PhD - School of Social Sciences and Humanities

The School of Social Sciences 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; Translation Studies; European Integration in comparative political, security, social and economic contexts; International Relations; Politics; Sociology and Policy.

 

Please note that each year there is one enrolment point in October and the application deadline is 1st July. Applications received after this date will be considered for the following October.

 

 

Course type

Full-time / Part-time

Course format

No placements

Duration

3 years full-time, 6 years part-time

UCAS code(s)

N/A

Start date

About

Researchers in the School of Social Sciences 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.

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

Programme Structure

Year 1

In the first year you will undertake four ESRC approved taught Research Methods modules. These modules are designed to provide you with the necessary skills to both successfully complete your PhD, and to develop as a well-rounded researcher.

In line with ESRC initiatives, the Research Methods course is taught by experts across the College of Business and Social Sciences and involves modules on (1) Philosophy of Social Science Research, (2) Research Design, Practice and Ethics, (3) Fundamentals in Quantitative Research Methods, and (4) Foundations in Qualitative Research Methods.

These modules are designed to support the development of your research project and, ultimately, support the submission of a final Qualifying Report towards the end of Year 1.

The Qualifying Report is an extended research proposal that details your proposed research aims and objectives, contributions to current academic knowledge, and the research strategy, design, and methods you intend to employ to meet these aims and objectives.

You are required to defend your Qualifying Report through a viva voce oral examination involving two internal academic examiners, one of whom will be familiar with the subject area. Upon successful completion of this examination, you will then be allowed to proceed onto the PhD Programme.

Year 2

During the second year you will typically concentrate on obtaining ethical approval for your research, before focusing on data collection and analysis. For some students this will involve travel to external research sites where data is collected. Towards the end of Year 2, you are required to communicate and defend your research progress. This is either through:

  1. An oral presentation of all, or part, of your research
  2. The write up of all, or part, of your research as a journal paper/article (without the requirement to submit for publication)
  3. The write up of all, or part, of your research in the form of an empirical chapter that would constitute part of your thesis
Year 3

Year three is typically a writing up year, where you will spend most of your time developing your thesis.

We would also encourage you to submit to important academic conferences in order to communicate your research to an external audience and to develop your research profile.

If you are seeking to pursue a career in academia, we also encourage you to consider sending work for publication.

At the end of the final year, you will submit your thesis and will have a formal viva voce examination, where your finished PhD is examined by one internal and one external examiner.

 

 

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.

Fees

UK students (2022/23): £4,596

International students (2022/23): £15,100

Home students, including EU students with settled or pre-settled status, living in England may be eligible for a non-means tested, low interest, loan towards tuition costs and living expenses. Find out more about the Doctoral Loan Scheme.

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 for students 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. Any such increase shall always be in accordance with the law. When undertaking a placement year, a placement year fee applies.

More information on fees


PhD Scholarships

ESRC funded PhD Studentships

Fully funded studentships from the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Midlands Graduate School Doctoral Training Partnership.

Applications for the European Area Studies pathway are now open!

Please follow this link for details of how to apply:

Midlands Graduate School ESRC DTP PhD studentship competition 2023 entry

The application deadline is 23.59 on Tuesday 24th January 2023.

BSS PhD Studentships

Applications for fully funded studentships in the College of Business and Social Sciences are now open! 

Please follow this link for details of how to apply: 

BSS PhD Studentship competition 2023 entry

The application deadline is 23.59 on Tuesday 31st January 2023

Please note if your research area falls within the remit of European Area Studies we strongly encourage you to also consider applying for an ESRC funded studentship (see above). The application process is very similar and therefore you will be able to submit your application to both competitions.

 

How to apply

The PhD programme recruits students to start in October and 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

Title 

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

Introduction

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. 

Data 

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

Methodology 

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.

Timetable

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).

References 

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. Use the 'Select Online Application Form' below to access the online application form. Then click "Apply for selected Degree Programme" (this will open in a new window)
  2. Complete the online application form, uploading the necessary documents
  3. We'll review your application and contact you if we require any additional information/documents
  4. If you have applied for one of our research projects, and your application is successful, the supervisor will contact you to arrange an interview.
  5. If you have submitted your own project, and your application is successful, a supervisor who is interested in your project will contact to arrange an interview.

    How to Reduce Process Time
  • Contact academics at Aston University and find someone who would like to supervise your research. Name them in your application. 
  • Provide all the documents required. Make sure that these are high-quality scans and (if applicable) certified English translations.
  • Be aware of the degree programme fees and explain clearly in your application how this will be funded.

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.

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.

Sponsored Students

You are a sponsored student if all or part of your tuition fees will be paid by an external organisation. This may be an employer, government body or embassy (not a family member). On receipt of an official letter purchase order, the University will send a tuition fee invoice directly to your sponsor.

Please specify in your application that you are a sponsored student. To confirm your sponsorship, please follow the instructions here: Tuition Fee Sponsorship | Aston University

Completing the online form

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

Names
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 your personal email address - the email address used to register an online application account with Aston University.

Alternative contact E-mail address. If you are an Educational Agent, working on behalf of an applicant, please insert the Educational Agent email address in this box.

Addresses
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 Enabling Team
Aston University
Aston Triangle
Birmingham
B4 7ET
UK

Telephone: +44 (0) 121 204 4700
E-mail: enablingteam@aston.ac.uk

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.

English
All applicants are required to provide evidence of their ability in English. The minimum English language requirement varies between schools - please refer to the English Language Requirements page for the individual programme requirements.

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 course entry requirements 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.

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.

Research proposal
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 refer to ‘How to Apply’ section on the programme page for programme-specific requirements. If applying for an advertised project or studentship, please refer to the advert for research proposal requirements.

References
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. 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 PGR 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.

If you are applying for an advertised Studentship please state the reference code. This can be found on the advertisement.

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.

English
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.

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.

Research proposal
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 refer to ‘How to Apply’ section on the programme page for programme-specific requirements. If applying for an advertised project or studentship, please refer to the advert for research proposal requirements.

References
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.

If you are applying for an advertised Studentship please state the reference code. This can be found on 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.

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 pgr_admissions@aston.ac.uk.
 

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. (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 PGR 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 you when you submitted your application form).

You will be contacted by the university with a decision to invite you to an interview, or that your application has been unsuccessful.

Following a successful interview, the offer of a place will be made. This may be subject to certain conditions which you have to meet before your admissions can be confirmed (conditional offer). You must satisfy these conditions by sending further evidence or completing additional documentation to the University.

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 it_helpdesk@aston.ac.uk

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 ‘aston.ac.uk’ 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 it_helpdesk@aston.ac.uk 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 it_helpdesk@aston.ac.uk

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 it_helpdesk@aston.ac.uk

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 an overseas 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.

For some of our courses you may also be required to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate, which can take up to 4 weeks to be issued, please allow sufficient time for this.

If you are applying as an 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 www.gov.uk/student-visa or www.ukcisa.org.uk

Contact us

If you require any additional advice before you wish to submit your application, please contact us at pgr_admissions@aston.ac.uk

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