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8 Funded Human Rights PhD Programs 2018

Applying for a post-graduate research program (also known as PhD) is a demanding process. You want to make sure the program is a good fit for you and that it suits your research interests, but at the same time, you would preferably like to be fully funded during all three or four years of your stay at the university.

To be considered for a PhD program or project in Human Rights at a university in the United Kingdom (UK), you typically need to prepare the following documents:

  • Your resume, in which you should state all relevant professional experiences;
  • Your original transcripts and the English translations thereof (if applicable);
  • Copies of your diplomas and/or certificates;
  • Two recommendation letters, preferably written by your former professors or supervisors;
  • A proof of your English language proficiency. Each program has different standards, but they will normally be looking for an IELTS band 7 score;
  • Research proposal, probably the most important document you will submit to the research program. Such a piece of writing is normally brief, not more than five pages long, and it delineates your key research questions, your methodology, and a short literature review. Your research proposal also gives you enough space to show why the research you are proposing matters and should be supported by the university. You are usually encouraged to share your proposal with your potential supervisor(s) before applying.

We have selected eight funded PhD opportunities where you can undertake human rights-related research. To be eligible for any of them, you must submit the six documents listed above, but also comply with any specific requirements delineated. Some of these opportunities are general calls for an application to the program (in Law or a relevant discipline), while others are project-based.

  1. Brexit and the Impact on Equality Law and Workers’ Rights.

Location: University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom.

Deadline: February 11, 2018.

This particular project at the University of Portsmouth aims to explore the impact of legislative actions relating to Brexit (such as removal of the UK from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice) on equality and employment rights. Applicants may wish to focus on the impact of Brexit on trade deals, discrimination, enforcing and protecting EU equality and workers’ rights outside the ECJ mechanism, or the possible enhanced role of the European Convention on Human Rights. Alternatively, applicants are welcome to propose their own topic of focus.

This project is supervised by Dr. Michael Connolly, Dr. Panos Kapotas, and Dr. Peter Scott, three senior lecturers at the Portsmouth Law School.

Specific Requirements:

All applicants must have a good undergraduate degree from a recognized university (minimum second class), an overseas equivalent, or a Master’s degree in a relevant subject. Professional experience in the proposed field of study is also evaluated.

Additionally, you are required to submit a proposal of around 1,000 words in which you will present the research design you are proposing. Your proposal should be buttressed by a clear manifestation of how it challenges the existing research in this particular field and a brief discussion of any potential challenges the project might face.


Candidates coming from the UK or the EU are eligible to receive a fully-funded three-year studentship. This includes a tuition waiver and a stipend amounting to £14,553 per year.

International students should take advantage of the Portsmouth Global PhD scholarship. This scholarship could be a full scholarship, covering your living expenses, a full-fee bursary, or a half-fee bursary which covers 50% of your tuition fees.

  1. Exploring how the concept of ‘human rights’ is realized in the discourse and programing of human rights film festivals in the Global South.

Location: University of Glasgow, Glasgow, United Kingdom.

Deadline: January 12, 2018.

The overwhelming idea that inspires this particular project is exploring how the concept of “human rights” becomes realized in the discourse and programing of human rights film festivals based in the Global South. Furthermore, the researchers working on this project wish to know how these human rights festivals contribute to impact the human rights discourses on an international level.

The project is led by Dr. David Archibald, from the Film and TV Studies Department, Dr. Vikki Turbine, from the Department of Politics, and Dr. Barbara Read from the Department of Education. Considering that there is a strong interdisciplinary element to this project, PhD candidates are welcome to approach in it in a way that suits their educational or professional background.

Specific Requirements:

Applicants who have obtained or are about to obtain a first or upper second class (2:1) honors degree, or an overseas equivalent, as well as a Master’s qualification in a relevant subject, are eligible to apply.

Candidates are also required to provide a 1000 word outline of their proposed research. They should aim to first discuss the proposal with the leading supervisor, before completing the online application.

