Law Studentship - PhD Studentship in Agency and Smart Technologies

Level of study
Doctoral research
Subject area
EU, Overseas (Non-EU), UK
Type of Award
Deadline for applying
Closed 02/03/2018 (Note: competition closed for this year)

Award Description

The overall aim of the project is to understand the impact of increasingly ubiquitous computing on normative agency (and its policy implications).

The studentship will research at least one of the two following strands, and applicants should address the specific strand(s) in the Research Summary and Research Proposal, stating in particular how you envisage your contribution to the theme(s) described below and what would make your contribution different from others.

Research proposals are expected to actively relate to (and engage with) at least one of the two research strands below:

Strand 1: Personalised profiling and Ethical agency
Far from being confined to recorded online behaviour, the data that is relied on to personalise Digital services in real time will eventually include physiological indicators of nascent emotions. The sophisticated profiles that are made possible by such data will enable smart applications to mould our perceived environment (and its offerings) to our anticipated desires and attitudes. This has dramatic consequences for ethical agency. The latter indeed presupposes the ability to acknowledge a discrepancy between one’s present ethical stand and the person one seeks to be. The danger is that such discrepancy will simply cease to arise in an environment that has been systematically “optimized” in accordance to one’s profile. This strand of research links up insights from moral psychology and ethical theory to review the adequacy of our current regulatory framework when it comes to the systematic recording of our machine-readable past (and present).

Strand 2: Decision-support systems and normative agency
Among the variety of systems designed to simplify our practical reasoning, some are more open to contestation than others. In contrast to legal systems (whose contestability we continually strive to improve), relatively little attention has been given to the extent to which the decision-support systems that are being deployed in morally loaded contexts may become so very good at simplifying our practical reasoning that we may find ourselves in never-ending moral holidays. These might look attractive at first, until we find ourselves unable to quit such holidays. Are there ways of designing such support systems (whether they are deployed in legal, medical or public policy applications) so as to maximise incentives to mobilise our “moral muscles” (which would otherwise become atrophied through lack of exercise)? This strand of research bridges the gap between ongoing research in moral psychology / philosophy and human-computer interaction studies.

The studentship will be supervised by Prof. Sylvie Delacroix.

Value of Award

This award includes: 

  • Payment of approved fees 
  • Maintenance grant for the student 

Eligibility Criteria

This studentship is open to campus-based full- and part-time UK, EU and overseas students studying in Birmingham Law School, starting their studies in September 2018.  

The candidate would have a first class degree in Law, Computer Science, Philosophy, or Public Policy (with a relevant specialisation). Any combination of these disciplines would be particularly appealing.

Applications for funding can only be considered alongside an application to study. 

How to Apply

The deadline for receiving applications (including two references) is 4pm on Friday 2 March 2018.

In order to apply, you must have completed an application to study. You will then need to complete the funding application form below, and return the completed form to by 4pm on Friday 2 March 2018. A detailed Research Proposal is required (up to 2,000 words) stating in particular how you envisage your contribution to the research theme(s) described above and what would make your contribution different from others. 

Applications must also be supported by two references. It is the responsibility of the applicant to forward the reference form below to both nominated referees, and advise them that references must be returned to by the application deadline, 4pm on Friday 2 March 2018.

The application and reference forms can be downloaded below:

Application Form Law studentship

Reference Form Law studentship

Interviews will be conducted in March/April 2018.

Please note, your application will only be considered for this scholarship. If you wish to be considered for our College of Arts and Law scholarships, you need to make a separate application.

Further information

If you have any further queries, please email or telephone 0121 414 8442 or 0121 414 6627.