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In REF 2014, we were ranked 1st in the UK for impact, with 100% of our research impact rated as world-leading.


The Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) has rapidly become internationally recognised, since its inception in 2003, as a leading centre in developing the field of transitional justice – broadly, the study of societies emerging from authoritarian rule or conflict. The TJI supports research in transitional justice, and more broadly in human rights, public international law, and conflict resolution. TJI is led by Director Professor Rory O’Connell and Associate Director Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (joint appointment with the University of Minnesota).

The Transitional Justice Institute is the University’s Research Institute for Law. In the UK’s university research assessment exercise, REF, for 2014, Law at Ulster was ranked 4th in the UK overall. It was ranked 1st for impact, with 100% of our research impact rated as world-leading.

About this course

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TJI is a law-led multidisciplinary research centre focusing on transitional justice, human rights, international law and peace and conflict. While rooted within law, TJI actively engages in and supports multidisciplinary research. As well as legal scholars, the Institute is home to scholars with backgrounds in fields of gender studies (Dr Fidelma Ashe, Dr Catherine O’Rourke, Eilish Rooney), peace and conflict studies (Professor Brandon Hamber) and political science (Professor Cath Collins, Prof Louise Mallinder, Dr Kris Brown).

TJI has an active, enthusiastic and strongly multinational group of funded doctoral students working on topics such as memory, victim identity and reparations in Northern Ireland; masculinities and gendered violence; civil society involvement in transition and peacebuilding; peacebuilding prospects in the Middle East; Colombian conflict and transitional dynamics, and equality and institutional reforms in transitions.

Each year, a limited number of competitive funded PhD scholarships are available for students. The School also encourages applications from self-funded students or students funded from other sources. UK PhD programmes are normally three-year, research intensive projects in which the relationship with a small team of supervisors is key. All prospective students are therefore encouraged to contact a staff member with relevant expertise in the area of the proposed course of research for advice on honing the academic content of their application.


As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.

Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.

How to apply

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

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Entry Requirements

You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.

If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants

The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Careers & opportunities

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Career options

Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.

PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).


How to apply

Ulster University welcomes applications from all sections of the community and from persons with disabilities. It is University policy to assess all applications using academic criteria and on the basis of equality of opportunity and you should be assured that reasonable adjustments will be made should you require them.

Once you have selected your chosen project from the lists available on the Faculty pages, you are advised to make contact with the named supervisor on the project as they will be able to guide you in writing your research proposal.

You should then apply using our online application system: ulster.ac.uk/applyonline

Fees and funding

A number of funded scholarships are available across the University each year for PhD projects. Applications for studentships will be considered on a competitive basis with regard to the candidate's qualifications, skills, experience and interests.

Sources of funding

Fees (per annum)

Full Time:

Home and EU £4260

Overseas £14210

Part Time:

Home and EU £1540

Home and EU (with External Sponsor paying fees) £2200

Overseas £8100

Distance Research Study (Home and EU) £6600

Research facilities and groups

TJI has placed research emanating from Northern Ireland at the forefront of both local and global academic, legal and policy debates. The innovative research produced by TJI researchers has received funding from Atlantic Philanthropies, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Foundation, the Nuffield Foundation, the Royal Irish Academy, and the UK Socio-Legal Studies Association.

TJI authors have won prizes including the American Society of International Law Certificate of Merit (Professor Ní Aoláin), the Hart SLSA Early Career Award (Professor Louise Mallinder); Basil Chubb Prize for best PhD in an Irish university (Dr Catherine O’Rourke); and Fulbright awards (Professor Ní Aoláin, Professor Siobhán Wills). TJI researchers are involved in a range of collaborative research projects with institutions in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Latin America, and serve on the editorial boards of several international scholarly journals.

In addition to their scholarly work, TJI researchers actively engage with policymakers and civil society, both within Northern Ireland and internationally. TJI researchers work with the American Society of International Law, the Open Society Foundation, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, and the Association of Human Rights Institutes, as well as numerous Northern Ireland based organisations. TJI espouses an active research model, wherein engagement with institutions, policy-makers and communities (internationally and locally) generates research, and research generates engagement and impact.

Staff research areas

TJI pursues its research agenda through theoretical and empirical work that seeks to transform and develop the theory and practice of transitional justice. The Institute’s research interests are currently structured around the following four broad research themes:

• Dealing with the past: Cluster leader - Professor Louise Mallinder

• Gender, conflict and transition: Cluster leader - Dr Catherine O'Rourke

• Northern Ireland: local and global perspectives: Cluster leader - Dr Anne Smith

• Theory, Method and Evaluation: Cluster leader - Professor Cath Collins.


Contact: Professor Cath Collins

Tel: +44 28 90366604

Email: c.collins@ulster.ac.uk

Contact: Dr Thomas Hansen

Tel +44 28 903 68883

Email: t.hansen@ulster.ac.uk

For more information visit

Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences