The creation of York Law School (‘YLS’) in 2007 marked a new chapter in a much longer history of law-related research at the University of York. The exceptional quality of research at YLS was clearly recognised in REF2014, with the highest proportion of work assessed as world-leading or internationally significant of any law school in the country; and an overall ranking of equal fifth, with UCL. YLS is already recognised for the highest quality research, and for both the inter-disciplinarity, and critical and socially engaged character of its output. Building on this recognition, YLS aims to operate as the hub of law-related research at York that is consistently recognised internationally in terms of its scholarly quality. Over time, it will be distinctive for the research clusters that it is building under the over-arching theme of Law and Society, and as a focus for genuinely multi-disciplinary legal research at the University. It will build a national and international reputation for multi-disciplinary research across a range of topics, actively inviting collaboration from other disciplines within the University and responding to calls for collaboration in major research funding bids. The ‘real world’ relevance of YLS research will become increasingly evident through significant impacts on policy, legal practice and legal doctrine. YLS, in collaboration with other departments, will be a place of high-quality training in law-related research with a particular emphasis on inter-disciplinarity, and on social and critical engagement.
We place a high value on appointing not only excellent staff, but those who can find research synergies both with colleagues within the Department, and with other disciplines. All of our appointments are made with an eye to the future, and with consideration of the potential for collaboration and inter-disciplinary working. We will continue to draw the interest and collaboration of other departments/centres within the University towards world-class research about law under the organising theme of ‘law and society’ and to explore connections with the university’s research themes. We seek to expand our staff numbers to the point where our excellent research can coalesce into strong, productive and sustainable research clusters with capacity to attract research funding in their own right, and to work with a variety of multi-disciplinary partners.
The Department will support and develop its existing areas of research excellence with a view to building sustainable research clusters that can attract both funding and inter-disciplinary partners. In this, it adds to the existing success of the Centre for Applied Human Rights, whose research is also incorporated into and informs our research clusters. Our goal is to raise the profile and visibility of our research in emergent areas and to facilitate inter-disciplinary working, as well as to inform priorities and to provide a supportive, collaborative research environment for all colleagues.
To be known nationally and internationally as a hub of critical and multi-disciplinary research on lawTo firmly establish three or more recognised and productive clusters of research excellence over 6 yearsTo continue to be ranked in the top 10 law schools in REF2021 and beyond, while increasing the proportion of our staff whose work is returned in the next REFTo have demonstrable research impact beyond academia, the quality of which is recognised as being commensurate with the quality of YLS research outputs and environmentTo develop a high quality PGR population integrating with our programmes of research
With a current FTE count of 22 R&T staff, YLS is the smallest Russell Group law department, and recognises that the sustainability of high quality legal research (and a reputation for such) necessitates a growth in staff numbers. We aim to add up to 8 new posts over the next 6 years, to be funded primarily by a growth in student numbers but also by QR income.
The Law School has placed research quality at its core from the first. It will seek to increase applications made by its staff both individually and in collaboration with others, and to broaden the range of sources of funding sought, with increased support. We will appoint a research facilitator to support each member of staff and the department, in developing a research funding portfolio over time, and will build experience of grant application writing and peer review at all levels with a view to leading and taking part in large and ambitious funded research projects. This will be achieved in part through mentoring and guidance, and through the research planning process in which each member of staff is engaged.
YLS aims to have research impact both nationally and internationally in relation to the development of policy and practice in legal settings. For example, ‘legal empowerment’, within the ‘Rights, equality, citizenship and empowerment’ theme, links directly into various initiatives in and connected to the Law School, including the Centre for Applied Human Rights Defenders Programme; and our research in EU rights and citizenship, the rule of law, housing, and protest aim to improve the operation of areas of legal practice with an impact on users.
YLS recognises that the attraction of talented PGR students is a mark of the research reputation of a School. It aims to be a place of high quality training in legal research, including multi-disciplinary research training where supervision is conducted jointly between YLS and another department. We will seek funding for studentships through private sponsorship and third sector funding, as well as through the ESRC and AHRC, including collaborative and network awards.
The organising theme of ‘law and society’ and our research clusters each lend themselves to cross-jurisdictional study. Through empirical, theoretical and comparative research, each theme offers a solid platform for international collaboration and the building of an international reputation. Through our research into human rights, legal empowerment, and the rule of law, we are well placed to respond to initiatives from the Global Challenges Research Fund. Researchers within our developing research clusters have active research collaborations and networks around the globe, including many European jurisdictions and also Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the United States.
The strength of our research profile rests ultimately on the calibre of researchers recruited to YLS and the quality of the research community that sustains their research efforts. In harmony with the University’s Research Strategy, we seek to recruit and retain the best researchers at all career stages, and to support and mentor existing staff. YLS has a number of resources at its disposal that will be used to further its research ambitions.
The first and most important resource for realising our research ambitions is the community of researchers itself. YLS will foster a genuine community of researchers who engage supportively with each others’ work, providing a community in which research can flourish. Examples of formal community mechanisms to enrich the research culture of the School are as follows: research mentoring of early career researchers; reading groups; seminar programmes; research visitor programmes; annual research planning meetings with the Research Director. More significant, however, is the sense of mutual accountability that derives from such a community and which can be encouraged towards the raising of the quality of the School’s research profile overall.
Beyond the YLS community itself, and with a view to fostering multi-disciplinary working, YLS will develop links to the wider community of researchers in the University who are interested in law. To this end, YLS will engage in joint research initiatives such as multi-disciplinary research projects, seminar programmes with other departments, joint research mentoring arrangements and joint PGR supervisions. In terms of developing an international research community, YLS will focus on research initiatives with direct relevance to the international community. Having hosted the two largest UK law conferences (Socio-Legal Studies Association in 2013 and Society of Legal Scholars in 2015), it will continue to host conferences and workshops which support its research ambitions both in York and internationally, building for example on two successful conferences run in 2015 and 2017 in partnership with Singapore Management University. Additionally, it will use its Research Visitor Scheme to attract international visitors who may develop lasting research links with YLS researchers.
Support for research is present in the research support fund and the research leave scheme. In each case, there will be a principle of equal treatment for each member of the research staff so as not to destroy a sense of community. Within this principle, however, applications for, for example, higher levels of financial support and research leave will be subject to a competitive process and directly linked to the research ambitions of the School. We also aim to achieve a more predictable pattern of research leave to facilitate research planning.
The Director of Research supports all colleagues in the process of research planning, and is supported by a Deputy Director; by the Research Committee; and by the Departmental Management Team; as well as by a Research Impact Lead and Research Grant Lead. We will also appoint a Research Facilitator as described above to support all staff in developing a funding and impact portfolio. Most significant is the selection of excellent researchers. Although YLS also prioritises learning & teaching and administration, selection decisions will be directly linked to the research ambitions of the School, including candidates’ ability to enrich our research community, as well as their ability to assist YLS in REF, the attraction of research funds, the conduct of multi-disciplinary working, and so forth. In particular, we will only recruit researchers who can or will be able consistently to produce research of 3* and 4* quality in REF terms.