Congratulations to OOC DTP’s first successful DPhil completion, Josef Weinzierl

My journey to the DPhil was not entirely straightforward. When I started my undergraduate degree in law in the sleepy German town of Passau in 2010, the possibility of going to Oxford, let alone of doing a doctorate there, didn’t even cross my mind. It only materialised a few years later after a brilliant year studying for a Magister Juris at Oxford, where my interest in the philosophical foundations of the EU and of EU law more specifically had been sparked by challenging courses, inspiring professors and super-motivated peers. After I had gone back to Germany to qualify as a lawyer in a tedious two-year process of preparing for the second state exam, I wasn’t too keen on entering the job market right away. Instead, I hoped to be able to pursue my academic interests with doctoral studies in the philosophy of EU law. I was very lucky that I got accepted and moved back to Oxford, despite the uncertainty of the Post-Brexit period.

The title of my DPhil is “Democratic Authority: Nature and Ground of the EU’s Right to Rule” and it examines what kind of authority, if any, the EU has, and on what ground its laws might morally obligate those to whom they are addressed. While mainly theoretical, various current events (Brexit, the clash between the Polish government and ‘Brussels’ etc.) illustrate that the authority of the EU and its laws is currently under stress, which made it incredibly exciting and topical to study this issue.

I applied for the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship, because my area of research meant that I would do interdisciplinary research in the social sciences and humanities more broadly, especially philosophy. I am not only very grateful for the financial support of the programme. Thanks to the award, which started in the second year of my DPhil, I was able to considerably expand my academic horizon by learning a lot about many interesting areas of research done under the umbrella of humanities. Moreover, I really enjoyed meeting the other award holders at the precious pre-pandemic events in Oxford, Cambridge and Milton Keynes. I fondly remember the BBC training where many of us tried very hard to sell our research projects in short videos that were carefully evaluated by the experts from the BBC.

I am now back in Germany, where I have started to work as a civil law judge in Munich. Though my academic work is not directly relevant in this job, I profit very much from the intellectual rigour and many other academic and organisational skills the doctorate helps you to develop and improve. What I appreciate most about being a judge is that my personal independence is similar to the one in academia.