Postgraduate Research

Postgraduate students talking


We welcome research students who wish to work in an area of our expertise.

Current PhD projects


Law_PGR_student_FayeBird Faye Bird "Islamic State’s Use of Forced Marriages and Sexual Slavery as a Weapon of War: A Critical Analysis of International Law in the Changing Landscape of Modern Day Warfare"

Global attention is increasingly paid to the specific atrocities presently inflicted upon minority women in Syria and Iraq by militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL-Daesh). Following investigations in the Middle East, the United Nations Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict observed that at the hands of the militant group 'younger women are examined to see if they are virgins, [the remaining] will end up being auctioned... like cattle'.

ISIL-Daesh's 'institutionalisation' of sexual violence through means of forced marriages and a slave trade is a key feature of this new, hybrid-war. The efficiency of this weapon has been heightened by the utilisation of modern technology, allowing for the global distribution of their online propaganda campaign, lending to their recruitment strategy, and ultimately increasing the systematic violence against women and girls. The primary aim of the research is to critically analyse the law of armed conflict in this context, considering the need for victims to appeal to transitional justice. Further, the research aims to address whether existing feminist jurisprudence stemming from the law of armed conflict, international criminal law and international human rights law can provide sufficient normative recommendations, or if in reality, the failures in the law stem from deep-rooted, structural inadequacies requiring more fundamental upheavals.

Faye has received her LLB from the University of Exeter and her LLM in International Law from the University of Reading. The research outlined above is funded by the AHRC through the South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership and is co-supervised across this DTP at the Universities of Reading and Exeter. In addition, Faye is a sessional lecturer on the LLB Criminal Law module at Reading, and is a member and co-ordinator of the Gender and Sexuality Research Network based at Reading, which is affiliated to the AHRC SWW-DTP supported Gender and Sexuality Research Cluster.

Liz-Mari Welman Liz-Mari Welman "Securing gender equality at a senior level? A critique of UK employees' right to request flexible working"

Work/life reconciliation has become an important issue on the UK's legislative agenda as the government seeks to promote a change of culture in order to achieve a society where being a good parent and a good employee are not mutually exclusive. Notwithstanding various initiatives to promote gender equality in the workplace, women still only constitute 22.8% of board members on FTSE 100 companies. Since 30 June 2014 all UK employees with 26 weeks continuous service have the right to request flexible working for any reason (Children and Families Act 2014). This project analyses the potential impact of this extension of the legal right to request flexible working to all employees on the policy goal of increasing women's representation in leadership positions in the workplace. This research is a doctrinal analysis of the relevant policies and legislation and will involve a review and analysis of the following 3 main areas:

  • The right to request legislation
  • Evidence of, and reasons for, the glass ceiling effect and how it has been (historically) and is (currently) experienced in the UK and elsewhere (EU, Australia, New Zealand and USA)
  • Literature relating to women, leadership and gender equality

face Olugu Ukpai "Beyond 'Amputating A Healthy Limb' Argument: Female Genital Cutting (FGC): Problems and Prospects of Its Socio-Legal Abolition in South-Eastern Nigeria"

Olugu's thesis investigates the failure of the Nigerian judiciary to creatively take a progressive stance against cases involving the practice of FGC and gender equality. An analysis of the Court's first decade of gender jurisprudence has failed to address the "woman question". During that period, the judiciary demonstrated failure in applying with matters relating to socio-religious and cultural practices against women. The thesis asks, what formal legal strategies will be most effective in bringing an end to FGC in Nigeria?

Olugu has published two books, Men's Perspectives on Female Genital Cutting in South-eastern Nigeria: From Another Point Of View (VDM Verlag Dr. Mller, 2009) and Female Genital Cutting In The Company Of Men: A Guide To Current Debate: De-Theorizing Hegemonic Ideology of African Men Towards The Practice of FGC (Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010). He has a peer-reviewed article forthcoming in rnkrind: A Journal of African Migration (2010). His recent conference presentations include a paper delivered at the Xn Foundation's annual International Conference of Nigerian Students (Kent University, 2010). He is a regular contributor to online news media regarding Nigerian issues.

face Julie Knight Research Question: The principal research question the project asks is to what extent the law effectively protects, and can effectively protect, the dignity of elderly people in care

This main question can be broken down into the following more specific questions:

What does dignity mean for those dependent on others for their wellbeing? What is the law currently in place to protect dignity? Does it, can it and should it protect all aspects of dignity? Are victims utilizing the law when their dignity is abused? What are the obstacles they face accessing justice and if they do, do they feel vindicated? These are the questions this research is going to try to answer.

Research aims

This thesis aims at looking at:

  • what dignity means for elderly people who receive care
  • the extent to which the legal provisions in place effectively uphold dignity thus understood
  • the normative desirability of protecting different aspects of dignity through the legal system

Julie is a graduate of the MRes Law programme at Reading.

Recent successfully defended PhD's


  • Stuart Davis (2015) 'Cross-Border Recognition of Same-Sex Marriages and Registered Partnerships in the European Union'
  • Alex Dymock (2015) 'Abject Intimacies: Sexual Perversion in the Criminal-Legal Imaginary'. Dr. Alex Dymock is a Lecturer in Criminology & Law at Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Nora Honkala (2015) '(Mis) Understanding Forced Marriage: International Law, Rights and Their Limits in Asylum Seeker Women's Cases'. Dr. Nora Honkala currently works as a Teaching Fellow at University of Reading

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