Research Associate: Academic Freedom, Globalised Scholarship and the Rise of Authoritarian China

London, UK
Deadline: 20th May 2020

This is a fixed term Research Associate position within the Research Project Academic Freedom, Globalised Scholarship and the Rise of Authoritarian China. This is one of two positions available, the other is based at FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg (Germany).

Our AHRC and DFG-funded, collaborative German-UK research project brings together team of scholars working in the fields of law, political studies, Chinese area studies, human rights and moral philosophy, based at the University of Erlangen and at King’s College London, to investigate how transnational authoritarian influence shapes concrete relationships of academic cooperation and exchange with academic actors in China.

In the context of today’s globalized scholarship, academic freedom faces novel threats. Autocracies, such as the Chinese one-party state, not only curtail academic freedom within their own borders, but also attempt to export censorship and other repressive practices to other states. Observers of the Chinese Party State have warned that the integrity of liberal universities is at risk, but studies available so far have failed to link the scant available empirical (often only anecdotal) observations with theoretical accounts of authoritarian rule and to spell out the applicable liberal and democratic legal norms that must be protected.

Our project is driven by the insight that both empirical study and a normative assessment that can shape intelligent and legitimate responses to authoritarian, transnational pressure on academia are crucially needed. To this end, we will develop a systematic understanding of relevant norms and available responses to undue influence and infringements of academic freedom. We will not consider universities in liberal democracies as mere passive targets. Instead, our focus will be on studying the perspectives, decisions, and actions of UK and German actors engaging in academic collaboration with authoritarian China in a comparative way, taking the different institutional designs of academia in both countries into account.

You will work closely with the PIs of the project (Eva Pils at King’s College London and Katrin Kinzelbach at FAU) to pursue this exciting line of research. You will be based at the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London. Thus in addition to being part of the collective of highly-skilled interdisciplinary researchers associated with this project, you will have the opportunity to take part in the numerous research activities and events in the Dickson Poon School of Law, the Lau China Centre, and the wider King’s community.

More information on the Dickson Poon School of Law, King’s College London:

More information on FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg:

Please find the German version of the job ad here:

This post will be offered on an a fixed-term contract for 24 months. The earliest start date will be June.
This is a full-time post

Key responsibilities

  • Identifying and critically engaging with relevant scholarship on academic freedom and its legal protection; authoritarian influencing and transnational repression; etc;
  • Together with the PIs, designing, conducting and analysing semi-structured interviews with stakeholders;
  • Working closely with the PIs and the second Research Associate, with regular consultation, discussion and updating meetings, share research findings, discuss lines of research, carry out agreed plans;
  • Undertaking research visits at FAU/KCL respectively;
  • Developing and participating in seminars and conferences;
  • Writing and co-writing journal articles and other publications.

Skills, knowledge, and experience
Essential criteria

  • PhD awarded in any relevant discipline, or equivalent experience.
  • Ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills in English
  • Ability to work to and meet deadlines
  • Ability to work independently and in a research team, contributing to the development of ideas, applications and outputs
  • Strong publication record or potential to develop publication record
  • Ability to communicate effectively with non-technical audiences about technical topics
  • Willingness to participate in seminars and other academic events

Desirable criteria

  • Chinese and German language skills
  • Experience of involvement in research projects, or research funding applications
  • Demonstrated research interest in the one or more topics connected with this project, such as academic freedom; China and globalisation; and authoritarian governance

*Please note that this is a PhD level role but candidates who have submitted their thesis and are awaiting award of their PhDs will be considered. In these circumstances the appointment will be made at Grade 5, spine point 30 with the title of Research Assistant. Upon confirmation of the award of the PhD, the job title will become Research Associate and the salary will increase to Grade 6.

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