Application Process and Funding

The PhD Programme: Application Process and Funding



Normally applicants should hold a primary degree in law of 1st or good 2.1 standard (or international equivalent), and have completed or be in the process of completing a Master’s degree in law or a relevant law-related discipline. Applicants with outstanding primary degrees who can demonstrate evidence of relevant research skills and potential will also be given consideration. Where relevant, an IELTS score of 7 or above, with a minimum of 5.5 in each component (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) is required. The score must have been achieved within the last two years.



Normally 3 years full-time; 6 years part-time



Normally start of the academic year (end of September)



1.      Identify your research question and a potential supervisor
In order to ensure that students are properly supervised, we can only accept applications in fields where there exists sufficient expertise in the Law School. 

To make a preliminary assessment, consult our staff page to identify a potential supervisor for your work, and contact that person with:

(i) a brief, but precise, description of your academic qualifications and, where relevant to the proposed PhD, your work experience. In particular, do you have prior qualifications in law, at what level, with what final grade, and have you completed a long essay/dissertation and, if so, what grade did you achieve?

(ii) a short outline (500 words maximum) of the proposed PhD, explaining:

  • What: state the research question you will address
  • Why: explain why addressing this question would make an original and significant contribution to the field
  • How: explain the approach you expect to adopt in addressing your research question

On the basis of this short outline, we should be able to advise whether we have sufficient expertise in your field, and whether a fuller application is worthwhile.

If you cannot find a potential supervisor, you may wish to contact the School’s PhD Team via email at There is no guarantee that the Team will be able to find a potential supervisor if you cannot, but they will certainly be able to offer an informed opinion.

2.      Prepare your full application
If you have been advised that we may have expertise in your chosen field, you can proceed to a full application.

The full application features various parts, which are listed in the next section.

For many applicants, the most challenging part is the research proposal. The proposal must be maximum 1500 words (including references but excluding bibliography) and include: 

(i) A title for the research that is both concise and descriptive

(ii) Clear answers to three crucial questions:


What is the research question that will be answered in the PhD?

If required, you may include an overall research question and a series of sub-questions.

Ensure that your research question is stated at, or near, the start of the proposal. Ensure too that it is stated in a clear way; assessors should not have to search for your research question.

Be aware that it takes time to craft a research question; expect to spend time researching and then thinking about the question, and then set aside additional time so that the question is framed in a clear, concise and precise manner. 


Why should this research question be addressed?

In particular, by addressing this research question, will you augment scholarship in the area? This goes towards the question of whether the PhD will make an original contribution to scholarship in the relevant field.

Consider, too, the significance of the question at the heart of your proposed PhD. It is not sufficient to claim that a proposed PhD is original because it has never been studied before; it could be the case that it has not been studied because it has not been deemed significant, ie, worthy of study.

The proposal does not need to feature a literature review. However, the assessors will expect to see reference to the literature, both to demonstrate your knowledge of the current state of research in the field in which you hope to study, and to support your claim that there is currently a gap in the literature which your PhD will fill.

Your task, in other words, is to establish the research context. In doing so, if you fail to demonstrate familiarity with key sources in your field, including how your proposed PhD relates to these, it is likely to raise doubts as to the quality of your proposal and your aptitude for a PhD.


What method and methodology will be adopted to address the question?

What is the proposed timetable for the research?

One of the questions the assessors will ask is: does the proposed PhD seem viable? In particular, is it viable within the time available? Within the funds available? Using the method(s) proposed?

The quality of the presentation should be high; sloppiness will count against the proposal. And remember: do not exceed the maximum word count of 1,500 words, including references but excluding bibliography.

 3.      Submit a formal application
You apply via the University’s online portal at

From there, you upload:

  • a 1,500 word research proposal
  • transcripts of prior qualifications (we require transcripts, not degree certificates; we need to see and assess your performance, including in any dissertation modules)
  • details of two referees who can comment on your ability to complete doctoral work, by reference to your academic performance to date
  • English language certificate (as required)
  • the University’s application form
  • a 2-page cv tailored to doctoral work

If the system does not allow you to upload the 2-page cv as a separate document, include it as part of the research proposal; it will not count towards the 1,500 word limit for the proposal.

General information about the University’s application process is available here.



High quality applications to QUB Law have a good record of success in scholarship competitions: in 2017-18, 10 scholarships were secured, including one from the AHRC and one from the ESRC.

All applicants who are eligible and who have submitted a full application by the funding deadline will be considered for Northern Ireland Department for the Economy (DfE) or the Faculty’s International PhD awards.

For AHRC Northern Bridge awards, a full application (in line with the guidance at (3) above, ie, including a 1,500 word proposal) must have been submitted by QUB’s deadline for this competition. The application form must mention your interest in being considered for this particular award: (i) tick ‘I will apply separately to an external body’, then (ii) enter NBC19 under ‘To which body do you intend to apply?’

For ESRC NINE awards, a full application (in the line with the guidance at (3) above, ie, including a 1,500 word proposal) must have been submitted by the QUB’s deadline for this competition. The application form must mention your interest in being considered for this particular award: (i) tick ‘I will apply separately to an external body’, then (ii) enter NINE19 under ‘To which body do you intend to apply?’

For LINCS awards, details are available here.

For awards such as those from the Wellcome Trust or Universities Ireland, eligible applicants must hold an offer from QUB Law before proceeding to an application to the funder for a scholarship.

For information on some of the other awards for which applicants may be eligible, see here.



UK/EU applicants    International applicants