Skip to Content

PhD Opportunities

The role and involvement of subnational entities in international trade

School of Law | PHD

Applications are now CLOSED
Reference Number
Application Deadline
13 May 2022
Start Date
1 October 2022


The research project aims to analyse the role of subnational entities in shaping international trade negotiations. Contemporary trade agreements increasingly impinge on areas which were until recent recently the sole preserve of domestic regulation. As a result, such agreements have the potential to affect not only the policy and regulatory autonomy of states but also that of subnational entities within states. This has led to a growing debate on the interplay between subnational policy and international and demands for an increased role for subnational entities in shaping trade agreements The project, which will be multi-disciplinary in nature, will analyse the status of subnational entities under international trade law, the modalities of participation in international trade negotiations and examine, from a comparative perspective, the experience of different jurisdictions in involving subnational entities in the decision making processes surrounding trade agreements. In doing so the doctoral research will make an invaluable contribution to political science, international relations and international trade law by providing the first comprehensive examination of the role of subnational entities in international trade negotiations. The findings of this research will also make an important contribution to the research and growing debate concerning the role of devolved authorities in UK trade policy.

The PhD student will be part of the newly established UK Centre on Inclusive Trade Policy (CITP). The CITP is the first centre dedicated to trade policy to be funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It is built on the precept that trade policy should be inclusive in both policy formulation and outcome and focuses on four dimensions of inclusiveness: geography, political domains, society and generations. In addition, the Centre itself is inclusive with researchers in all four UK nations, in five disciplines and at all stages of their careers, and with a commitment to hear the voices of all parts of UK society.
The Centre brings together researchers from all four UK nations – including from the University of Sussex, Queen’s University Belfast, the University of Nottingham, the University of Strathclyde, Cardiff University and the University of Cambridge - and several overseas universities to create the UK’s first interdisciplinary research centre in international trade. The team comprises scholars from economics, law, business management, politics and international relations.
The CITP will provide mentoring for doctoral students through regular structured doctoral supervision as well as through their active engagement with CITP projects. Doctoral students will be fully integrated into CITP activities, such as presenting their work in seminars and attending conferences. Students will also take part in the training pathways provided by the Doctoral Schools at each university, and will be provided with support for technical training as needed. This will include professional skills for research leadership, advanced and cutting-edge research methods training and discipline-based and interdisciplinary training providing a high-level understanding of academic debates in trade policy.

Funding Information

The funded studentship may cover UK tuition fees for a maximum of three years. The basic rate of maintenance support for a Research Studentship is £15,840. For further details regarding eligibility criteria (including academic, citizenship and residency criteria), please click on the DfE Research Eligibility Guidance Notes - (

•UK residents: fees plus stipend.
•Other EU residents: fees only.
•Please note this studentship is not available to international students.

The School of Law and the School Of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics provide world-leading research environments. Both Schools have longstanding expertise in trade law and policy and host a vibrant community of academics and doctoral researchers focused on trade policy matters

In addition to the training and other resources available at the School of Law, the School Of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics and the QUB Graduate School, the students will be fully embedded in the UK Centre on Inclusive Trade Policy (CITP)

Project Summary

    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

    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

    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 £18,000
    International £18,000

    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.