ESRC PhD studentship: Technical Justice: Examining Video-Linking in Immigration Courts

ESRC PhD studentship: Technical Justice: Examining Video-Linking in Immigration Courts

The College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter is pleased to offer a PhD studentship funded by the ESRC for entry in 2013/14. Successful applicants will be based within Geography (Streatham Campus, Exeter) at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter.


Dr Nick Gill

Project Description

Video-linking was introduced in 2008 in the UK to allow for speedier determination of asylum appeals, as well as bail hearings for asylum seekers held in detention. According to the Ministry of Justice, video-linking works as follows: “If you are detained it may be possible that your case will be heard by video link. This means that you will remain in your place of detention and give any evidence that you have to give by video link. You will be able to see and hear the hearing room and all the parties on a television where you are detained, and everyone in the hearing room will be able to see and hear you on a television there” (Ministry of Justice webpage, October 2011).

The use of video-linking is justified partly in terms of the time saved: judges, representatives and applicants do not have to travel as far. There have been, however, a series of concerns raised by asylum support groups about the use of video-linking in courts including concerns relating to the adequacy of this form of presence in the courtroom.

This is a fully funded PhD position to run alongside the ESRC project ‘Examining Geographic Disparities in Asylum Appeal Success Rates at Different Hearing Centres Around the UK’. The PhD will explore video-linking in immigration courts from a variety of theoretical perspectives which might include, but are not limited to, socio-technical debates, mobilities, analyses of time, rhythmanalysis, virtuality, absences, synchronicity and simultaneity.

Practical questions that the student might explore include: how does video-linking impact upon the asylum appeal or bail hearing experience from the perspective of the applicant? How does video-linking impact upon the hearing from the perspective of others involved in the appeal process? What different experiences of asylum appeals via video-link do different types of applicant experience (e.g. by gender, nationality, age, language skill and case type)?

More conceptual questions might include: how can the case of video-linking within detention shed more light upon the relationship between virtuality and mobilities? How are different forms of presence distributed through the process of video-linking and what are the key political and social issues that arise as a result of this distribution? What are the implications of the virtualisation of legal processes?

The student will benefit from being part of a wider research team working on related issues, with input from a range of relevant charities and pressure groups. Alongside the standard thesis, the student will be expected to produce and widely disseminate a user-report of their findings.

Academic entry requirements:

Candidates must have (or expect to complete by September 2013) a Masters degree in a social science or relevant discipline with appropriate research training. In addition candidates must have obtained a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in a social science or relevant discipline. Applicants with either an academic or personal knowledge of immigration law (especially asylum law) will be at an advantage.

Value of award and residency entry requirements:

The studentship will cover a stipend at the standard Research Council rate (currently £13,590 per annum for 2012-2013), a contribution towards research costs and tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for students who meet the residency requirements outlined by the ESRC (see for up to three years. Students from EU countries who do not meet the residency requirements may still be eligible for a fees-only award.

This position is advertised online at: and

Application procedures:

Please upload the following documents to the studentship application formClick here to apply

The preferred format for all uploaded files is .pdf and preferred filename should start with your last name.

  • CV
  • Covering letter (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project).
  • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)
  • 2 references (if your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 725150/723706/723310.

The closing date for applications is midnight Thursday 7th March 2013.

Justice on trial: Security and safety in court spaces (RGS-IBG 2012)

David Tait and Emma Rowden of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, have put together this great session for the RGS-IBG conference in Edinburgh in July.

Sponsored by the Geographies of Justice Research Group, and entitled ‘Justice on trial; Security and safety in court spaces’, the session responds to the ‘security’ theme of the conference this year by arguing that the geography of the courthouse has become a battleground for different philosophies of security.

The three papers in the session provide three Australian case studies of issues that have also been hotly debated in Europe: placing defendants in glass cages in the courtroom, providing sanctuaries for vulnerable witnesses through video links, and the use of screening, CCTV and intelligence to manage risk. These studies contrast overt physical barriers to contain people with the soft power of surveillance and customer services; security as a set of techniques for managing danger with psychological safety as a goal for supporting victims of violence and other vulnerable justice participants.

David and Emma are part of the Justice Research Group at Western Sydney. The Group’s key research focus is the courts and other justice processes and they generate multidisciplinary evidence-based research projects that address practical policy questions while engaging with a range of theoretical literatures from psychology, sociology, media studies, architecture, forensic science and law. David Tait has a background in criminology and sociology, social statistics, guardianship and mental health, sentencing, jury research and urban sociology, and Emma Rowden’s background is in media, performance and architecture. Her particular interest is in the role of the built environment in shaping experiences of inclusion, safety, comfort, fairness and respect in public institutions.

Given the unusually interdisciplinary nature of this session, I was excited to be invited to act as discussant, and encourage colleagues attending the RGS-IBG to come along to enjoy the papers.

Geographies of Justice RGS-IBG pre-conference 2/7/2012

For anyone attending the RGS-IBG conference in Edinburgh this July, please note that there is a pre RGS-IBG conference event sponsored by the RGS-IBG & Space and Society Research Group, held at the School of Environment, University of Dundee, which is approximately an hour from Edinburgh

Geographies of Justice RGS-IBG pre-conference

2nd July 2012 10.15 – 17.30

Events include:

  • Opening lecture
  • Spaces of Justice Research
  • Giving Voice in Justice Research
  • ‘New Directions’ expert panel discussion

Keynote Speakers include:

  • Dr Elizabeth Olson (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA)
  • Prof Rachel Pain (Durham University, UK)
  • Prof Sue Parnell (University of Cape Town, South Africa)
  • Prof Gordon Walker (Lancaster University, UK)

The event is free to attend but places are limited.

To book a place please email Dr Lorraine van Blerk ( by 1st June 2012.