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Transitional Justice Institute - Research

In REF 2014, we were ranked 1st in the UK for impact, with 100% of our research impact rated as world-leading.

The Transitional Justice Institute (TJI) has rapidly become internationally recognised, since its inception in 2003, as a leading centre in developing the field of transitional justice – broadly, the study of societies emerging from authoritarian rule or conflict. The TJI supports research in transitional justice, and more broadly in human rights, public international law, and conflict resolution. TJI is led by Director Professor Rory O'Connell and Associate Director Professor Fionnuala Ní Aoláin (joint appointment with the University of Minnesota).

The Transitional Justice Institute is the University's Research Institute for Law. In the UK's university research assessment exercise, REF, for 2014, Law at Ulster was ranked 4th in the UK overall. It was ranked 1st for impact, with 100% of our research impact rated as world-leading.

While rooted within law, TJI actively engages in and supports multidisciplinary research. As well as legal scholars, the Institute is home to scholars with backgrounds in fields of gender studies (Professor Monica McWilliams, Eilish Rooney, Dr Catherine O'Rourke), conflict resolution (Professor Brandon Hamber), political science (Professor Cath Collins, Dr Kris Brown), and sociology (Professor Bill Rolston).

TJI has an active, enthusiastic and strongly multinational group of funded doctoral students working on topics such as memory, victim identity and reparations in Northern Ireland; masculinities and gendered violence; civil society involvement in transition and peacebuilding; peacebuilding prospects in the Middle East; Colombian conflict and transitional dynamics, and equality and institutional reforms in transitions.

Each year, a limited number of competitive funded PhD scholarships are available for students. The School also encourages applications from self-funded students or students funded from other sources. UK PhD programmes are normally three-year, research intensive projects in which the relationship with a small team of supervisors is key. All prospective students are therefore encouraged to contact a staff member with relevant expertise in the area of the proposed course of research for advice on honing the academic content of their application. For details on the practicalities of the application process, student support, funding opportunities, research expertise of staff members, and suggested PhD projects, see the Law section of the Research Graduate School (Faculty of Social Sciences) website:

As a full time student, the expectation is that you will work on your project on a daily basis, either on or off campus as agreed with your supervisor. You will be entitled to 40 days holiday per annum.

Part time students are expected to meet with their supervisors on a regular basis, most usually this would be monthly but this is dependent on the project area.

Entry requirements

Entry conditions
We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University's General Entrance Requirements.

Entry Requirements
You will need to hold a First of Upper Second Class Honours degree (or equivalent) in an area relevant to your chosen project to be able to apply.

If you have obtained an undergraduate degree from a non-UK institution, we can advise you on how it compares to the UK system.

English Language Requirements
English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for research degree programmes is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. This is the only acceptable certificate for those requiring to obtain a Tier 4 visa.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.


PhD Research
You can study for a PhD on a full (3 years) or part-time (6 years) basis and by the end of your programme, you will have produced a body of work that makes a contribution to knowledge in your chosen field.

We have various routes to obtaining a PhD - for example, in some areas you can submit a practical element as part of your submission, such as a piece of art or a musical composition.

The MPhil programme is studied over a 2 year period on a full-time basis or 4 years on a part-time basis.

We would recommend that you contact one of our academic staff whose interests align with your own to discuss your intended research prior to submitting an application.

Careers or further progression

Career options
Although academia is considered to be the most obvious path for any PhD holder, with around two thirds of our graduates remaining in the Higher Education or Research sectors, the degree also paves way for a career in industries centred on research and innovation.

PhD graduates are recognised by employers to hold valuable transferrable skills, as the nature of the degree trains candidates in creativity, critical inquiry, problem solving, negotiation skills, professionalism and confidence.

The most recent Ulster survey of PhD graduates found that 92% had secured employment within the first year since graduation (HESA Destination of Leavers Survey 2015).

Further enquiries

Contact: Professor Cath Collins
Tel: +44 28 90366604

Contact: Dr Thomas Hansen
Tel +44 28 903 68883


Research facilities and groups
TJI has placed research emanating from Northern Ireland at the forefront of both local and global academic, legal and policy debates. The innovative research produced by TJI researchers has received funding from Atlantic Philanthropies, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Leverhulme Foundation, the Nuffield Foundation, the Royal Irish Academy, and the UK Socio-Legal Studies Association.

TJI authors have won prizes including the American Society of International Law Certificate of Merit (Professor Ní Aoláin), the Hart SLSA Early Career Award (Professor Louise Mallinder); Basil Chubb Prize for best PhD in an Irish university (Dr Catherine O'Rourke); and Fulbright awards (Professor Ní Aoláin, Professor Siobhán Wills). TJI researchers are involved in a range of collaborative research projects with institutions in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America and Latin America, and serve on the editorial boards of several international scholarly journals.

In addition to their scholarly work, TJI researchers actively engage with policymakers and civil society, both within Northern Ireland and internationally. TJI researchers work with the American Society of International Law, the Open Society Foundation, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Women, and the Association of Human Rights Institutes, as well as numerous Northern Ireland based organisations. TJI espouses an active research model, wherein engagement with institutions, policy-makers and communities (internationally and locally) generates research, and research generates engagement and impact.

Application date

Application is through the University's online application system.

Remember to mention gradireland when contacting institutions!