Applying for a PhD

The key feature of the PhD is that it is yours: the topic, planning, motivation, and thinking come from you.

Elmfield PhD study

Thinking about PhD study? Hear from our PGR Director and the PGR Admissions Tutor

This video is from our PhD study virtual event. It will answer a range of questions such as:

  • What is a PhD?

  • What does a PhD involve?

  • How do I apply?

  • What funding is available and how do I apply for it?

The event was led by the PGR Director, Dr Kate Weiner, and the PGR Admissions Tutor, Dr Laura Connelly. Laura and Kate are joined by two current PhD students, Danica and Yingzi.

We offer PhD study on a full and part-time basis. The full-time PhD programme runs over three years and part-time runs over six years.

A PhD is an independent piece of research and writing that presents an original contribution to existing knowledge within a given discipline. The thesis is usually around 80,000 words. You will usually be allocated two supervisors who will facilitate your progress throughout the PhD. The PhD will be the most challenging type of academic work you have ever done but it should also be the most rewarding.

Entry requirements

Our applicants are normally drawn from three groups:

  • Final year undergraduates who expect to obtain a good 2.1 or a first class honours degree
  • Graduates (often with relevant work experience) who hold a 2.1 or first class honours degree
  • Graduates who hold or expect to obtain a Masters degree (Merit or Distinction).

Candidates must have obtained at least a Merit (or equivalent) in their Masters Degree to be considered for a place on our PhD programme. For candidates applying for a PhD with a BA qualification, please note that we require at least a 2:1 or the equivalent.

Applicants should hold, or expect to hold, one or more of these qualifications in Sociology, Social Policy, Social Work or a related Social Science Discipline.

Overseas candidates

For those candidates for whom English is not their first language or who do not possess a degree from an educational institution using the English language for instruction, there are minimum English language requirements of an IELTS average of 6.5 or above (with not less than 6.0 in any component).

The University's English Language Teaching Centre runs courses in July and August in each year. You may be made an offer of a place on condition that you meet the University's English language requirement.

Guide to submitting your PhD application

The Department of Sociological Studies receives a large number of PhD applications every year. The following guidelines have been written in order to help you submit a high quality application that is targeted to the research strengths of staff within the Department.

In order to consider your application for a PhD we require you to submit two documents: a supporting statement and a research proposal.

Supporting statement

Your supporting statement will help us to reach a decision on your application. You should address the following questions (around 1,000 words):

  • Why did you choose to apply to the Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield?
  • How you will support yourself financially whilst completing the PhD?
  • How does your proposal fit the broad research interests and expertise of staff within the Department. Often a proposal will need minor adaptation to fall within an area of staff expertise. In order to improve your chances of success it is worthwhile reviewing the academic profile of the various staff in the Department before you submit an application. Details of the research interests of our academic staff can be found here or and on their individual staff web pages, or explore our research pages.

Research proposal

Applications for admission to a research degree cannot be dealt with unless they contain a proposal.  Please add your research proposal within the 'Supporting Documents' section of the Postgraduate Applications Online System. See our guidance on developing your research proposal.

Application process

Taking up a place as a research student is a two stage process. The first stage is to seek admission to the department of your choice; the second stage is to obtain financial support for your graduate programme.

All applicants are given every assistance in seeking financial support and the possibilities will be discussed with you as part of the admissions process.

Initial enquiries

You need not worry about this stage of the process if you feel you have sufficient information about the department. Enquiries are welcome at any time of year. You may if you wish contact a potential supervisor directly but if that member of staff is away from Sheffield at the time of your enquiry a reply can be considerably delayed. You can get in touch with our Recruitment and Admissions Assistant at, who will be able to give you personal help and advice and pass your enquiry to an appropriate supervisor or supervisors. If you wish to undertake your research with a specific member of staff please make this clear to the admissions tutor.

Application form

Application forms are available from the University web pages for prospective postgraduates. The online application form requires you to provide standard information about yourself and your past academic performance. Please ensure that you complete this information thoroughly and accurately and that you provide evidence of your qualifications (both those already gained and those that you plan to take in the near future).

You are also asked for the names of two referees, preferably academic referees. At least one of these should be from your most recent place of study. Your referees should be able to comment on your academic record and your research potential and will ideally have seen a copy of your proposal.

Postgraduate Online Application Form

We will usually arrange to meet with you to discuss your application, either in person, by telephone or online.

Should you have any queries regarding your application please contact Our aim is to deal with your application promptly, although most applications are considered by at least two members of staff and the process can take up to three weeks in total. Again, you can contact us at any time if you want to know the progress of your application.

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.