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PhD and MPhil programmes

Our programmes are supported by a commitment to an international standard of research.

You will be part of a Graduate School with other doctoral students from across the globe, becoming part of a vibrant research community.

You will belong to the White Rose Social Sciences Doctoral Training Centre (DTC) with its extended networks and training events. Students are given access to desk space and computing facilities at the Research Centre for the Social Sciences (RCSS), which is a hub for interdisciplinary research and postgraduate life in the social sciences at York. 

Students may be eligible to apply for a scholarship or bursary: the Department is often successful in securing ESRC scholarships for our PhD applicants.

There are opporunities for paid teaching in the Department and the University: Graduate Teaching Assistants receive support to gain accredited teaching qualifications.


We are able to offer supervision in a wide range of areas, largely focused around the following topics: 

  • Childhood, youth and family
  • Housing
  • Welfare and poverty
  • Mental health
  • Comparative and global social policy
  • Health and social care
  • Crime

Consider how your research interests complement our expertise and knowledge. Find out more about our supervisors, our research and current doctoral students below.

Before you apply you may find it useful to contact Dr Julie Rugg for an informal discussion about your topic and potential supervisors. 

PhD studentship 2022/23

Entry requirements

You will be normally expected to hold an Upper Second or First Class Honours degree. However if you have other relevant experience you may still be considered.

If you wish to pursue research on a social work topic, you should also have a good background in social work theory and practice. Likewise, if you wish to do research in social policy, you should have a firm background in the subject. 

Applicants are expected to have a good grounding in research methods.

If you're a non-native English speaking applicant you must provide evidence of your English language ability. Find out more about our English language requirements.

Application process

Achieving a PhD in Social Policy and Social Work at the University of York will require you to undertake an independent research project collecting new material or offering new analysis of existing data. Conceptual and theoretical approaches may also be considered, but must contribute more than a synthesis of existing literature.

The PhD is awarded on production of a written thesis of a minimum of 70,000 words and no longer than 100,000 including references but excluding appendices, and subject to an oral examination (viva).

In order to assess your application, you must submit a proposal of 3,000 words, using the headings indicated below. Please ensure that your research proposal aligns with Departmental research themes: 

Required headings


Working title

  • Provide a working title for the proposal.


  • Indicate the general topic area and the main aim of the study and indicate what your study would contribute. For example, would it address a gap in knowledge or develop theory?

Research questions

  • Provide one or more research questions that your research will answer.

Literature review

  • Give a brief literature review, demonstrating your familiarity with this research area including theoretical perspectives.

Research design

  • Outline your research design and include reference and, where relevant, describe data collection methods, sampling and methods of analysis. Consider what risks there may be to your research design and whether your timetable is feasible.

Ethical implications


If you are shortlisted, you will be invited to attend an online interview. It is important that you can demonstrate an understanding of your topic area, its supporting theories and knowledge around current research.

Further information

Both our PhD and MPhil courses can be completed either full time or part time although some overseas students maybe required to undertake full-time study.

You'll need to pay an annual tuition fee for your research degree:

More information about research degrees at the University of York.

Apply for PhDApply for MPhil