Why a PhD in SPAIS?

SPAIS research environment

The School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies is an interdisciplinary scholarly environment producing leading research which is international in its focus and relevant to the changing circumstances of our increasingly interconnected world.  We are committed to rigorous conceptual and empirical research that is politically and socially relevant and problem oriented.  We aim to advance theory, knowledge and methods at the interface between the disciplines of sociology, politics and international relations.  The questions addressed recognise that political structures are related in complex ways to the social conditions that underlie them, and equally, that social conditions are affected in complex ways by political structures.  Our aim is not just to monitor the global condition but to contribute to advancing ways that might improve it.

Our research activity is guided by a focus on key themes: Critical security; Ethnicity, migration and citizenship; Europe and Europeanization; Political and social inequalities; Social, cultural and political theory; and South and East Asia.  Research in the School covers important questions around the impact of globalization and it consequences for the contemporary social and political world.  Topics addressed are the changing patterns of ethnicity, migration and religion, the dynamics of security and insecurity, the structural patterns of global poverty and disadvantage, the evolving international balances and imbalances of state power, Europeanization, and the contemporary transformations of gender, class and family.  We study these research fields in their domestic, international and global contexts, and with reference to the experiences of Western and non-Western societies.

SPAIS research areas / clusters

All researchers across the school identify with one or more of the key themes. This enables collective identification over themes within the School and aims to generate further collaboration and interdisciplinarity in our research activities.  In addition, the themes provide a basis for internal and external recognition of the main questions and topics that our research addresses.

Some research themes host research infrastructures, including centres, networks, seminar series, workshops and reading groups. In addition, each of the themes is divided into two sub-themes.

What our PhD graduates say

Professor Lin Yi – Xiamen University

Professor Lin Yi – Xiamen UniversityThe University of Bristol not only met my interest in the topics of culture, power and modernity but also truly laid a sustainable foundation, both theoretically and methodologically, for me to expand my research to a wider range of relevant issues.

Frequent interaction with either staff members or fellow PhD students - who had a variety of academic interests and/or backgrounds - on formal or informal occasions (e.g., in seminars, the gym or in pubs) made my study and life in Bristol full of interest, meaning and great peace.

What our PhD graduates say

Dr Laura Shepherd – University of New South Wales

Dr Laura Shepherd – University of New South WalesMy time spent at the University of Bristol as a doctoral researcher was challenging, engaging and above all excellent preparation for life as an academic.

The research community at Bristol was fantastic and every week there were opportunities to discuss ideas and arguments with peers and more senior academic staff.

I have recommended Bristol as a place to undertake postgraduate study to many of my own students and will continue to do .

What our PhD graduates say

Dr Nasar Meer – Northumbria University

Dr Nasar Meer – Northumbria UniversityCommunity matters when you start a new degree, and there’s none better than the kind that springs up between Bristol postgraduates.

Looking back I can see how well that support network, and the wider intellectual discussion with faculty staff, has served me in my studies and subsequent career.

What our PhD graduates say

Dr Kathryn Kraft – Humanitarian Aid Consultant

Dr Kathryn Kraft – Humanitarian Aid ConsultantMy supervisors always pushed me to see and to represent all the sides of an issue.

I now work as a technical advisor for an international humanitarian aid agency, designing and evaluating interventions, developing training materials and leading assessments to understand the communities where we work.

What our PhD graduates say

Dr Carole Spary - University of York

Dr Carole Spary - University of YorkThe support and encouragement I received both from individual members of staff and the department as a whole gave me an excellent foundation for developing an academic career.

My supervisors encouraged me to integrate into wider research networks, in which I still participate actively today.

I will always remember my postgraduate days at Bristol very fondly and I am pleased to still be in contact with members of staff through research and social networks.

Staff research interests

Staff research interests are diverse and extend beyond the major research clusters within and the research centres affiliated with the School. If you are interested in perusing the research, teaching and supervisory interests of individual members of staff, please consult the list of staff interests.