Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now Don't miss our weekly PhD newsletter | Sign up now

  Law: Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships (SURES): Fully Funded PhD Scholarship: Vulnerability in International Criminal Law

   Hillary Rodham Clinton School of Law

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

Click here to search for PhD studentship opportunities
  Dr Michelle Coleman  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Funding provider: Swansea University

Subject areas: Law

Project start date:

  • 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)


Aligned programme of study: PhD in Law

Mode of study: Full-time

Project description: 

Swansea University is pleased to offer fully-funded Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships (SURES) for full-time doctoral students to its fifth cohort, commencing in October 2024.  

Humanitarian situations can create vulnerable people. Wars and human rights abuses can cause people to suffer from genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. These situations are frequently dealt with in international criminal law, either at the International Criminal Court or in a domestic court through the use of universal jurisdiction. However, once a situation has been identified for international criminal justice, there is little discussion about vulnerability and whether and who could be vulnerable within the legal process.  

This project aims to determine how vulnerability is understood within international criminal law. Victims are perhaps seen as the most obviously vulnerable, as they have suffered deep deprivations and harms as a result of being victims of the humanitarian situation that is under investigation. However, their vulnerabilities often arise before the start of the international criminal law process, rather than as a result of their involvement in international criminal justice. This project aims to go beyond these types of vulnerabilities and examine whether vulnerability is created by or exists in the international criminal law process itself. Specifically, it will determine whether and to what extent situational and ‘imposed’ vulnerabilities could arise on any number of people within the trial process from legal and practical decisions, structural issues, and approaches taken.   

There are several competing definitions of vulnerability and it is not clear which approach, if any, is used within international criminal justice. The method used could also depend on the court, tribunal or jurisdiction that the international criminal trial is taking place. For example, do vulnerability concerns change if the trial takes place in the International Criminal Court or within a domestic court using universal jurisdiction? Further, vulnerability is often seen as a ‘group’ issue with little room for individual vulnerability. Is the group approach appropriate to international criminal law? Is there a framework or method of determining who is vulnerable?  

In addition to considering what framework(s) of vulnerability apply in international criminal law, the project seeks to understand and evaluate how vulnerability is applied and understood by the international courts and tribunals, civil society, and the international community. Drawing on international criminal law and human rights law, it will seek to answer questions such as: Who may be vulnerable in an international criminal law situation, and how did they gain that status? Does international criminal law, rules and policies contribute to or create vulnerability? What safeguards or protections exist for those who are vulnerable, and what protection may still be needed? 

The School of Law is situated in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. It has world leading researchers in the areas of international criminal law, the intersections of criminal law and criminology, and sociological research. There is a vibrant research culture with a number of research institutes including the Centre for Criminal Justice and Criminology, Cyber Threats Research Centre, Institute of International Shipping and Trade Law, Observatory on Human Rights of Children, and the Governance and Human Rights Research Group. 


Candidates must have attained, or must be expected to attain, a first-class honours degree and/or a distinction at master’s level. If you are eligible to apply for the scholarship (i.e. a student who is eligible to pay the UK rate of tuition fees) but do not hold a UK degree, you can check our comparison entry requirements. Please note that you may need to provide evidence of your English Language proficiency. 

  • Where applicants have multiple master’s degrees, a distinction must be held in the degree that is most relevant to the intended PhD study. 
  • If you are currently studying for a master’s level qualification with an expected award date that is later than 01/10/2024, you should hold a minimum of an upper-second-class (2:1) honours degree.   
  • You should be able to demonstrate a pass with a minimum grade average of at least 70% for your part-one master’s degree modules (the taught aspect of your master’s course rather than a research-focused dissertation) and submit your dissertation by no later than 30/09/2024.  

Applicants must be able to begin their course of study in October 2024. As a cohort-based programme, deferral to an alternative enrolment window within the academic year or to another academic year is not permissible.

Please note that both the degree and language-proficiency entry requirements for SURES are higher than the baseline standard for entry that is stipulated for most of the PhD programmes at Swansea University. 

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to applicants eligible to pay tuition fees at the UK rate only, as defined by UKCISA regulations.  

Law (22)

Funding Notes

This scholarship covers the full cost of UK tuition fees and an annual stipend at UKRI rate (currently £18,622 for 2023/24).
Additional research expenses will also be available.

Where will I study?