The PhD experience

Where are our recent PhD students now and what do they have to say about studying at Edinburgh?

Matteo Bonotti completed his PhD (2006-2010) on religious political parties and political theory, supervised by Dr Lynn Dobson and Dr Wilfried Swenden. He is now a lecturer in political theory at Cardiff University. His paper ‘Religious Political Parties and the Limits of Political Liberalism’, Res Publica, 17(2), 2011, pp. 107-123 was written while he was a graduate student and discussed at the Political Theory Research Group.

“My experience as a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh was excellent. I had previously studied in the School of Social and Political Science as an MSc student and found the level of teaching, research and supervision so outstanding that I decided to also do my PhD there. My supervisors were excellent and I had the chance to constantly engage with the lively and varied political theory community and with other PhD students and members of staff, and to obtain invaluable feedback on my work from the Political Theory Research Group. I also received very generous funding from the School to support my PhD and to attend academic conferences across Europe, and had the opportunity to gain teaching experience on several undergraduate courses while completing my PhD. I highly recommend the University of Edinburgh to anyone who would like to pursue a PhD in political theory.”

Ben Hawkins completed his PhD (2006-2009) on the construction of Britain and Europe in media coverage of the EU treaty reform process, under the supervision of Dr Lynn Dobson. His article ‘Nation, Separation and Threat: An Analysis of British Media Discourses on the European Union Treaty Reform Process,’ drawn from his doctoral thesis, was published in the Journal of Common Market Studies in 2012. He is currently a Lecturer in Global Health Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“I very much enjoyed and benefited from the diversity of research foci and the broad expertise of the supervisors available at Edinburgh. This facilitated the type of inter-disciplinary work, on the border between political theory and policy studies, which I sought to undertake. The research community is stimulating and graduate students are well integrated into the intellectual life of the department through the research groups and other seminars. These provide a range of different environments in which to present and receive feedback on work. The PhD programme is well structured with a range of research training courses available, and a wide range of undergraduate teaching opportunities open to doctoral researchers. I would recommend Edinburgh to anyone considering a PhD in political theory, and especially those interested in applied, inter-disciplinary topics such as mine.”

Jaakko Kuosmanen completed his PhD (2008-2012) on the ethics of refugee protection, supervised by Dr Lynn Dobson and Dr Elizabeth Cripps and funded by institutional grants from his native Finland. He is now a research fellow at the Martin School Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations at the University of Oxford. His paper, ‘Perfecting Imperfect Duties: The Institutionalisation of a Universal Right to Asylum’, Journal of Political Philosophy 21 (1), 2013, pp23-43 was written while he was a graduate student and discussed at the Political Theory Research Group.

“I found Edinburgh to be an excellent place to do a PhD, and the political theory community very engaging and welcoming. The staff and students work with devotion, and supervision is of high-quality. The political theory research group provides an excellent opportunity to test the quality of your work as well to develop your analytical skills. There are also very good opportunities to engage in teaching on political theory courses. I am very happy that I chose Edinburgh as the place to do my PhD, and I sincerely recommend it to anyone considering a PhD in political theory.”

What some of our current PhD students say:

Christina Dineen is researching the role of needs in distributive justice theory, supervised by Prof Tim Hayward and Dr Elizabeth Cripps.

“The PhD in Political Theory at Edinburgh offers real opportunities to be part of a supportive academic community. Your supervisors will be leading scholars in challenging and current ethical and political subject areas, and you’ll have the chance to build your confidence in yourself and your work through regular interaction and feedback with a range of Edinburgh faculty and visiting academics in the Political Theory Research Group. Having a supportive research culture is so important to me, and I can’t say enough about how helpful this research group is to integrating you into the discipline as well as providing opportunities to link up with fellow students and faculty with similar interests. You’ll also have a chance to build your tutoring and teaching experience on a variety of undergraduate and Honours level courses. Ultimately, the programme is designed to help you make the most of your experience, and to take your research and your career in the direction that you choose.”

Andrew Drever is undertaking a comparative study of reflective equilibrium and critical dialectics, supervised by Prof Tim Hayward.

“I’m really glad I decided to undertake my doctoral study at Edinburgh, which as well as being enjoyable has given me the opportunities to develop academically and professionally. Regular meetings with my supervisor have been a big part of this. These are always constructive and encouraging and I invariably leave them with a much clearer idea of where I’m going next with my research, what else I ought to look at, and how my current work fits into my thesis as a whole. Having presented twice at the Political Theory Research Group, I can honestly say that the quality and quantity of feedback I received is exceptional. I can’t imagine many other opportunities for a postgraduate researcher to be able to discuss their work with others in their field for ninety minutes. I’ve also had plenty of opportunities to tutor in both political theory and other courses within the School of Social and Political Science, which has let me find out how much I love teaching and how rewarding it is. SSPS offers great resources for doctoral students, and having an office to work in and the use of a laptop for the duration of my study has been really helpful.”