Key Facts

Course Code M1450
  • Qualification


  • Typical Course Length

    3 Years

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Founded in 1901, the Department of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth bases itself on a long, reputable and increasingly varied experience of legal education and academic work. Over the years a large number of well-known legal academics have taught in the Department and Aberystwyth law graduates have made their mark in a range of subsequent careers. The Department is confident in its distinctive identity and reputation for teaching of a high quality, linked to a vigorous research activity and carried out in a stimulating and friendly environment. The Department’s activities benefit from a mature and well-stocked library and generous and up-to-date information technology provision.

The Department of Law and Criminology recently participated in the Research Excellence Framework (2014) assessment. It found that 96.5% of publications submitted were of of an internationally recognised standard and that 98% of research activity in the department was rated as internationally recognised.

Masters by Research

At Aberystwyth you can register for an MPhil or an LLM (Research). There is no difference between these qualifications. Most students register for the Mphil, which is recognised in this country as a research qualification, whereas the LLM is usually reserved for Taught Masters.  Some overseas students, however, prefer to be awarded an LLM because the title signifies that it is a law degree. In either case, you can register for one year to produce a thesis of about 50,000 - 60,000 words. You work under the direction of one or more supervisors but are not required to attend any classes.  After the year at Aberystwyth you have up to two years to write up your research.

Studying for a Research Masters offers many of the attractions of studying for a PhD. It would be wrong, however, to think of a Masters dissertation as a short PhD. A Masters thesis should provide a detailed overview and critique of any area of law but it is not intended to provide an in-depth analysis in the same way as a PhD.  The main advantage of the Research Masters, therefore, is that it enables you to complete a piece of research and obtain a qualification for it in a relatively short period of time.

The Department is committed to a policy of innovation and development in teaching and research and regularly reviews both the range and content of its degree schemes and its modes of teaching and assessment in order to respond effectively to the needs and expectations of its student body. Recently the Department has worked closely with the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education in testing new processes for teaching quality assessment. The Department aims to maximise choice in its provision of legal education while ensuring that teaching is informed by up-to-date scholarship at the highest level. All members of academic staff are active in research and publication and a number of staff participates in national and international debate and policy-making in the legal and related fields. Recently, for instance, staff have been involved in the work of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, the Countryside Commission for Wales, the Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee and the Welsh Assembly Standing Orders Commission.

The Department participates actively in international and European academic networks, for purposes of both student mobility and exchanges (for instance through the Socrates programme) and staff and postgraduate research. There is a strong international student profile in the Department and there are frequent visits academics and experts from other countries.


A PhD is awarded upon the satisfactory completion of a thesis of about 80-100,000 words followed by viva voce examination. The normal period of registration is three years and it is expected that the thesis will be submitted within four years of initial registration. As explained above, much of the first year is spent undertaking research training, leaving the second and third years for full-time research into the chosen topic. A PhD enables you to become expert in your chosen subject and to explore the intricacies of the law in context. In order to satisfy the examiners, you must demonstrate originality of thought as well as detailed analysis.

A PhD is regarded as a major stepping stone in academic and academic-related careers. It signifies that you are capable of undertaking detailed research and of presenting the results of that research in an understandable way. 

Many people embark on a PhD in order to make progress in their employment and a large number are actually sponsored by their employers to do the degree. Others see it as the logical next step after their undergraduate or Masters studies.  In any case, it is a rare opportunity for you to spend two to three years working on a subject that excites and fascinates you.  Most people who complete a PhD find it to have been a challenging, but extremely rewarding, experience.

  • Overview
  • Modules


LLM by Research and MPhil

The degrees of LLM and MPhil are designed for those who wish to pursue research in a particular area of legal interest under the expert guidance of a member of the Department's staff.

Requirements for Completion for the LLM by Research MPhil

Both the LLM and MPhil require the candidate to complete a thesis of around 60,000 words. The candidate will consult regularly with his or her supervisor, who will advise and provide guidance on the project. Those studying the degree full-time will also take a short course on research training to assist them to develop appropriate research skills.

Period of Study for the LLM by Research MPhil

The normal period of registration for a full-time student is 12 months during which time the student must be based in Aberystwyth. The normal period of registration for a part-time student is two years. Those studying on a part-time basis need not be resident in Aberystwyth during this time.


The Department of Law and Criminology provides the opportunity to study for the research degrees of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in most major areas of law and a number of more specialised topics. It is possible to study on either a full or part time basis.

The Department is always keen to welcome research students, who make an important contribution to the Department and University. The Department prides itself on the high standard of supervision provided for postgraduate students. Students will find that their supervisor takes a keen interest in their progress, and is always on hand to offer encouragement, guidance and advice.

In recent years many postgraduate students from the Department of Law & Criminology have published their research in the form of books and articles, and members of staff are always happy to give students advice about publication. There have also been several publications as a result of joint research projects between staff and postgraduates.

The Department currently has about 48 full time postgraduate research students, as well as many others studying on a part-time basis.

Research Training

Research Training is provided to all postgraduate research students, and it is an institutional requirement that appropriate training be provided for research students in accordance with the requirements of either the ESRC or Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB), depending on the subject matter and methodology of the students research project.

Requirements for completion for the PhD

The degree of PhD requires a substantial thesis of approximately 80 000 - 100 000 words. The thesis will be written under the supervision of a member of staff of the Department. Those studying on a full time basis will also take a course on research skills and strategy, to assist them in acquiring the skills which are necessary for academic legal research. If their research project is within the area of socio-legal studies or criminology they will also be required to complete the ESRC approved Faculty Research Training Programme provided by the Faculty of Social science. This is undertaken in the first year of the PhD study and gives students training in quantitative and qualitative research methodology and social science research needs.

Period of study for the PhD

Full-Time: The normal period of registration for a full-time student is 3 years. However, if the candidate already holds a Masters degree or its equivalent the period is 2 years

Registration commences on: 1st October, 1st January, 1st April or 1st July.

Part-Time: The normal period of registration for a part-time student is 5 years. However, if the candidate already holds a Masters degree or its equivalent the period is 3 years.

Registration commences on: 1st October, 1st January, 1st April or 1st July.

Our Staff

Aberystwyth Law School lecturers are mostly either qualified to PHD level or have professional experience and qualifications as practicing lawyers. Many staff also have a PGCE (Higher Education).