PhD - School of Social Sciences and Humanities

The School of Social Science and Humanities (SSH) welcomes applications for the doctoral programme in any of the research areas covered by the School. This includes: English (language, literature, applied linguistics); History; Languages (French, German, Spanish) and Translation Studies; European Integration in comparative political, security, social and economic contexts; International Relations; Politics; Sociology and Policy.

Registration dates: October and April.

Course type

Full-time / Part-time

Course format

No placements


3 years full-time, 6 years part-time

UCAS code(s)


Start date


Researchers in the School of Social Science and Humanities (SSH) are a multi-lingual, multi- and interdisciplinary community, working across the humanities, arts and social sciences, and bringing together a unique blend of internationally well-connected scholars.

For the Research Excellence Framework (REF, 2014), the current system to assess the quality of UK research, SSH submitted to two panels – ‘Area Studies’ and ‘Modern Languages and Linguistics’. The results released on 18 December 2014 ranked Aston amongst the leading institutions in the UK and achieved some particularly outstanding successes:

  • Area Studies: 81% of the SSH submission has been judged as “world leading or internationally excellent”. This is the 3rd highest percentage in the UK for this unit of assessment.
  • Modern Languages and Linguistics: 60% of the SSH submission has been awarded the highest marks (4*) for research impact. This is the highest 4* percentage in the West Midlands, and places Aston within the top 10 for this unit of assessment regarding impact.
  • Area Studies: The submission is ranked 5th out of 23 institutions in the UK for Area Studies in the overall REF 2014 rankings.
  • Modern Languages and Linguistics: 100% of the SSH submission to this panel has been awarded 4* or 3* for research environment, ranking Aston joint 1st in the UK for this measure.

SSH welcomes applications for the doctoral programme in any of the research areas covered by the School, this includes: English (language, literature, applied linguistics); History; Languages (French, German, Spanish) and Translation Studies; European Integration in comparative political, security, social and economic contexts; International Relations; Politics; Sociology and Policy.

Programme Structure

During year one of the programme (or years one and two for part time students) research students must complete our ESRC-accredited research methods training modules and work towards submission of the Qualifying Report examination. The Qualifying Report is between 6,000 and 10,000 words and is a summary on the progress of a student’s research.

Assessment is conducted through a viva voce examination whose purpose is not only to ascertain a student’s academic potential but also to provide independent advice on a student’s research.

Students who are successful in the Qualifying Report examination then follow the full PhD programme route through to submission of the final thesis. PhD students have three years full time or six years part time from their research start date in which to submit the thesis.

Examination of the thesis is via a viva voce examination and successful students after this stage receive Aston’s ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ research degree.

Entry requirements

Applicants should:

  • Possess a masters degree from a UK university or hold an equivalent qualification. An overall merit or equivalent, with merit in the dissertation is normally required. 
  • Have the required skills and experience
  • Submit a detailed research proposal (typically 8 to 12 pages) on a relevant subject (see 'How to Apply'). 

Language requirements:

For applicants who are not from majority English-speaking countries, it is necessary to meet our English language requirements.

Find out more about our English language requirements.


UK students (2021/22): UKRI

International students (2021/22): £14,250

The United Kingdom government has confirmed that European Union (EU), other European Economic Area (EEA) and Swiss nationals commencing academic courses in England from August 2021 will no longer be charged the same tuition rates as home students. Further information can be found here.

Tuition fees are reviewed annually and may increase in subsequent years in line with inflation linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) to take account of the University’s increased costs of delivering the Programme. When undertaking a placement year, a placement year fee applies.

More information on fees

How to apply

The PhD programme recruits students to start in either October or April and, depending on the desired start point, applicants are encouraged to apply as early as possible to avoid delays.

Apply by completing the Postgraduate Research Online Application Form in the section 'Making your application' below, including:

  • A substantial outline of your proposed research (see below)
  • Copies of your Bachelor and Masters degree certificates and transcripts of your grades (including English translations, if required)
  • Two academic references, at least one of which must be from your most recent University
  • Evidence of meeting the English languages requirements
  • A personal statement
  • A copy of your CV

Your application and proposal will be reviewed by the School’s Research Committee - you will then be notified of the outcome.

Contacting a supervisor

Finding an appropriate supervisor who is an expert in your chosen area of research is an essential part of the application process. We recommend that you look at the research centre pages and research profile pages which will enable you to determine whether there is a good match between your research interests and SSH.

If there is a member of staff whose research interest matches your own, we recommend that you contact them directly with a copy of your research proposal and discuss further with them. In addition to contacting a prospective supervisor, you also need to submit a formal application. If you are unsuccessful in identifying a supervisor through this method, it is essential that you indicate this on your application form. Please be advised that a formal decision on your application can only be made once the formal application has been submitted via the online form.

The Research Proposal (8-12 pages)

You are required to:

1. Outline an area of (possibly cross-disciplinary) study and demonstrate a familiarity with that area in bibliographical terms 

2. Specify a focus for research which may be expressed in various forms, e.g. hypothesis, question and problem. You must provide details of: 

  • Your understanding of the subject at an appropriate level and highlight the scope for doctoral research
  • Your expected outcome (e.g. descriptive, explanatory, pedagogic)
  • Which field the research will contribute to

3. Demonstrate an awareness of an appropriate research tradition (or paradigm) which will provide a focus for your project

4. Show a basic understanding of at least one appropriate theoretical model that will be used to analyse data for your study

5. Draft a plan (in line with 3 and 4 above) of how the research will be carried out over the time allowed


Organisation of the Proposal


Identify the precise topic and indicate the approach you plan to take, if possible. 


This should identify the relevant research area, show why the research is worth doing and indicate what you hope to achieve.

Aims and Objectives

This expands on the first of the above topics. In this section you should clearly set out the aim of your research, providing you with an opportunity to develop your research question and hypothesis and specify the intended outcomes. This should be done with reference to relevant literature.  Where appropriate, there should also be reference to your individual and institutional situation in which you intend to carry out the research.

Orientation to Previous Research

This builds on the previous section and sets your work more explicitly in the context of previous work and wider issues. You should set out a justification for your own research in the context of other studies, showing how it builds on and/or orientates to these. The section should demonstrate to the reader that you have familiarised yourself with the subject and are acquainted with current debates related to it. 


This section should indicate on which data the research is planned to be carried out.


In this section you will need to provide a justification for your methodological approach and you should expect to include the following:

  • A statement of the paradigm and tradition(s) within which you will work
  • A description of the data collection and procedures to be used, including work to be done in archives and a justification for these (showing why alternatives were rejected)
  • A consideration of practical issues (e.g. permissions, gaining entry, ethics) showing that data collection is possible
  • The analytical approach that you plan to adopt.


Present a realistic timetable for the research, including research visits abroad, corresponding to the time available for the project (usually three years for a full-time and 4-6 years for  a part-time PhD, including writing-up).


All references to academic works should be presented consistently, in a standard format.

Making your application

Making an application can be split into the following steps:

  1. Choose your course
  2. Check the entry requirements
  3. Use the 'Select Online Application Form' below to select the correct online application form. Then click "Apply for selected Degree Programme" (this will open in a new window)
  4. Complete the online application form. This includes: (i) uploading any relevant documentation, (ii) submitting a research proposal (research programmes only), (iii) completing your personal details
  5. We'll consider your application and contact you if we require any additional information/documents
  6. A decision will be communicated to you via email 

Select online application form

Application guidance notes

The following guidance notes will aid you in completing the online application form. We advise keeping this page open while you apply as a useful point of reference.

Making your online application

When progressing through the application form please use the hyperlinks/buttons at the bottom of each page and not your web browser back and forward buttons.

Go to the Apply Online page and select the relevant School (For Research applicants: this should be the University School where your potential Research supervisor is based) , Entry Year, Mode of Attendance and Degree Type. Then click on the arrow button of the Select Degree Programme.


Existing Aston Students: Please note: You will need to Create a New Account to start a new application please do not log in with your student username and password.

When creating your new account please ensure that you provide us with a valid and accurate email address as most of the correspondence from Aston will be sent via email.

You will be automatically logged in after this and be able to start your application immediately.

You can elect to ‘Save and Return Later’ at any point of the process, at which point you will be emailed details on how to return to your application later.

