MPhil/PhD programmes

What we offer

The Social Policy Department is one of the largest in the UK, with an international reputation for excellence.  In the UK's nationwide assessment of research quality, impact and environment, the Department was ranked first in the UK for world leading and internationally excellent research.


About our MPhil/PhD programme

The MPhil/PhD programme in Social Policy aims to provide research students with the skills and competencies to undertake a substantial piece of work that is of publishable quality and which makes an original contribution to the broad field of Social Policy.

 In the first year students follow a compulsory seminar course (covering the MPhil/PhD process, ethics, risks, research skills etc.). They must also present their work to fellow students and staff, prior to updgrade to PhD status which follows a formal assessment of their proposed doctoral research. Students may attend courses in the Methodology Department. There is also a seminar course for second and third year students; the key element of this involves third year PhD students presenting their work to fellow students and staff in advance of submitting their Third Year Review.

Throughout the programme, students meet regularly with their supervisor(s) to discuss and gain feedback on their work. At the end of the programme, the student submits a thesis; this must form a direct contribution to knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality by the discovery of new facts and/or by the exercise of independent critical power.  

Research community

The Department is able to offer supervision in a variety of specialist areas, and, with its research centres and groups and over 60 current research students, provides a vibrant and exciting research community.

Our Research students

There are a diverse cohort of students carrying out social policy research on topics including disadvantage and inequalities, international development, criminal justice, family policies, education policies, and demography/population studies. 

Our programmes

MPhil/PhD Social Policy

Visiting Research Student scheme

PLEASE NOTE: MPhil/PhD Demography/Population Studies- this programme is now offered by the Department of Methodology. More information here.


Appllications for 2024/25 entry is now closed. 

The application deadline for funded places for 2024/25 entry is now closed.

The Department does not normally allow self-funded students.

Information about funding is outlined below.

Application guidance 

Areas of specialisation

The Department is able to offer supervision in a wide range of specialist areas:

-   Civil society and non-governmental organisations
-   Crime and criminal justice
-   Demography
-   Disability
-   Earnings and income inequality, and mobility
-   Education policy
-   Employment and labour market
-   European and comparative Social Policy
-   Families, Children and Social Policy
-   Gender
-   Global Social Policy
-   Inequality, poverty and wealth
-   Lifecourse inequalities
-   Migration
-   Multidimensional inequality 
-   Population studies
-   Poverty and income dynamics
-   Race and Ethnicity 
-   Sexuality 
-   Social economics 
-   Social identities
-   Social mobility
-   Social Policy in developing countries
-   Social rights
-   Social security, housing, pensions and welfare reform
-   Welfare reform and social policy making
-   Welfare state development and change
-   Wellbeing

How to apply

All prospective research students must apply using the graduate online portal. Please read the information below before you begin the online application so that you have all the necessary documents ready for consideration. 

Completing your application

Your application must include:
- a CV
- a personal statement
- details of academic achievement (including existing and pending qualifications with transcripts)
- 2 academic references
- sample of written work
- a research proposal of up to 4000 words with a title and abstract (300 words max) included at the beginning.

Your research proposal should give details of the particular issue/problem to be addressed; relevant literature and previous research in the field; the theoretical/conceptual framework to be adopted; the proposed research question(s); and the planned research methods to answer the research question(s).  This will enable the Department to make an informed decision about the proposal and, equally important, to establish if there are appropriate supervisors available to supervise the planned research. Two supervisors are normally identified at this stage. Please include an abstract (300 words max) at the beginning of your proposal which clearly covers what you intend to research, including your methodological approach. 

See further information on supporting documents 

Application checklist

 - Use the correct application code

L4ZA MPhil/PhD in Social Policy
L4EA Visiting Research Student Social Policy

-  Do you meet the minimum requirements?

The minimum entry requirements for this programme are a 2:1 bachelor’s degree, plus Master’s degree marks equivalent to an LSE high merit grade (+ 65%), preferably in Social Policy or Public Policy, with an overall average of 65% (or equivalent) and 65 % in the dissertation (or equivalent).

-  Do you meet the English language requirements?

Applicants whose first language is not English, or who have not been taught entirely in English at degree level, are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. The most common qualifications are the IELTS or TOEFL tests.

