Skip to main content

Research Degrees

The Department of Sociology hosts a friendly and supportive postgraduate community which is well supported by and integrated with staff at the department. Besides working with excellent supervisors, I benefited from countless conversations with staff members and felt supported by excellent and understanding administrators. Postgraduate researchers are encouraged to take part in academic events and to become active members of departments’ research groups. We also independently run a Postgraduate Research Forum which organises workshops on career progression, encourages peer support, and also meet socially.

Karel Musilek
PhD Candidate - Department of Sociology


Research degrees offered

Sociology at Durham is grounded in the Department's four core research themes. We welcome candidates for our research degrees who are interested in developing their own thesis in an area that intersects with these and where we have staff available to supervise. Our themes include:

Communities and Social Justice, Health and Social Theory, Higher Education and Social Inequality and Violence and Abuse

The following research degrees are offered:

  • MA by Research
  • MPhil by Research
  • PhD


Main research areas

The Department’s research activity focuses on four main research themes, around which we organise research groups of staff and postgraduate researchers to share and develop research ideas and practices. These groups are currently:

  • Communities and Social Justice
  • Higher Education and Inequality
  • Violence and Abuse
  • Health

Find out more

Disciplinary expertise

The Department also has expertise in the following disciplinary areas:

  • Criminology - Criminology and deviance, hate crime, crime reduction and prevention, forensic investigation, criminal justice systems, prisons

  • Sociology - Globalisation, science and technology, identity, culture, social capital, entrepreneurialism, social inequality, health and illness, complexity theory, methodologies

  • Social Policy - Health inequality, social exclusion, regeneration, housing, education, local and regional government, professional ethics, cultural strategies

  • Social Work - Child well-being, children’s rights and child mistreatment; adoption, fostering, and residential child care; disability, mental health and older age; green social work, post-disaster social work, professional ethics, service user involvement, community development and social change, globalisation and international social work

  • Community and Youth Work - Community development, community-based research, participatory action research, faith-based community and youth work, cross-community interaction, community-based responses to debt, ethics and politics of community development.


Previous research topics

On successful completion of a PhD, student’s ‘etheses’ are made publicly available. A list of previous students together with their topics and published thesis are available on Durham Research Online.

Search for PhD ‘etheses’ for the department of Sociology


How to apply

Entry requirements

Admissions decisions are based on your suitability for postgraduate research and the Department's ability to supervise your proposed topic. Our minimum entry requirement for Postgraduate Research is normally an upper second class honours degree (or equivalent) although evidence of research skills and/or experience is useful.

Find a supervisor

Prospective students should consider staff research interests and we encourage you to make contact with appropriate members of staff to discuss your research plans before making a formal application. If you have any questions about the suitability of your topic, or any other matter, please contact our Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator (

Research Directory


You will need to provide the following documentation:

  • Current CV
  • a research proposal, no longer than 2,000 words in length (excluding bibliography), which specifies a topic of study, aims and objectives, proposed research methods and ethical considerations
  • two letters of reference
  • transcripts of your previous degree(s).

You must complete the online application form, but you can choose to either upload your supporting documents or email them directly to

Postgraduate research application guidance


English language requirements

Applicants should also be aware of the Department's English Language requirements and be prepared to provide evidence where necessary. Currently we require a UKVI / IELTS score of 7 (with no component under 6.5). If you have not reached this level, you can be admitted to study a pre-sessional English Language course, with the length depending on your current UKVI / SELT IELTS score (must be over 5.5, with no component under 5). The Department’s requirements are in Band B on this table, which also shows other language tests.

English Language Requirements


If you wish your application to be considered for one of the University’s studentship schemes you should give particular attention to the specific requirements of the competition and ensure you also indicate the scheme on the application form.


Visiting research students

Visiting Research Student applications are welcome following direct contact and agreement with suitable academic staff, who should be named on the application. Visiting students must submit an application as above and meet our standard entrance requirements as well as providing supporting evidence in relation to the benefits to be gained from the visit.

Visiting student applicants should be aware of:



Many students fund their studies privately, but there are opportunities for financial support for UK and EU students through the ESRC studentships available via the University's Doctoral Training Partnership (NINE DTP) and for UK and overseas students through the Durham Doctoral Studentship Scheme.

The NINE DTP offers ESRC studentships for PhD research which can include funding for MA or PG Certificate study.

Additionally, the University offers a generous package of support to outstanding doctoral students for three years study for a PhD through the Durham Doctoral Studentship Scheme (open to students from overseas). The scheme is University-wide, and open to applicants interested in studying in the Department of Sociology.

Current tuition fees


University Postgraduate Scholarships

Durham Doctoral Studentships