The School of Law at the University of Aberdeen is a strong and thriving research community that dates back to 1495, when Law was one of the original subjects taught at the founding of our university.
Now in its sixth century, our School of Law has a large body of students and faculty members to bring many diverse voices and perspectives to our research and learning activities. We have faculty and students from across the globe, we have a wide array of religions and faith present, and we invite applications and accept students with all kinds of identities and backgrounds.
What we are looking for are passionate researchers, and we welcome everyone who wants to pursue a PhD at the highest levels of excellence!
Why Study with Us?
Why should you study with us? Because you are looking for the best chance to develop your full research potential.
The School of Law has a long history of creating great legal scholars. Our graduates go on to teach at globally leading universities.
But the real reason to study with us …
- Because we are ranked a Top 10 UK Law School by the Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023
- Because you want more than just dissertation advising, you want rigorous training as a researcher and as a scholar.
- Because we have 60 academic experts waiting to help you with just as many different areas of expertise.
- Because we will support you with on-going training seminars for your whole PhD programme.
- Because you will have a great team of faculty advisers and pastoral support staff to make sure you don’t fall behind with your studies.
- Because Aberdeen is a great place to live, with beaches, rivers, gardens, and so much more nature than most urban university locations.
- Because Aberdeen’s international airport is only 15 minutes away, and London, Paris, and Amsterdam are quick jumps from here.
- Because you want the best chance to succeed, you want a small campus with a great faculty and history.
There are many reasons to come to the School of Law at the University of Aberdeen to achieve your LLM by Research or your PhD in Law. We hope you find several good reasons listed here. For more good reasons, email us to be begin a conversation on how our School of Law can be a great solution for your PhD hopes and plans.
Whatever your reason to study with us we promise to support you all the way. Our PhD Programme office has multiple staff and faculty who can help you at every step of your PhD adventure.
Our Research Expertise – Your Research Choices
The legal research at our School of Law is cutting-edge and first class. Our academics publish at all the top publishing houses, such as Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, and MIT Press. They also publish in a wide array of premier law journals across Africa, Australia, East Asia, Europe, and North America and they also publish in many different languages.
When you start your research at our School of Law, you are opening doors around the world to explore new and exciting legal ideas.
- Research Centres
Our School of Law has developed five focal Research Centres:
- Research Centre for Commercial Law
- Research Centre for Energy Law
- Research Centre for Private International Law
- Research Centre for Scots Law
Each of these Research Centres invites PhD students to join them as full members, so you can be engaged in our research from the very first day on campus.
- Research Activities
Our scholars are active in many legal fields and can offer you supervision in the following areas:
- Adjectival Law/Civil Procedure
- Admiralty Law/Maritime Law
- Animal Welfare Law
- Art Law
- Artifical Intelligence & Law
- Canon Law
- Chinese Law
- Commercial Law
- Comparative Law
- Competition Law
- Consumer Protection
- Copyright Law
- Corporate Law
- Criminal Justice
- Criminal Law
- Data Protection & Privacy Law
- Digital Law
- Energy Law
- Environmental Law
- EU Law
- French Law
- German Law
- Information Technology (IT) Law
- Intellectual Property (IP) Law
- International Commercial Law
- International Economic Law
- International Family Law
- International Tax Law
- Italian Law
- Japanese Law
- Korean Law
- Law & Economics/Law & Mathematics
- Legal Design
- Legal History
- Legal Philosophy
- Legal Theory
- Medical Law
- Natural Resources Law
- Oil & Gas Law
- Private International Law
- Private Law (Obligations, Land Law, Family Law)
- Public International Law
- Public Law (of the UK)
- Public Law
- Real Property/Immovables/Land Law
- Renewable Energy Law
- Sales Law
- Scots Land Law
- Scots Law
- Scots Private Law
- Scottish Legal History
- Social Choice Theory
- Space Law
- Tax Law
- Turkish Law
Training and Support
Our School of Law doesn’t just let you earn a PhD in Law, we ensure that you receive three years of classroom-based training beyond your research project. From broadening your legal education to training you to become a modern teacher and lecturer and on to mock training for your viva voce and job interviews, we will train and support you throughout your PhD.