  • A list of relevant degree programmes will then be shown, select the title of the degree with the start date / mode of study that you are interested in. (Please note applicants wishing to study for a PhD or MPhil initially register for a generic research degree.  Please select ‘Research’ for the appropriate area, e.g. Research – Computer Science.)
  • Once you have decided on the programme that you wish to apply for, click on ‘Apply for selected Degree Programme’ and create a new account in the system. 
What documentation is required?
  • Certified Copies of qualifications gained, e.g. for Postgraduate this will be degree certificate and transcripts (showing the subjects taken and the grades/marks you have obtained). If these are in a language other than English, please provide official translations as well. For Foundation Degrees this may be NVQs, A Levels, HNCs etc. (if applicable).
  • English Language test certificate (if appropriate), for example IELTS / TOEFL
  • Research proposal (For LHS please check the list of research projects currently available first) Passport scan (if you are a non EU overseas applicant)
  • A copy of sponsor letter if appropriate/available. 
  • Copies of any other supporting documentation which may be used to help support your application.

If you are unable to provide the required information at the point of application, you should forward this to the relevant Admissions Office. Please ensure that you include on any correspondence to the University your application reference number, full name, date of birth and course name. You are advised that in some instances, a decision on admission will not be made until all supporting documentation is received.

Research proposals

A good research proposal is one of the most important aspects of your application to the Research Degrees Programme.  When the University receives your research proposal, we use it to confirm the quality of your ideas, your ability to think originally and critically, to ensure that you really have understood the depth of investigation that your doctoral research will entail, and that you have a good understanding of the key theories and literature. Research Proposals should be in sufficient detail to enable the relevant research group or supervisor to decide if your experience is appropriate and if your proposed topic is relevant to existing research themes at Aston. The outline should be a substantial document, typically 6 to 12 pages in length. Please check this with your proposed School of study before submission.

Sponsored students

You are a "sponsored student" if all or part of your tuition or accommodation fees will be paid by an external organisation (not a family member). This may be an employer, a government/embassy or scholarship funding organisation. Aston University will send an invoice directly to your sponsor.

What to do

Once you have accepted a place at Aston, let us know as soon as possible that you are a sponsored student. Ask your Sponsor to write a letter on their company headed paper, which clearly states the following: 

Your full name. Full details of where the invoice should be sent, including Sponsor contact name, details, address and e-mail address. Any reference or name that needs to be quoted on the invoice.

Two copies of the letter will need to be sent to Aston University. One copy should be sent to Credit Control, Finance Department, Aston University, Aston Triangle, Birmingham, United Kingdom, B4 7ET. The second copy should be sent to the relevant Admissions Office (as detailed on your offer letter).

If you tell us you are a sponsored student, but we don't receive a letter from your Sponsor you won't be able to enrol until we receive it. Please note that we reserve the right to reject a sponsor letter and if your sponsor does not pay, you will be personally responsible for payment of the debt.

  • What fees are to be paid by the sponsor (tuition, accommodation or both).
  • Amount of money the Sponsor is contributing to tuition or accommodation costs (the value in GBP or percentage of the fees).
  • How long the sponsorship will last. For example, whether you are being sponsored for one academic year only or for every year of your course. If this changes, your Sponsor will need to send us another letter. For example, if you are being sponsored for one academic year only, but your Sponsor later decides to sponsor you for every year of your course.
Completing the online form

There are guidance notes available through out the application to assist you in completing the form.


Please input your first names and family name as stated in your passport or other official documentation. 

E-mail addresses

E-mail address. [This is the applicant’s personal E-Mail address – the E-Mail address used to register an online application account with Aston University.]

Alternative contact E-mail address. [If you are working for an Educational Agent, on behalf of an applicant, please insert your Educational Agent E-Mail address in this box.]


Please provide information on your address.  The permanent address is usually your home address.  This is the address we will use to contact you unless you specify a correspondence address. 

If the correspondence address given is temporary, please ensure that you notify the relevant Admissions Office of any changes.

Disability/additional support needs

This section is included for the purposes of monitoring equal opportunities and to ensure that students with a disability know about and have access to appropriate facilities and services.  Applications are judged solely on academic merit.  The university is committed to equal opportunities in its admissions policy and considers applications from candidates with disabilities on the same academic grounds as apply to all candidates. 

Find out more information about the facilities and support available contact:

The Disability Team
Aston University
Aston Triangle
B4 7ET

Telephone:   +44 (0) 121 204 4711

If appropriate, please choose the code most relevant to you from the drop down menu, when completing the online application form.  Please also give any details of any special requirements or additional support needs you might have.

Educational details

Please include all qualifications obtained or anticipated (post compulsory education only).

