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PhD

The School is home to over 90 doctoral researchers. Their projects cover a broad range of topics from intellectual property to information technology, from competition law to counter-rules, from global justice to gender equality.  

Our research courses 

Duration Open

MPhil/PhD Law Research from The Dickson Poon School of Law at King's College London.

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Our research courses are overseen by the Vice Dean for Research, Professor Tanya Aplin and the Director for Doctoral Studies, Dr Eva Pils. 

At King’s, we believe in a full-time commitment to research and our research degrees are offered on a full-time basis only. Candidates should identify and approach their potential first supervisor before applying. Applications from candidates without a named, agreed supervisor from the School, will not be considered. View our people page to match your interests with our academic's broad range of research expertise.

Student life 

The Dickson Poon School of Law is home to one of the largest communities of doctoral researchers in the country and prides itself on the vibrant life of its doctoral programme. Our researchers are an integral part of the King’s community and fully participate in staff research events alongside faculty members.

The School is home to the Graduate Legal Research Society which organises social, training and career events for our researchers. Society events are an important part of our students’ lives providing support through the research process and a welcome break from the hard work of a research degree. The Society also plays a key part in making sure that research students’ voices are heard: the President sits on the Board of the Dickson Poon School of Law and on the Student Union’s Postgraduate Research Forum. Recent Society events have included Ice-Skating at Somerset House, a Families Picnic and a trip to the Supreme Court.

Other researcher-led initiatives include our Law & Critique reading group and a Thesis Reading Circle which provides peer review for draft thesis chapters.

The developing Graduate Research Alumni Network aims to keep King’s researchers in touch after graduation – to ensure that alumni can help each other as well as current researchers to develop their careers.

The Dickson Poon School of Law and Centre for Doctoral Studies have hosted an annual legal research conference since 2007. Organised by doctoral researchers in the School and now in its fifth year, the International Graduate Legal Research Conference is one of the largest and best-attended events of its kind in the UK. Each year researchers from across Europe and the world join us to exchange ideas and discuss their work. Twelve subject sessions and a poster session cover a wide range of legal research and the plenary session hosts an address from a leading figure in the legal world.

Further information on all researcher activities can be obtained from the President of the Graduate Legal Research Society.

Timeline of a PhD

A PhD in Law lasts for three years full time, after which a further year is allowed for completion ('writing-up') of the PhD thesis.

Entry to the MPhil/PhD programme is in late September of each academic year. Over the course of a PhD, students will undertake independent research under the guidance of their supervisors to produce an innovative thesis of up to 100,000 words.

The progress of all students is subject to regular, formal review. All students have their progress formally reviewed in January and June for each year that they are registered with the University, and this process is conducted online using the Student Records system. Informal supervisory meetings are expected regularly as well as a commitment to the research community of The Dickson Poon School of Law.

The School runs a series of induction events to complement the events King’s offers to all its postgraduate research students. These events introduce the School, its facilities and allow students to meet your enrolling peers and the wider PhD community. You should meet with your first supervisor within a week or two of enrolment. This meeting will serve to identify your second supervisor, agree the frequency of your meetings, discuss ethics approval and your upgrade. You will submit a student-supervisor agreement following this meeting.

Methodology & Method in Legal Research is a compulsory course that runs over the first year. This seminar series will introduce you to the idea of methodology in legal research. It will provide an overview of different legal research methodologies and explore the link between theory and methodology and outline key research skills such as conducting a literature review, analysing qualitative and quantitative data and applying for ethical approval for research. At the end of the course researchers should be able to make informed decisions about their research methodology and build their project in accordance with it.

All new students initially register for the MPhil degree with the expectation that they will transfer to the PhD. Law research students upgrade between 9 -12 months after their initial registration. To successfully upgrade, you will produce a significant piece of written work (approximately 20,000 words, usually two draft chapters), a draft abstract (approximately 250 words) and a work plan for completion of the thesis (with goals and completion dates). There is then an oral assessment (a mini-viva) to discuss this work. This meeting is with your first supervisor, an independent assessor (usually from within the School) and a Chair. The key principle for upgrading is that you are well on course to produce research of the required standard within the permitted timescale.

Regular supervisory meetings will continue, and you may spend time away doing fieldwork or studying abroad. We encourage you to engage with the community of The Dickson Poon School of Law. We will require you to present your research to peers and the Faculty. There may be opportunities to gain teaching experience during this stage of your degree.

At the end of three years most students transfer into a ‘writing-up’ year. This period marks the end of the data collection and research required for the PhD. Once you formally transfer, you are no longer required to pay full fees only pay a small writing-up fee. Writing-up is for a maximum of one year. You must adhere to your final submission date (usually four years after registration), regardless of when you transfer into writing-up, though many students submit earlier that the final submission date.

Assessment is by a thesis, not to exceed 100,000 words and an oral examination of your thesis (your viva). The viva is by two external Examiners who are experts in the field of research being examined.