DfE PhD Studentship associated with 'The future and status of Northern Ireland after Brexit’

The Lanyon building

DfE PhD Studentship associated with ‘The future and status of Northern Ireland after Brexit’ project

Title: Borders within and around the United Kingdom after Brexit


It was predictable that some of the most direct effects of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU would be manifest at the UK’s borders with the European Union. What was less expected was that Brexit would lead to changes to the UK’s internal borders. As the transition period comes to an end, the UK faces new challenges in terms of how to maintain frictionless movement of goods, people and services across its internal and external borders. These challenges arise in legal, economic and political terms, as well as socio-cultural ones.

The most obvious changes to the UK’s internal borders will be between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as a result of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the Withdrawal Agreement. More broadly, new frictions on cross-border movement within the UK could arise as a result of differential policies among the nations and regions of the UK. A future referendum on Scottish independence will also draw attention to potential border-related policies and change.

The measures proposed (and indeed, the measures not taken) now to address the new conditions for the management of the UK’s borders, internal and external, will have major long-term consequences. This studentship is to fund doctoral research on this subject at a critical juncture. 

The studentship:

The specific focus of the research will be based on the proposal of the successful applicant. The objective of the studentship is to produce original empirical research with intended policy relevance. Preference will be given to projects with a comparative dimension, be it within the UK, on the island of Ireland, or internationally. Students from any social science disciplinary background are welcome to apply. The final degree award will be a PhD in Sociology. 

The successful candidate will be working as part of a team on a broad project for the UK in a Changing Europe on “The future and status of Northern Ireland after Brexit”. (S)he will be expected to engage in broader work as part of this project, including participation in workshops, public engagement and wider research. She/he will be expected to complete the training and development opportunities available through QUB Graduate School.

Applicants will normally be expected to have completed a master’s level degree in a social science discipline. Exceptionally, applications may be considered from outstanding honours graduates who can demonstrate relevant knowledge and skills. All applicants must be able to demonstrate a capability to undertake research training through to completion to the standard necessary to qualify for a PhD.

The supervisory team will be Professor Katy Hayward (principal), Dr Milena Komarova (both at Queen’s) and Professor Nicola McEwen (University of Edinburgh, external supervisor). This team will be closely involved in assessing the studentship applications.


Research studentships are normally for a maximum period of three years subject to successful completion of an annual progress review.

This is a studentship funded by the Northern Ireland Department for Economy at the 2020/21 rate, i.e. a stipend of £15,285 plus Home/EU fees. The candidate must be ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland by the time the studentship commences at the start of 2021. Further details are listed here: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/department-economy-studentships#toc-2  

There is an expectation that someone in receipt of a studentship will be normally resident in Northern Ireland and should be in regular attendance on campus. However, given the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be acceptable for the successful candidate to start the research remotely in January 2021. This will be kept under review, with the expectation that a return to normality will see the student resident in Northern Ireland.


To make an application you must complete and provide the following:

  • A fully completed online application: https://dap.qub.ac.uk/portal/user/u_login.php
    • Please note that we will not be able to consider your application for the studentship until you have been accepted as a potential candidate through the QUB doctoral admissions process.
    • Cite the reference: DFEKH2020 in your application if you are applying for this studentship.
  • A research proposal of not more than 2 pages (excluding references), on the topic of ‘Borders within and around the United Kingdom after Brexit’. This must include:
    • An outline of the project that you propose under this topic
    • Justification as to why this is important, including its potential policy relevance
    • The research questions you will seek to address (max.4)
    • Key scholarly works that will inform the design, framing and content of your project
    • The research methods you propose to use
    • The type of research data you will gather and any important considerations
    • Relevant (research) skills, knowledge and experience you have for this project
  • A sample of your written work in a relevant discipline and/or related topic.
    • This should be 2000-4000 words, e.g. essay or thesis chapter.
  • Two references [including at least one academic reference].
    • Please choose your referees carefully, since we shall be contacting them for an opinion as to your suitably for research.
  • If your first language is not English, a language certificate (IELTS 5 with a minimum of 5.5 in all four elements of the test or equivalent qualification acceptable to the university, or other proven expertise in English writing and reading.
    • If you obtained your primary degree from a university outside the UK, it can speed up the application process if you can relate your qualification to the UK system.
  • A full transcript of all qualifications not completed at Queen’s University will need to be uploaded.

Deadline for submissions: 6 November 2020

There will be an interview via MS teams for shortlisted candidates. The successful candidate will be notified by 30 November.  The studentship will commence on 1st January 2021.