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  Empirical Approaches to Constitutional Law

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Prof Shubhankar Dam  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Law and will be supervised by Professor Shubhankar Dam.  

The work on this project will involve:

  • creating dataset using public law cases 
  • developing empirical/quantitative analysis 
  • identifying mega-trends in legal reasoning (using qualitative and quantitative data)


Project description

This project aims to discover meta-trends in legal reasoning using empirical methods. Conventional (doctrinal) legal analyses focus on few cases. Researchers study a handful of decisions to identify how doctrines evolved, assess consistency in judicial reasoning, and offer suggestions for reform. This approach offers depth, but researchers can miss out on the “big story”. Empirical legal analysis adopts a different approach. It aims to develop comprehensive datasets and subject them to rigorous empirical/statistical analyses. This approach offers breath because it relies on a large number of systematically identified cases. While applicants are welcome to propose their own areas of interest in empirical research, we especially invite applications from those interested in the following topics:

1.Measuring Judicial Independence 

Judicial independence is a basic constitutional value. Most legal systems insist their judiciaries are in fact independent. But are they? How do we empirically identify levels of judicial independence? Governments routinely litigate in Supreme Courts and Constitutional Courts. How often do they win such cases? How often do they lose? Identifying and analysing win-loss ratios is a powerful way to assess levels of judicial independence in specific settings. Other things being equal, independent judiciaries are more likely to invalidate government actions on constitutional or statutory grounds than judiciaries that are lacking in such independence. In these systems, judges can decide against governments and linked entities without fear of reprisals. Researchers working in this topic will create a dataset of decisions involving the government in a specific jurisdiction, and subject it to rigorous empirical analysis. 

2.Empirical approaches to constitutional reasoning

Constitutional reasoning is a thriving field of research. It is also mostly normative: Scholars are especially keen to defend certain types of reasoning, explain why judges should adopt certain modes of reasoning to decide cases. But how do judges actually reason? What methods do they use? Do they prefer some methods of interpretation (or reasoning) over others? Researchers in this project will create a comprehensive dataset of constitutional cases in a specific jurisdiction and subject the legal reasoning to empirical analyses. The underlying motivation is to identify the prevalence (or absence) of certain modes of reasoning and their chances of success. 

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree in Law from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Law or a related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

How to Apply

We’d encourage you to contact Professor Shubhankar Dam ([Email Address Removed]) to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Law PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field. 

When applying please quote project code: LLAW4791021

Law (22)

Funding Notes

Self-funded PhD students only.
Please for tuition fee information and discounts.
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