PhD opportunity – The Dynamics of Learning and Communication in Transnational Militant Groups

PhD Studentship transnational

Applications are invited for a 3 year PhD studentship in the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST), based in Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University. The studentship will be supervised by Professor Kim Knott, Dr Sarah Marsden, and Dr Ben Lee, and will begin in October 2018.

Project description

This PhD will examine how transnational militant groups tailor and change the ideological features of their communications to try and appeal to different constituencies. By developing a comparative analysis of communication and mobilisation efforts directed at different language and ethnic groups, and by looking at how these change over time, the project will explore the following questions: (1) how do transnational militant groups interpret or learn whether and how their communication efforts are effective; (2) what influences shifts in the ideological features of their communications; (3) how do they tailor their communications for different constituencies and how do these relate to broader social, ideological, and cultural discourses; (4) and, what are the implications of these issues for state responses to transnational militant groups’ communication efforts. Drawing on established theories of learning and cross-cultural communication, and relying on primary data, the project will develop an understanding of how transnational militant groups adapt and change their communications and what these processes reveal about whether and how they learn.

You will join a growing group of academics, postdocs, and PhDs engaged in projects examining how ideological and contextual factors impact threats and threat actors. As part of that group, you will be expected to contribute to meetings, present findings at academic conferences, and publish findings in academic journals. You will also be a member of the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) and be encouraged to engage with relevant stakeholders in the security and intelligence agencies, helping them understand the research and its relevance to their practice and policy.

Funding notes

This studentship provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and an ESRC equivalent maintenance grant (anticipated as £14,777). The student will receive their own research support budgets (e.g. for training and to pay participants) and have access to an associated travel budget, which should be used to attend national and international conferences. Students who would be required to pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but they must make appropriate arrangements to cover the difference between the overseas and UK tuition fee.


You should be motivated, ambitious, and able to demonstrate an interest in the advertised PhD area. You should hold, or expect to gain, at least an Upper 2.1 honours degree, or its equivalent, in a relevant discipline. Having or expecting to gain a Masters qualification, having other research experience, and/or having Arabic language skills will be an advantage.

To apply, please email a CV, transcript of marks, 1 academic reference, and a 750 word statement of interest to, using the Subject ‘PhD application.’ After the deadline, applications will be reviewed and shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview, before award decisions are made. If you wish to discuss the studentship informally or if you have any questions about the position, please contact Kim Knott (

Deadline: Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Tags from the story