10 October 2022

University of Sheffield launches research partnership with the House of Lords

A new PhD research studentship, which is the first to be developed with colleagues from the House of Lords, will explore the potential role of history and archival resources in supporting contemporary policy-making processes and scrutiny structures.

A picture of westminster as seen from the Thames

The links between the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Sheffield and the Houses of Parliament date back to the establishment of the department in 1965. Professor Sir Bernard Crick, a former Head of Department, was a specialist in parliamentary politics and his book The Reform of Parliament paved the way for the creation of the new select committee system in 1979.

This relationship has grown over the decades. In 2010 the University of Sheffield launched the first undergraduate module 'Parliamentary Studies' to be formally co-taught and accredited by the House of Commons. This module is now taught in 25 selected universities across the UK and has also been established abroad. 

The latest stage of this relationship involves the University partnering in a new research venture with the House of Lords; this is the first time in the history of the House that it has co-funded a PhD studentship.

I am particularly pleased that the house of Lords Commission were prepared to open up the workings of committees, and therefore the relevance and contribution of the second chamber, for serious scrutiny and investigation. The importance of reaching out beyond the Westminster bubble cannot be over-emphasised. The greater the awareness of the role and workings of the House; the greater the appreciation of the relevance of the Second Chamber and the detailed expert enquiries which underpin both the review of, and challenge to, detailed policy proposals, the more support there will be for protecting and maintaining our contribution.

Rt Hon. Professor the Lord David Blunkett

Chair in Politics in Practice

Through a focus on parliamentary archives, the Blunkett Archives and resources from the Special Collections, Heritage, and Archives Department in the University of Sheffield Library, this project will focus on the modernisation and reform of the select committee system in the House of Lords. It provides a very rare opportunity for a PhD student to gain research experience through a series of placements within the House, and through the support of a highly experienced supervisory team.

It’s absolutely brilliant to be working in partnership with the House of Lords to explore evolving scrutiny structures. This is a PhD project that will combine an emphasis on both scholarly excellence and practical parliamentary impact. It’s a huge opportunity and a further sign of the strength and reputation of the Department of Politics and International Relations.

Professor Matthew Flinders

Professor of Politics

The PhD topic matters because although select committees have existed in the House for several hundred years they have provided a focus for almost no academic research. This project will also provide the first opportunity to review the impact of the major reforms to investigatory committees in the House that was agreed in 2019. More broadly, the research will provide an evidence base through which to assess the contribution of the House, and to orientate public debate about the reform and relevance of the second chamber.

This project is an amazing opportunity to demonstrate the contribution archival research makes to the field of politics and future decision making. I'm delighted to be part of the supervisory team and am looking forward to collaborating with the House of Lords.

Angela Haighton

Head of Special Collections, Heritage, and Archives and Interim Head of Library Business Services

Deadline to apply: 30th November 2022

Key information:

  • The studentship is co-funded for three years by the House of Lords and the Special Collections, Heritage, and Archives Department in the University of Sheffield Library. 
  • The studentship will begin on 1 February 2023. 
  • For more information about the Blunkett Archives please visit - Collection: The Blunkett Archives | Discover Our Archives.

Find out more and apply​​​​​​

Professor Matthew Flinders is available for comment on 07773 144 155.

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