We also offer each PhD student a minimum of two academic supervisors to guide you on your research project. As seen above, we have experts in many legal specialties, so we can create a bespoke team of advisers for you.
The School of Law is supported by the University Postgraduate Research School providing additional support and training and providing the opportunity for networking with PhD students across all academic Schools.
- Training in Year One of Your PhD
In the first year, the seminars provide a broad range substantive, methodological, and professional training for PGR students. The teaching goal of the seminars is to provide first-year PGR students with a range of educational materials and training experiences to better enable successful outcomes in their PGR programme.
During the first year, students will assemble a literature survey in alignment with their research project. This will help them to ensure that their research project will make an original contribution to legal literature and to better enable them to become confident experts in their research areas.
- Training in Year Two of Your PhD
These seminars provide a broad range of substantive, methodological, and professional training for second year PhD students. The teaching goal of the course is to provide second-year PhD students with a range of educational materials, and training opportunities and experiences to better enable successful outcomes in their PhD programme. In particular, this course delivers to PhD students the skills necessary for preparing and delivering research focussed classroom teaching, for presenting at research conferences, for large hall presentations, and for public testimony at legislative or ministerial events.
- Training in Year Three of Your PhD
This series of seminars will train third year PhD students how to master the art of small room interviews, such as for viva voce and job interviews. These seminars build on the first two years of training to focus on intensive viva skills, interview skills, and job search skills. The seminars will also cover the theory and practice of academic CVs and how to search for an academic job, to better ensure post-graduation success. In this year of training, each PhD student will get to try mock job interviews and practice viva voce techniques.
How to Apply for PhD in Law
We welcome research applications from motivated and passionate candidates in any area of legal expertise of the Law School.
Here you will find a step-by-step guidance through the various phases of application process. Once you are ready, you can begin your online application here: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/pgap/login.php
- Entry Requirements
You are expected to hold:
- A first or upper-second class Honours degree in law or a relevant discipline; or,
- A Master's degree in law or related subjects; or
- any international equivalent of the previous two
In the School of Law, we use the University’s ‘postgraduate higher’ standards for English proficiency, find more information here: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/study/international/requirements-pg-266.php
- Application Process
The application process is free, no payment is required. In order to submit your application, you have to upload the following documents:
- Your undergraduate and postgraduate transcripts;
- Your graduation certificates or diplomas;
- Your C.V.;
- A Research Proposal (more details below);
- Your Personal Statement on why you want to study for a PhD in Law. Please limit to two pages of A4 paper;
- Your letters of recommendation.
In addition, you can also submit:
- Examples of previous academic writing, which could include previous dissertations, theses, or published research articles;
- Other evidence of your experience of research and writing
For our School of Law, you do not need to find your own PhD supervisor, nor do you need to write to one of them for their support. We will develop an advising team for you once we review your application. Please do make sure that our researchers have expertise in the subject area(s) of your research proposal.
- How to Write a Research Proposal
Your application should be accompanied by a detailed research proposal. This tells us about what you want to research, why it is important that the topic be researched, and how your research will be likely to make an original contribution to the legal literature or legal science.
The full proposal should include at least the following elements:
- It is essential to include your full name on the first page of your research proposal, a clear description of the proposed thesis topic, indicating the research problem and expected scope of the investigation;
- A description of how the proposed topic would be an original contribution to legal science (minimum of 1,000 words);
- A detailed literature review that evidences your awareness of the existing literature and evidences the originality of your proposed research (minimum of 2,000 words);
- A description of your preparation for this research. Have you previously studied the necessary prerequisite areas of knowledge? Have you acquired the necessary research languages, methodology training, or other skill sets necessary to ensure the success of your project? Please be sure to evidence your preparations for your research project (minimum of 500 words);
- A description of how your research might have impact on the world at large, of how will it impact beyond the community of scholars (minimum of 500 words);
- An explanation of how you can achieve these goals within the 3-year term, including evidence of previous successfully completed research writing project(s), if you have any; and
- An indication of why the School of Law at the University of Aberdeen is suited to the proposed research (e.g. staff expertise, library or archival resources).
Please be aware that your research proposal may be passed through originality checking software.
Candidates admitted to PhD study will not be strictly bound by the proposal that accompanies their application. Its purpose is to reveal something of the applicant’s preparation and insight. During the first months of work doctoral students often adjust their proposals in consultation with their supervisors and in conjunction with the research training offered by the School.
- Many Pathways to a PhD in Law
We strongly welcome students who need alternative pathways to a PhD in Law. Please consider our options and their combinations!
We offer an on-campus programme that includes training and seminars across all three years of the PhD experience. First year seminars cover a wide array of substantive legal specialities, training in various research methodologies, and exposure to a variety of legal traditions, cultures, and histories. Second year seminars focus on training each PhD student to imporve their research, writing, teaching, and communication skills. Third year seminars focus on interview abilities, as needed for both the viva voce (‘dissertation defence’) and for job searches.
We also offer an off-campus version of our PhD programme. This is a programme designed for researchers with established publication records or those with strong evidence of legal research and writing skills, so that they can become successful with less day-to-day guidance. This is not an online programme per se, but rather a more traditional approach wherein the PhD student and their advisers agree to their own modes of communication and meetings, which could engage a wide array of technology choices. Off-campus students are invited to our on-campus training whenever feasible for the student and will have full access to our online training and support.
We also offer the PhD programme on a part-time basis. You may be able to convert from full-time to part-time, or vice versa, at a later date, if your personal circumstances change. The options and flexibility are designed to meet a range of needs and circumstances. Be sure to contact us if you are not sure which path is best for you.
- What Happens After You Apply?
After you apply, and your portfolio of documents passes initial screening, we will handle each application by a multi-stage process that invites experts in the research proposal’s specialty area to review and advise on the overall application. That panel’s advice will be reviewed by our School in its consideration to admit. You may be invited to a video interview to allow our team to learn more about your research and career goals. Once we make an admission decision, we create a supervisory team for each student. We do take student requests for specific advisers into consideration, but we also balance out other issues as we make those advising team decisions.
- Fees and Funding
Scholarships and Funding Opportunities
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
The AHRC offers funding for research LLMs and PhDs. Candidates for the doctoral award are expected to have or be close to completing a masters level qualification.
University of Aberdeen Alumni Discount Scheme
Aberdeen Alumni may apply for a 20% fee discount, which is applied to one year's fees of further academic study at the University of Aberdeen.
The Carnegie Trust
The Carnegie Trust awards PhD scholarship awards to graduates of a Scottish University wishing to undertake a PhD also at a Scottish University. If you have not yet completed your undergraduate studies, you can still apply, but may receive an award conditional upon obtaining a first class honours degree. The closing date for applications is usually in March each year.
The Clark Foundation
The Clarke Foundation provides partial funding for research degrees in any aspect of Scots law and/or its relationship with other legal systems or institutions within the European Community. The deadline for applications is normally the end of March in the year in which you wish to commence study. The scheme is administered by Shepherd and Wedderburn, a firm of solicitors. You can email them for an application form at firstname.lastname@example.org
Commonwealth Scholarships are available to Commonwealth nationals under the Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowships Plan (CSFP).
CB Davidson Fund
The CB Davidson Fund provides limited financial support for graduates in law from outside the UK to undertake postgraduate study in Aberdeen. Awards, except in exceptional circumstances, will not exceed £2,500 and in most instances will be less. The closing dates for applications to the CB Davidson Fund are 31st March and 30th September each year.
This page is supplementary to the information given by the Student Recruitment and Admissions Service.
Please search our Funding Database for an extensive list of current opportunities.
- Career Choices
Many go into academic life, finding jobs as faculty members around the world. Many are already faculty members when they arrive, so they return to their home universities after they complete their PhDs.
Other students go on into ministerial and similar posts in NGOs; serving the public with their legal expertise. Some students have gone on to found law firms or consultancy firms.
There are many exciting potential opportunities for a PhD graduate; feel free to email us to learn more!
Many of our students come from outside of the UK and will need visas, please find more information here about those issues: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/study/international/visa-information.php