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Postgraduate Study - PhD and Research Degrees



Degree types explained

  • MPhil/PhD Law
  • MPhil/PhD Legal Practice
  • MA by Research Law

Degree duration details

Start date

September or January

Location Streatham Campus
Study modes

Study mode details

Full time and part time
Distance-based and Split-site research available


The Law School has a worldwide reputation for excellence in teaching and research, attracting academics, visiting lecturers and students from across the globe. As a postgraduate student at the School you will be part of a diverse and dynamic community.

Our researchers' specialist interests collectively encompass a wide range of legal fields. Our academic staff come from a number of different jurisdictions and work in a breadth of legal fields from the historical and theoretical to the socio-legal.

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. Please feel free to contact staff directly if you have any questions as to the viability of your research ideas.

View 2024 Entry

How to apply

Apply online

Ask a question


Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72


Web: Enquire online
Phone: 0300 555 6060 (UK)
+44 (0)1392 723044 (non-UK)

Top 150 for Law in The Times Higher Education and QS World University Rankings 2022

Top 20 in the UK for our world-leading Law research

Based on research impact rated 4* + 3* in REF 2021

Research overview

Research culture

As well as forming a close relationship with your supervisor, who will have the expertise appropriate to your chosen area of study, you will be a valued part of our research culture, attending workshops where research papers are presented, and with opportunities to hear eminent scholars such as those who give the Hamlyn and Lasok Lectures.

We hold regular Presentation Days where students can develop their ideas and presentation skills; School staff and other postgraduates attend and contribute. We organise ‘mini-vivas’ annually. 

Research areas

Family law and policy

The Law School's Network on Family Regulation and Society brings together University of Exeter Law staff leading a network in collaboration with the Universities of Bath, Bristol and Cardiff. Research themes of the network cover:

Legal history

Our legal history research spans the Middle Ages to the modern period, encompassing many areas of specialist expertise. Our projects shed light on the legal past, from the lives of Tudor lawyers, to the foundations of legal protection for the property of the mentally ill.

Areas of expertise include:

  • Administration of justice
  • Business association
  • Comparative legal history
  • Criminal justice
  • European courts and legal system
  • Legal profession
  • Legal methodologies
  • Medico-legal history
  • Property and trusts
  • Social history of the law
  • Tax
  • Tribunals and arbitration
  • Visual representations of justice

European law

The Centre for European Legal Studies is one of the UK’s earliest and most influential centres of its kind.

Our research covers:

  • European human rights law
  • EU security and defence 
  • European constitutionalism
  • EU competition, commercial and corporate law
  • Cyber security law
  • European aspects of immigration and asylum law 

International law

We have particular expertise in the fields of:

  • International criminal law
  • Democracy and human rights law
  • Public international law: humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict
  • International security law
  • Immigration and asylum law
  • Feminist legal theory
  • Labour/employment law
  • Migration and multiculturalism

Commercial and corporate law

We have strong expertise in all aspects of commercial law, including:

  • Corporate governance and social responsibility
  • Energy and environmental law
  • Charity law
  • Insolvency law
  • Competition law
  • Consumer protection
  • Contract law
  • Insurance and reinsurance law
  • International arbitration
  • Finance, banking and credit law
  • International trade
  • Maritime law
  • Business structures
  • Investment law
  • Intellectual property, copyright & cultural heritage, and patent law

Science, culture and the law

This multidisciplinary research group provides leading contributions to discourse on matters of policy, governance, regulation and culture in:

  • Intellectual property law
  • Technologies
  • Information law
  • Human rights
  • Legal personhood
  • Bioethics
  • Psychoanalysis

Human Rights and Democracy

  • Human rights and human dignity in theory and practice, especially under the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights
  • Intersections of public law, private law, criminal law, criminal justice, and international law with questions of human rights and democratic principles
  • Comparative and domestic constitutional law and politics
  • Legal and political dimensions of non-democratic systems and threats to democracy, including past authoritarian regimes and the resurgence of populism and illiberalism.

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How to apply

MA by Research in Law

You should have a good first degree either in Law or another subject that could prepare you for a research project within the School of Law.

MPhil/PhD Law

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.

MPhil/PhD Legal Practice

We require you to have a first degree in Law, or a first degree in another discipline and have passed the Common Professional Examination/Diploma in Law, and have held a professional qualification for at least five years.

You will be required to submit a summary of your proposed portfolio of legal practice and provide confirmation of the nature and extent of your personal professional involvement in the case-work outlined. The research subject may be drawn from any area of legal practice within which you have worked and may reflect an interest in any aspect of substantive law, legal process, legal policy, or legal scholarship. Please contact the Law School in advance to discuss any ethical issues or legal constraints that may arise from the choice of case-study and potentially that would potentially affect the submission of a portfolio. Applicants are normally interviewed as part of the admissions process.

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

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile E: view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

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Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2024/25

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

Tuition fees per year 2023/24

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

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.

Current available funding


You can expect:

  • High-quality research supervision to develop and nurture your potential
  • A tailored supervision approach to help best suit your requirements
  • Accessible supervisors who are enthusiastic about working directly with postgraduate research students
  • Regular timetabled meetings with your supervisor
  • 'Open door' policy to all postgraduate students - instant access to world-leading researchers who will share their expertise and ideas with you
  • Regular meetings with your supervisory team, other members of your research group, and mentors

You will only be able to apply for a PhD when you have received a letter from potential supervisors stating that they are willing to supervise your PhD thesis. You therefore need to initiate contact with faculty who are working on topics that you are interested in and present them with a proposal of no more than 2000 words.

