School of Social and Political Science

PhD Social Anthropology

Apply now


The deadline to apply for September 2024 entry is Monday 1 July 2024.

We warmly invite candidates to apply for PhD degrees in Social Anthropology

Social Anthropology is one of the UKs leading centres of excellence and was ranked 5th in the UK in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. From its foundation, Edinburgh's Department of Social Anthropology was one of the first in Britain to specialise in the study of what were then called 'complex societies', with particular emphasis on the study of Scottish society.

This emphasis continues, along with a long and continuing tradition of research in African anthropology. More recently Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh has established a reputation for work in Europe, and has become a major centre for the anthropological study of South Asia. Our specialist interests have expanded rapidly in recent years, adding East and South-East Asia, the Middle East and Latin America to our regional expertise.

In recent years we have developed a distinctive body of research and teaching which systematically links the everyday world of domestic intimacy to the wider context of public events and the political. This manifests itself in an exciting body of new work on:

  • nationalism and the state
  • material culture and public memory
  • film and visual culture
  • kinship, person and gender
  • law and society
  • science and technology studies
  • environmental issues and social development

Applied research includes policy-related work on asylum-seekers, NGOs, sustainable development and participatory rights.

Programme overview

Usually undertaken full-time over three years, or part-time over six years, the PhD in Social Anthropology is a research degree in which students make an original contribution to our knowledge by pursuing an extended and focused piece of research on a topic of interest to them.

The programme is supported by the Graduate School of Social and Political Science, which enables students to acquire a broader set of transferable skills during their time with us. 

Research Training

The PhD programme combines work on your thesis project, usually based on long-term fieldwork, with systematic training in anthropological and social research skills. Research training is also available in the form of our MSc by Research.

The Graduate School provides a suite of ESRC-recognised research training courses for social science students across the University. We are developing an exciting package of flexible web-based training courses in line with the increased emphasis on ongoing training throughout the course of doctoral studies.

Postgraduate community

We are deeply committed to our students at all levels. Our cosmopolitan community of graduate students, from the UK, Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Australasia, make a critical contribution to the thriving research environment in Edinburgh.

In a typical year we have around thirty PhD and MSc(R) students registered in core Social Anthropology, with others working in specialist research centres like the Centre of African Studies and the ESRC Centre for Social and Economic Research on Innovation in Genomics (INNOGEN).


Our PhD degree has ESRC funding for home/EU students. In 2007 we launched the STAR (Scottish Training in Anthropological Research) Programme, bringing together PhD students and early career researchers from Edinburgh, Aberdeen, St Andrews and Glasgow. Each year we jointly run two intensive workshops, combining training in anthropological skills with distinguished international guests providing masterclasses.


Applying for this PhD

  1. Identify potential supervisors suited to your research interests
  2. Write a draft research proposal
  3. Contact the Postgraduate Advisor with your research proposal and list of potential supervisors
  4. Once discussed with the Postgraduate Advisor, formally submit your application on EUCLID

Postgraduate Advisor

Programme advisor: Dr Alice Street