Research Study at Aberdeen

Research Study at Aberdeen


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 every continent except Antarctica, 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 excellent scholars, and we welcome everyone who wants to undertake legal research 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 the School of Law at the University of Aberdeen is well known as a Top law school in the UK.
  • Because you want more than just dissertation advising, you want rigorous training as a researcher and as a scholar;
  • Because we have 60 faculty 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 or become frustrated in your studies.
  • Because Aberdeen is a great place to live, with beaches, mountains, 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 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.

Please contact us

Our Office:

Director of PhD Programme:
Dr Peter Cserne

Deputy Director of PhD Programme:
Dr Rossana Ducato

Administrative Director:
Miss Natalie Murray
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Our Research Expertise – Your Research Choices

The legal research at the School of Law at the University of Aberdeen is cutting-edge and first class. Our faculty 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:

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

While we have five Research Centres, in a recent survey of research activities of our faculty and scholars, it was found that research was being undertaken in dozens of legal specialty areas:

  1. Adjectival Law/Civil Procedure
  2. Admiralty Law/Maritime Law
  3. Animal Welfare Law
  4. Art Law
  5. Canon Law
  6. Chinese Law
  7. Commercial Law
  8. Comparative Law
  9. Copyright Law
  10. Corporate Law
  11. Criminal Justice
  12. Criminal Law
  13. Data Security & Privacy Law
  14. Energy Law
  15. Environmental Law
  16. EU Law,
  17. French Law
  18. German Law
  19. Information Technology (IT) Law
  20. Intellectual Property (IP) Law
  21. International Commercial Law
  22. International Economic Law
  23. International Family Law
  24. International Tax Law
  25. Japanese Law
  26. Korean Law
  27. Law & Economics/Law & Mathematics
  28. Legal History
  29. Legal Philosophy
  30. Legal Theory
  31. Medical Law
  32. Natural Resources Law
  33. Oil & Gas Law
  34. Private International Law
  35. Private Law (Obligations, Land Law, Family Law)
  36. Public International Law
  37. Public Law (of the UK)
  38. Public Law
  39. Real Property/Immovables/Land Law
  40. Renewable Energy Law
  41. Sales Law
  42. Scots Land Law
  43. Scots Law
  44. Scots Private Law
  45. Scottish Legal History
  46. Social Choice Theory
  47. Succession
  48. Tax Law
  49. Turkish Law

There is such a large range of research going on, and we often also have exciting visiting professors, that we can support most legal topics with a strong portfolio of experts to serve as PhD advisers.

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 years at Aberdeen!

We also offer each PhD student a minimum of two faculty advisers 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. 

Here is a typical list of the types of seminars offered during the two semesters of training:

  • First Camp Session
    • Research Originality and Literature Reviews
    • Dissertation Writing
    • Comparative Law and Research Methodology
    • Major Concepts of Jurisprudence
    • History of Scots Law
  • Second Camp Session
    • Int'l Public Law: Oceans & Offshore
    • Int'l Public Law: States & Onshore Issues
    • Evolution of Canon Law
    • Evolution of Civil Law
    • Evolution of Common Law
    • Comparative Civil and Common Law
    • Methodologies of Legal Research
  • Third Camp Session
    • Methodologies for Legal Research
    • Formal Models for Law (L&E, SCT, PCT)
    • Core Research Concepts of Obligations
    • Survey of Constitutional Theory
    • Survey of Corporate Governance Research
    • Survey of IP Law
    • Survey of Int'l Arbitration Law
    • International Energy Law
    • International Environmental Law & Int’l Climate Law

Each seminar is designed to provide a wide range of substantive learning experiences and opportunities to gain practical research skills.

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.

Not only will this course provide the theory and understanding of excellent teaching methodologies, but it will also pair all second year PhD students to members of our faculty as they develop and prepare their courses, so that each PhD students can be mentored with real teaching experiences.

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’ worth 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 are taught 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

Our School of Law has a great PhD programme, it also has high standards for admission. We expect that each applicant has already experienced writing a long-form academic dissertation or has published academically in journals or book projects.

First, find our website for beginning the online application process:

Preliminary Issues

Many of our students come from outside of the UK and will need visas, please find more information here about those issues:

In the School of Law, we use the University’s ‘postgraduate higher’ standards for English proficiency, find more information here:

Quick notes:

IELTS Academic scores:

  • Listening - 5.5 or above
  • Reading - 6.0 or above
  • Speaking - 5.5 or above
  • Writing - 6.0 or above
  • Overall - 6.5

TOEFL iBT and Special Home Edition

  • Listening - 17 or above
  • Reading - 21 or above
  • Speaking - 20 or above
  • Writing - 21 or above
  • Overall – 90

Information on our University’s academic calendar can be found here:

Application Process

The application process is free, no payment is required. You will want to prepare certain documents for your application. For example, you might to have these various documents in a digital format:

  • 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 this to two pages of A4 paper;
  • Your letters of recommendation
  • Examples of previous academic writing, which could include previous dissertations, theses, or published research articles;
  • Other evidence of your historical excellence in research and in writing;
  • Evidence of other adventures that support the idea that you can challenge yourself to overcome life’s difficulties, as PhDs are not easy to finish.


The application process is free, no payment is required. For our School of Law, you do not need to find your own PhD adviser, 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 do have expertise in the subject area(s) of your research proposal.

How to Write a Research Proposal

Each application needs a rigorous 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, mathematical 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); 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 their first months of work doctoral students often adjust their proposals in consultation with their advisors 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 have a rigorous on-campus program 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 become an excellent teach and public speaker, with integration into active courses so that the PhD students can learn in real-time from our own faculty as they lead on courses. Third year seminars focus on interview skills, as needed for both the viva voce (‘dissertation defence’) and for job searches. Through-out this year process, we also provide each student with at least two advisers to guide the student on their personal research projects.

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. The 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 supports, same as the on-campus students.

We also offer the PhD programme on a part-time basis, because sometimes life doesn’t take a break when you need one.

And most importantly, we can ‘change gears’ to coordinate with you as life changes. You can start full-time and later convert to part-time, or vice versa. You might start on-campus and finish off-campus. You might start off-campus part-time and come on-campus fulltime. The options and flexibility are designed to enable a wider range of students needs and circumstances. Be sure to contact us if you are not sure which path is best for you!

What Happens After You Apply?

Once you apply, and once your portfolio of documents passes initial screening and data entry, 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. Often, we will request a video interview with the applicant to learn more about their research and career goals. Once we make an admission decision, we create an advising team for the incoming student. We do take student requests for specific advisers into our considerations, but we also balance out other issues as we make those advising team decisions.

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!