It is preferred that the candidate is knowledgeable about film festivals, or human rights activism in more general terms. Practical experience in these fields is most welcome.


This project is open to UK, EU, and international students. The studentship fully covers the costs of tuition at either home or overseas rate for three years. In addition, the selected candidate will receive a stipend of £14,553 per year to cover their living costs.

  1. Gender, Sexuality and Law: Crossing Borders and Communities at the Margins.

Location: Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom

Deadline: January 28, 2018.

This project focuses on marginalized communities and how political and social changes have transformed attitudes and responses of the legal system to gender and sexuality. Essentially, the applicants are invited to explore this topic through European law, human rights law in Europe, international law or the domestic law of England and Wales. At the moment, research topics that fall within this broader project include equality and anti-discrimination law, detention and sexual orientation, and same-sex relationships.

The PhD student will be based at the Gender, Sexuality, and Law Research Group in the Faculty of Business and Law. The leading supervisor of this project is Dr. Chris Ashford, a Professor of Law and Society.

Specific Requirements:

To be eligible for this project, you should have a 1st class honors undergraduate degree (or at least 2:1), and a Master’s degree (completed with merit).

You are expected to submit a 1,000-word long proposal in which they should state the way in you prefer to approach this project and what you wish to focus on. Your preferred approach can be empirical, doctrinal, and your methodology can be comparative, socio-legal, or you can choose to have a purely theoretical focus.


This is a fully-funded project, meaning that as a PhD student, you will have your tuition fees covered, and will receive a stipend amounting to £14,553 per year for the period of three years.

  1. Queering Geopolitics: LGBT+ Communities and the War in Ukraine.

Location: Northumbria University, Newcastle, United Kingdom

Deadline: January 28, 2018.

The starting point for this human rights research project is Russia’s “anti-gay” legislative reform that has been pushing for “traditional values” and has seriously endangered fundamental rights and freedoms of the LGBT+ community. Researchers from Northumbria University have noted a significant lack of scholarship on queer geopolitics in the context of the war in Ukraine. The proposed project seeks to explore the complex relationships between LGBT+ communities and their relationships with local and national power structures as well as transnational connections.

This project will be supervised by Dr. Kathryin Cassidy, an expert in Human Geography. The selected PhD candidate is expected to conduct long-term fieldwork in Ukraine.

Special Requirements:

To be eligible for this project, you should have a 1st class honors undergraduate degree (or at least 2:1), and a Master’s degree (completed with merit).

In addition, you should prepare a 1,000-word long research proposal to show how you would approach this topic.


The successful candidate will receive a full stipend of £14,553 per year. Tuition fees are also covered for the period of three years.

  1. PhD in Law and Politics

Location: Cardiff University, Cardiff, United Kingdom

Deadline: 15 January 2018 (international scholarship); 1 February 2018 (UK/EU students).

Cardiff University School of Law and Politics is one of the leading research institutions in the UK. Some of their main topics of interest are human rights and human rights law. In addition, this PhD program is renowned in the field of socio-legal studies, which offers a wide range of potential research projects. Besides human rights, the scholars working in this school work on issues relating to criminal law and justice, social care, and environmental issues.

Specific Requirements:

For this program, a good honors degree in Law (2:1 or equivalent) is preferred. Overseas qualifications in relevant subjects are also accepted.

Your research proposal should be a comprehensive piece of writing of around 5,000 words.


Home/EU PhD students qualify for the funding available through several ESRC studentships. Currently, the school offers a studentship in Empirical Studies in Law, and a general PhD studentship in Law. Other funding opportunities could be sought through the AHRC South, West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership.

Furthermore, the Cardiff University is currently offering fully-funded studentships to PhD students coming from middle-income countries. The scholarship covers tuition fees, and include a living stipend of £14,553 annually for the entire duration of the program (three years). To be considered for this scholarship, you should attach your resume and a personal statement to the online application.

  1. PhD in Law and Social Justice

Location: University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Deadline: applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

The University of Liverpool offers a unique three-year-long interdisciplinary PhD program, where experts in Law, Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology collaborate. Some of the latest projects taking place in this school concern the legalities of the Global South, military repatriation and the impact of punishment. The school is also very much interested in any projects relating to the urban space, culture, and regeneration.

Specific Requirements:

Preferably, you have a good undergraduate degree as well as a Master’s degree in criminology, law, social policy and sociology, or any cognate discipline. All other general requirements apply.


When it comes to the available funding for home/EU students, the School of Law and Social Justice is part of both the ESRC and the AHRC Doctoral Training Partnerships, which means a number of PhD studentships are available through these schemes. The University offers financial assistance to international students through several awards, such as the Vice-Chancellor’s International Attainment Scholarship (£2,500 tuition fee reduction), and the Postgraduate Progression Award (£2,500 tuition fee reduction).

You can choose to self-fund your PhD, or else keep a close eye on the available and funded research opportunities.

  1. Feminist and LGBTQ Activism and Responses to Austerity in the Manchester City-Region.

Location: Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, United Kingdom

Deadline: January 31, 2018.

This project opportunity in Manchester is available to UK, EU, and international students. The selected PhD student will work on examining how feminist and LGBTQ activist groups in the city of Manchester and the wider region have so far responded to austerity measures applied in the country. Some of the aims of this project include mapping feminist and LGBTQ activist networks in the Manchester city area and identifying areas of synergies between activist groups and any possible tensions and conflicts.

This project will be supervised jointly by Dr. Jon Binnie from the School of Science and Environment and Dr. Christian Klesse from the Department of Sociology.

Specific Requirements:

All applicants should have a wide knowledge and at least some experience using different qualitative research skills, particularly interviewing, organizing focus groups and conducting critical discourse analysis. Furthermore, you should have a good knowledge of academic debates on feminist and LGBTQ social movements.

You are also expected to write a separate research proposal as a part of your application.


Shortlisted applications will be invited for an interview, after which the selected applicant will be informed about the funding. Funding opportunities are either full (tuition waiver and a stipend) or tuition fees only for three years.

  1. PhD in Human Rights

Location: University of Sussex, Brighton, United Kingdom.

Deadline: February 2, 2018 (for a funded place).

The University of Sussex offers an interdisciplinary program in Human Rights taught by experts from several different departments. This is a four-year-long program, and you can also choose to complete it part-time, in which case it would take 6 years. Some of the main broadly-defined topics are: poverty, violence, identity, globalization and the emergence of global forms of governance. The professors who work as supervisors in this program have a large range of research interests, including but not limited to migration, hate crime, security studies, gender and masculinity, political violence and minority rights.

Specific Requirements:

You are expected to have a Master’s degree and a first or upper second class (2.1) undergraduate degree in a subject area relevant to your proposed area of research.

When filling in the online application, you must also provide a research proposal.


There are several ways in which you can fund your PhD at the University of Sussex. If you are a home/EU student, your best option would be an ESRC scholarship, since the university provides a good number of them. When it comes to non-EU students, up to ten scholarships are given to outstanding students from China, in a joint effort by University of Sussex and China Scholarship Council. Finally, the prestigious Chancellor’s International Research Scholarship is awarded to eleven PhD students across departments. This scholarship is fully-funded, covering the costs of your tuition as well as your costs of living.

We hope that you will take advantage of these PhD opportunities and apply as soon as possible. Good luck!

About the author


Maja Davidovic

Maja Davidovic is a Serbian-born independent researcher and Human Rights graduate. She holds her M.A. degree from Central European University in Budapest, and had previously lived and worked in Greece, Turkey and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Maja mostly researches about women’s rights, child protection and transitional justice, and has been involved with organizations such as MSF and OSCE, as well grassroots initiatives. You may follow her on her newly-made Twitter profile @MajaADavidovic, where she aspires to open discussions on a variety of human rights-related issues.