Entrance Requirements and How to Apply

Entrance Requirements

We welcome applications from outstanding candidates from all countries. All applicants for research degrees are normally required to have a Master’s degree from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard in a subject appropriate to the programme to be followed.

We have a strong preference for a Merit or Distinction grade on the LLM/Master’s degree, ideally with evidence of excellence in extended written work or dissertation. For those who do not have an LLM or Master’s degree, we normally require alternative evidence of the applicant’s ability to undertake high quality written research, for example, through relevant research work experience.

English language proficiency

All students whose first language is not English must be able to provide recent evidence (gained in the last 2 years) that their written and spoken English language is adequate for postgraduate study. For further information on the Institute’s language requirements see English Language Competency.


In addition, applicants must be supported by at least two satisfactory academic references, which normally should be from teaching member(s) of the most recent academic department(s) in which the applicant has studied. In cases where the most recent academic study was more than five years ago, one non-academic reference may be sent in addition to one academic reference. This should normally be from the applicant's most recent employer.

How to Apply

The most important part of your application for an MPhil or PhD degree is the research proposal and it is the primary element on which your application is assessed. Applicants are expected to have consulted the Institute in order to discuss their proposed research (ideally by first submitting a draft research proposal and a curriculum vitae) before submitting the formal application, and you should be prepared to revise your proposed research project in the light of such consultation.

We welcome an informal approach in the first instance. Applicants who have queries about how to apply should email the post-graduate administrator (Dr Ivan Leonidov, SAS Programmes Officer (IALS)). We expect applicants to discuss their research proposal with the prospective supervisor; a list of academic staff and their interests can be found on the IALS website.

Research proposal

As is the case with all PhDs, the PhD in law is awarded for proof of original hypothesis. The PhD in law is an individually researched, sustained piece of original writing, equivalent to a sole-authored monograph. The Institute and prospective doctoral supervisors, therefore, look for evidence (in the research proposal) that the applicant is able to prove an original hypothesis and do so by making an original, complex argument in a structured and lucid manner within the normal period of study (e.g. 3-4 years of full time study). In particular, we require a research proposal of around 2000-3000 words which covers the following points:

  • Title of proposed PhD
  • Background the topic of the PhD
  • Hypothesis and Methodology
  • Originality of the Thesis
  • Proposed skeletal outline of thesis
  • Sample Bibliography

The Research Proposal is expected to be written in a style which suggests the applicant is able to write in clear, scholarly manner and can sustain an argument over the length of a PhD thesis (100,000 words).

See also: SAS Guidelines on drafting your research proposal

Your research proposal will be reviewed by our Director of Research and relevant member of academic staff. If a member of our staff is available and willing to supervise the proposed research you will be invited to submit a formal application. A final decision will be made following receipt of your full application and supporting documentation; you may also be asked to undertake an interview – this may be in person, over the telephone or via Skype). If the full application (and all required documentation), meets IALS entry requirements, a formal offer of admission will follow.

Application dates and start date

The application process can take a number of months, and applicants should inform themselves of the deadlines for applying for any scholarships or studentships to fund research studies: it is important to submit the formal application for admission to the MPhil/PhD programme before the deadline for any scholarship application.

Research students may begin at the start of the academic year in September/October. In exceptional circumstances, a research student may commence the research degree in January. The majority of research students begin their degrees in the September/October intake, and most find this is the most convenient time to begin their research programme, as it is the start of the academic year, when the majority of induction programmes and introductory courses are scheduled.

International applicants who need to apply for a student visa to study in the UK should ensure they submit their complete application early, by April or May, for an October start. If you are currently taking your LLM and the date of your degree is awarded falls after September, you will have to apply for entry in the following year.

Online application form and more information

Ivan Leonidov
SAS Programme Coordinator (IALS)
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
Charles Clore House
17 Russell Square
Tel: +44 20 7862 8663



Page last updated: 25th July 2019