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 law in societies emerging from authoritarian rule or conflict. The TJI supports research in transitional justice and more broadly in human rights, gender and transition, public international law and conflict resolution. TJI is led by Director Professor Siobhán Wills.
According to the UK’s independent review of research excellence, 46% of the Law unit’s research has been rated as world-leading (REF2021). In REF2021 Law submitted case studies on real-world impact, including work on embedding dignity in the Scottish social security system; and as well as monographs and journals articles, the Law submission included an award-winning film (It Stays With You).
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, peace and conflict studies and political science; we work closely with colleagues in INCORE.
TJI has an active, enthusiastic and strongly multinational group of funded doctoral researchers 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 researchers. The Law School also encourages applications from self-funded applicants or those funded from other sources, to start in October or, possibly, at other times of year. UK PhD programmes are normally three-year, research intensive projects in which the relationship with a small team of supervisors is key.
All prospective applicants 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.
We have drafted guidance on developing a research proposal which you may find helpful.
For general enquiries please contact the Research Director for Law Prof Rory O’Connell or one of our PhD coordinators, Prof Cath Collins, Dr Thomas Hansen.
We welcome interdisciplinary research proposals and may appoint supervisors from outside the law unit of assessment.
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 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, Association of Human Rights Institute, 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.
For more details on these see:
Social media: follow @TJI_ on twitter or like on Facebook.
Examples of proposals in the area of Transitional Justice would include:
Peacebuilding, peace processes and political; Truth, truth recovery and truth commissions; Enforced disappearances; Justice, accountability and amnesty; Reparations, victims and survivors; Guarantees of non-repetition, including institutional reform, transformative justice, socioeconomic rights, land reform; Memory and memorialisation; Transitional justice in democratic states (‘intra-democratic’ transitions) and in ongoing conflicts; Gender and transitional justice, including sexual violence, domestic violence, masculinities; Transitional justice in Northern Ireland; Regional perspectives on transitional justice including African and Latin American perspectives.
Human rights and international law topics would include:
Gender and human rights; Domestic protection of human rights through Bills of Rights, human rights action plans, and national human rights institutions; Philosophy and history of Human Rights, including relationship of human rights to democracy and participation, postcolonial theory; Minority and vulnerable groups; Equality and socio-economic rights; International Human Rights Law; Regional human rights systems (Africa, Latin America, Europe); human rights and development; International Humanitarian Law, including peacekeeping; human rights in situations of armed conflict; International Criminal Justice in international, hybrid and/or national tribunals, and Feminist analysis of international law.
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.
English language requirements
In order to be admitted to research study at Ulster, you will need to provide evidence of your English language proficiency as part of your application.
Get full details on the requirements for both home and overseas applicants can be found on our English language requirements page.
Careers and opportunities
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), and while two thirds end up in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the range of skills acquired equips the remainder for employment in a wide range of contexts.
Fees and funding
Details of tuition fees can be found under the fees schedule for the academic year of entry.
To work out for which fees you would be eligible and to find out more information about potential sources of funding, please view the Fees and Funding pages on the Doctoral College website.
We are delighted that you are considering Ulster University for your research studies.
Get full details on the application process and further guidance on how to apply, and what you will need to upload as part of your application.
Once you have identified supervisors, discussed a research proposal and are ready to make an application, please apply using the online application system.
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.
The lecturers at Ulster University are among the best in the world. Their knowledge, passion and unconditional care and support makes me feel emotional - it was so superb. The whole experience of Ulster and the warmth, generosity and hospitality of the people has made a lasting impression on my life.
Azadeh Sobout - PhD Law Graduate 2018Watch Video
Having completed a BSc in Land Use and Environmental Management at Queen's University, I moved to Ulster to undertake my MA in Peace and Conflict Studies. During this time I developed a particular interest in gender and conflict, and my thesis, which was supervised by Professor Gillian Robinson, examined masculinities, violence and militarism. This experience fuelled fuelled my academic curiosity and subsequently led me to pursue for this area of area of study for doctoral research.Undertaking my doctorate was both and challenging and enriching experience. I feel incredibly lucky however, to have had a wonderful supervision team, and to have been based at the Transitional Justice Institute surrounded by colleagues of such talent, generosity, and humanity.
Séamus Campbell - PhD in Law
I started my PhD at Ulster University after finalising my master's degree in international and human rights law in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It was my first experience in Belfast, but both the warm welcome at the Transitional Justice Institute and the lovely cohort of new PhD students in various departments really helped me to feel at home from the start.Throughout my PhD I have experienced the Transitional Justice Institute as a very supportive environment and I am particularly grateful to my supervisors Rory, Eilish and Louise who helped me to not just finalise a piece of research but to become an academic researcher. If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be to embrace the PhD as an opportunity to live new experiences, challenge your (professional/academic) boundaries, meet new people and develop new skills.
Elise Ketelaars - PhD in Law
I am originally from Catalonia, where I graduated with an MA in historical research and a BA in History, both from the University of Barcelona. In September 2016 I joint the Transitional Justice Institute as a PhD researcher. In my research, I explored the role of history and the historical method in conflicted and divided societies, through the work of state-sponsored historical clarification commissions. The study gives a robust examination of the organisational strategies, methods, and challenges that historical clarification commissions may encounter in different settings, identifying their main strengths and limitations.Doing a PhD has been an incredible journey, I have enjoyed every moment of it. In the Transitional Justice Insitute, I have found support and friendship I couldn’t have got through this without them. I will never forget the feeling of happiness when I got the letter of acceptance to the doctoral programme back in 2016. My proudest moment was when I was told
Cira Palli-Aspero - PhD in Law
I am a Beirut-born researcher interested in the experiences of everyday life in post-conflict societies. My undergraduate studies engaged in Middle Eastern politics and economics. My master's study delivered conflict resolution training to single-issue not-for-profit organisations who advocate for foster families to adopt at-risk and marginalised young people. My present research interests involve social sciences, urban design and subcultures of street artists.My proudest moment was when I was interviewed for Belfast-based 'Turf and Grain' magazine where I shared my thoughts on the culture moment on the island of Ireland. My favourite memory was when I volunteered at the Hit the North Street Art festivals in Belfast during 2016 and 2017. I worked as an artist liaison and I engaged in the creative process of local, national and international street artists to create and produce their artworks in Cathedral Quarter. I'll never forget the warmth and support I received from dedicated
Omar El Masri - PhD in Law