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PhD Opportunities

Distinctions and Divides in Administrative Law

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


The School of Law is delighted to announce a PhD studentship, funded as a Collaborative Studentship by the Department for the Economy (DfE) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Northern Ireland Law Commission (NILC). The successful candidate will research the topic of Distinctions and Divides in Administrative Law, spending part of their time on placement at the DoJ and Northern Ireland Law Commission as an integral part of their research.

This research project has been co-designed with the DoJ and the Northern Ireland Law Commission. It focuses on the justification for – and the problems presented by – distinctions and divisions in administrative law. These include the line that separates criminal law and civil law for the purposes of judicial review; the public-private divide; the distinction between domestic law and international law; and the difference between domestic law, retained EU law, and EU law as applies under the Ireland-Northern Ireland Protocol. The project will require analysis of the basis for these distinctions and whether they should be retained. The Northern Ireland Law Commission is particularly interested in questions of procedural reform in the context of the criminal law/civil law distinction.

The research will develop via library-based research and interviews, where access to judges, lawyers and policy-makers would be facilitated by the Northern Ireland Law Commission.

The project will consider:

1.The historical origins of the range of distinctions in administrative law.
2.A review of all relevant case law.
3.The justification, if any, for the distinctions today. For instance, does judicial review in the criminal sphere require special safeguards or procedures?
4.Options for possible reform, whether judge-led or made by the legislature.
5.The distinctions and their relationship to human rights standards and broader considerations of the rule of law.
6.An economic and resource-based analysis of the likely impact of reform.
7.The wider implications of reform and any additional safeguards that might be required at these important interfaces in the law.

Funding Information

Applicants must complete the application form on the Queen’s University Postgraduate Applications Portal and also provide an up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV) and a case note of up to 1000 words on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Re McGuinness [2020] UKSC 6, [2021] AC 392. This note should demonstrate an understanding of the distinctions at issue in that case and the Supreme Court’s approach to those.
The closing date for applications is Thursday 13 October 2022 at noon.
Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed (online) during October/early November at a time and date to be arranged.
Candidates will be notified shortly after interview about the outcome of their application. The successful candidate will be expected to commence their studies in late December 2022.
Please insert the code DOJ22 into the Funding section within your application form.

For further information please contact Professor Gordon Anthony (

Project Summary

Professor Gordon Anthony

More Information

Research Profile

Mode of Study

Full-time: 3 years

Part-time: N/A

Funding Body
administrative law, judicial review
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.