Research degrees in the School of Languages and Social Sciences (On Campus)

Course overview

Entry requirements

  • General Requirements
    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.
More information

Key Dates

  • Registration dates
    October and April

ESRC-accredited research methods training

100% of the LSS Modern Languages and Linguistics submission was awarded 4* or 3* for research environment, ranking Aston joint 1st in the UK

81% of the LSS Area Studies submission has been judged as “world leading or internationally excellent”, the 3rd highest percentage in the UK

Aston University is the lead partner on the €4.6m 'Cultural heritage and identities of Europe's future (CHIEF)' project recently funded by the European Commission

Course summary

LSS welcomes applications for the doctoral programme in any of the research areas covered by the School, this includes: English; Literature; History; Languages (French, German, Spanish) and Translation Studies; European Integration in comparative political, security, social and economic contexts; International Relations; Politics; Sociology and Policy.

Key information

Registration dates: Two registration dates: October and April.


Fees 2019/20:  

  • UK/EU students: £4,327 (part-time £2,164)
  • International students: £13,650 (part-time unavailable) 

Home/EU fees are subject to a slight increase each year. International fees are fixed for the duration of the programme.

Programme Structure

During year one of the programme (or years one and two for part time students) research students must complete our ESRC-accredited research methods training modules and work towards submission of the Qualifying Report examination. The Qualifying Report is between 6,000 and 10,000 words and is a summary on the progress of a student’s research. Assessment is conducted through a viva voce examination whose purpose is not only to ascertain a student’s academic potential but also to provide independent advice on a student’s research.Students who are successful in the Qualifying Report examination then follow the full PhD programme route through to submission of the final thesis. PhD students have three years full time or six years part time from their research start date in which to submit the thesis. Examination of the thesis is via a viva voce examination and successful students after this stage receive Aston’s ‘Doctor of Philosophy’ research degree.

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:

Non-native speakers of English are normally required to satisfy the following minimum English language requirements:

  • IELTS: 6.5 (minimum 6.5 in writing and reading and minimum 6.0 in speaking and listening)
  • TOEFL iBT:  93 (minimum 26 in writing, 22 in speaking, 19 in listening, 18 in reading) 
  • Pearson Academic: 63 (minimum 63 in writing and speaking, and 57 in reading and listening)
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): Grade B
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): Grade A

Please note that due to Test Centre closures, we are now able to accept both the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition and the IELTS Indicator. The required scores for these tests will be the same as those detailed for the standard TOEFL and IELTS tests, respectively.

How to Apply

Apply by completing the Postgraduate research application form including:

  • A substantial outline of your proposed research (see below).
  • 2 written references
  • Photocopies of your first and Masters degree certificates and a transcript of your grades
  • Evidence of an approved English language qualification (if required)

Your application and proposal will be reviewed by the School’s Research Committee - you will then be notified of the outcome. 

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.

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 staff directory pages which will enable you to determine whether there is a good match between your research interests and LSS.  

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 this further with them. In addition to contacting a prospective supervisor you also need to submit a formal application. If you are successful 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.

Contact Us

Postgraduate Research Admissions Officers

Mr Steve Baker +44 (0)121 204 5246

Ms Katy Physick +44 (0)121 204 5458



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