July entry = 8 April.

Doctoral students are supervised by two qualified, experienced academic staff. The supervisory team guide and advise through regular meetings and support the students through the University's academic processes and procedures. Research students are expected to undertake approved research training during their studies.

The general structure of the programme is as follows:

  • Year One:       Research methods training and literature review.
  • Year Two:       Data collection/fieldwork.
  • Year Three:    Data analysis and writing-up.

Students are expected to produce an extended piece of written work each year to satisfy the University's progress review monitoring procedures. This will usually take the form of a draft chapter from your thesis that is independently assessed by an allocated 'reviewer' who will  give constructive feedback on the work submitted for review.

The School of Social Sciences at Cardiff University is recognised nationally and internationally as a leading centre for theoretically informed empirical research, combining inter-disciplinary working, impact on policy and practice, and innovative methodological approaches, both qualitative and quantitative. In the most recent (2014) Research Excellence Framework exercise, the School was ranked 3rd and 5th in the UK for the quality of its research in Sociology and Education respectively; over one third of publications submitted were judged world-leading. We have the highest per capita external grant capture of any Social Science school or department in the country, having secured research grants in excess of £83 million since the School was founded in 2000. Amongst our academic staff we have a Fellow of the British Academy, several Academicians of the Academy of Social Sciences, the winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the British Sociological Association, a Fellow of the Royal Swedish Academy of Agriculture and Forestry, and Fellows of the Learned Society of Wales.

We are a large School with over 160 academic staff and a thousand undergraduate and postgraduate students studying. All teaching in the School is research-led, with students exposed to the latest ideas in the social sciences and enjoying face-to-face contact with internationally recognised scholars shaping the future of their respective fields. Interdisciplinary research training is a particularly strong feature of our postgraduate research student programme.

The School is located in the historic Glamorgan Building in Cardiff’s prestigious Civic Centre. The building boasts excellent teaching and learning facilities, including computer labs, lecture theatres with the latest audio-visual technology, a suite of tutorial rooms and social space for conversation and the exchange of ideas.

Doctoral students are vitally important to the School’s overall research profile and culture. First-class facilities for independent postgraduate study are offered in a friendly and supportive atmosphere, with academic members of staff directly involved in working together with, and supervising, doctoral students. All postgraduate students are encouraged to take full part in the School’s academic and research activities.

For further information on the School’s research groups, project and impact, please see our website.

University, academic and research; transferable skills allow for the development of career paths in any field requiring: clear and logical thinking; detailed reporting of empirical findings; advanced and critical analysis of complex data; the design and conduct of independent research; communication skills, both written and oral; the ability to identify and inquire into complex problems; the application and development of models and theory as these relate to human and social life.

UK government postgraduate doctoral loans

Candidates for the Professional Doctorate programme may be eligible to apply for a UK government postgraduate doctoral loan.

Find out more about UK government postgraduate doctoral loans


ESRC Wales DTP Studentships

Each year we are able to offer a number of ESRC funded awards within the following ESRC pathways:

  • Criminology
  • Digital Economy and Society
  • Education
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Social Policy
  • Social Work and Social Care
  • Sociology

Some of these studentships are funded in partnership with public, private and third sector organisations. As part of the DTP funding opportunities there is provision to follow a PhD programme that involves a one-year MSc in Social Sciences Research Methods, followed by 3 years of PhD research.

Applicants not applying for funded awards may be eligible to apply for the Doctoral Loan Scheme. Please consult the UK Government website Doctoral Loan page for details.

See our latest PhD studentships and projects and find out more about other funding opportunities.

Tuition fees

Students from the UK

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from the rest of the world (international)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

In addition to their application form, applicants are required to provide:

  1. a personal statement
  2. a research proposal to supplement the summary proposal in the application form
  3. a curriculum Vitae (CV)
  4. qualification certificates and transcripts, with translations if needed
  5. evidence of meeting the English Language entry requirements
  6. two academic references dated within the last six months to be requested by the applicant.

It is important to note that incomplete applications will not be accepted.

Personal statement

Before writing any personal statement you must consider and research:

  • What are your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Cardiff University School of Social Sciences? E.g. Why do you want to do the course/research?
  • What is your understanding and expectations of doctoral study?
  • What is the relevance of your previous qualifications and/or work experience?
  • What are your academic interests relating to your proposed research?
  • What are your academic and/or general career aims?
  • What are your strengths and what personal skills do you bring?

Research proposal

Applicants must submit a copy of an extended proposal (maximum 1000 words excluding bibliographic references) to supplement the summary proposal found in their application form.

An outline description of the proposed research should include:

  • Title, aims and purpose of the research
  • Questions to be addressed by the research
  • Overview of the academic literature relevant to your field
  • Proposed methodology
  • Academic contributions of your research
  • Bibliography.

After an application is submitted

Applications will be vetted by the Postgraduate Research office and director of Postgraduate Research before being circulated to all academics within the School of Social Sciences. If academics have expressed interest in an application a supervisory team will be formed, and the candidate will be invited to interview.

Candidates for PhD programmes should have a good first degree (2:1 and above) and/or a master’s degree. Candidates who do not have a master’s degree in Social Science Research Methods (SSRM) may be required to undertake some or all of the SSRM programme on the advice of their prospective supervisors.

For overseas candidates, the minimum qualifications will include a good first degree equivalent to a 2:1 degree at a UK university, and a certificate of competence in English (see below). Work experience will also be taken into consideration when assessing an application.

In the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, we normally expect applicants for PhD programmes to have an overall average grade of at least 60 in their Master's degree, with 60 or more in the dissertation, or to be able to demonstrate relevant professional experience. Applications from individuals from groups which are under-represented in postgraduate study will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

English language requirements

A score of 600 on TOEFL (250 on computer-based marking) or band 7.0 on IELTS is required where English is not a first language, or for those who have not had a substantial part of their education taught in the English language.

Please read our English language requirements for more details.


Administrative contact(s)

PhD and MPhil programmes


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See the range of PhD studentships and projects currently available.

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