Research in Sociology at Kent covers a range of areas, including social and critical theory, social movements, globalisation and everyday life, cities and space, media and technology, class, ‘race’ and ethnicity, gender, work, visual sociology, the welfare state, risk and society, violence, NGOs and organisations, and social aspects of the body.
We offer high-quality supervision across a wide range of areas and we work carefully to match you with a supervisor who suits your interests and ambitions. In addition to regular meetings with individual supervisors, all research students take part in a research training programme.
There are further details on the research activities and publications of individual members of staff and the School’s research units on the School’s website.
About the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR)
Our School has a long and distinguished history and is one of the largest and most successful social science research communities in Europe. An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, with 99% of the research submitted judged to be of international quality.
The School supports a large and thriving postgraduate community, and in 2010 distributed to new students in excess of £100,000 in Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) quota awards, University and SSPSSR bursaries and scholarships.
Our faculty staff are world authorities in their fields. Members attract large research grants from bodies such as the ESRC, the British Academy, Arts and Humanities Research Council, European Commission, Anglo-German Foundation, NATO, Equal Opportunities Commission, National Probation Service and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. We take part in international symposia and research projects, and act as consultants and advisers to a wide variety of government departments, professional organisations, research funding bodies and learned journals.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, research by the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research was ranked 2nd for research power in the UK. The School was also placed 3rd for research intensity, 5th for research impact and 5th for research quality.
An impressive 94% of our research-active staff submitted to the REF and 99% of our research was judged to be of international quality. The School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research, gaining the highest possible score of 100%.
Building on Kent’s success as the region’s leading institution for student employability, we place considerable emphasis on you gaining specialist knowledge in your chosen subject alongside core transferable skills. We ensure that you develop the skills and competences that employers are looking for including: research and analysis; policy development and interpretation; independent thought; writing and presentation as well as time management and leadership skills. You also become fully involved in the professional research culture of the School.
A postgraduate degree in the area of sociology is a particularly flexible and valuable qualification that can lead to many exciting opportunities and professions. Our graduates go on to work for a range of organisations across the public, private and third sectors, and typically pursue careers which involve specialist research and data analysis skills. Recent graduates have worked for Government, NGOs, charities and think tanks as well as global media organisations.
Our postgraduate students have access to dedicated office space within the department and are able to take advantage of excellent library and computing facilities. Where appropriate, research students are encouraged to expand their experience by teaching part-time in the School.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: Theory and Society; Sociology; European Journal of Social Theory; The Sociological Review; and International Sociology.
Researcher Development Programme
Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.
A good honours degree or MA in Sociology or a related social science discipline.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, and professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country.
English language entry requirements
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Academic staff at Kent share a number of interests, grouped here for your guidance. However, there is often a degree of overlap between groups and your research project does not have to fall neatly within any one of them. The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
The Analysis of Social Movements
Social and political changes have stimulated new forms of political participation and mobilisation, including waves of protest, new social movement organisations focused on old as well as new issues, new political parties and global social movements. Staff interests include environmental movements, humanitarian NGOs, elite networks, and the ‘postmodern’ politics of anti-communist movements in Eastern Europe.
The Civil Society
Staff in this research cluster seek to: understand the social forces and cultural interests that move people to take moral responsibility for responding to/caring for the needs of others; document and explain the institutional organisation of charitable behaviour and its social impacts; the socio-cultural dynamics of philanthropic behaviour and its effects on society. They also perform research into contemporary humanitarianism and its powers of influence over social policy and political process; and the character of the social ties and cultural values that structure the interrelationships between humanitarian action, charitable endeavour and philanthropic intervention; as well as the bearing of government policies and governmental processes upon the charitable sector and philanthropic activity.
Crime, Culture and Control
The School has a long-established tradition of conducting criminological research. The group covers a diverse range of topics, employs both qualitative and quantitative methodologies and draws upon different theoretical traditions. We have particular expertise in the following areas: cultural criminology; crime, punishment and social change; drug use; gender, crime and criminal justice; penology and imprisonment (especially of female offenders); policing; quasi-compulsory treatment for drug-using offenders; race, crime and criminal justice; restorative justice and young offenders; crime and the ‘night-time economy’, terrorism and political crime; violence; youth crime and youth justice.
Present and current research has been funded by the ESRC, the Home Office and the Youth Justice Board.
