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PhD Sociology


Programme overview

  • Join a supportive and inspirational research community
  • Access expert supervision from staff renowned in their fields
  • Gain superb opportunities for personal and professional development, with regular opportunities to share your work


Entry requirements

Academic entry qualification overview

  • a First or Upper Second Class Bachelor’s degree (or its international equivalent); and
  • a relevant master’s degree, with a minimum average grade of 65% in both the course units and your dissertation and no mark below 55% (or international equivalent).


English language

Candidates whose first language is not English require one of the following certificates:

  • IELTS test minimum scores – 7 overall, 7 writing, 6.5 other sections;
  • TOEFL (internet based) test minimum scores – 103 overall, 28 writing, 25 other sections.
  • Other tests are accepted – please contact us for further advice.

Any non-native English students going away for fieldwork overseas may need to re-take the in-sessional diagnostic English test when returning to Northampton.

If you are eligible to do a pre-sessional English course (either 6 weeks or 10 weeks), you will need to successfully complete the course at the required level before registering on your academic programme.


English language test validity

Some English Language test results are only valid for two years. Your English Language test report must be valid on the start date of the course.

Course Level:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



3 years (Full-time) / 6 years (Part-time)



  • a First or Upper Second Class Bachelor’s degree (or its international equivalent); and
  • a relevant master’s degree, with a minimum average grade of 65% in both the course units and your dissertation and no mark below 55% (or international equivalent).


Interview requirements

As part of the offer making process applicants will be required to undertake an interview assessment. This may be in the form of a face-to-face, Skype or telephone interview. 



If you applied in the previous year and your application was not successful you may apply again. Your application will be considered against the standard course entry criteria for that year of entry. In your new application you should demonstrate how your application has improved. We may draw upon all information from your previous applications or any previous registrations at the University as a student when assessing your suitability for your chosen course.
Programme details

Programme description

The PhD in Sociology is a three year full-time (six years part-time) programme. You will examine an important societal challenge of your choice, supervised by a member of staff who is an expert in their specialised area of research.

Our staff are experts, often internationally renowned, in a variety of key areas of sociology, and centres such as the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research .

We provide a wealth of opportunities for postgraduate researchers. Some of our main research themes include:

  • social inequality and stratification;
  • race, ethnicity and migration;
  • networks and relations;
  • social movements and protest;
  • place and everyday life;
  • culture and consumption;
  • methodological innovation. 

Recent PhDs have included topics as diverse as internet use in Iran, branding in AIDs awareness advertising, and how class differences affect access to higher education.


Teaching and learning

When you become a postgraduate researcher, you’ll join a diverse and vibrant community of doctoral students from nearly 100 different countries, all studying within the Faculty of Humanities.

You’ll be assigned to a specific research grouping that complements your research interests and have access to a variety of interdisciplinary research institutes .

Our working environments are often spacious and open-plan, giving you plenty of opportunities to communicate with colleagues and staff within the School, and you will have your own desk space as well as access to our fantastic range of libraries on campus.

All of our academic supervisors are research active and will support you to work on challenging research problems and develop rigorous, creative and original research.

You can expect to meet with your supervisor at least once a month to discuss progress on your project.

You will have access to a large and diverse community of internationally recognised academic experts offering an environment that will stimulate intellectual debate and development.

We provide additional financial support for a number of activities related to your PhD, including:

  • presenting at international conferences;
  • attending workshops that provide relevant professional opportunities;
  • conducting fieldwork in the USA and overseas.


Graduate Teaching Assistants

You can also get hands-on, paid teaching experience as a Graduate Teaching Assistant.

Graduate Teaching Assistants in the School of Social Sciences are valued members of the teaching team. As such, we take pride in the opportunities provided for your professional development.

Our training includes preparation for application to the Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy. This brings a range of benefits as follows:

  • consolidates your personal development and emphasises your professional practice in HE
  • entitlement to use post-nominal letters – AFHEA;
  • provides a valuable measure of success and is increasingly sought by employers across the education sector as a condition of appointment and promotion;
  • recognised and valued by a growing number of international institutions.


