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.

Entry requirements

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

Tuition fees

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.