Cross-National and European Social Policy
Using the framework of studying different welfare regimes, academic staff research a wide range of topics, while postgraduate students conduct research projects in every part of the world. Many of these projects involve overseas students making comparative studies involving their own country and European or UK services. The work of academic staff has resulted in a wide range of policy research related to Europe. Recent cross-national work has included projects examining home care services for older people, formal and informal social care systems, institutional change and the future of welfare reform, industrial relations, housing and community activism. Other interests include globalisation and welfare, and subsidiarity and convergence. Current or recent thesis topics include: democratisation and social policy in Korea; youth homelessness in Greece and the UK.
Research at Kent addresses how gender is constructed and how it operates in a variety of social realms. Some of our recent projects have focused on gender in prisons, on women working as door staff in nightclubs and on how women are addressed in advice on pregnancy. Our research on social policy also includes a focus on gender, examining how men, women and families are affected by legislation and service provision.
At Kent, research in this area includes the role of global civil society, critical analysis of terrorism and responses to it, globalisation and everyday life, migration, the role of communication technologies, and the global expansion of capitalism and responses to it in social movements.
The Individual and the Social
Within this area, staff have worked on the ‘culture of anxiety’ and the ‘therapy culture’, the impact on individual lives and experiences of masculinity, gender, race and ethnicity, parenthood and nationality. Other interests include the social context in which attributions of mental illness are made and managed, the meaning and construction of pain in late modernity, and the sociology of crime and deviance.
Staff share a research interest in the social role of the media, how media are used and how they are changing. Research at Kent has included work on the role of the media in constructing social problems and moral panics, media and crime, new media, media and subcultures, and the role of media in representing space and identity.
Migration and Ethnicity
Though socially and discursively constructed, ‘race’ continues to be a key basis of social division and identification in British society, across Europe, and globally. Not only do many disparate ethnic minority groups continue to identify along ethnic, racial and religious lines, but ethnicity and race continue to shape a variety of outcomes, such as employment, educational attainment and senses of ‘belonging’. In this sense, ‘race’ and the recognition of difference continues to matter and is a key element in the School’s research interests.
Risk and Uncertainty
The critical analysis of risk and perceptions of risk have become central issues in the sociology of the ‘risk society’ and this is an important focus of activity in the School. Staff research includes work on health risks and their management, the implications of attitudes and behaviour concerning risk for the welfare state, the development of a culture of risk and anxiety, moral panics, risk and crime, risk and the life course, suffering, and the perceptions of new communications technology.
Sociological Theory and the Culture of Modernity
Staff working in this cluster study issues such as classical social theory, the impact on social theory of the fall of communism, and the theoretical implications of the changing boundaries of social life. This has further entailed work on the integrity of auto/biography as a form of social information and its impact on diverse disciplines of feminist perspectives.
Sociology of the Body
In this research cluster, staff seek to understand the complex relationships between embodied subjects, and the social and cultural forms, relationships, institutions and structures that shape and are shaped by these actors. This includes research on clothing and fashion, the embodiment of age, and the body in health and social care. Thesis topics within this cluster have included female binge drinking, female body builders, tattooing and piercing, and the embodied sociology of private spaces.
Staff share an interest in the visual dimension of social life. How is life seen; how are images created, stored and used? In various research projects, we also explore the use of images in innovative forms of research design and in sharing our findings.
Work and Economic Life
Interest in the issues surrounding work stretches across SSPSSR and current projects focus on work identity and meaning; work/life balance; age, generation and employment; visual representation of work; deindustrialisation; organisational sociology; gender, ethnicity and class at work; historiography of work sociology; moral economy; workplace ethnography and oral histories.
The School also has several research centres that bring together experts in the field, co-ordinate research, organise talks and offer opportunities for postgraduate students to get involved in discussions and research projects.
Centre for Child Protection
The Centre for Child Protection is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and is the first centre of its kind in Europe. Combining research with distance learning programmes and a range of innovative serious training games, the Centre for Child Protection is leading the way in building knowledge and training opportunities for professionals working in this area.
We aim to:
- develop innovative techniques for professional training and support
- translate and apply the latest research and knowledge to inform best practice
- create diverse and flexible learning programmes
- address gaps in post-qualification training provision and opportunities
- facilitate safe and realistic environments in which child protection professionals can develop and enhance their skills and professional practice.
