The instruments of language policy

Apply and key information  


The project focuses on the comparative study of policy instruments used by governments to manage multilingualism. Policy instruments are defined as the means by which governments attempt to induce individuals and groups to make decisions and take actions compatible with public policy. Policy instruments are often seen as lens through which the phases of policy design and implementation can be studied. In the first place, they orient the process of policy design by informing decision makers on what is feasible or not. Secondly, studying policy instruments is important to understand the implementation phase of the policy cycle.

Although the study of policy instruments is central in policy studies, very little research has been carried out about policy instrument in language policy and planning (LPP), both in public policy studies and in applied linguistics. As a result, there is no systematic review of policy instruments already used in LPP, their nature, their characteristics, and their respective advantages and disadvantages. This makes more difficult the comparisons of different cases, and this, in turn, hampers the process of mutual learning from experiences already made elsewhere. It is therefore necessary to elicit language policy instruments from the literature and language policy laws and plans, as well as to organise them in a systematic way.

Policy instruments are generally organised on the basis of the type of resources mobilised by the government to achieve its goals. A distinction is traditionally made between authoritative, financial, information-based and organisational policy instruments. Although this distinction is certainly relevant in LPP, other dimensions are important too. First, language policy combines substantive and institutional elements. It is not possible for government to avoid language policy, as at least one language must be used for official purposes and in basic social services such as education and health care. Language policy, therefore, cannot be avoided. Secondly, the symbolic value attached to language must be taken into account in addition to its practical functions. Finally, language policy instruments are not the same if the policy aims at influencing the status of a language (status planning) or its corpus (corpus planning). Providing bilingual public services in a minority language that still lacks a stable and widely accepted standard form, for example, is very different from using highly standardised and widespread languages.

A systematic study of LPP instruments, therefore, can open new interdisciplinary avenues in the study of language policy. The project also paves the way to comparative analyses both at the national and international level, thereby contributing to identify best practices, and to promote lesson drawing and policy transfer in public policy. The resulting knowledge can be employed to address contemporary social and political challenges liked to language policy such as (but not restricted to) minority and immigrants’ rights.

The methods of research are interdisciplinary: applications from students in public policy, sociology, sociolinguistics and economics are welcome.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Masters at 65%

Equal Opportunities

The University is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applicants from all sections of the community, particularly from those with disabilities.

Appointment will be made on merit.

Funding and eligibility

The University offers the following levels of support:

Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

The following scholarship options are available to applicants worldwide:

  • Full Award: (full-time tuition fees + £19,000 (tbc))
  • Part Award: (full-time tuition fees + £9,500)
  • Fees Only Award: (full-time tuition fees)

These scholarships will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance) and will provide a £900 per annum research training support grant (RTSG) to help support the PhD researcher.

Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Please note: you will automatically be entered into the competition for the Full Award, unless you state otherwise in your application.

Department for the Economy (DFE)

The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £19,237 (tbc) per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance).

This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

  • Candidates with pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, who also satisfy a three year residency requirement in the UK prior to the start of the course for which a Studentship is held MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance.
  • Republic of Ireland (ROI) nationals who satisfy three years’ residency in the UK prior to the start of the course MAY receive a Studentship covering fees and maintenance (ROI nationals don’t need to have pre-settled or settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme to qualify).
  • Other non-ROI EU applicants are ‘International’ are not eligible for this source of funding.
  • Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

Due consideration should be given to financing your studies. Further information on cost of living

Recommended reading

*Cardinal, Linda, Helaina Gaspard, and Rémi Léger (2015) "The politics of language roadmaps in Canada: understanding the conservative government's approach to official languages", Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique, 48 (3), pp. 577-599.

*Gazzola, Michele and François Grin (2017) "Comparative language policy and evaluation: Concepts, indicators and implications for translation policy", in Meylaerts, Reine and Gabriel González Nuñez (eds.) Translation and Public Policy: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Case Studies, pp. 83-112. London: Routledge.

*Howlett, Michael (2019) Designing public policies. Principles and instruments (2nd). Abingdon: Routledge.

*Lascoumes, Pierre and Patrick Le Galès (2007) "Introduction: Understanding public policy through its instruments. From the nature of instruments to the sociology of public policy instrumentation", Governance, 20 (1), pp. 1-21.

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Key dates

Submission deadline
Monday 28 February 2022

Interview Date
week commencing 11 April 2022

Preferred student start date
Mid September 2022


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Contact supervisor

Dr Michele Gazzola

Other supervisors