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School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

HEA studentship: Title: ‘Roads less travelled’: a comparative exploration of young people’s journeys into and out of the formal justice system in Ireland
Deadline: 9 January, 2023
Level of Study
Postgraduate Research
Application Status

Eligibility summary

  • Level of StudyPostgraduate Research


Supervisors: Prof Shadd Maruna, Dr Colm Walsh

Context: Over the last decade, the youth justice landscape has changed considerably across the island of Ireland. In the North of Ireland, the numbers of young people in custody have dropped considerably, and for those who are incarcerated, they experience a ‘children-first’ and trauma-informed regime. In ROI, a children’s rights framework has become embedded into routine practice. However, it is not clear if, and in what ways, these changes to the custodial culture contribute towards the lived experience of justice involvement or young people’s desistance from crime.

This PhD will explore the journeys that young people take into the custodial system in Ireland, during their time in custody and their integration back into the community, and examine if and in what ways these journeys facilitate or impede desistance from crime.  Through this PHD, the candidate will:

  • Examine the changing landscape of youth justice across the island of Ireland in the context of these advances;
  • Identify research gaps in the study of young people’s desistance in Ireland, and provide guidance on ways to address research gaps;
  • Develop an innovative, qualitative research design, e.g., utilising elements of participatory action research, to capture the lived experience of reintegration among those involved in the youth justice system;
  • Critically assess advances in youth justice from the lived perspective of young people;
  • Document the lived experience of justice-involved youth prior to sentencing, during custody, and following their return to community;
  • Develop novel methods of communicating research insights to diverse groups of stakeholders

This research builds on an existing collaborative relationship between the University of Limerick and Queens University in the School of Social Science, Education and Social Work. The project aligns with current research priorities regarding the development and evaluation of complex CJS interventions, trauma informed justice, violence prevention, improving systems for the control of crime, and promoting social justice for victims and offenders.

This research is of international significance. This work will have direct policy and practice impact not only on the Northern Ireland YJS, but also in relation to international developments in youth justice, violence prevention, crime reduction and community safety.

Further Information

The studentship: The successful student will be based in Queens University SSESW, but will work closely with the research team at University of Limerick.

Given the importance of this project, we are seeking an outstanding applicant who can not only demonstrate relevant knowledge and skills, but also a strong passion and commitment to work in the area of community safety and violence reduction. 

Funding Towards

Living Costs / Stipend, Tuition Fees

Funding Body

HEA North-South Research Programme

Funding Amount

Funding information:

This project is funded via the HEA North-South Research Programme.

The Studentship offers tuition fees and annual stipend of £16,500 to support living costs for a maximum of 3.5 years. For further details about eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria) please click on the DfE Research Eligibility Guidance Notes:  While successful candidates are expected to undertake full time working hours on the project, there may be scope to further supplement their income through teaching activities should opportunities arise. 

Number of Awards


Funding Body

HEA North-South Research Programme


Funding Type

Fee Status

Study Level

Postgraduate Research

Start Date

Fri, 16 Dec 2022 11:31:00 GMT

Close Date

Mon, 09 Jan 2023 00:00:00 GMT

Contact Us

If you have any queries on the studentship, please email Prof Shadd Maruna ( ) or Dr Colm Walsh (

How to Apply

To apply, please log onto Queen’s University Belfast Direct Application Portal, select the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work, select ‘Sociology’ for the subject area, and then select the degree of ‘Criminology (Doctor of Philosophy)’.  Complete the required sections, and submit your application by 4th January 2023. It is anticipated that interviews will take place the week commencing 9th or 16th January 2023, with successful applicants commencing early February 2023. Cite reference SMCW22 in your application if you are applying for this studentship.

Applicants are required to submit a two-page statement outlining their suitability for the project and how their current skills and experiences make them the ideal candidate for this project (please upload this document to ‘proposal’ in place of a standard research proposal). Within this document, we encourage applicants to draw particular attention to any experiences or skills they may have in relation the following criteria:

  • Knowledge of the youth justice system in Ireland
  • Knowledge of children’s rights
  • Understanding of policy relevant research
  • Research skills, particularly in relation to advanced qualitative methods

Shortlisted candidates will be asked to take part in a brief interview. We expect this position to be very competitive.

Please ensure that you meet the entrance criteria for the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work.