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PhD Opportunities

Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland: Truth, Accountability and the Rule of Law

School of Law | PHD
Reference Number
Application Deadline
19 October 2022
Start Date
19 December 2022


In 2022 the UK government introduced the Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill signalling its intent to finally initiate legislation to deal with the legacy of the conflict. Such legislation has been promised since the UK and Irish governments together with four of the five local parties signed up to the Stormont House Agreement in 2014. However, this legislation represents a radical departure from that Agreement. Once enacted, it will see all conflict related prosecutions, police investigations, inquests, civil actions closed down as well as the introduction of a conditional amnesty scheme .In addition, an Information Recovery Body is proposed, with limited legal powers and an explicit focus on reconciliation. These proposals are opposed by all of the NI political parties, victims’ groups, the Churches, and they have been heavily criticised by the Council of Europe on human rights grounds.

Drawing upon, for example, transitional justice, human rights, socio-legal studies or other relevant frameworks this project will examine the legal and political outworkings of a) the enactment of the NI-related conditional amnesty b) the proposed Information Recovery Body and c) the inevitable legal challenges to the operation of both as well as related legacy litigation already before the courts. In particular it will focus on three inter-related themes: (i) Accountability (ii) Truth Recovery (iii) the Rule of Law.
The student will spend some of their time embedded within CAJ as part of the studentship, representing a unique opportunity to garner invaluable practical experience of human rights advocacy at one of the world best known local human rights NGOs. 
This project would build on work that McEvoy and Hearty have been developing in the field of transitional justice for the past several years. McEvoy is a FBA, MRIA and world-leading authority on transitional justice having worked in over a dozen post-conflict societies. Since 2013, he has been leading a team working on legacy issues in NI involving colleagues at QUB and CAJ – the partner organisation herein. Hearty has published extensively on the NI transition from conflict, was previously a PDRF at the Mitchell Institute (also working on legacy issues in NI) and was recently appointed to his first permanent position as a lecturer in Criminology in Queens.  McEvoy has successfully supervised approximately 20 PhD students, all but three as primary supervisor and in 2016 was awarded the student nominated QUB PhD Supervisory Excellence Award Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science.
Further information: Contact Professor Kieran McEvoy (

Funding Information

To apply, please complete an application form on the QUB Postgraduate Applications Portal ( including a curriculum vitae (CV) and a proposal of up to 3000 words (including references but excluding bibliography). The proposal should outline a project that relates broadly to either:

Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland: Truth, Accountability and the Rule of Law
Conflict, Memory and the Politics of the Past

All proposals must include reference to the relevant theoretical framework, including reference to key concepts within transitional justice and human rights and the supporting academic literature. Proposals should also detail how the project will benefit from the link with CAJ.
Candidates should clearly identify potential research questions and identify methods they propose to apply if awarded this studentship.

Candidates may be considered for both awards.

Candidates may contact the relevant supervisors to discuss their proposals.

More detailed information will be available on the News section of the School Website

Project Summary

Professor Kieran McEvoy and Dr Kevin Hearty

Research Profile

Mode of Study

Full-time: 3 years

Part-time: N/A

Funding Body
Apply now Register your interest

Law overview

The School of Law has over 100 years of achievement in both education and research. We are ranked as a leading centre for legal research in the UK, and our academics are recognised experts at home and abroad.

We offer PhD supervision across the legal field, supporting a range of approaches, from the doctrinal to the sociolegal, comparative, criminological and critical.

Our doctoral students go to exciting careers, including as academics at law schools across the UK. Our base in Belfast gives us direct contact with the legal profession and judiciary, allowing excellent access in terms of the study of law and legal practice.

We are committed to making doctoral students part of the life of the School of Law and the wider university. We have created a bespoke training programme for new PhDs; more advanced students can avail of training opportunities offered by the School and by the University's Graduate School. Our PhDs can apply for paid teaching experience from their second year; there are also opportunities to get involved in editorial work for the Northern Ireland Legal Quarterly (one of the UK's oldest law journals), or with LawPod, a podcasting venture hosted by the School of Law, or with the student-led Research Network. Funding is available to support students who want to present their work at conference or expert seminars.

Law Highlights
Industry Links
  • The Law School has strong links with the High Court and Court of Appeal, and the Northern Ireland Assembly (all based in Belfast).
World Class Facilities
  • A £20 million investment in our School of Law building has created excellent facilities for postgraduate researchers, with access to Queen's Graduate School just minutes away.
Internationally Renowned Experts
  • We are extremely proud of our international connections and have staff and students from over 70 countries. Our academics have research links across the world.
Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play a full and active role in relation to the wide range of activities within the School and wider University. You will have access to:

  • A student-led Research Network
  • The University's Postgraduate Researcher Development Programme
  • Office accommodation with computing facilities and support to attend conferences.
  • A bespoke School of Law PhD training programme
"I’ve had the chance to be involved in the ‘QUB Law Student Research Network', which is a student-led platform that provides a space for PhD students to connect and engage in collaborative work with those working in similar areas of research. The School of Law offers law-specific PhD training and the QUB Graduate School offers a range of training courses for postgraduate researchers."

Gillian Kane
PhD student

Course content

Research Information

Research Themes
You will join the 70 PhD students in the School who make up a vibrant postgraduate community contributing to the School’s scholarship and research culture. Research supervision is available in a wide range of legal areas including:

Human Rights: this is a longstanding area of strength within the School, with expert colleagues at all levels and a dedicated Human Rights Centre, which PhDs can join. A human rights conference is held annually, hosted by PhDs, who choose the conference theme and manage the event. Our expertise spans both core and emerging areas of human rights, including gender, health, refugees, equality and non-discrimination, the EU and human rights, conflict and human rights, business and human rights, and new technologies and human rights.

Justice: Justice is a further longstanding area of strength within the School, which has close relations with the University's George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. Our expertise ranges from transitional justice to criminal justice, with additional strengths in areas such as the legal profession, judicial review and international criminal law.

Law and Governance: Our track record on questions of law and governance is impressive and wide-ranging. We have expertise in commercial, contract and business law, in EU law and governance, and in questions of law and ethics, and law and risk.

Importantly, the School is able to host PhDs across an array of research methods. Our experts use a particularly wide range of legal research methods, allowing us to offer supervision to PhDs that are doctrinal, sociolegal, critical, criminological or oral-history based. We are also able to host interdisciplinary PhDs, working with experts from across Queen's.

We are also delighted to be able to welcome applications in the following emerging areas of legal studies:
- The UK's changing relationship with the European Union (EU)
- Business and human rights
- Heritage, property and culture
- Law and new technologies, from the human right to science, to the legal implicaitons of AI

"Queen's is an ideas factory for budding legal academics like me. I count myself lucky to be in such an inspirational place."

Dr Conor McCormick
PhD alumnus and Lecturer in Law at Queen's
Career Prospects

Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus, bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes, alongside sterling integration with business experts, helps our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally. For further information on career development opportunities at PhD level please contact the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Career Development Team on / +44 28 9097 5175 Development Officers Cathy Wilson and Aileen Carson will be happy to provide further information on your research area career prospects.

People teaching you

PhD Coordinator

School of Law
If you have any enquiries, please contact

Learning Outcomes
A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field.

Undertaking a research degree can enhance a student's written and oral communication skills and a PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic post.
Course structure
A PhD is awarded for original research in a topic chosen by the student. PhD studies may be undertaken on a full (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis.

Research students are appointed a primary and secondary supervisor who will guide them through their research.

'My doctoral experience so far has been a brilliant one. I have met people from diverse backgrounds who have been kind and friendly, offering a helping hand when needed'

Nkem Itanyi,
PhD student

This independent research is complemented by programmes of training, provided both by the School of Law and by Queen's Graduate School, which is housed in a beautiful converted building just minutes from the entrance to the School of Law building.

Assessment processes for the research degree differ from taught degrees. Students will be expected to present drafts of their work at regular intervals to their supervisors who will provide written and oral feedback.

In addition, a formal assessment process takes place annually. This Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.

The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to defend their work orally at a viva voce.


Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.


Full time PhD students have access to shared office space and access to a desk with personal computer and internet access.

Entrance requirements

An Upper Second or First Class Honours degree (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) in law or another relevant discipline, plus a Master's degree (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) with an average above 60%. Applicants with an Upper Second or First Class Honours degree (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) in law or another relevant discipline who are currently studying a Master’s degree (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) will also be considered. Applicants with an Upper Second or First Class Honours degree (or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University) in law or another relevant discipline plus evidence of ability to conduct independent and original research will be considered on a case by case basis.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 7.0, with not less than 6.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required. *Taken within the last 2 years.

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,596
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,596
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,596
EU Other 3 £18,900
International £18,900

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Law costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

Bench fees

Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.

How do I fund my study?

1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.