Project code



School of Law

Start dates

February and October

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project, to commence in October or February.

The PhD will be based in the School of Law and will be supervised by Dr Victoria Hooton.

The Faculty of Business and Law offers funding to attend conferences (currently £550), training (currently £450), and a work-based placement (currently a maximum of £3,000 tied up to the period of 12 weeks).

The work on this project will:

  • Evaluate developments in EU law which are capable of influencing national social security systems
  • Analyse changes to UK social security and welfare law, to determine the level of EU influence
  • Consider the role of EU law in matters of social security, and the desirability for greater competence and involvement in this area
  • Discuss, if possible, the impact of Brexit on UK welfare law

This project will review the impact of EU free movement law on the UK welfare state. Social security is not an area of EU competence, and yet features heavily in debates around the costs of free movement within the EU. The UK has been particularly vocal on the need for greater protection for domestic welfare systems from the burdens placed on them by enhanced intra-EU mobility, including in the run-up to the 2016 referendum. The legal analysis of this project will shed light on a contentious part of the UK/EU relationship.

The thesis should assess the interplay between EU law and national welfare states, and consider legislative developments in this area to determine any growth in competence or involvement at the EU level. Measures on social security co-ordination and free movement for economically inactive citizens will be pertinent to this discussion. The project will also analyse legal changes in UK welfare law, and evaluate how EU jurisprudential and legislative advances have impacted this area. Particularly the CJEU citizenship and equal treatment jurisprudence, Regulation 883/2004, and Directive 2004/38/EC. The project will focus on changes to UK residency and immigration law, social security law, and how the National Health Service (NHS) is accessed by EU/EEA citizens.

The benefit to this analysis is twofold. First, it allows for a thorough evaluation of the level of welfare protection offered by EU law to Member States, and particularly highlights the adequacy of protection for the UK welfare state during its time as a Member State. Secondly, the analysis will show the level of impact EU law has had on the landscape of UK welfare law, opening up room for assessment of how desirable the impact is, in light of the lack of EU competence in this area. The project will add to a wealth of academic literature on the tension between advancements in EU citizenship and social policy, and national redistributive and democratic concerns.

Depending on the timing of the project, a discussion of the impact of Brexit on the welfare system, and access for EU citizens, will form part of the thesis. The discussion will include analysis of the Withdrawal Agreement, any EU or UK case law on the matter, and any future documents regulating access to welfare for EU citizens. In light of the political narrative concerning welfare access, it will be interesting to see what legal developments in this area unfold post-Brexit.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only – eligibility criteria apply).

2022/2023 fees (applicable for October 2022, February and April 2023 start) 

PhD and MPhil

UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students 

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

EU students
(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

International students

  • Full-time: £17,000 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £8,500 per year (may be subject to annual increase)

All fees are subject to annual increase. If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2022/23 please visit this page.

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry Requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Law or a related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Hooton ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

When applying please quote project code: LLAW4731020

October start

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February start

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