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Doctoral student, Philip Oamen, shares with Behind the Scenes at BLS his passion for using law to achieve social justice in unequal societies and the positive experiences of graduate studies at BLS.

Philip Oamen, doctoral student in Law

I studied law with a view to using it as a tool for social justice. As someone who grew up in a society where the political class live in affluence while many citizens live in abject poverty, I am passionate about contributing my quota towards bridging the gap between the haves and the have nots.  Thus, my PhD research, which has received huge support from my Supervisors, Ben Warwick and Meghan Campbell, seeks to construct an effective way to  practically realise Economic and Social Rights (ESR) in Nigeria.

To achieve this goal, my   ongoing thesis designs a national and international cooperation model that would lead to a real-world delivery of the promises of ESR.  At the national plane, I argue that the courts should facilitate an inter-branch collaboration or dialogue, rather than embarking on a ‘command and control’ judicial approach. Such an approach may not lead to an efficacious and direct impact on the ESR needs of the poor, owing to political resistance and disregard. At the international level, my thesis adopts a Third World Approach to International Law (TWAL) to argue that, there are normative and jurisprudential grounds for developing countries to seek and obtain international cooperation and assistance from developed countries for the realisation of ESR  in the former. This argument enjoys a bolster from relevant international human rights instruments, such as the ICESCR, which commend themselves for an ESR extra-territorial obligation on the part of developed countries in favour of developing countries. This treaty-obligation is not surprising, considering the historical undercurrents of the present North-South economic and social inequalities. The impact of slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism cannot be divorced from the ravaging poverty in the Global South. If the poverty must be addressed effectively, then the economic, financial and technical assistance of former colonial masters should kick in as a matter of international obligation, not as mere charitable interventions.

Talking about Birmingham Law School (BLS), I can state convincingly that BLS has impacted me as a researcher, in no small measure.  For the past three years that I have been here, I have drawn on the opportunities and rich resources that BLS provides, to reshape my professional life as a teacher and researcher.  For example, I have served as a Teaching Associate at BLS. In that capacity, I taught Law of Contract and Banking and Financial Services Law in small groups (seminars). I also assessed undergraduates' formative and summative essays in several subjects. I have also served as an Academic Tutor at UoB's Access to Birmingham Scheme where I organised academic workshop and provided support for Law applicants. Also, the knowledge I have gained from training, such as online marking and deployment of IT tools for teaching and learning, has enabled me to teach and assess students in a thoroughly professional manner.  The teaching role also gave me the opportunity to develop myself in terms of pedagogical approaches. Thus, I currently hold an Associate Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (now Advance HE). The knowledge and skills from the fellowship have helped me to become a better teacher who adopts a constructivist approach to teaching and reflects on his teaching practice.

Another way that BLS has impacted my life is in effective leadership, networks and partnerships. For example, I have served as a Deputy Convenor of the BLS’ Global Legal Studies research group under the convenorship of Shahabuddin Mohammad. The role gave me the opportunity to moderate research presentations and network with scholars within and outside BLS.  Moreover, the research group gave me huge support when I initiated and co-organised a Career Development and Networking Event for BLS PhD students on 05 December 2019.  The event did not only promote collegiality within the PGR community, but it also enhanced my event-organising and networking skills. At the wider university level, I have been privileged to have gained administrative work experience. For example, I have worked as a Birmingham Digital Exchange (BDx) Assistant as well as a Library Resource List Assistant within UoB Professional Services. In the former role, I collaborated with colleagues to organise the first ever BDx event at UoB. In the latter position, I worked with fellow staff in identifying the needed academic resources and placing appropriate purchase orders for UoB staff and students.

Lastly, I have enjoyed huge support from BLS and CAL in terms of research dissemination. For example, BLS and CAL funded my trip to Washington DC where I presented my research thoughts at the Law and Society Association’s 2019 Annual Conference. I also had the luck of presenting my research at the BLS Annual Conference in 2019. These opportunities have indeed sharpened and reshaped my communication skills.

 I urge new postgraduate research students to explore the vast opportunities that are available at BLS to build their professional profile for a rewarding future.

Philip's profile