MRes Socio-Legal Research

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
  • Law
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September


The MRes is a research training Masters programme which provides rigorous training in socio-legal research skills to enable you to carry out doctoral level research using legal and socio-legal methodology or, alternatively, to embark on a career as a specialist socio-legal researcher.

The programme is ESRC-recognised. This means it meets the research training requirements of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and that you are eligible to apply for ESRC funding for PhD research. Only a handful of Law Schools in the UK offer ESRC recognised programmes in this field.

The taught programme offers research training in generic social-science skills, providing you with a solid basis in social science theory and methodology through modules offered to all social science postgraduates across the University. These are then built on within the socio-legal context through two skills-based modules offered by the Law School. Specialist modules reflect the socio-legal research expertise of staff. The supervised research dissertation will allow you to bring together the conceptual and practical skills acquired in the taught modules and demonstrate your understanding by applying them to your own research ideas in the socio-legal context. Teaching is mainly seminar and workshop based.

The methods of learning, teaching and assessment vary across modules. The generic social science modules are lecture-based whereas the socio-legal modules are taught in smaller seminar groups for which students prepare in advance. They also include some student-led seminars, presentations and practical exercises.

This rigorous training in socio-legal research skills will provide an excellent basis if you wish to embark on either future doctoral research or a career as a specialist socio-legal researcher. The transferable skills you will develop through this programme are both valuable and in high demand as noted in a report of the Nuffield Inquiry into Empirical Research in Law:

The work of empirical legal researchers since the last third of the 20th century has provided Government, the judiciary, law reform bodies, regulatory bodies, universities, social and economic institutions of all kinds with vital insights into how the law works in the real world. Empirical legal research is valuable in revealing and explaining the practices and procedures of legal dispute resolution systems and the impact of legal phenomena on a range of social institutions on business and on citizens. 1

There is now an increasing demand for research on how law works:

  • From government departments, Parliament and its select committees to inform policy-making and evaluate legislative change;
  • From business and NGOs for evidence about the operation and impact of regulation;
  • From the judiciary, practitioners and legal scholars for evidence that enriches the study and practice of law and the development of doctrine;
  • From voluntary sector bodies and others who want to understand how laws may be improved to better meet the needs of ordinary citizens. 2

One of the best things about the MRes has been the enthusiasm of the teaching staff. I have also enjoyed being able to think about law from a very different perspective; I studied law at undergraduate level and then pursued a career in practice, so starting to think as a researcher has been a very new experience.   

The University is highly regarded for socio-legal research in family law, which was a big draw for me. I also found both teaching and administrative staff to be very welcoming and incredibly helpful when I was first applying, which was a very different experience to elsewhere.

The MRes course has been invaluable in preparing me for PhD research. Being taught theory and methods and having to put them into practice in a dissertation has given me much more confidence for my PhD. I also feel that I have a clearer direction for my research. The other big advantage of the course was that it gave me the chance to meet PhD students from across the College, who I might not otherwise have come into contact with.

Anna Heenan, MRes Socio-legal Research.

Programme structure

The MRes Socio-Legal Research is available for study 12 months full-time over three terms and is University-based throughout this time. The taught components of the programme are delivered in the first two terms; you then have a four-month period in which to complete your dissertation. The final stages of your dissertation, between the end of the third term and the submission date in September, may be undertaken at a distance.

During the programme you will study 180 credits, comprised of a number of taught modules plus a dissertation.

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

Formal teaching is delivered in small seminars where the emphasis is on your gaining of skills and understanding, and where you are encouraged to express your own views. These involve a combination of direct teaching from the academic leading the seminar, prepared (and previously-circulated) papers given by students, and class discussion. In addition our academics are happy to make themselves available at many other times if you wish to discuss the subject outside of the seminar.


All taught modules are evaluated by a range of assessments. These may include an oral presentation, practical exercise, reflective log, essay plan and/or essay. If the taught modules are successfully completed, you will progress to undertake a dissertation on an approved subject linked to your research interests. The 15,000 word dissertation on a socio-legal topic of your choice must be submitted for assessment by 5th September in the year in which you are first assessed. These examinations may be supplemented by oral examination. If you fail to meet the standard for the degree but reach an appropriate lower standard, you may be eligible for the award of a Postgraduate Diploma or Certificate.

I took the MRes as a precursor to a socio-legal PhD. The relationship between law and society has always been of interest to me and the course enabled me to expand my knowledge beyond purely doctrinal legal analysis.

There is a real sense of working “with” academics at Exeter not merely under. This means from day one you are treated as a colleague, with your own research treated as just that, yours. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole course and would highly recommend it to anyone thinking of embarking on a Law PhD and/or as an alternative to the LLM. The course introduced me to a range of ideas and approaches without which I would not have thought about.

Polly Lord, MRes in Socio-Legal Research.


The MRes Socio-Legal Research offers you the benefit of combining sought after legal and social science research skills, which are extremely useful to a wide range of employers.

Current and former students have, for example, undertaken research on projects of interest to academics and professionals working in the fields of family law, the legal profession and the prison service using empirical research methods.

Graduate destinations

A degree in Socio-Legal research can lead to a number of exciting careers. We've included below examples of initial jobs undertaken by our Law postgraduates.

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

You will be expected to have obtained a Law degree of at least UK 2:1 Honours or equivalent, or a degree in a social science subject, eg. Psychology, Sociology or Social Policy. Non-law students will be required to take the pathway in 'Approaches to Research in Law'. 

Having done an LLB and LLM at the University of Aberdeen, I came to realise that I was interested in the socio-legal implications of law rather than just the black-letter law. I wanted to do an inter-disciplinary PhD that involved applying methods and theory from the social sciences to my main research interest,  Family Law. Fortunately I received ESRC funding to undertake the MRes in Socio-Legal Research at Exeter followed by the PhD and the MRes research-training masters is exposing me to new ways of looking at the law as well a solid grounding in the various methods of empirical data collection and analysis that will be invaluable during my PhD.

Philip Bremner, M Res in Socio-Legal Research Student.

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 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 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.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2020/21

  • UK/EU: £8,000 full-time; £4,000 part-time
  • International: £18,000 full-time

University funding

The funding section has information on all available Scholarships, Bursaries and Studentships funding open to prospective students of taught Masters programmes. You can also use the searchable database of all Scholarships and Bursaries to find funding for which you are eligible.

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. You will also be required to pay a tuition fee deposit to secure your offer of a place, unless you qualify for exemption. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

UK government postgraduate loan scheme

Postgraduate loans of up to £10,609 are now available for Masters degrees. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply.

Global Excellence Scholarship

We are delighted to offer Global Excellence Scholarships for students of outstanding academic quality applying to postgraduate Taught programmes starting in autumn 2020.
Please note that this scholarship isn't offered for all our masters programmes.

Contact us

College of Social Science and International Studies
Phone: +44 (0) 1392 723192

Postal address:

Law School
University of Exeter
Amory Building
Rennes Drive

Current students

Phone: 01392 723301 

Applicants and offer holders

WebEnquire online
Phone: +44 (0)1392 723192

Please contact us if you would like more information about this programme, or if you would like to arrange to come and see us.

//unibuddy popcard script