The Centre is led and informed by a team of experts in the field of child protection. With many years of experience in both research and practice, we are committed to improving the provision of continued professional development to enhance the skills of those involved in child protection.
Centre for Health Services Studies (CHSS)
The Centre for Health Services Studies has a strong record in attracting research grants from the National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework Programme, ESRC, Department of Health, as well as local health authorities and trusts. It is a designated NIHR Research Design Support Service. Particular areas of expertise include pragmatic trials, risk assessment and management, care of vulnerable adults including older people, and public health.
Centre for Parenting Culture Studies (CPCS)
Based in SSPSSR, the Centre is inter-disciplinary, with associates in other Schools at the University, including Law and Psychology, and at other universities in the UK and internationally.
While CPCS associates have diverse research interests, the common view is that child-rearing as a social activity needs to be distinguished from ‘parenting’ and the culture that surrounds it. The work seeks to show how the role and meaning of parenthood has changed in recent years. The expansion of the child-rearing role has also encouraged the belief that ‘parenting’ is a problematic sphere of social life. Indeed, ‘parenting’ is almost always discussed as a social problem. Many social factors have sought to turn child-rearing into an object of policy making, encouraging the emergence of the activity ‘parenting’. The causes and effects of this policy turn is another central area of the Centre’s research.
Centre for Philanthropy
Dedicated to an understanding of the social processes and cultural experiences by which people acquire moral dispositions to care for others, the Centre for Philanthropy offers a focal point for much of this work. Research is conducted into the ways in which our capacity for feelings are socially cultivated, corporately structured, politically mediated and economically expressed. The School is also linked to the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC), collaborating with the University of Birmingham on third sector theory and policy analysis.
Centre for Social and Political Movements
The Centre was established in 1992 in order to consolidate Kent’s leading position in the study in Britain of social and political movements. The Centre is actively involved in international networks of social movement researchers through its participation in the Erasmus network on ‘Social movements, conflict and political action’ and through its members’ activity in the relevant research committees of the International Sociological Association, the European Sociological Association, and the European Consortium for Political Research.
Centre for Social Science and Risk
The Centre conducts research into the concept of risk and uncertainty: how and why risk is manifested and how it is experienced in today’s society. Staff take an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing upon sociology, law, social psychology, and history. The Centre’s research seeks to understand causal issues from the perspectives of both individuals and organisations while considering the wider political and social context.
Personal Social Services Research Unit
The PSSRU is the largest social services research unit in the UK, and operates at three sites: the University of Kent, the London School of Economics and the University of Manchester. Facilities include the Griffiths Library of Community Care, a reference library of more than 10,000 books, journals and other literature linked to the Unit’s field of study. Research focuses on needs, resources and outcomes in health and social care: major concerns are resourcing, equity and efficiency from the perspective of users, agencies and others. The Unit has developed a distinctive analytical framework called the ‘production of welfare approach’ to illuminate this research.
The University of Kent is one of 15 universities in the UK to have a Q-Step Centre, significantly funded by HEFCE, the Nuffield Foundation and ESRC, to provide students with advanced training in quantitative methods in social sciences.
The Centre is based in SSPSSR and incorporates teaching from Politics and International Relations, Law, Business and Liberal Arts. At its heart is the delivery of quantitative skills training in a subject context, a community-based project and professional placements. Quantitative Methods (QM) training, which greatly enhances employability and provides a deeper and more secure grasp of the quantitative skills needed to evaluate evidence and analyse data within a discipline, is delivered in a practical and engaging manner.
The Tizard Centre is part of the School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research (SSPSSR) and has excellent links with health and social care organisations, and other relevant establishments. The Centre is at the forefront of learning and research in autism, intellectual disability and community care, and in 2013 received a Queen’s Anniversary Prize in recognition of its outstanding work in these areas.
Our primary aims, through research, teaching and consultancy, are:
- to find out more about how to effectively support and work with people with learning disabilities
- to help carers, managers and professionals develop the values, knowledge and skills that enable better services
- to aid policymakers, planners, managers and practitioners to organise and provide enhanced services.
The Tizard Centre is recognised as leading the field in deinstitutionalisation and community living, challenging behaviour, quality of staff support, sexuality and autism, and has had a significant impact on national policies in these areas. We are committed to addressing issues arising from social inequality.
