PhD in Sociology or Social Anthropology

PhD applicants require a good master’s degree in sociology, social anthropology or a cognate discipline, as well as a strong commitment to advanced-level research that will make an authoritative contribution to knowledge within their chosen field of study.

The PhD programme involves independent and original research, beginning with the development of an approved research proposal (under the supervision of a supervisor and, where appropriate, a co-supervisor) and culminating in a dissertation. Following the approval of the proposal, Faculty rules stipulate that PhD candidates are required to spend at least two years in the programme. In practice, many students take longer.

Additional course work (for instance, modules on research methods or on sociological theory), in the form of postgraduate modules offered by our Department or in other departmental programmes, may be required of the candidate. This will be negotiated with each student individually, and will  depend on the nature of the dissertation and the evaluation of the supervisor.

For more details in the PhD application process, please follow this link:

For more details on the doctoral programme, see the General provisions section below.

Programme co-ordinator: Sociology

Dr Lloyd Hill


Programme co-ordinator: Social Anthropology

Prof. Steven Robins               


PhD studies in the Department: General provisions

Successful PhD candidates are expected to demonstrate both mastery of the theoretical and conceptual framework(s) relevant to their chosen field and the methodological expertise required to carry out research at doctoral level. They must be able to think in a critical, rigorous, and innovative ways and be able to communicate the results of their research through their dissertation, in compliance with appropriate academic norms and standards.

PhD application process

Please see the application form link in the section above…


The minimum period of registration for a doctoral programme is two years. In practice most students take three to four years to complete their thesis.

The supervisory relationship

Supervisors are appointed by the Department in consultation with the student. A co-supervisor, from within or outside the Department, may also be appointed, depending on the nature of the study. At the doctoral level the supervisory relationship is of critical importance. The Department encourages PhD candidates and supervisors to negotiate a supervisory contract at the start of their research relationship, which addresses mutual expectations around communication, time frames for the submission of draft material, and supervisor feedback. Supervisor feedback can be in oral or written form.

Participation in the intellectual life of the Department

Doctoral students are encouraged to participate actively in the intellectual life of the Department, as far as possible. This includes participation in the Department’s PhD Research Forum and the Department’s general weekly seminar programme. Students may be asked or encouraged to present their work to the Department in the form of seminars.

Progress reports

The Department reviews individual student progress on an annual basis by means of a progress report that is completed by both the candidate and the supervisor. This report affords both students and supervisors an opportunity to reflect on academic progress and to identify any issues or problems requiring attention. Failure to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress may result in a departmental  recommendation to disallow re-registration in the following year.

Format of the dissertation

The recommended length of the doctoral dissertation is between 80 000 and 85 000 words (approximately 200 – 250 typed pages). University requirements with respect to thesis layout and submission procedures are set out in the Higher Degrees section of Part 1 (General) of the University Calendar. It is the responsibility of the PhD candidate to ensure that the dissertation meets these requirements.

Examination of the dissertation

Following submission, the dissertation is sent to internal and external examiners, in accordance with University policy. Examination usually involves a panel of three suitably qualified experts in the field (one internal to the University and two from outside the University). The examination is run under the auspices of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and takes the form of written reports and an oral examination of the thesis.

Conferences and publications

PhD students are encouraged to participate actively in academic workshops and seminars, and to present their work at national and international conferences. Depending on the state for funding, financial support for these activities may be available from the Department and/or the Faculty. This support typically requires motivation by the student, and the support of the supervisor. Students are also encouraged to explore opportunities for publishing their PhD research, either in monograph form or as academic articles.