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PhD programmes – University of Reading

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  • Engage in cutting-edge research in your chosen area of law

    Dedicated support throughout your PhD and beyond

PhD programmes

100% of our academics' research overall is judged to be world leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognised (REF, 2014).

We are proud of the School of Law's vibrant research culture and welcome high-quality applicants from all over the world.

Recently Dr Rosalynd Roberts, who completed her PhD at the School of Law in 2011, was recognised at the 2018 Winter Graduations for her role in prosecuting war crimes from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia - including the conviction of Ratko Mladić of crimes including genocide.


In the video below, Max Brookman-Byrne, the University of Reading's 2017 PhD Researcher of the Year, discusses his doctoral research and his personal experience of undertaking a PhD at the School of Law:


"I returned to Reading for my PhD wondering if, as a mature student, I would feel very different. But, here we are all different - whether by age, experience, ethnicity or religion - which makes for a much more diverse and inspirational environment and encourages the widest range of studies. It creates an ideal environment in which to develop as a PhD student."

Patsy Kirkwood

Second-year full-time PhD student

cutting-edge research

In a dynamic research environment, our academics are established legal scholars who through their acknowledged expertise provide strong support and supervision for PhD researchers working in their respective fields. We take a pluralistic approach to legal research, which spans a range of methodologies and research traditions. Across all of these areas, our research challenges preconceptions and established ideas about the law, subjects the content and process of legal decision-making to stringent analysis, and provides value to external users and impacts upon the wider world.

Academic staff at the School of Law have worked on high-impact research projects. Dr Beatrice Krebs', work has helped to abolish the unfair crime of Joint Enterprise murder, and Dr Lawrence Hill-Cawthorne was instrumental in setting out a clear legal framework for state use of armed drones.

Our recent projects include: The changing legitimacy of health and safety, 1960-2015, which was funded by IOSH; The existence of, and classification of, the armed conflict in the Middle East involving the Kurdish peoples; public attitudes towards - and justifications of - retention of the death penalty, funded by UK, German, Swiss and Norwegian foreign offices, the European Commission, and the Daiwa Foundation; Civil partnership dissolution: expectations and experiences, funded by the British Academy and the Families and Work Network, funded by the AHRC.

The School boasts seven dedicated research themes:

  • Global Law at Reading (GLAR) The home of public international law, EU law and human rights law at Reading

  • Justice, Rights and Legal Theory How does the law define and balance the interests of different individuals and groups?

  • Family, Gender & Sexuality Tackling key issues relating to gender and law, sexuality and law, feminist legal studies and family law.

  • Public Policy In what ways can the law change and improve the ways that social institutions work?

  • Legal History How does the past shape the laws that govern us in the present?

  • Property, Transactions & Markets Research incorporates all transactions regardless of the identity of the parties or the nature or type of the transaction as well as markets which are subject to regulation.

All PhD students will be associated with at least one theme and participate in research seminars and other events organised by them.


"Being a PhD student at the Reading Law School means you will be nurtured for who you are and challenged to become the best you can be."

Liz-Marie Welman

Third-year part-time PhD student and Graduate Teaching Assistant


What we offer

We offer flexible modes of study designed to fit with your needs. Our PhD is available for study on a full-time basis over three years and part-time over four to six years. Both full-time and part-time variants are available for study in Reading or at a distance.

Opportunities to communicate your research

During your PhD, you will have many opportunities to communicate your research with both fellow students and colleagues, and external academics and policy makers. The School of Law hosts an annual PGR Presentation Day where all PhD students showcase their work. There are also opportunities to present at Work-in-Progress seminars within the School and the Graduate School Conference. You are also provided with a research allowance to support attendance and presentation at external conferences.


During the first year of your PhD, you will undertake subject-specific training in research methods in the School of Law, as well as a number of development courses run through the Graduate School as part of the Reading Researcher Development Programme. These will provide you with excellent transferable skills and enhance your personal development.

Career support and progression

Our PhD candidates come from diverse backgrounds—some continue from undergraduate study, others from professional qualification or practice, and others from industry. During your PhD you will have ample opportunity to be exposed to career development opportunities and work experience.

The Reading Researcher Development Programme and the Preparing to Teach courses provide useful training with transferable skills. The University Career Advisory Service is also on-hand to provide expert advice on your options. Consequently, upon completion of their PhD, our students are enabled to embrace a variety of professional qualifications. Many continue with an academic research and teaching post; some enter legal or professional practice; others return to posts within their own national government departments.

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