School of Society and Culture

PhD Social Policy

Plymouth’s PhD Social Policy programme has a long and distinguished history and we have an international reputation for research excellence. In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 86% of our research was classified as ‘world-leading’ or 'internationally excellent'. We have collective strengths in health policy, gender, media, sustainability, climate change, nationalism and methodological innovations. Our graduates have won a number of awards for their internationally leading research.

We offer a vibrant and warm postgraduate culture at Plymouth. We work closely with colleagues in anthropology, health policy, international relations, politics and social work, and postgraduates benefit from a rich interdisciplinary environment. There are opportunities to participate in numerous workshops and events, including those organised by Plymouth International Studies Centre, Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research, and the Sustainable Earth Institute.

Course details
  • Year 1

  • Our themed research groups are: ‘Health, Vulnerability and Inequality’, ‘Environment, Culture and Society’, ‘Global Instability and Justice’ and ‘Methodological Innovations’.

    This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (up to 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal. We are happy to consider equivalent qualifications (for instance, you may have studied different subjects at undergraduate and masters level but have worked in and/or developed an interest in your sector since then). We also accept exceptional undergraduate students (1st class) from a cognate discipline straight in to PhD where there is an associated excellent research proposal.

If you do not already have a masters degree, you may be interested in one of our masters level research degrees – for instance, a ResM, MPhil degree or MSc. Further details about the University’s research degree awards.

You will also need to provide evidence that you are ready to pursue the project you propose in your application. This will take the form of a research proposal.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2022-2023 2023-2024
Home To be confirmed To be confirmed
International To be confirmed To be confirmed
Part time (Home) To be confirmed To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

Submitting your application

Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.

Questions on the application process?

We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College team and we'll be happy to assist you.

You can view or download our postgraduate research admissions policy.

If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit our Disability Services website.

International Student Advice (ISA) provides support for our international students.

Find more information about how to apply for a research degree.

Meet the team

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Our research community

We are a group of researchers who undertake internationally leading interdisciplinary research tackling some of the most pressing societal challenges facing the globe including health inequalities; climate change communication; nationalism and political unrest; and development aid. In the most recent assessment of research excellence (REF2021) 86% of our research was judged to be ‘world class’ or ‘internationally excellent’ and we are ranked 8th in the country for research impact.
Discover more about our research and researchers in sociology, anthropology, international relations and politics.
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<p>Postgraduate research students listening to a talk</p>

Current and recent PhDs

Thomas Jenkins – PhD Sociology   
‘Fandom in a Crisis: How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected non-league football club fandom’ 
Director of Studies: Professor Alison Anderson
2021–present 
Bushra Shakeel – PhD Social Policy
‘Attitudes towards Feminism and Women’s Rights Movements and the Influence of Religious Faith’
Director of Studies: Professor Alison Anderson
2022–present
Harriet Marks – PhD Sociology (Doctoral Teaching Assistant)
'To What Extent are the Experiences and Perceptions of ‘High Functioning' Autistic Women impacted by their Gender?’
Director of Studies: Dr Julie Parsons
2022–present
Landa Love – PhD Sociology
‘Outside of the Box: Exploring Alternative Narratives of Asexuality’
Director of Studies: Dr Julie Parsons
2020–present
Juliet Hall – PhD Sociology
‘Using Auto/Biography to Explore how Mothers Describe their Experience Raising Autistic Children’
Director of Studies: Dr Julie Parsons
2019–present
Alex Mejia – PhD Social Policy
‘A Comparative Study of Latin American Political Leadership and Social Policies: The case of the Andean countries from 1999 to 2019’
Director of Studies: Professor Alison Anderson
2022–present
Theresa Waight – PhD Social Policy
‘Social Justice and the Creation and Sustainability of Lone Father Households: A cross national comparative analysis’
Director of Studies: Dr Julie Parsons
2021–present 
Andrew Ferguson – PhD Sociology
‘The Thistle and the Shamrock Entwined: An alternative Ulster Scots, Scots Gaelic and the potential for developing a shared identity in Northern Ireland’
Director of Studies: Dr Eric Woods
2021–present
Edward Pyle – PhD Sociology
‘An Exploration of how Agency and Socio-cultural Milieu support Greater or Lesser Controlled Gambling and Recovery from Gambling Addiction’
Director of Studies: Professor Alison Anderson
Awarded 2017
Sarah Molland – PhD Sociology
‘Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Health and Well-being: Definitions, identity and experience’
Director of Studies: Professor Gayle Letherby
Awarded 2018
Fiona Jenkins – PhD Social Policy
‘An Investigation into the Effects of NHS Reforms on Physiotherapy and its Management Structures in England and Wales’
Director of Studies: Professor Rod Sheaff
Awarded 2016