A PhD offers the chance to undertake a substantial piece of supervised work that is worthy of publication and which makes an original contribution to knowledge in a particular field. Research programmes (leading to a PhD) are designed to produce professional social scientists well versed in a range of social science techniques and methods, in addition to having an in-depth knowledge of a particular area. At LSE, you will pursue either an MRes/PhD, which starts with master's level study in your chosen area, including methodology training, or an MPhil/PhD, which follows on from previous master's level study, but may still include some taught elements.

In preparing your application you might find it useful to look at the following: LSE’s academic departments and potential supervisors; funding for doctoral students; the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre; specialist methodology training; professional development for doctoral students and our events programme.

Students studying for a PhD are required to carry out research (both from documents and in the field) and collect data from which they must write a thesis of approximately 100,000 words. Students in some departments may be permitted to submit a final thesis by a series of papers, with a linking introduction and conclusion. In addition, all students will normally be required to attend certain taught courses. Although each student's method of research will be different, the amount of time spent on their studies will be broadly equivalent to that required to pursue an undergraduate course or undertake full-time employment – ie in excess of 30 hours per week. The work-load of part-time students would be approximately half that of full-time students.

Find out more about life as a PhD student at LSE by visiting the PhD Academy web pages, where you will find lots of information about the services and opportunities you will have open to you

Duration of study

The time taken to complete any research degree depends on your progress and individual needs and you must remain registered with the School until your thesis has been submitted.

MPhil/PhD: You register for the MPhil in the first instance. An assessment of your work, which usually occurs between 12 and 18 months from your start date, will allow us to appraise your aptitude for original research at doctoral level. If you have progressed satisfactorily you will be retroactively upgraded to full PhD status. The total duration of study is a maximum of four years full-time.

MRes/PhD: You register for the MRes, which lasts one or two years full-time, depending on which track you are admitted to. In order to progress to the PhD part of the programme, you must satisfy progression requirements for your department, usually a merit overall and a merit in the dissertation. Registration at PhD level is usually a maximum of four years full-time, meaning the total duration of the MRes/PhD is five or six years.

MRes/MPhil/PhD programmes normally start in late September each year but with the permission of the relevant department you may start in January (Lent term) or exceptionally in April (Summer term). This depends on the availability of taught courses that your department and academic supervisor decide that you must take. Most of those courses are held in the Michaelmas term, so most research programmes start in September. See Research start dates.


You will be assigned a lead supervisor (and a second supervisor/adviser) who is a specialist in your chosen research field, though not necessarily in your topic. Lead supervisors guide you through your studies. During your first year you will attend and contribute to departmental research seminars, workshops and research training courses. These are designed to strengthen your methodological skills, language skills or background knowledge of specific topics related to your research. 

By the end of your first year you will be required to present a more detailed project proposal. The proposal, which should illustrate your command of the theoretical and empirical literature related to your topic, will be a clear statement of the theoretical and methodological approach you will take. It will include a draft outline and work plan, which should identify any periods of fieldwork necessary to your research. This should demonstrate the coherence and feasibility of the proposed research and thesis.

Students are invited to submit applications that complement the academic interests of members of staff at the School. You will find staff areas of research interest on the relevant webpages. You should also consult the information for research students.

Opportunities to study abroad during your MPhil/PhD programme

Students may have the opportunity to link their LSE research degree with a short period of study at another institution. These arrangements are usually in the form of a Research Exchange Programme with an overseas institution affiliated with the School.  Exchanges or other similar opportunities are only available within certain academic departments and students must be registered within the appropriate department in order to be considered for an exchange arrangement.

These exchanges offer students an opportunity to visit another institution, to benefit from additional research resources (archival and advisory) and to become familiar with the academic culture and professional contacts of another country.

Current opportunities include:

Partnership PhD Mobility Bursaries

Ten mobility bursaries are on offer each year to visit one of the School's five partner institutions: Columbia University (New York), the National University of Singapore (NUS), Peking University (Beijing), Sciences Po (Paris) or the University of Cape Town. For any one partner institution, up to two bursaries are available for a visit of two to three months. Participants will work informally with an adviser on their PhD thesis, research and/or on related publications and presentations. Participants will also be introduced to the academic culture, professional contacts and employment opportunities of another country/region. Students who have already been upgraded to full doctoral student status are eligible to apply. Calls for applications will be advertised internally at the end of the Lent term for the following academic year.


Erasmus enables higher education students, teachers and institutions in 31 European countries to study for part of their degree in another country.  Further information on current opportunities can be accessed at Erasmus

Other opportunities

There are a number of other arrangements in place in academic departments. An authoritative list is currently being compiled and, once available, will be accessible via the Research students page.

Visiting research students

Students who are currently undertaking research at other institutions may apply to LSE to attend for up to one year as a Visiting Research Student as part of their PhD.