> Find a supervisor


MPhil/PhD Law

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

MPhil/PhD Legal Practice

This postgraduate research degree programme is designed for lawyers wishing to achieve academic recognition based on their professional profile and practical expertise. The programme is normally undertaken on a part-time basis alongside professional work.

The degree of PhD in Legal Practice will be awarded on the basis of a portfolio of legal practice. The portfolio should be a minimum of 50,000 and a maximum of 100,000 words in length and comprise two parts:

Part 1: an introduction to and summary of a case study (or up to three case studies) drawn from your professional legal work in litigation or any other appropriate area of practice (not exceeding 25 per cent of the total word length);

Part 2: a reflective commentary analysing the significance of the legal issues explore and critically assessing the implications and wider context of the professional work undertaken (at least 75 per cent of the total word length). In writing this commentary you will be expected to relate the subject matter of the case study/studies to the existing body of knowledge within the field.

To reflect the unique nature of the programme there is no standard period of study. A study plan will be tailored to suit your individual needs.

MA by Research Law

Our MA by Research in Law has been developed to allow you to undertake a research project in an area that interests you, within a shorter timeframe than the MPhil or PhD. If you are interested in converting to an MPhil or PhD at a later stage, the MA by Research is sufficiently flexible to allow you to do so.

The MbyRes programmes are 2 year full time and pro rata part time, i.e. for a student studying with us at 0.5FTE, it would be 4 years. There is no minimum registration period and students may complete their studies within a shorter time scale.

The programme is ideal if you wish to research an area of interest and is well suited for those in employment. The award of MA by Research is clear evidence to employers, whether academic or professional, of your ability to conduct independent research to produce original material within a prescribed timescale. It is also an appropriate route to a PhD and successful students have the option to transfer to an MPhil or PhD on completion.

Our research web pages provide details of research topics and centres within the School of Law. You can also view staff profiles for more details of the research interests of individual members of academic staff.


During the programme you will complete a 15 credit compulsory module called Approaches to Research in Law. You may choose to study a further 15 credit module from those available on any of our postgraduate taught programmes. The remainder of your credits will be awarded for a thesis, of a maximum 40,000 words in length.

The core taught module of the programme is delivered in the first term, and any optional taught modules will be delivered in the first or second terms. The remaining time will be given over to your research and thesis which may be undertaken at a distance.


The taught components of the programme are delivered in small seminar groups where the emphasis is on your gaining of skills and understanding, and where you are encouraged to express your own views.

The programme gives you the flexibility to shape your own research in an area of particular interest to you.

As a postgraduate research student you will also be able to take advantage of the University's Effective Researcher Development Programme


The compulsory module, and any optional module you select, will be assessed in a variety of ways including reflective log, essay plan, essay, and formative assessment. Your written thesis, of up to 40,000 words, will also be assessed via a viva voce examination.

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The award of MA by Research is clear evidence to employers, whether academic or professional, of your ability to conduct independent research to produce original material within a prescribed timescale.

This research Masters could form the basis of an academic career, but, equally, enhance your prospects should you wish to follow a career in the legal profession. You will benefit from the School's excellent links with members of the legal profession both regionally, nationally and internationally. We have a superb reputation with graduate recruiters and graduates from the School of Law compete very successfully in the employment market. Every year the Careers and Employment Service holds an annual Law Careers Fair, attended by many legal firms that target the University’s graduates.

Graduate destinations

Examples of the destinations of some recent postgraduate students from the Law School are shown below. You can also read profiles from alumni.

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

Job title Organisation
Legal Consultant
Lecturer in Law
Research Associate
Retail manager
University of Central Lancashire
Fox Hartley
University of Exeter
University of Bath
Nota Bene Legal Consulting

Read more


The Law School is based in the Amory Building on the Streatham Campus in Exeter. We have outstanding facilities, including recently developed learning spaces which emulate the look and feel of professional legal and business settings.

Technology-rich learning space

The Law School includes the ‘Amory Law Wing’, a purpose built technology-rich learning space which provides a highly professional environment for students. The facilities include a custom-built Moot Court for simulated legal hearings and four large executive boardrooms designed to support group learning. The Moot Court and boardrooms are equipped with the latest technology, including high- spec video conferencing. The Amory Law Wing provides a professional atmosphere for students to work in virtual law firms, emphasising the connections between a rigorous academic education and the world of professional work.

Lasok Law Library

The Lasok Law Library has moved to a new location within the Forum Library where students can enjoy the full advantages of the Forum building including 24/7 access to materials, a variety of study spaces and other facilities.

Our Law Library holds over 40,000 volumes, including law reports and statutes from various jurisdiction, monographs, textbooks and periodicals. The library has a particularly strong collection of materials relating to European Union, French and German Law, which is officially recognised by the European Commission as a European Documentation Centre. 

Online services

Extensive online services are available providing access to all official European databases, court reports and current official documents, and to a range of subscription databases, including LexisNexis, Westlaw and European Sources Online.