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Funded PhD Opportunities in Law

Northumbria University is a research-rich, business focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. 

Results from the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2021) see us rise to 23rd place, climbing from our positions of 50th in 2014, and 80th in 2008.  Northumbria University is the sector’s largest riser in research power in the UK. 

Below you can find our available studentships for Law.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

Immigration Health Surcharge

If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.

Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England

Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see  

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of courses: 1 October 2023 TBC

Advert Reference: RDF23/LAW/BESSANT

Children are often viewed as inexperienced and immature, as lacking in knowledge and judgement. Parents, by contrast, are assumed to have the knowledge and experience to take sound decisions upon their children’s behalf. Such perspectives permeate privacy discourse. The UK General Data Protection Regulation describes children as vulnerable, stating that processing of children’s data by internet society services is only permissible where a parent provides consent. The European Court of Human Rights as well as the English judiciary, have further emphasised the importance of parental consent, stressing that parents are the best people to determine how children’s information and images are utilised.

In recent years, scholars have begun to recognise the challenges parents may encounter when seeking to fulfil their role as the guardians or gatekeepers of their children’s privacy. Many parents have not grown up with the internet. First-time parents who use social media face new and difficult dilemmas; they know that sharing their children’s information may impact upon children’s privacy, yet at the same time they want to freely express themselves, and benefit from the connection and support that comes from sharing information with friends and family. Some parents may feel they have no real choice but to share their children’s information online. Increasingly parents are coerced into sharing their children’s information online, by family, friends, schools, the media and big brands. Social media companies and brands may monetise such information using it to profile families and target advertising.

Indeed, the parental privacy stewardship role is becoming increasingly difficult to fulfil as society becomes ever more datafied. Today’s children are the first generation to be ‘datafied’ from before birth, as companies collect information shared by parents via pregnancy monitoring apps. Parents often unwittingly develop children’s digital footprints further through baby trackers monitoring daily routines, social media updates, and home technologies including connected toys and home hubs. As children interact with the world, the collection of children’s information to profile and make decisions about children and their families further increases. Datafication results from children’s own interactions with mobile phones, wearable devices and social media. Children are datafied because public institutions are increasingly data driven. At school, children’s data is routinely collected and may subsequently be analysed to monitor educational progress, to evaluate behaviour, to track movements, to analyse canteen purchases, to predict progress, and to make interventions.

Children’s images may be shared by schools keen to promote the positive educational experiences they offer. Consent to use children’s information is not always sought from parents, despite their important privacy stewardship role. Indeed, it can be difficult for parents to know when and how children’s information is being collected and used by third parties. This is particularly the case as ‘dark’ or ‘deceptive’ design approaches are increasingly used by commercial entities to manipulate children and parents into revealing personal information.

This project will develop understanding of how the law regulates use of children’s information and how parents can be supported to effectively protect their children’s privacy in an increasingly datafied world.

This project is supervised by Dr Claire Bessant. For informal queries, please contact


Barassi, ‘Child Data Citizen: How Tech Companies are Profiling us from Before Birth’ (MIT Press, 2020)

Bessant, ‘Children, Public Sector Data-Driven Decision-Making and Article 12 UNCRC, (2022) EJLT 13(2)

Bessant, ‘Sharenting: Balancing the conflicting rights of parents and children’ (2018) 23(1) Communications Law 7

Gligorivejic, ‘Children’s Privacy: The role of parental control and consent’ (2019) 19 HRLR 201

Lupton and Williamson, ‘The Datafied Child: The Dataveillance of Children and Implications for their Rights’ [2017] 19(5) New Media & Society 780

Ong et al, ‘Sharenting in an evolving digital world: Increasing online connection and consumer vulnerability’ (2022) 56(3) JCA 1106



Advert Reference: RDF23/LAW/TIARKS

This project will explore the current and future possible uses of artificial intelligence in sentencing and offender management in England and Wales. Examples from the United States, where the use of AI in criminal justice is more extensive, will also be considered. The project will assess the legal, ethical and human rights implications of using AI to assist decision-making about sentencing and the management of offenders. It is expected that the project will take an interdisciplinary and mixed methods approach, and qualitative and quantitative methods are encouraged where appropriate to explore the project issues.

The use of AI has increased in recent years, including in the field of criminal justice. Potential benefits which have been raised include a reduction in judicial bias, arbitrariness in decision-making and costs, as well as an increase in transparency in decision-making and overall efficiency. Conversely, it has been argued that the use of AI in sentencing and the management of offenders is more likely to increase bias and decrease transparency, with particular criticism aimed at the more advanced uses of AI in some states in the US.

The current use of AI in sentencing and the management of offenders in England and Wales is limited, but there is some indication that introducing more advanced machine learning methods is under consideration in England and Wales. The willingness to use machine learning in risk assessments used for predictive policing, e.g. Durham Constabulary’s Harm Assessment Risk Tool (HART), suggests that this may be the direction of travel. More advanced machine learning methods have been used in similar tools relied on to assist with sentencing and parole decisions in the US, e.g. Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions (COMPAS).

There is an urgent need for research into the legal, ethical and human rights implications of using AI in sentencing and the management of offenders. This project will make an important contribution to scholarship on this issue, weighing up the arguments for and against the current and proposed future uses of AI in sentencing and the management of offenders in England and Wales, having regard to other developments in the use of AI in criminal justice processes in England and Wales, and the uses in sentencing in the US.

This project is supervised by Dr Elizabeth Tiarks. for informal queries, please contact


The Law Society, Algorithms in the Criminal Justice System (The Law Society 2019).

Oswald, M., Grace, J., Urwin, S. and Barnes, G.S., ‘Algorithmic risk assessment policing models: lessons from the Durham HART model and “Experimental” proportionality’ (2018) 27(2) Information & Communications Technology Law 223.

