Social Policy - Research

You'll be a social scientist committed to multidisciplinary research that builds knowledge and capacities in the communities around us, and that has a positive impact on wellbeing. You’ll work in any area of social policy research or practice, including young people and families, education, conflict and social change, social inequality, disability, ageing, health, criminal justice.

Staff in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work publish world-class research which has local and global impact. Our funders and partners include research councils, government departments, the EU, the Council of Europe and large foundations. Our research informs the development of policies in many areas, including education, criminal justice, teaching and learning, the well-being of children, social cohesion and justice, mental health and trauma informed practice.

Course structure
You are expected to take research training modules that are supported by the School. These modules focus on quantitative and qualitative research methods, and include participatory action research, arts-based research methods and multimodal interaction analysis, for example. Students will be provided with the SSESW PhD student training and engagement programme at the start of the academic year. You are also expected to carry out your research under the guidance of your supervisor.

Over the course of your research, you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School. This training contributes to your training record which may be discussed at your annual progress reviews (APR).

You will normally register, in the first instance, as an 'undifferentiated PhD student' which means that you have satisfied staff that you are capable of undertaking a research degree. The decision as to whether you should undertake an MPhil or a PhD is delayed until you have completed 'differentiation'.

Differentiation takes place 9-12 months after registration for full time students and 18-30 months for part time students. You will be asked to submit work to a panel of two academics who will then meet you formally to explore your research at the 'Differentiation Panel'.

The Panel will make a judgement about your capacity to continue with your study based on the feasibility of your research design and commitment. Sometimes students are advised to revise their research objectives or to consider submitting their work for an MPhil qualification rather than a doctoral qualification, but this outcome is rare.

To complete a doctoral qualification, you will be required to submit a thesis of approximately 80,000 words. You will defend your thesis at a viva voce [oral examination] with an external and internal examiner.

The PhD is open to both full and part-time candidates and is useful preparation for a career within academia or consultancy.

Full-time students are often attracted to research degree programmes because they offer an opportunity to pursue an area of academic interest in some depth.

A part time research degree is an exciting option for professionals already working in the education field who are seeking to extend their knowledge on an issue of professional interest. Often part time candidates choose to research an area that is related to their professional responsibilities.

If you meet the Entry Requirements, the next step is to check whether we can supervise research in your chosen area. We only take students to whom we can offer expert research supervision from our academic staff. Your research question needs to engage with the research interests of one of our staff.

Entry requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work.

Application dates

How to Apply
Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.


A PhD programme runs for 3-4 years full-time or 6-8 years part-time. Students can apply for a writing up year (thesis only) should it be required.

Enrolment dates

Entry Year: 2024/25

Post Course Info

Career Prospects
Many of our PhD graduates have moved into academic and research roles in Higher Education while others go on to play leading roles in the public sector or within NGOs. Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability.

Employment after the Course
For further information on career development opportunities at PhD level please contact the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Career Development Team on / +44 28 9097 5175 The AHSS Development Officers will be happy to provide further information on your research area career prospects.

More details
  • Qualification letters


  • Qualifications

    Degree - Doctoral at UK Level 8

  • Attendance type

    Full time,Part time,Daytime

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    Course provider