City scape

Law - Research

The aims of the PhD programmes offered by the School of Law in UCD are:

•that candidates will conceive, design and give effect to a substantial and innovative piece of research which will expand the frontiers of knowledge. This is done by developing of a substantial body of work (leading to publication of a monograph or a series of academic articles);

•that candidates will be able to evaluate and synthesise new and complex ideas;

•that candidates will become effective communicators orally and through writing;

•that candidates will demonstrate knowledge and understanding in their chosen field of legal study. They will develop advanced conceptual frameworks and provide systemic understanding of the problems they identify; and

•that candidates will be able to promote intellectual, social and cultural advancement in a knowledge-based society.

The doctoral programme in law is a structured programme. The core element in the programme is of course the carrying out of research leading to the completion of a thesis. Students are also required to complete a minimum number of taught modules (30 credits).

These modules include one compulsory course - Introduction to Advanced Research in Law - Optional courses which a student might choose to take include a course in qualitative and quantitative research methods, in substantive areas of law or in other areas where the student feels skills might be required to advance his or her PhD studies, for example languages or economics.

Students are assigned to a main supervisor before arrival at the Law School. The supervisor, in turn, is supported by a team of two other members of academic staff with expertise in the field of research. The supervisor plus the other staff members constitute your 'doctoral panel'.

At the end of the first year of the PhD programme each candidate is required to complete a transfer process in order to move from the first to the second stage of the PhD programme. This process provides an opportunity for students to review the progress they have made in the first year. It also enables the School of Law to ensure that all candidates are making sufficient progressing towards completion and accruing the transferable skills which PhD studies are designed to foster in a student - independence of research, originality of thought and competence in advanced research methodologies and skills.

Entry requirements

What are the admissions requirements?
Applications are invited from graduates with a degree (normally of a first class or very high 2.1 standard or equivalent). The degree should either
(a) in law or
(b) in an inter-disciplinary degree in which law was a major component.

Holding a masters degree in law will normally enhance considerably an applicant's chances of acceptance on one of our PhD programmes.

Exemption from these requirements may be given to those with significant, relevant, practical experience. Such applicants should state clearly in their application why they feel their qualifications/ experiences are appropriate for admission to the programme.

Please note that admission to the programme is at the discretion of the Graduate Admissions Committee

Individuals who wish to be considered for enrolment in one of UCD Law School's PhD programmes are asked to prepare a research proposal. This should include

a. A statement of the research question the candidate proposes to examine;
b. An outline of the proposed methodology (in other words, an outline of how the applicant proposes to go about their research); and
c. A short literature review. (The idea of this is to place the research within the current state of knowledge in the field in question. It should include a short, indicative, bibliography of works in the field ).

There is no maximum length for a research proposal. Normally, it would be at least three or four pages long.

Please note that students who wish to work with a particular academic are advised to state this in their communications.

Please note that you can make your formal application to enrol as a PhD student online through the online UCD application process, at

However, in order to help and encourage prospective applicants, the School of Law offers you the option of sending us a draft of your research proposal, before you make your formal application. The PhD management team will review your draft research proposal and provide you with feedback.

You can then take that feedback into account in making your final application. Further, if a draft research proposal is sent to us, we can also tell you in advance whether there actually is supervisory capacity within the Law School for your proposed programme of research and we can also identify a prospective supervisor.

Once you receive your feedback, you can make any advised revisions to the proposed research proposal, gather all the relevant documentation, and make your formal application through the online UCD application process.

Draft proposals should be addressed to


Law (B142/B143) PhD Research 3 Years FT / 6 Years PT

Careers or further progression

Apart from being the highest level of academic achievement, obtaining a PhD is now regarded as an essential feature in the curriculum vitae of anyone aspiring to a career in academia. Many graduates of UCD Law School's PhD Programme are now themselves academics either in or outside Ireland. Graduates in recent years from UCD Law School's PhD programme have been appointed to academic positions in HEC Paris, the Queen's University Belfast, the University of Portsmouth, the University of Ulster at Jordanstown, University College Dublin, the University of Maynooth, Dublin City University and NUI Galway, among other institutions and universities.

Of course, PhD graduates don't just end up in academia. For those who decide that they would prefer a career in legal practice, we have an excellent Careers Development Centre here at UCD, designed to help you with information regarding future employment or studies. UCD hold a number of graduate events throughout the year including a dedicated law fair at which at which many of the big law firms are in attendance. The School of Law has a dedicated careers advisor on its academic staff, Dr. Oonagh Breen, and a staff member from the careers office will be in attendance at the School of Law on a number of occasions throughout the academic year. To see the full range of services offered by the careers office go to

Further enquiries

Niamh McCabe
Graduate Programme Manager
UCD Sutherland School of Law
Dublin 4
Phone: +353-1-716 4111

Enrolment and start dates

Starting September & January

Remember to mention gradireland when contacting institutions!