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Human rights/equalities, Jobs, Ombuds and reviewers, Research

Expressions of interest for applications for ESRC or Carnegie PhD studentships

The University of Glasgow is seeking expressions of interest from potential PhD candidates interested in applying for an ESRC or Carnegie studentship to conduct research on specific aspects of the work and role of ombuds, including human rights, decision-making and digitalisation.

The University of Glasgow invites expressions of interest from potential PhD candidates interested in applying for the following schemes:

Full details of each scheme, including eligibility criteria, are available at the links above.

Topic areas of particular interest

Expressions of interest are invited from individuals wishing to study any topic in the area of administrative justice. However, we are particularly interested in supervising students wishing to conduct research on any of the following three broad topics relating to ombudsman schemes.

  1. Ombudsman schemes and human rights in the UK

In many jurisdictions around the world, ombudsman schemes have an explicit human rights remit. The relationship of ombudsman schemes in the UK to human rights is ambiguous and we know little about the extent to which rights-based approaches feature in their work. Although explicitly tasked with a remit to consider maladministration or service failure giving rise to injustice, some have argued that UK ombudsman can and do play a role promoting human rights. At a time of significant constitutional change and with various UK ombudsman schemes having undergone periods of crisis and reform, projects are invited exploring the relationship between  UK ombudsman schemes and the protection of human rights.

  1. Ombudsman schemes and decision-making

We now know a significant amount about judicial decision-making. An important literature exists exploring theories of judicial decision-making and a similarly large literature has investigated empirical questions about how judges decide. Despite their growing role in systems of administrative justice around the world, we know relatively little about decision-making by ombudsman schemes. Such decision making – falling outwith classical legal and administrative models – has yet to be adequately theorised. It has also been subject to almost no empirical investigation. Projects in this area are invited to unlock the black box of the ombudsman’s office and understand the nature of ombudsman decision-making.

  1. Ombudsman schemes in the digital age

Ombudsman schemes are forerunners in the digital revolution which promises to revolutionise justice systems around the world. Already, they conduct the bulk of their business at a distance, using telephone, email, chat, and online platforms to facilitate dispute resolution. As such, understanding the way ombudsman schemes use technology may hold insights for how the broader justice system will develop in coming years. However, recent advances in the availability of big data promise a new revolution. The bodies typically investigated by ombudsman schemes (large bureaucratic organisations) now have access to data which can radically transform how they interact with consumers and citizens. Consequently, ombudsman schemes may need to take an increasing interest in data management and oversight if they are to realise the goals of good administration. Projects in this area are invited which explore how technology is changing the role of the ombudsman, and how big data and the use algorithms may change the rules of the game in areas of mass disputes.

  1. Ombudsmen and improvement in public administration

Two main functions for ombudsmen have been identified in the literature, the first being the investigation and redress of individual complaints(fire-fighting), and the second the more general oversight of public administration in order to improve standards using complaints as a window into the administration (fire-watching respectively). Ombudsmen increasingly claim to be substantially engaged in both and to be successful in both roles, but the fire-watching has been insufficiently examined and it is not clear that claims for successful performance of that role are well-founded. Projects in this area are invited to explore what criteria might be applied to judge success in fire-fighting, what evidence would be needed and what the available evidence tell us.

Expressing an interest and more about the supervisors

Expressions of interest should be sent to Professor Tom Mullen and Dr Chris Gill at chris.gill@glasgow.ac.uk. Prof Mullen and Dr Gill have significant experience of supervision in this area of research. More information about their work and areas of expertise is available here:



What to do next

Please send a statement outlining how you meet the criteria for either the ESRC or Carnegie scheme, which topic you would like to address, and why you are interested in pursing PhD study in this area. Where expressions of interest show significant potential and meet the requirements of the scheme, support will be provided to assist with applications.

Deadline for expressions of interest

Expression of interest should be submitted no later than Friday 12 January 2018.



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