School of Social and Political Science

PhD Sociology

Apply now


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

We welcome applications for PhD study in Sociology

Edinburgh is one of the leading international centres of excellence for postgraduate study in sociology. Our PhD degree is eligible for Economic and Social Research Council funding for UK and EU students, but our postgraduate research students come from all over the world and we have a vibrant and diverse postgraduate student community, which plays a full role in the life of the department. Many of our students have non-sociology backgrounds and bring with them experience and expertise from other disciplines in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Whatever your background, you will thrive at Edinburgh.

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the Postgraduate Admissions Advisor (Research) to discuss their research proposals and the availability of appropriate research supervision, using the email address on the right-hand side of the page.

Questions about eligibility, conditions of entrance, and other aspects of the application and scholarship process should be addressed to

Our PhD programme accommodates a great variety of work intellectually and methodologically. We have particular research strengths in the areas of:

  • culture
  • digital sociology
  • finance and economic sociology
  • environment and energy
  • intimacy
  • nationalism and political action
  • race and decolonisation

But this list does not do full justice to the breadth of work undertaken by our PhD researchers. This work also includes a variety of research approaches, and our staff are equipped to supervise advanced quantitative analysis; digital research; qualitative and ethnographic methods; documentary analysis (including historical and biographical approaches); and mixed methods.

We play a leading role in large methodological initiatives hosted at Edinburgh, including one of the key UK units of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods and the Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMEN), as well as the University's Centres for Research on Families and RelationshipsSouth Asian Studies and Canadian Studies.

Our staff are also highly diverse in their origins and the geographical scope of their expertise. We do research covering the UK and other parts of Europe; the Americas (including Latin America); Africa; and across the Middle East, South and East Asia (including China). The work of our PhD researchers also reflects this geographical diversity. 


Programme overview


We provide the necessary training and guidance to support your PhD research and develop your scholarly potential while also equipping you with wider skills, knowledge and experience as the basis for a career within or outside academia. 

PhD researchers in Sociology are allocated a supervisor and a co-supervisor, who advise on the entirety of the research process, from reading and assembling ideas, fieldwork, analysing empirical or theoretical materials, writing up chapters, completing the thesis, and the viva examination which rounds off the process. You are encouraged to contact staff with similar interests to yours and discuss ideas prior to application.


In your first year, you will participate in the Sociology Postgraduate Research Seminar, which runs throughout the academic year. As well as having a cohort- and community-building purpose, this will equip you with the scholarly skills necessary to succeed in your studies and research. It concludes with a research conference in which first year PhD students play a leading role.

You are also expected in your first year to follow the research training courses most appropriate for your proposed methods, and to develop your knowledge of relevant literature and your research design, culminating in submission of a full research proposal 9-12 months after commencement of studies. Subsequent years of the PhD are devoted to research, data analysis and writing of the thesis, alongside any further specific or general training you require or choose to follow. Typically, there are also opportunities for paid teaching employment throughout. 

Supervisors and topics

While we will consider any PhD topic for supervision, to help you identify potential supervisors you might review the key people under our key research themes to see if any of these match your interests. Here you can also find (via the Methods theme) some indication of our areas of particular methodological expertise. You can also review all the personal pages and interests of our academic staff.


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: Professor Julie Brownlie