School of Social and Political Science

PhD Social Policy

More information


Applications for September 2024 entry are now closed.  We expect to open applications for 2025 entry in October. 

We warmly invite candidates to apply for a PhD in Social Policy.

We welcome applications from all those who seek to do doctoral research on social problems and policy and practice to responses to them locally, nationally or globally. We especially encourage those seeking to do research projects closely aligned with our core research themes.

Social Policy has been taught in Edinburgh for more than a century, and we have a rich tradition of supervising students towards higher degrees as a route to careers in academia, research and public policy. Today our group is at the heart of the scholarly community in social policy in Scotland and the UK, but also resolutely turned towards the wider world.

Our research on social policy draws on a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, including not only economics, political economy, political science and sociology but also anthropology, demography, history, human geography and law. We do research that is methodologically diverse, spanning the full range of social science methods from ethnography to advanced quantitative analysis.

We are committed to scholarly advancement but also to the dissemination of our work beyond the academy, and you’ll be supported in generating real-world impact and effecting social change. Research students benefit from the excellent links our academic staff have to other social policy scholars, policy makers and practitioners right around the world.

Programme overview

Undertaken full-time over three years, or part-time over six years, the PhD in Social Policy is a research degree in which students make an original contribution to 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 a thesis project under the guidance of academic supervisors with comprehensive training in social research skills.

The Graduate School of Social and Political Science is a provider of ESRC-recognised social science research training courses for students from across the University. The School’s Research Training Centre runs a rich programme of workshops, seminars and courses throughout the year which PhD students can access throughout their studies.

Postgraduate community

We are a large and vibrant community of social policy scholars, including over 30 research students from across the globe. Though working most closely with your supervisors, you’ll be able to draw on expertise and advice from across a diverse group of academic staff and will have fantastic opportunities for peer exchange and learning.

PhD students meet regularly during semester in a dedicated graduate seminar in social policy, with sessions focused on both research and researcher development. You’ll also be encouraged to join and actively participate in the subject area’s varied research groups and networks. A lively programme of activities is organised across the academic year by the social policy research student community, from frequent informal socials to the annual residential writing retreat.



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 Elke Heins