School of Social, Historical and Literary Studies


Sociology's long-standing interest in the intricacies of social life and the multiple respects in which social institutions, structures, and processes influence conduct makes it vital for understanding the pressing issues of our times. At Portsmouth, studying the discipline fosters an appreciation of the increasing complexity of contemporary social life, including the pace, scale, and scope, of local and global processes of transformation and the challenges societies face in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.

Our degree programmes provide detailed knowledge and understanding of analysis, methods of inquiry, critique, forms and techniques of communication, as well as the generation, management, and delivery of information – an impressive range of abilities that can be used in a wide variety of future careers. Furthermore, and perhaps most significantly, we encourage and enable students to draw on social scientific research to think sociologically – critically, imaginatively, and creatively – about contemporary social life, to make sense of social, cultural, economic, and political processes of transformation and the consequences for individuals, communities, and societies.

Areas of staff interest include: classical and contemporary social thought; consumer culture and economic life; the cultural economy of sport; food and drink; gender; happiness and wellbeing; race, migration, nationalism, and global inequality; sexuality; taste, social class and culture; violence, war and militarism; work, employment and craft.  

Our academic staff members are enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and understanding through their teaching and their research and publications in their fields of expertise.  Whether in a single-honours course or one of several combined honours programmes undergraduate students of sociology can expect research-led teaching, units taught by approachable well-informed lecturers who are at the forefront of their fields, and who will deliver insightful and accessible lectures.  In turn postgraduate students will benefit from being in a rich, vibrant, and supportive research environment, working with highly productive, internationally recognised sociological researchers.

Studying sociology as an undergraduate

As an undergraduate in Sociology at Portsmouth, you will explore a stimulating curriculum that will enable you to develop a critical and independent understanding of the world in which we live. You will assess a range of classical and contemporary perspectives on modern social life and explore current debates in areas of sociology such as risk, violence, food, happiness, and consumerism, as well as the economic, cultural, social and political dilemmas that face us in a globalizing world. You will be taught by lecturers who are also very active in sociological research, ensuring that your learning embraces the most up-to-date work in the field.

While the combined honours courses allow you to examine the world through the perspectives of another discipline in combination with those of Sociology, the single honours course allows you to study the one discipline in even greater depth. Whether you study sociology on its own or in combination with another subject, you will be able to tailor the syllabus to your interests with a range of optional units.  Students combining sociological study with criminology or media studies may choose to write their dissertations in either of the two subjects.

In the 2015 National Student Survey, the Sociology Subject Area received a student satisfaction score of 94%, as compared to the sector average of 86%. In the 2013 and 2014 National Student Survey, 100% of BSc Sociology students expressed satisfaction with the course, and the same was the case for Sociology with Psychology in 2014.

Postgraduate study

Master's level

Sociology staff members contribute to a range of interesting and stimulating courses at Master’s level within the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, including:

Our MRes will enable you to expand your knowledge of research methodologies while focusing on an area of sociology that is of interest to you.  At the same time as being useful in itself for a future career in research it will allow you to progress from undergraduate to PhD study in a research-focused environment.

PhD/MPhil study

PhD /MPhil study is offered on a full-time and a part-time basis, and students have in the past been financed on a scholarship and self-funding basis.

During the first phase of their studies, students usually study and develop the empirical, analytical and theoretical tools that enable them to establish the foundations of their thesis. During the second phase of their studies, students focus exclusively on their theses. Specialist guidance is provided by a main supervisor and an additional supervisory team, and students also participate in the thriving post-graduate culture provided by the Faculty's Centre for European and International Studies Research (CEISR). CEISR hosts a regular series of research lectures and post-graduate study sessions.

In the last few years, students have studied for PhDs in Sociology in a wide range of areas with projects ranging across theoretical and substantive issues and concerns. Our students have an excellent track record of publishing their research in article or monograph form, and of obtaining academic posts, or progressing in their chosen careers at the end of their studies. Read more: PhD Study in History, Sociology and Politics.

Research in sociology

Sociology research at Portsmouth is undertaken by a subject team that contains some of the world’s leading figures in their areas of expertise, within the university's research centre CEISR. We also offer higher degree supervision and postgraduate teaching in Sociology of the very highest quality, which has been consistently praised by external audits for the quality of its curriculum and the overall education experience, and we are proud of our commitment to bringing research into undergraduate and Master's-level teaching with research staff who are fully part of the teaching environment.


While studying Sociology at Portsmouth you will also be helped to reflect upon your career ambitions, hone your transferable skills, and enhance your employability.  As a Sociology graduate from Portsmouth you will have developed a range of capabilities and skills that are valued by prospective employers and are easily transferable to the workplace. You will have the capacity to analyse arguments and interrogate data, to handle and synthesise information from a variety of sources, to manage and analyse large amounts of complex information, to undertake independent and team-based research, to construct and communicate reasoned arguments, to write in a concise and informative way and to manage your own time and projects efficiently. You will also have developed excellent written and oral presentation skills – essential qualities in a graduate. These transferable skills are used in a wide range of career opportunities across the private, public, and voluntary sectors.

In addition, the subject specific skills of a sociology graduate are highly valued by employers. The in-depth knowledge of human societies, the ability to critically evaluate central issues affecting society and the capacity to gain insights into how people respond to a variety of situations will enhance your employability in a range of fields. Graduates from our sociology degree programmes pursue careers in a wide variety of professions, including the police service, housing services, local government, youth work, and the civil service. Many have also entered careers in social research, marketing, advertising, journalism, banking and finance. Some also continue their education in postgraduate programmes of study, either related to their sociology degree or that take them into specific careers like law, social work, teaching, probation, counselling, journalism, and even academia.