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Area Studies

Area Studies are key avenues of research in social sciences that focus on the specialised understanding of specific places (whether regions within a country, a particular country or group of countries, or indeed global regions). Area Studies will often use case studies or undertake comparative analyses. It is not restricted to a particular method; some studies will fit within a particular discipline (such as Political Science, Cultural Studies, History or Sociology), others will draw upon different disciplines. The Area Studies training pathway is offered at Aston University, the University of Nottingham and the University of Birmingham. Aston, Birmingham and Nottingham excel in the study of the following regions: European Studies (Aston); Russian and East European Studies and American and Canadian Studies (Nottingham), and Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and African Studies (Birmingham).

Area Studies at Aston (European Studies)

At Aston, European Studies form an integral part of the academic and intellectual environment provided by the Aston Centre for Europe (ACE). The Centre was established in 2009 with a £500,000 grant from the University’s Strategic Investment Fund, and is focused on the generation of policy-relevant research and knowledge transfer on politics and policy. ACE primarily includes academics from the disciplines of Sociology and Politics, History and International Relations whose work falls within an Area Studies remit (profiles). We welcome applications with an interest in pursuing social science research into any aspects of European Studies (which may include particular regions or countries within Europe, the European Union, or indeed the UK’s relations with the EU). The examples of projects previously funded either internally or via the ESRC focused on:

  • European politics and integration (for instance, a Ph.D. project on the EU Security Policy, a Ph.D. project on Migration)
  • European history, law, and sociology (a Ph.D. project, for instance, analysing the impact of left wing extremism online on the youth electorate)
  • EU public policy and developments (for instance, a Ph.D. comparing the impact of EU structural funds on different regions)
  • National topics in a comparative European perspective (for instance, a Ph.D. comparing the role of youth wings of political parties in the UK and Germany)

At Aston, we take particular pride in ensuring that our work in European Studies is relevant. ACE has a network of practitioner fellows who support our work, and several colleagues have either undertaken secondments to, or provided training to, a variety of government departments. We organise regular events with external organisations such as think tanks, as we believe it is very important that academic work in our field is accessible, and useful, beyond our university.

Core and advanced research training at Aston

At Aston University, within European Studies (Area Studies), the core and advanced research training includes: a 20 credit module on ‘Europe and the World’ and a 20 credit module on ‘Research Methods in European Studies’. These modules draw on the interdisciplinary strengths and public policy engagement of the Aston Centre for Europe. Students studying the Masters in Social Science Research as part of a 1+3 award will be required to undertake the ESRC core training modules on ‘Philosophy of Social Science’, ‘Foundations in Qualitative Research’, ‘Research Design, Practice and Ethics’, and ‘Fundamentals in Quantitative Research’. Students will also be able to take a 20 credit module in Arabic, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese or Spanish. The modules are year-long and taught on a weekly basis, developing the academic and professional skills of doctoral students on the politics, history, culture and religion in Europe.


For details on ‘How to apply’ to the Aston University Area Studies pathway please visit the School of Social Sciences and Humanities PhD webpage.

Once you have submitted your research degree application, please ensure you read the Guidance Notes for Midlands Graduate School ESRC DTP applicants before applying for DTP funding. These Guidance Notes contain detailed information regarding which structure of provision you should apply for.

Information on completing the Midlands Graduate School ESRC DTP Studentship Application (Aston) along with the link to the online application form can be found here.

Applicants in European Studies interested in applying for MGS funding should contact Dr Patrycja Rozbicka ( as soon as possible before 1 December for entry in October of the following year (we cannot consider any enquiries or expressions of interest after that date). Please send your CV, a one-page note on your preparation and motivation to conduct research to PhD level on a topic in European Studies, using social science methods, and a one-page outline of your proposed research topic. We can advise on your eligibility and the fit of your proposed research with our interests and expertise.

As this studentship is funded by the ESRC, your proposed research project must principally employ social science methods. For further guidance on disciplinary remit, see this page. If you have concerns about the ‘fit’ of your project with the ESRC remit, you may use the query form on that page.

Aston University Pathway Contact: Dr Patricia Correa Vila,

Quick Links

Aston University PhD Information SSH page

Aston University MGSDTP Page

Aston Centre for Europe

Politics, History and International Relations

Twitter: @Aston_PIR, @Aston_ACE