Please make sure that the names of the educational institutions are written in full and not abbreviated to initials – also state the country in which the institution is located.  Please indicate the type of award for which you have studied e.g. BA, BSc or MA and the title used on the degree certificate/transcript. Give the grades you obtained e.g. degree classification, Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) score and state what it is out of i.e. 80/100.


Please note that the authenticity of your qualifications will be checked by Aston with the awarding institution/examination board and that submission of fraudulent documents will disqualify you from studying in the UK.

Professional qualifications

Please enter any professional qualifications received or memberships of professional institutions that are relevant to your application e.g. the Chartered Institute of Marketing Professional Diploma or any other non-academic qualification e.g. GMAT (Graduate Management Admissions Test). 

Your academic qualifications, to a maximum of 14

The most important qualification to include is the qualification you are currently studying, or if you have completed all qualifications, the highest qualification that you have achieved.


All applicants are required to provide evidence of their ability in English. The minimum English language requirement varies between schools - please refer to the Postgraduate prospectus for the individual programme requirements.  These usually include:  GCSE / ‘O’ Level English language, IELTS, Pearson Test of English (PTE) or TOEFL, although there are other acceptable qualifications.  Please note that IELTS and TOEFL results are only valid for 2 years. Applicants who have already successfully completed, or are successfully completing, a full time university degree in the UK and other English-speaking countries may be exempt from these requirements. Applicants with less than the minimum English Language requirement may be rejected or asked to retake the relevant examinations. Alternatively, they may need to successfully complete one of the English language courses at Aston University before starting their programme of study. Applicants will be notified at the point of offer of any such conditions.

Relevant work experience

Please include any relevant work experience to support your application by ticking the box and completing all the mandatory fields.

Please note that relevant work experience is a requirement for some programmes; please refer to the programme listed in the prospectus or the website for further information.

Finance details

Please provide as much information as possible about how you will be funding your postgraduate studies.  If you have been awarded a grant/scholarship for all or part of your costs please send us a copy of the letter of the award you have received from the grant-awarding body. This can be uploaded at the beginning of your application.

Tuition fees

Different levels of tuition fees apply to UK/EU students and non-EU international students.  Fees also vary depending on the programme of study.  Please see the Postgraduate Prospectus and website for further information.  In addition to your tuition fees, you must also have funding for your living expenses – typically GBP £650 - GBP £850 per month (depending on type of accommodation).

Personal statement

You are required to complete a personal statement.
The statement should add any further information which you think is relevant to your application e.g. personal suitability for research, career aspirations, possible future research interests, further description of relevant employment experience etc. Also include information about your leisure activities and interests.

Please do not include symbols in your text as the system may not recognise them.


You must provide two official references.  Members of your family or friends cannot provide references.  At least one of your referees should be from the institution where you studied your last University degree. For Research Applicants: If you have completed your first Degree at a different University to your Masters Degree please provide a reference from both Institutions. References must be provided on headed-paper and/or stamped by the institution and must be signed by the referee.

If you choose to enter an email address for either of your referees they will be automatically e-mailed to ask them to provide you with a reference if the ‘Email this referee on application submission?’ box is ticked. The referee’s email address must originate from the referee’s official university/professional e-mail address. Private e-mail references will not be accepted.

The referees will receive full instructions on how to complete the references and where to send once they have completed the reference. PLEASE NOTE: If you apply for more than one course at Aston but are using the same referee you do not need to tick the ‘Email this referee on application submission?’ box, for your second or any subsequent applications.

Those applicants who have chosen not to have their referees automatically emailed will need to contact the relevant Admissions Office for more information on manually sending the references for your application. Please include the Application Reference Number, emailed to you separately, on all correspondence.

  • For MSc programmes in Aston Business School and the School of Engineering and Applied Science, you will be required to enter the highest qualification you have achieved in a mathematical or statistical subject (with grade).
  • You will be required to show your original documents together with official translations into English, on arrival at the University for Enrolment.

If you are applying to a School Advertisement please state the reference code. This can be found on the School webpage which displays the advertisement.

What happens next?

Once you have completed your application you will be automatically logged out from the system and emailed with confirmation that your application has been received. We will also email you a copy of your completed application form.

After this point, admissions staff at Aston will communicate with you via the email address you have provided regarding the outcome of your application and you will not need to log in to the Online Application form again.

If you have any supporting documents which you need to send to us please send these to the relevant school by either post or e-mail. 

Notification of decision

The University will make a decision based on the information you have provided and you will be advised of the decision within a few weeks; please allow up to six weeks. (If you do not hear anything after 6 weeks and you have completed your online application and provided all required supporting documentation, you can email the relevant Admissions Office as stated on your receipt of application email. Your query can be processed quicker if you can provide your Reference Number, as provided on the email sent to you when you submitted your application form).

You will then be contacted by the university with a decision – confirming an offer of a place on your chosen programme or advising you that your application has been unsuccessful. The offer of a place may be subject to certain conditions which you have to meet before your admission can be confirmed (conditional offer). 

You must satisfy these conditions by sending further evidence or completing additional documentation to the University. If you are made an offer of a place and accept your offer you will be required to submit a deposit along with your acceptance form by a given deadline.  This deposit reserves a place on the programme.  If you do not comply by the deadline, your place on the programme is then offered to another applicant.

If you have any more questions about the application process or the information you will need to provide the University, please contact us.

Technical problems

This section provides you with some simple solutions to technical problems that you might have whilst completing the online Application Form.

I can’t create a new account, what should I do?
If you are unable to create a new account, please ensure that you are using a supported web browser (listed below) and that you are completing all of the required fields on the new account page.

You are unable to create an account twice with the same email address. If you need to apply for a second Degree Programme at Aston, you can use your existing account details to log in. If you have forgotten your original password, please follow the instructions below to receive a reminder of your password.

If (after verifying that you are using a supported web browser and that you do not already have an account in the system) you are still unable to create an account please contact our technical support staff at

I haven’t received any emails from the application form, why is this?
Normally, you will receive an email once you choose to ‘save and return Later’ to your current application or when you complete an application form. You may not receive these emails if:
Your email software or provider has marked the emails as Junk or Spam. Please check your Junk / Spam folder to see if any emails have been directed there.  Additionally, please ensure that you add ‘’ to your email account safe list so that any further emails sent to you by the Admissions team are received quickly and safely. You may also have entered your email address incorrectly when creating your account. If this is the case, please contact our technical support staff at with your name, date of birth and email address. How do I get a reminder of or reset my password?
To have your password reset visit this webpage on MAP. You will be asked to provide the email address, surname and date of birth that you entered when you originally created your account. If these are accepted by the system, your password will be reset to a random value and emailed to you.

If you are unable to retrieve your password this way, please contact our technical support staff at

The application form doesn’t look right or doesn’t work properly on my computer, what can I do?
The Aston application form has been tested to work with the following web browsers:
Internet Explorer 8 Firefox Google Chrome Safari You will also need to ensure that Javascript is enabled on your internet browsing software. This is usually enabled by default.
If you are using one of these web browsers and are still experiencing issues, please contact our technical support staff at

I’ve made some mistakes on my application form or supporting documentation, what do I do?
If you haven’t submitted your application form, you can change any of the documents you have uploaded and any of the information you have entered simply by logging into your application and making the necessary changes.

If you have submitted your application form, please contact the relevant Admissions Office as stated on your receipt of application email  with details of any changes you wish to make, along with any supporting documentation if applicable

How do I log back into an uncompleted application form once I have chosen to ‘Save and Return Later’?
You can access any existing application form by simply logging back into your application.

You can log in using the email address and password you used to create your account. However you cannot use this to start a new application.

Additional advice for international students

If you are a non-EU student and require a student visa to come to the UK, you must also allow sufficient time to submit your visa application form to your local British Embassy/High Commission.

If you are applying as a non-EU International student, you should note that the terms and conditions of entry into the UK usually prevent you registering for a part-time programme.  For more information, please refer to or

Contact us

If you require any additional advice before you wish to submit your application, please contact the relevant school directly or if you are an international student please contact the International Office by email 

Aston Business School

Postgraduate Taught Programmes:

Research Programmes:

School of Engineering & Applied Science

Postgraduate Taught Programmes:

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School of Languages & Social Sciences

Postgraduate Taught Programmes:

Research Programmes:

School of Life & Health Sciences

Postgraduate Taught Programmes:

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Contact us

Postgraduate Research Admissions Officers

Mr Steve Baker +44 (0)121 204 5246

Ms Katy Physick +44 (0)121 204 5458


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