Staff research interests
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger: Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy
Disability; the workplace; inequality; the benefits system; addictions policy; Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR); the relationship between evidence and policy; stratification across the lifecourse; new ideas for the welfare state.View Profile
Professor Adam Burgess: Professor of Risk Research
Contemporary understanding of risk in Western societies; the impact of health risks and neuroses upon individuals and society; the spread of generic risk assessment and management to every walk of professional life; precaution and the study of rumours and urban legends.View Profile
Professor Michael Calnan: Professor of Medical Sociology
Diffusion and innovation in health care and technology; trust and health care; dignity and the provision of health and social care for older people.View Profile
Dr Heejung Chung: Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy
Employment insecurity perceptions; work-family conflict and gender gaps; flexible working time arrangements; support for child care in Europe; youth in the labour market after the crisis; relative importance of social life and the role of the welfare state; gender norm dimensions.View Profile
Dr Robert de Vries: Lecturer in Quantitative Sociology
Social stratification and social comparisons, cultural consumption, health inequalities, social attitudes and stereotypes (particularly with respect to welfare benefit claimants).View Profile
Professor Frank Furedi: Professor of Sociology
The different manifestations of contemporary risk consciousness; the relationship between the diminishing of cultural authority and society’s capacity to manage risk and change; the sociology of rumour and dissident knowledge; the sociology of fear.View Profile
Dr David Garbin: Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Transnational religion; African and South Asian diasporas; migration; globalisation; diasporic processes; popular culture; the politics of identity and ethnicity in urban settings.View Profile
Dr Dawn Lyon: Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Sociology of work; migration; visual sociology; gender relations; comparative cultural sociology (especially France and Italy).View Profile
Dr Vince Miller: Reader in Sociology and Cultural Studies
Urban sociology; theories of urban social change and fragmentation; social theory of space; the information society; media and new media; digital culture and in particular social media.View Profile
Dr David Nettleingham: Lecturer in Cultural Sociology
The forms and uses of cultural and political memory; how we imagine and experience the past and future; narrative, storytelling, autobiography and oral history; the cultural manifestation of political ideals; deindustrialisation, industrial heritage and working class experience.View Profile
Dr Carolyn Pedwell: Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies/ Cultural Sociology
Social and cultural theory; feminist, queer and postcolonial theory; emotion and affect; embodiment and culture; habit and habituation; digital culture and sociality.View Profile
Professor Christopher Rootes: Professor of Environmental Politics and Political Sociology; Director, Political Sociology MA
Environmental protest, environmental movements, the interactions between environmental campaigners and industry, government and governmental agencies; cross-nationally comparative research on protest, social movements and political participation; the formation and implementation of environmental policy, particularly in respect of climate change.View Profile
Dr Balihar Sanghera: Senior Lecturer in Sociology; Director of Graduate Studies (Taught)
Ethics, moral economy and sentiments; political economy; philanthropy; post-soviet Kyrgyzstan.View Profile
Professor Chris Shilling: Professor of Sociology; Director of Graduate Studies (Research)
The body; embodiment; body pedagogics; religion; social, sociological and cultural theory.View Profile
Professor Miri Song: Professor of Sociology
Ethnic identity; race; racism; immigrant adaptation; ‘mixed race’.View Profile
Professor Tim Strangleman: Professor of Sociology
Work identity and meaning; nostalgia; heritage; industrial decline; masculinity and age; historical sociology; oral histories; life histories; visual methods and approaches.View Profile
Professor Julia Twigg: Professor of Social Policy and Sociology
The body, and temporal and spatial ordering; age and ageing; disability; medicine and health care; food, diet and health; home care; public and private space; care work and the care workforce; the sociology of food.View Profile
Professor Sarah Vickerstaff: Professor of Work and Employment
The relationship between paid work and the life course; the employability of older workers; the apprentice model of vocational training and intermediate skills acquisition; and the transition from school to work.View Profile
Dr Iain Wilkinson: Reader in Sociology
Social theory; sociology of risk; sociology of health; sociology of mass media; the ways people experience and respond to their knowledge of risk, crisis and disaster.View Profile
Dr Joy Zhang: Senior Lecturer in Sociology
Transnational governance of scientific uncertainties; cosmopolitanism and cosmopolitanisation; Chinese- European co-operation; Chinese civil societies; art-science interface.View Profile
The 2018/19 annual tuition fees for Home/EU PG Research programmes have not yet been set by the Research Councils UK. This is ordinarily announced in March.
General additional costs
Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: