MPhil/PhD Law

Duration MPhil: Full time 2-3 years; Part time 4-5 years
PhD: Full time 3-4 years; Part time 6-7 years
Distance Learning available
  • Law
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September or January


Undertaking a PhD is a stimulating and rewarding experience and allows you to undertake research into a legal issue that interests you. In order to gain the award of PhD your thesis must bring a new and original standpoint to the study of law either through the development of a novel doctrinal and/or theoretical perspective on the legal issue(s) under discussion and/or through empirical research that creates new insights into a legal issue.

A successful PhD is one that develops a coherent and sustained argument from the beginning to end. Its objectivity derives not from the viewpoint it adopts but the methodology it employs. As such, an important part of the PhD process is the research training you undertake. This training not only provides you with the ability to validate your adopted methodology and results, but also the ability to design, conduct and successfully complete a wide range of future legal research projects.

The PhD is assessed by thesis of a maximum 100,000 words1 and a viva voce examination. The MPhil is assessed by a dissertation of a maximum 60,000 words1; in addition you may be required to take a viva voce examination.


Our academics have a very wide range of research interests and MPhil or PhD supervision can be arranged in most fields of legal study. There is particular expertise in European and international law, commercial and common law, English legal history and professional legal studies.

Our research web pages include details of the research centres within the School of Law as well as research topics in which supervision can generally be arranged. You can also view staff profiles for more details of the research interests of individual members of academic staff.

Research culture to me is about being part of something bigger than your standalone research and being part of a department which contributes to the field in which you want to change. The research culture is also about the environment you are in whilst conducting your research. From day one, even as a part time researcher, you are made to feel as part of faculty and not just a student you are treated as a researcher who is contributing to the research of the university.  The relationships with staff and supervisors enhance your experience as an early career researcher and it is this ‘research culture’ of making you feel as part of the faculty that adds to your confidence and ultimately shows in your research. 

Peter Underwood LL.B LL.M. Read more

Research areas

Core areas of Law research supervision

  • Charity law
  • Commercial law, Consumer law and Competition law
  • Democracy & Human Rights: Comparative, European Union, European Convention on Human Rights, Theories
  • Environmental law and energy law
  • Family law
  • Feminist legal theory
  • Finance and banking law
  • Intellectual property, copyright & cultural heritage, and patent law
  • International Criminal Law
  • Legal history
  • Migration and multiculturalism
  • Public international law: humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict

Find out more about our researchers

The subject-matter of your research is of course chosen by you, although we will give you advice and guidance in formulating an appropriate research proposal. Staff specialisms can be found here. Please feel free to contact staff directly if you have any questions as to the viability of your research ideas.

MPhil and PhD students in Law are further integrated into the School’s research community through their participation in the staff research seminar series, attendance at which is compulsory. Students from our very successful taught Masters programmes also frequently come to research seminars, ensuring lively debate and a breadth of experience from jurisdictions across the world.

Further information about lectures and events at the School can be found on our website, including our Events section, the Hamlyn Trust and the Bracton Law Society.

See our Law page for an overview of our current research areas.


The law profession has a high regard for postgraduates from Exeter. As a result many of our graduates have progressed directly into a wide range of law careers.

We enjoy extremely good relations with members of the legal profession regionally, nationally and internationally. You will be supported by the College's Employability Officer, the wide range of services offered by Career Zone and have the opportunity to meet potential employers face-to-face through our annual Law Fair, workshops and careers sessions.

Postgraduate research students can access our Postgraduate Researchers' Programme, which covers a range of topics to help you complete a successful research degree and to act as a springboard for your research career.

Graduate destinations

Below are some examples of initial jobs undertaken by Law postgraduates who studied with us in 2011/12.

Please note that due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Attorney Areza
Corporate Lawyer Benjamin Law Firm
Graduate Teaching Assistant Cleary Gottlieb Steen and Hamilton
Information Assistant Euler Hermes
Intern in Tax Law Goldbergs
Junior Legal Advisor Higher Land Court
Lawyer Keoths Solicitors
Lecturer in Law Michelin
Legal Intern Paul Hastings
Litigation Executive Perfetti Van Melle
Practical Lawyer Salans and Associates LLP
Risk Analyst Strategy Capital
State Lawyer  

Entry requirements 2018

Normally students will have a good undergraduate Honours degree (UK Upper Second Class Honours or equivalent) and a Masters degree with a dissertation component. If you are seeking funding through one of the Research Councils (UK/EU students only), you will need to hold a minimum Upper Second Class Honours degree, although often these awards are won by those with First Class Honours due to high levels of competition.

As part of your application you will need to be able to prove that you have the research skills, vision and motivation to make your research project a success.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 7.0 with a minimum score of 6.5 in the writing component and all other sections no less than 6.0.


Overall score 100 with minimum scores of 25 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

65 with no less than 58 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

  • UK/EU: £4,400 full-time; £2,200 part-time
  • International: £16,400 full-time


Our Postgraduate Funding webpage provides links to further information. If you are considering a PhD in the future, in addition to University of Exeter funding, we have been successful at securing postgraduate funding for PhD research through our Funded centres.

Funding opportunities

Find out about current funding opportunities for our research programmes.

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

Contact us

The College of Social Sciences & International Studies has a dedicated Graduate Research School which is committed to supporting its vibrant postgraduate research student community.

The Graduate Research School helps to support both intellectual and social contact between graduates of different disciplines and from different backgrounds and countries. Our team supports both prospective and current postgraduate research students.

The Graduate School website provides useful information for prospective PhD students including information on the following:

We are always willing to answer queries and provide help wherever possible, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Phone: +44(0) 1392 724490
Web: Enquire online

Preparing a research proposal

As part of the application for admission all MPhil and PhD students must prepare a research proposal outlining their proposed area of study.

The aim of the proposal is to determine your area of research interest so you can be matched with an appropriate supervisor, and to give you an opportunity to demonstrate to us that you have the aptitude to undertake doctoral level research. It is the most important document submitted as part of your application, so we strongly encourage you to spend time preparing it and to take into account these guidelines.

Proposal guidelines

We understand that your proposal will be indicative at this stage. If you have not already identified a possible supervisor, before writing your proposal it is advisable to look at our staff profiles and check on the research interests of academic staff in our departments to see if they match your interests.

Your research proposal should be no longer than 1,000-1,250 words (3 or 4 sides of A4) and contain the following information:

  • your name
  • proposed programme of study
  • tentative title of thesis
  • proposed supervisor (if known)

You should also include:

  • Aims and objectives - set out the central aims and research questions that guide your research. What hypothesis or argument are you trying to explore and what questions are you trying to answer? When outlining your questions try to prioritise one or two central questions from which you can derive secondary ones.
  • Rationale - contextualise your questions/aims in a broader field of study, identifying the main literature that you are addressing. You need to explain why your research questions/hypotheses are important and topical.
  • Methodology - explain how you are going to conduct your research; what information you would need, how you would collect it and how you are going to analyse it. This need only be indicative at the moment.
  • Timeline – You don’t need to produce a detailed time plan, but it is helpful to provide a summary of what you are planning to do and when. You will be expected to submit your thesis within three years (six years for part-time students) so it is important you have a feasible timeline. This section is especially important if you are proposing to undertake case study work or fieldwork.
  • Bibliography – a short bibliography of relevant works in your research area. 
Apply online Funding Ask a question Visit subject website Print course

I love my PhD

PhD student Anton Blokhin tells us about his research and why he loves his PhD. View full size.

Meet our students

Read student profiles