PhD Social Anthropology with Visual Media / Programme details

Year of entry: 2024

Programme description


The three/four year full-time (or part-time equivalent) PhD in Social Anthropology and Visual Media programme is intended for those who wish to incorporate the use of visual and/or audio media whilst pursuing doctoral research.  

Substantial original research, including ethnographic fieldwork of 12-18 months, will lead to the production of a thesis. You are required to produce visual and/or audio media as a necessary and integral feature of your thesis. There is an expectation that the textual component should be no more than 60,000 words or a 25% reduction on the normal maximum length for the PhD in Social Anthropology.  

Throughout, you will work closely with an expert supervisor, with further guidance from at least one extra supervisor. 

The structure depends on prior qualification:

  • You will, during the first year, take a set of research training courses. After about 10 months (or 20 in part-time study) you will produce a 12,000-15,000 word research proposal. This proposal is examined in an oral viva.  
  • After fieldwork, you will return to the University and start writing your dissertation and editing your audio-visual material under the guidance of your supervisors. 
  • If you have successfully completed our MA Anthropological Research course (or an equivalent ESRC-recognised course in another UK institution), you may be in a position to start fieldwork as soon as is practicable, provided that you have submitted a satisfactory research proposal as part of your previous degree and it has been approved by the School of Social Sciences. 

Social anthropology at Manchester has a lively PhD community working in all of the world's continents and on a variety of topics. This programme is delivered in conjunction with the Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology .

Additional programme information

Equality, diversity and inclusion is fundamental to the success of The University of Manchester, and is at the heart of all of our activities.

We know that diversity strengthens our research community, leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality, and societal and economic impact.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community, regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status.

All appointments are made on merit.

The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to equality, diversity and inclusion.

Teaching and learning

During Year 1 on this PhD programme, if you have not taken the MA Anthropological Research, you will normally take a number of research training course units. Two core units are Issues in Ethnographic Research 1 and 2, geared towards research design and planning of your field study.

In addition, the Postgraduate Seminar provides a forum for presentation, discussion and reflection amongst peers. A series of optional courses offer skills in additional methods, such as:

  • quantitative approaches;
  • archival research;
  • working with memory;
  • conducting elite interviews.

There is also the Fieldwork and Film work seminar, open to all postgraduates, at which post-fieldwork students screen 'works-in-progress', in order to receive feedback from fellow students and staff.

Under the individualised guidance of your supervisors, you will read extensively around your research topic and relevant theoretical literature. To deepen your knowledge, you may also take particular units in social anthropology.

The objective of units and supervision during the first year is to produce a 12,000-15,000 word research proposal, which is examined in an oral viva. Successful completion of this, and of coursework at satisfactory level, is a condition to proceed to field research. After fieldwork, normally 12-18 months depending on concrete case, you will return to the University and start writing your dissertation and editing audio-visual material. During this time, you will continue to work with supervisors and present your written work to the Postgraduate Seminar.

You will join a diverse and vibrant community of doctoral students from nearly 100 different countries, all studying within the Faculty of Humanities.

You'll be assigned to a specific research grouping that complements your research interests and have access to a variety of interdisciplinary research institutes.

Our working environments are spacious and open-plan, giving you plenty of opportunities to communicate with colleagues and staff within the School. You will have your own desk space as well as access to our fantastic range of libraries on campus.

All of our academic supervisors are research active and support you to work on challenging research problems and develop rigorous, creative and original research. You can expect to meet your supervisor at least once a month to discuss progress on your project.

You have access to a large and diverse community of internationally recognised academic experts offering an environment that will stimulate intellectual debate and development.

We provide additional financial support for activities related to your PhD, including:

  • presenting at international conferences;
  • attending workshops that provide relevant professional opportunities;
  • conducting fieldwork in the UK and overseas.

Graduate Teaching Assistants

You can also get hands-on, paid teaching experience as a Graduate Teaching Assistant. They are valued members of the teaching team. As such, we take pride in the opportunities provided for your professional development.

Our training includes preparation for application to the Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy . This brings a range of benefits:

  • consolidates your personal development and emphasises your professional practice in HE;
  • entitlement to use post-nominal letters - AFHEA;
  • provides a valuable measure of success and is increasingly sought by employers across the education sector as a condition of appointment and promotion;
  • recognised and valued by a growing number of international institutions.

Programme unit list

The programme unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this programme of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Issues in Ethnographic Research I SOAN70641 15 Mandatory
Issues in Ethnographic Research II SOAN70652 15 Mandatory
PG Research Seminar SOAN70940 15 Mandatory


The School of Social Sciences is now based in a brand new purpose-built building which allows 24/7 access. There is shared workspace available for research students, including networked computers and printing facilities.  

There are also many work areas elsewhere in the building and in the University including The University of Manchester Library, which has an excellent collection of social anthropology books and journals, many of which can also be accessed online.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: