Two Funded PhD Studentships – Human Rights and Social Justice in the Digital Age

About the Studentships

The Human Rights, Big Data and Technology Project invites applications for two doctoral studentships to be associated with Work Stream One of the Project, which seeks to advance knowledge and understanding on how big data and associated technologies are reshaping the conceptualisation and meaning of human rights. The Work Stream seeks to provide insight into the nature of, and connections between, the positive and negative human rights implications of big data and associated technologies by mapping and analysing the wide range of threats posed and opportunities offered. Please find further information on the HRBDT Project here.

We are seeking to appoint two PhD students to work on issues related to Work Stream One. Examples of possible areas of research include:

  • Current and future human rights implications of big data and associated technologies
  • The (re)conceptualisation of human rights in the digital age
  • Safeguards for protecting human rights in the digital age
  • Access to justice and remedies in the digital age
  • Technological challenges posed by big data and associated technologies from a human rights perspective
  • Technological risks and solutions for protecting human rights in the digital age
  • A human rights-based approach to ethical considerations and concerns in the digital age
  • The inter-connections between the SDGs, human rights, big data and associated technologies

Applications will be considered for a January 2018 start. Supervisors will be determined once the successful candidates’ research areas have been decided. The PhD studentship must fall within one of Essex’s SeNSS DTP accredited pathways.

Candidate Profile

The successful candidates will have a first degree and a postgraduate qualification, at least one of which should be in law, sociology, philosophy, computer science, or a related discipline. Candidates with mixed disciplinary backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

The successful candidates will be able to demonstrate:

  • Knowledge of international human rights law;
  • Awareness of potential human rights implications of big data and associated technologies;
  • Ability to undertake qualitative and/or quantitative research of a high standard;
  • Ability to write work of publishable quality;
  • Ability to disseminate research findings to a range of stakeholder and expert communities;
  • Ability to work as part of a multidisciplinary team and to assist with the broader activities of the HRBDT Project, including the organisation of meetings and impact engagement activities.


The awards are for three years and are funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). They cover annual home/EU fees, and provide an annual maintenance grant of £14,553 for UK residents.

Under ESRC rules, UK residents are eligible for a full award (fees and annual maintenance grant). EU citizens who are not ordinarily resident in the UK and do not meet the residential eligibility criteria set by the ESRC are eligible for a fees-only award. Overseas students (non-UK, non-EU) are not eligible for an ESRC award. Please click here for more information on ESRC eligibility.

The details of any funding package will depend on eligibility and potential applicants are encouraged to discuss their individual circumstances. Part-time applicants will be considered.

Eligible candidates can also apply for a Research Training Support Grant (£750 p.a.) and Overseas Fieldwork Support (£450 p.a.), and the successful candidates will receive Proficio funding from the University of Essex.

Additional Information

In the recent Research Excellence Framework, 77% of research at the University of Essex was classed as ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014). We offer world-class supervision and training opportunities, and our research students work at the heart of an internationally-acknowledged and well-connected research community. The holder of the doctoral studentship will be a full member of the University’s Human Rights Centre.

How to Apply

Applications must be made online through the University of Essex’s postgraduate application page. Please apply through the School of Law.

The following information is required:

  1. A letter of motivation/personal statement (1,000 words), detailing special areas of interest in this field and explaining aspects of your academic and professional background relevant to the studentship. Please also specify your preferred start date. If you require a Tier 4 student visa to study in the UK, then your letter should refer specifically to your reasons for wishing to study in the UK;
  2. An up to date CV;
  3. Two academic references, dated;
  4. A sample of recent written work;
  5. A sample research proposal including proposed methodology (1,000 – 2,000 words);
  6. Official transcript(s), in English or a certified translation, of your academic results to date, showing marks or grades;
  7. Evidence of any academic or English language qualifications that have already been awarded and that you have cited in your application.

Please notify Ms Catherine Kent <> upon submitting an application.

Closing date: Sunday 29 October 2017

Interviews will be held by Skype or in person at the University of Essex. The successful candidates would be expected to start on Monday 15 January 2018.

Informal enquiries should be made to Ms Catherine Kent <>.