Andrew Searle – PhD History

Midlands 4 Cities funded PhD student, Andrew Searle, tells us more about his experience researching History at the University of Birmingham. 

Andrew Searle

Why did you choose the University of Birmingham as your lead M4C partner institution? 

“I chose the University of Birmingham because that is where the most relevant supervisors for my research are based. From my masters I knew the university and people involved and felt we would be able to work together; and as a part-time student the campus is easily accessible by train."

Tell us a little bit more about your research project and why you choose to study a PhD in this area?

"My research examines the relationship between the late 20th century proliferation of human rights politics and the expanded role of the NGO at national and global levels.  It seeks to understand how political, cultural, strategic and tactical considerations shaped NGO responses to rights violations, examining changes in strategy and emphasis.  It especially focuses on the advocacy of Amnesty International, because of its role in establishing rights saliency, shaping public discourse via the media.  

"I will draw on Amnesty’s scrutiny and advocacy of rights abuse in specific Middle Eastern contexts. In particular, Palestine’s complex legal status and history of large-scale rights violations represents a fine-grained social and cultural human rights narrative documented by multiple Human Rights Organisations.  The intractability of the conflict has created a fifty-year period through which to examine how the media have acted as interlocutors for human rights advocacy and the extent activist organisations have been protagonists in the emerging human rights discourse. 

"Equally, I will consider the nascent strategies regimes employed to marginalise NGO allegations of human rights violations, identifying common patterns and methodologies.”

What are the best things about your course? 

“I have received very good advice and direction from supervisors who are the at top of their game.”

What is life like as an M4C researcher at the University of Birmingham?

“In some ways I think it may be easier because I do not have the worries non-funded students may have regarding funding of archival and conference trips. This means I can concentrate on my research and prioritise the avenues that are best for the outcome.”

What support, from M4C or the University of Birmingham, have you received during your PhD?

“The training on offer has been very good, particularly from M4C. When I have needed to address conflicts arising from my personal commitments (for instance I have been seconded to provide clinical and blue light support to paramedics during the pandemic), I have always received understanding and suggestions of solutions.”

Outside of your research, what experience have you gained and how will it help you in the future?

“As a mature student I think my experience of external pressures and issues allows me to keep the importance of my PhD in proportion. When you have watched someone die of COVID-19, concerns over access to archives seem less dramatic.”

What advice would you give someone planning on making an M4C application?

“Do it, the feeling of being part of a community and the overall support M4C offer is very worthwhile. Consider carefully what the impact of your project will be and how that will fit in with current academic trends. Listen to your supervisors during the drafting process for the application, they can help a lot as they have seen it all before.”

Find out more about our PhD History programme over on our course pages.