Society in Northern Ireland, ‘from above and below’ 1922 to 1965: archives, research and dissemination

Applications are invited for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award at The Open University, in partnership with the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. 

This fully-funded studentship is available from October 2024. Further details about the value of an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP award are available on the DTP’s studentships page

Closing date: 9th January 2024

Project overview

The History PhD project combines an academic PhD with significant transferrable skills, via a close partnership with PRONI. Its original academic contribution to the field will involve improving our understanding of social history in Northern Ireland in the mid twentieth century.

The first part will involve the student receiving a grounding in how PRONI works. It will involve 3 months of shadowing, spread over the first year. By working alongside PRONI colleagues in the accession, cataloguing, FOI and outreach processes, they will develop a state-of-art understanding about the logistical, legal, and ethical issues which surround and co-construct the elements of the archive that they are working on.

The student will write an academic research thesis on a topic related to social policy in Northern Ireland between 1923 and 1965. 

The student will be expected to identify a potential topic at the application stage. It should be something which uses the records of government (catalogued here: to examine the lived experience of the population, through reading official sources ‘against the grain’ and/or alongside other sources, in order to write a broader history than that of policy debates. The topic ought to address in some respect the relationship between the people and the state in areas which might include (but are not limited to): 
•    health
•    education
•    care
•    housing
•    criminal justice. 

Questions which the project could address include (but are not limited to): 
•    To what extent do the people of NI clash with government to produce more progressive social policy?
•    What did interaction with the state feel like?
•    How did the state use other institutions for social policy questions?

This part of the project will result in a stand-alone thesis, of a PhD standard of originality, but written to a shorter maximum length. 

The project will have a compulsory ‘non-book component’ [NBC]. This will involve the public dissemination of some of the interim results of the research (if necessary for coherence, combined with other material) as part of PRONI’s regular outreach programme. The student will be expected to evaluate the outreach as part of the project. The evaluation will be published as an Appendix to the thesis. The NBC and the evaluation, will be examinable components of the project, and judged on quality. 

The student will also be strongly encouraged to use the existing OOC scheme to take relevant internship opportunities. The student would be expected to reside in Northern Ireland for the majority of the registration period. 


The supervision team will be led by Chris A Williams ( and William Sheehan ( at the Open University, and Wesley Geddis at PRONI.

How to apply

We invite applications from candidates from all backgrounds and ethnicities. Applicants will have an undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline, and ideally have a Masters’ degree in History (or closely relevant discipline) and an interest in public history and/or curatorial practice.  If you do not have experience of formal postgraduate study, you may be eligible for a studentship if you can demonstrate evidence of sustained experience beyond undergraduate degree level that is specifically relevant to historical research, and could be considered equivalent to Master’s study. Applicants should meet the eligibility criteria for Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC studentships.
For an informal discussion about the opportunity and how you might frame your approach to the CDA project, please contact in the first instance.


To apply for an Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC DTP studentship, please complete OOC DTP Application Form, OU application form and supporting documents listed on the application from, Research proposal and a covering letter indicating your suitability to the project  and  send to by 9th January 2024 (midday, UK time)