Joseph Ward

Why risk a referendum? Reassessing the politics of the referendum in the UK

Supervisors: Dr. Peter Kerr and Professor Peter Burnham

Joseph Ward’s doctoral research concerns the factors surrounding the emergence of the referendum as a tool of political management in the UK. Focusing on a number of precedential cases, the thesis examines archival records to investigate why British government(s) initially decided to sanction use of the referendum in the face of longstanding institutional opposition. Utilising findings from the archival study, the research also takes an in-depth look at the EU referendum of 2016, analysing how the existence of this precedent impacted upon the considerations of senior policy-makers in a more recent application.


  • M.A. Political Science (University of Birmingham)

Research interests

  • British politics
  • democratic theory
  • state theory
  • electoral politics
  • historical political analysis


Since obtaining his undergraduate degree at Birmingham in 2012, Joe has worked in a number of administrative and academic roles at the university. He completed a Masters in Political Science in 2014, focusing on the UK government’s management of the global financial crisis and its democratic implications. From 2016-2019 he worked as a Research Associate in the School of Education, contributing to research projects on professional ethics and Aristotelian values education. He was awarded a Government & Society scholarship to undertake PhD research in late 2016. 

Joe is an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, having taught in POLSIS since 2017. He is an active trade unionist, and a rep on BUCU committee. 


Ward, J. W. (2020), ‘Reasserting the Centre: The Brexit Doctrine and the Imperative Mandate in British Politics’, Parliamentary Affairs [Advanced Online]:

Arthur, J., Earl, S., Thompson, A. and Ward, J. W. (2019), ‘The Value of Character-Based Judgement in the Professional Domain’, Journal of Business Ethics [Advanced Online]:

Ward, J. (2019), ‘Democratic change and ‘the referendum effect’ in the UK: reasserting the good of political participation’, in Arthur, J. (ed.), Virtues in the Public Sphere, Abingdon: Routledge, 234-249


Professional Memberships 

Political Studies Association


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