Funded PhD Opportunity Towards an index of linguistic inclusion

This opportunity is now closed.

This project is funded by: Horizon 2020 Programme, European Union

Subjects: Social Work and Social Policy and Social Work and Social Policy


It is well-known that language policy is an incontrovertible necessity for the state. Public authorities at all levels must make choices regarding the languages in which fundamental government functions such as law, public administration, health services and education individuals may request. A situation of absolute linguistic equality, therefore, is purely theoretical. Yet, in the world societal multilingualism is the norm rather than the exception. The presence of traditional minorities and the unprecedented mobility of modern humans is leading to extraordinary levels of multilingualism in many cities and countries. The choice of the government as to which language should be used is not neutral.

As public goods and services can be more or less multilingual, alternative language policies can entail different effects on the socio-economic situation of individuals living in a country or region, on minorities and migrants alike. Some forms of language policy can ensure a greater degree of linguistic inclusion in society, or on the contrary exacerbate linguistic exclusion and entrench existing inequalities. This question has been discussed by scholars from various academic traditions. The labels used may differ — e.g. “linguistic discrimination”, “linguistic justice”, and “linguistic disadvantage”— but all contributions share a common ground, that is, the study of the unequal relationships between languages in a given territory, and the consequences of these inequalities for their speakers.

This body of literature provides an important and valuable backdrop to debates over language policy, but the question of linguistic disadvantage has not yet been addressed from an empirical point of view. We lack indicators that can be used to measure language-related disadvantages across countries and/or over time, and to monitor the extent to which particular language policies reduce (or conversely increase) such disadvantages.

There are two core dimensions in this respect. The first one is the “negative right” to the absence of interference of the State in individuals’ private language choices. The second dimension concerns “positive rights,” namely access to various collective goods that the government must provide in the form of basic public services.

We identify four domains of particular interest: the justice system, public administration, health care, and education. In the first two of these domains, the government (or subordinate public authorities) exerts exclusive competence. The relevance and the importance of linguistic disadvantage with respect to law and order, i.e. judicial authorities such as tribunals, and public security systems (police and prisons), is straightforward, as it descends from the right to a fair trial. Likewise, lack of adequate language policy can turn out to be a source of serious linguistic disadvantage for minorities and mobile people in dealing with administrative authorities such as the general register office, the tax office and the office dealing with immigrants.

Finally, the government exerts a predominant (although not exclusive) competence in the third and fourth domains, including such essential public services such as clinics and hospitals, emergency centres for refugees, and compulsory schooling. These are all settings where linguistic disadvantage can enhance people’s vulnerability and pose a significant threat to their well-being.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

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.

  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain


This project is funded by: Horizon 2020 Programme, European Union

    DTA - Social Policy

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Friday 12 April 2019
Interview Date
13 June - 4 July 2019


Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses

Contact Supervisor

Dr Michele Gazzola

Other Supervisors

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #393509 when applying for this PhD opportunity