Stobbs, N., Hunter, D. and Bagaric, M., ‘Can sentencing be enhanced by the use of artificial intelligence?’ (2017) 41(5) Criminal Law Journal 261.

Tiarks, E.,’The impact of algorithms on legitimacy in sentencing’ (2021) 2(1) Journal of Law, Technology and Trust.

Advert Reference: RDF23/LAW/ASHFORD

Criminal Law continues to reach into the regulation of queer male desire whether in the form of the legacy from historic laws, or ongoing criminalization of sex or offences often related to sex, for example in relation to sex work, HIV transmission, public sex, or aspects of expression for example in relation to pornography.  Theoretical research, notably queer interventions from Adler (2018), Brooks (2019), Cossman (2007, 2021), Fischel (2016, 2019), and others have sought to challenge the boundaries of law and interrogate ideas of consent, bodily autonomy, ethics, and legal reform.  This project will provide an original socio-legal theoretical contribution developing these themes and is likely to incorporate empirical work. 

This research project will be conducted within the Gender, Sexuality, and Law research cluster, part of the Law and Society Research Group in the Faculty of Business and Law, where you will join a rich and thriving research community.  Examples of doctoral work that has been undertaken within this group include:;  same sex relationships and normative expectations; kink pornography and legal consciousness; equality and anti-discrimination law; international law, detention and sexual orientation and gender identity; sex work and international human rights; political and legal responses to sex work; and dating apps and HIV disclosure.

Applicants should clearly indicate where they would wish to focus the project within the context of the themes set out above.  The research will fall within the broad ambit of socio-legal methods and methodology and the application should clearly identify how it will do this.  Your project is likely to draw on queer and/or feminist perspectives but you should clearly articulate your proposed approach and methodology. 

This project is supervised by Professor Chris Ashford. For informal queries, please contact


Giles, C, Ashford, C and Brown, K (2022) ‘Online Safety and Identity:  Navigating Same-Sex Male Social ‘Dating’ Apps and Networks’, Information & Communications Technology Law 31(3) 269-286.

Ashford, C and Longstaff, G (2022) ‘Towards a Politics of ‘Raw Dicks’:  Authenticity, the Alt-Self and New Understandings of the Phallus’, Journal of Bodies, Sexualities, and Masculinities 3(1) 79-97.

Ashford, C and Longstaff, G (2021) ‘(Re)regulating Gay Sex in Viral Times: Covid-19 and the Impersonal Intimacy of the Glory Hole’, Culture, Heath & Sexuality, 23(11) 1559-1572.

Ashford, C and Maine, A (eds.) (2020) Research Handbook on Gender, Sexuality and the Law, Edward Elgar.

Advert Reference: RDF23/LAW/BOUKALAS

Across the western world, the 21st century has been marked by the emergence of grave threats and the concomitant rise of security as a top social and political priority. Whether the threat is posed by terrorism or, more recently, a virus, western states conceptualise and communicate it as existential and mobilise a broad range of powers and resources to counter it. Moreover, governments do not seem to envision a future without threat: military confrontation and the multifaceted impacts of environmental crisis are added to the threat of pandemics and terrorism. As the threat becomes a permanent feature of society’s present and future, the security endeavour becomes perpetual and intense. This results to a hardening of the way the state relates to its citizens: in restriction of freedoms, increased suspicion and intolerance to resistance and protest.

Law is a key resource in this security endeavour. The state has been producing laws that are instrumental to its security objectives, so that Security Law has become a distinct and highly dynamic area of law in the 21st century. Security law has important effects on the broader legal framework — civil liberties; human rights; criminal, administrative and constitutional law; processes of investigation and trial — as well as the role, logic and purpose of law.

This call is for PhD proposals aiming to investigate 21st century security law in the west. Proposals should aim to examine relevant legal developments in one or more European, North American or South American countries or the European Union. Proposals are invited to focus in one or more areas of security law, especially on: (a) counterterrorism; (b) surveillance and intelligence; (c) biosecurity and public health; and (d) protest and public order. The research will also aim to assess the implications of security law for the broader legal framework; for the political institutions that produce and implement it; and on the role of law in mediating the relations between the state and society.

In their proposal, applicants are required to demonstrate their awareness of relevant literature and key legal documents and developments. They are also required to outline the key research questions they seek to investigate and the way they would approach them.

The research invited by this call is interdisciplinary, as it draws —at a minimum— from Law (doctrinal; theoretical; and socio-legal) as well as Social and Political theory. It is aligned with the Criminal Justice and the Law and Society research streams in the Law School.

This project is supervised by Christos Boukalas. For informal queries, please contact 

Advert Reference: RDF23/LAW/WAKE

There are 14 Secure Children’s Homes currently operating throughout England and Wales,  providing placements for boys and girls aged 10-17 entering the system  principally through welfare and/or criminal justice pathways. As a closed environment there is limited research on the effectiveness and operation of the provision, but research in the area is beginning to expand, and with the potential development of new Secure Children’s Homes at various sites it is imperative that further research is conducted not only into extant provision for this discrete category of vulnerable children, but how these young people transition out of the secure estate, the risks, and challenges this poses and in terms of originality identifying the optimal step down model.  

This PhD invites candidates to explore the following question: how can Secure Children’s Homes help to bridge the gap between custody and the community, in a way which supports children’s right to agentic engagement with their future pro-social development?

We encourage candidates who have the aspiration and ability to advance knowledge and understanding in this area through theoretically-informed empirical research. The candidate might approach this project from the perspective of a range of disciplines and fields of study, including socio-legal studies, youth and childhood studies, criminology, policy studies and adjacent fields of study.

This project is supervised by Professor Nicola Wake. For informal queries, please contact


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