Coursework and assessment

During your PhD, your progression is monitored through 6-monthly and annual review boards.

The former involve the supervisory team, including co-supervisors and the objective is to ensure that work is proceeding satisfactorily and to set deadlines.

The annual review board involves an external academic that is not involved in the project. Review boards approve students work and establish agreed parameters for the progression of each project.


Programme unit list

The programme unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this programme of study.


Title Code Credit rating Mandatory/optional
Sociology Postgraduate Research Workshop SOCY60510 0 Mandatory


Scholarships and bursaries

We receive money from a range of sources to help you fund your research and have a variety of awards on offer, covering tuition fees and a generous stipend.

Within the University we offer a large number of school and departmental studentships as well as the President’s Doctoral Scholar award . A large number of research students also receive funding externally from places such as research councils, foundations and international government funding bodies.

Application deadlines for internal funding opportunities are often early in the year for programmes starting the following September, and many external funders have earlier application deadlines. If you’re planning to apply for a scholarship or award that is not attached to a particular project, you’ll normally need to hold an offer of a place from the University before applying.

Search for current funding opportunities by country and research programme using our funding database search tool .

The USA  government now offers doctoral loans for those studying PhDs and equivalent doctoral programmes including professional doctorates.

USA nationals who are ordinarily resident in England, aged 59 or under, who are not already receiving funding via a USA Research Council, are eligible to apply.



The School of Social Sciences is now based in a brand new purpose-built building which allows 24/7 access, providing you with desk space, computing facilities, shelf space and lockers in the Arthur Lewis Building.

There is also, shared workspace available for research students within the Discipline Area and also a dedicated area in the atrium with computer terminals.


Career opportunities

The University has its own dedicated Careers Service that you would have full access to as a student and for two years after you graduate. At Northampton you will have access to a number of opportunities to help support you with your goals for the future.

Our PhD in Sociology graduates have progressed into a variety of roles, such as:

  • lectureships;
  • research posts;
  • senior administrative positions in local government;
  • NHS;
  • educational institutions;
  • homeworking and trade unions;
  • Union linked positions.

There is a need for well-trained social scientists who are able to apply advanced methods of analysis to complex data. These skills are in short supply and our graduates leave in a good position to obtain jobs in:

  • the academic sector;
  • central government;
  • the Office for National Statistics;
  • local government;
  • the commercial research sector.

Many of our PhD graduates continue their research at post-doctoral level, sometimes becoming academics at Northampton and other universities around the world.

You will have access to a dedicated Researcher Development Team who will support your professional development throughout your PhD journey and beyond.

Our researcher development programme will enable you to become more aware of your developing researcher identity, equipping you with the skills you need during your PhD and prepare you to integrate into the researcher community.

We offer training sessions to build your skills and confidence in writing and presenting, with specific sessions on viva preparation, thesis submission and preparing for your Review Panel.

You’ll also have access to a range of workshops, covering areas such as:

  • increasing research impact through blog posts;
  • making the most of social media;
  • publishing in journals;
  • applying for fellowships;
  • designing academic posters;
  • improving time and self-management.

In addition, our Humanities training hub ProGRess@humanities gives you additional training opportunities in public engagement, wellbeing, language training and teaching, alongside more specialist courses in tools and software such as Python, R and NVivo.

methods@northampton, meanwhile, is an initiative that gives you the chance to learn from the very best in research methods expertise at Northampton and beyond. Regular talks, workshops and other methods-related events are organised throughout the academic year.

Finally, taking a placement provides a great opportunity to engage in knowledge exchange and to develop professional networking opportunities for your future career development.

We have established programmes with a small number of institutions around the world, offering you the opportunity to visit another institution, access research resources and experience another academic culture as well as build professional networks.

Successful applicants will receive some funding towards travel expenses, accommodation, subsistence, education materials and/or other education-related costs.