Applicants do not need to have the required marks when they apply, but successful award of the qualification would form a condition of any offer issued, and would have to be achieved before registration. For research level, candidates are expected to meet the research programmes requirement. See our English language requirements

-  Identifying supervisors 

The Social Policy department welcomes applications for research programmes that complement the academic interests of members of staff at the School, we recommend that you investigate staff research interests before applying.

Please note: Prospective candidates for the MPhil/PhD in Social Policy are not expected  to contact potential supervisors in advance of their application. Due to the high volume of enquiries, potential supervisors are unlikely to be able to provide feedback on enquiries and outline proposals.

-  Part-time study

The Department allows part-time registration for those for whom full-time study is difficult because of other commitments. Students wishing to study part-time are encouraged to discuss their circumstances with the Department. As part of the application process they will be asked for documentary evidence in support of their request for part-time study; See Regulations for Research Students, paragraph 5. Students on a Tier 4 visa please check guidelines.

-  Application and funding deadlines

Applications are now closed for 2024/25 entry. 

The funding deadline for LSE PhD Studentships and ESRC funding is now closed. Selection for funding is based on receipt of a complete application (i.e including all supporting documents) by the deadline.

-  Apply early if you require funding

Early application to this programme is recommended particularly if you want to be considered for funding. If funding is not required applications should be received before 15 January 2024 to allow for consultations to take place within the Department. If places are still available, the Department may consider applications submitted after this date. Please note, the Department does not normally allow self-funded students.   

-  When will I hear the outcome of the application?

We aim to process all complete applications in a timely manner, however the application process for research programmes can take up to three months. This is to enable the Department to make an informed decision about your proposal and, equally important, to establish if there are appropriate supervisors available for your research. 

-  Interviews

The Department normally interviews shortlisted applicants before any offer of a place is made.

-  Programme start

Please note that the Department accepts application for starters at the beginning of the Autumn Term only. 

Visiting Research Students (VRS)

Visiting Research Student (VRS) scheme allows research students from other universities to spend up to 9 months in the Department of Social Policy. Visiting research students are normally research and doctoral students registered at overseas universities wishing to undertake some aspect of their research in the UK. Certain seminars and classes can be attended subject to the advice and approval of the supervisor and teachers concerned.

A supervisor is assigned to every VRS and advice and direction offered as necessary. 

How to apply to the VRS programme

The procedure and requirements are the same as for the MPhil/PhD. Please refer to the 'How to Apply' section above. Please ensure you use the correct code: L4EA- Visiting Research Social Policy.


1- . Where can I check the equivalence of my non-UK qualifications?

The Student Recruitment Office provides information aimed at prospective applicants coming from outside the UK. It includes information on international entry requirements.

Select the relevant region, click on the country of your choice and go to the entry requirements section on the left menu. 

2- Should I contact potential supervisors before I apply?

We do not expect applicants to identify potential supervisors beforehand as this is part of the selection process. If you are interested in establishing whether the Department currently has staff working in your proposed area of research, you can find details of the research interests of all staff within the Department's Who's Who webpages. If you feel that one of the academics in the Department has interests that fit with yours, you can name him/her in your application and he/she would normally be asked to consider your research proposal. 

Unfortunately, because of the high volume of enquiries, staff are not normally able to reply to requests for help with research applications or provide comments on PhD proposals. 

3 - Do you offer distance learning?

Our programme requires regular attendance at the LSE during their first year, to attend courses, supervisory meetings and seminars, so we cannot offer distance learning. In exceptional circumstances, students may be granted permission to reside outside the UK while continuing their research programme.

Please see Regulations for Research Students, paragraph17-18 for information on study time away from the School.

4. Can I apply for an MPhil programme rather than a PhD?

There is no a separate MPhil programme. First year students are registered as MPhil students only as part of their PhD programme. Once they pass Major Review at the end of their first year they upgrade to PhD status.   

Further details of alternative masters programmes is available here.


The MPhil/PhD Social Policy is part of the Social Policy group of accredited programmes for ESRC funding. LSE is an ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership.

Find out about scholarship opportunities available for the Department of Social Policy.

Contact us

All enquiries should be addressed to the Research degree programmes Officer: