Research Scholarships

Criminology: ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership PhD Collaborative Studentship with RUSI

Closing date: 1 February 2019

Key Information

ESRC Wales DTP logo       RUSI logo

This scholarship is funded by ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership and the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI).

Swansea University, supported by the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales (Wales DTP), invites applications for funded PhD study, available to start in October 2019. The following collaborative studentship is available in the Criminology pathway of the Wales DTP:

‘The Role of Historical Narratives in Extremist Propaganda’ (working title) in collaboration with the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI).

Project description:

Strategic communications has become relevant in the fields of CT and P/CVE because some terrorist groups, most notably the so-called Islamic State (IS) have been recognised as being highly successful in exploiting communications to achieve their goals. These goals include influencing and attracting potential recruits and sympathisers, intimidating enemies (e.g. through maximising the impact of terrorist attacks, or projecting the appearance of power), and encouraging compliance on the part of host communities. Governments committed to countering groups like IS have identified the communication space as a major battleground, responding in effect to Al Qaida leader’s Ayman al-Zawahiri’s famous message to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the erstwhile commander of Al Qaida in Iraq in 2005 to remember that “we are in a battle, and that more than half of this battle is taking place in the battlefield of the media. And that we are in a media battle in a race for the hearts and minds of our Umma.”

The first step in countering violent extremists’ narratives is to understand the construction and application of their narratives. This project aims to examine an under researched area in this field: the use of historical narratives in extremist propaganda. Previous explorative research has shown historical narratives are a very potent tool in the hands of extremist propagandists, identifying a number of distinct ways in which historical narratives can be applied to strengthen the groups’ own narratives. At its most basic, historical narratives provide a reservoir of evidence or data points that can be interwoven to create supporting arguments to the extremists’ view point. However, what gives historical narratives their potency is their temporal characteristics. The ability to connect the present to the past, so that current events are not viewed in isolation but as part of a temporal continuum. In this way today’s conflicts are transformed into the latest stage of an historical struggle, and in-group/out-group dynamics are ‘shown’ to be not a new dynamic but a continuous or perpetual struggle between two groups.

This project envisages conducting in-depth historical case studies of the propaganda produced by a selected number of extremist organisations. The use of historical narratives will be analysed both within and between the case studies to provide a deeper understanding of how historical narratives are exploited in extremist propaganda. The analysis stage will draw on insights and theories from Criminology, Terrorism Studies, Communication Studies, English Literature, Psychology and Political Science.

We welcome applications for both full and part-time study, and studentships are available as either ‘1+3’ (i.e. one full time year of research training Masters followed by three years of full-time doctoral study, or the part-time equivalent), or ‘+3’ (i.e. three years of full-time doctoral study or its part-time equivalent), depending on the needs of the applicant. Swansea University values diversity and equality at all levels and encourages applications from all sections of the community.

Research is at the core of Swansea University’s vision. We aim to foster research excellence across a broad range of subject areas, with internationally leading research staff informing all our teaching. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, showed that Swansea is now a top 30 research university, soaring up the leagues table to 26th in the UK from 52nd position in 2008.


This studentship is a ‘collaborative’ award. Applicants should take careful consideration of the working title and description of the project, and may wish to contact the named supervisor and / or the Swansea pathway contact for a discussion prior to applying. They are: 


Residential eligibility:

Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. You must:

• be ordinarily resident in the UK, meaning there are no restrictions on how long you can stay, and

• have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for at least three years prior to the start of the studentship grant. This means you must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences), and

• not have been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK nationals and EU nationals who were ordinarily resident in the EU immediately before the period of full-time education).

Due to funding restrictions, these scholarships are not open to international candidates.

Academic eligibility:

ESRC studentships are highly competitive. Candidates should have an excellent background in the social sciences, holding a 1st or upper 2nd class degree; applications from those also holding a relevant research training Master's degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a ‘+3’ award.


Full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold either a full-time job, or a permanent part-time job, during the period of their award. Part-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold a full-time job.


The studentship provides the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend. There will be additional funds available for research expenses.

Studentship awards commence in October 2019 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £14,777 per annum for 2018/19 for full-time students, updated each year) and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, oversea institutional visits and other small grants.

A ‘1+3’ studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Masters in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A ‘+3’ studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent).

How to Apply

The application must contain the following documents and be submitted to

  1. Covering letter: Please address to Dr. Caroline Jones. The covering letter must set out your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Swansea University, and the chosen pathway; your understanding, and expectations of doctoral study; your academic interests generally, and particularly how these relate to the description of the project supplied. The covering letter should be no more than two pages. Please specify whether you wish to apply on a ‘+3’ or ‘1+3’ basis. Remember also to specify that your application concerns ESRC Wales DTP collaborative studentships and include in your application the title of the project to which you are applying.
  2. Academic / professional qualifications: Please provide copies of certificates and transcripts. Where appropriate, this should also include proof of English Language Competency (7.0 IELTS minimum).
  3. References: All applications require two academic references to be submitted in support. Candidates must approach referees themselves, and submit the references with their application.
  4. Curriculum Vitae: It should be no longer than two pages.
  5. Research Proposal: For collaborative studentships, the proposal should build directly on the outline description that has been supplied. The proposal should be up to a maximum of 1000 words, not including bibliographic references. We suggest that you use the following five headings in your research proposal: 
    • Your reflections on the title, aims and purpose of the research;
    • An overview of some key research literature relevant to the study;
    • Your proposals for developing the design and methods of the study;
    • A description of potential outcomes of the project for understanding, knowledge, policy and practice (as appropriate to the topic);
    • Bibliographic references.

Please note that incomplete applications or applications received after the specified time will not be accepted. 

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 1 February 2019.

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview; interviews are expected to take place in March 2019. After interview, a final shortlist of applicants will be put forward to a Panel convened by the ESRC Wales DTP Management Group at which final decisions with regard to studentship awards will be made. In most cases, successful applicants can expect to hear by mid-April 2019.

Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome, and should be directed to Dr. Caroline Jones (