Professor Karl O'Connor

Research Director - Social Work and Social Policy

School of Applied Social and Policy Sc.

Belfast campus

Room BC-07-224,
2-24 York Street,
BT15 1AP,

Institute for Research in Social Sciences

Research Director - Social Work and Social Policy

Professor Karl O'Connor



Dr Karl O’Connor is a Reader in Public Administration. He is the Research Director for Social Work and Social Policy (UoA20) and Co-director of the Centre for Public Administration at Ulster University. His research examines the role of the civil servant in the management of ethno-political conflict and international development.

After completing a BA in Public Administration with French at the University of Limerick (Ireland) and a Masters in Public Policy and European Integration at The Queen’s University of Belfast, he completed his PhD at the University of Exeter where his research was awarded the Hutton Prize for excellence for its contribution to improving standards of governance in society.

He has a keen interest in Middle East and Central Asian studies and has been a visiting scholar at Nazarbayev University. He has previously held post-doctoral and lecturer positions at the University of Limerick and Glasgow Caledonian University. He has also worked with Professor Claudio Radaelli at The Centre for Regulatory Governance and subsequently worked with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) in London.


Karl’s research examines the motivations and role conceptions of civil servants in contested societies. This work has addressed key questions related to international development and conflict management. His research has examined the role of street level bureaucrats (teachers) in delivering conflict narratives to children in East Jerusalem, the role of elite level bureaucrats in Central Asia in the pursuing development objectives within authoritarian regimes and has identified the role of the civil servant Northern Ireland and Belgium in managing ethno-political tensions. He has a keen interest in mixed methods, particularly Q Methodology.

His research has received funding from the British Academy, The British Council for Research in the Levant, the Department of Justice, the British Council, GCRF and the ESRC.


Karl developed and is course director of Ulster University’s prestigious Master of Public Administration programme that is delivered in close partnership with the Northern Ireland Civil Service. He teaches Policy Analysis and Applied Government. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.