Academic Staff: Nicola Phillips

Nicola PhillipsProfessor Nicola Phillips, BA, MSc, PhD (University of London)

Professor of Political Economy and Head of Department

Telephone: +44 (0)114 222 1668
Fax: +44 (0)114 222 1717
Feedback and consultation hours: by appointment.


Nicola Phillips joined the Department in May 2012 as a Professor in Political Economy, and is the Head of Department.

After completing an MSc in Comparative Government and a PhD in International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science, her first job was as a lecturer in International Political Economy at the University of Warwick. She moved to the University of Manchester in 2002, where she was promoted to Professor in 2006. She has held visiting positions and fellowships at a range of institutions across the world, most recently at the Australian National University and the University of British Columbia.

Among her wider professional activities, she is the Vice-Chair and Chair-elect of the British International Studies Association and a member of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF) sub-panel for Politics and International Relations. Until 2013 she was one of the editors of the journal New Political Economy, and its Editor-in-Chief between 2004 and 2010. She is a member of the International Advisory Boards of New Political Economy, the Review of International Political Economy and the Lynne Rienner International Political Economy Yearbook series, and a member of the Editorial Boards of Contemporary Politics and the Caribbean Journal of International Relations and Diplomacy.

Professor Phillips’ research and teaching interests cluster around the study of global political economy, global economic governance, and the political economy of development.


Interacting with undergraduate and postgraduate students, in lectures and seminars and outside the ‘formal’ teaching environment, is one of the most stimulating and enjoyable parts of the job of being an academic. I have always thought that teaching is not about (or should not be about) trying to ‘sell’ a particular viewpoint or approach to students, but rather about helping to develop their capacity for independent, critical thought that is strongly grounded in detailed empirical knowledge and careful theoretical work. This is reflected in the ways I approach all of my teaching and supervision activities, whether in large lectures, in seminars, in one-to-one discussions during office hours, or in dissertation or thesis supervision meetings. I try always to find new ways to pique students’ interest and excitement about the subject matter of my courses, to stimulate and challenge them to think their way around the topics and systematically question their own assumptions and arguments, and to encourage everyone to be confident in participating in group discussions and debates. Yet the relationship is not one-way, and I place a great deal of importance both on students coming to lectures and seminars well-prepared and ready to engage in the process of learning and debating, and on encouraging independent work and the development of research skills. When the two sides of the process come together, the results can be enormously enjoyable and highly rewarding.

As I am currently the Head of Department, I am not at present contributing to undergraduate or postgraduate teaching, but am supervising a number of PhD students.

Examples of Recent Invited Papers and Keynote Lectures

  • ‘Forced Labour, Trafficking for Labour Exploitation, and the Governance of Global Migration’, invited lecture at the Danish Institute of International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark, 28 November 2013.
  • ‘The Failures and Failings of Governance: Slavery and Human Trafficking in Global Production Networks’, presented in a Special Session at the International Labour Organization (ILO) conference on ‘Regulating for Decent Work’, Geneva, Switzerland, 3-5 July 2013.
  • ‘The Economy of Forced Labour in the UK’, comments to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation event on ‘Forced Labour in the UK’, London, UK, 27 June 2013.
  • ‘Academia, Relevance and Engagement: What’s In It For Us?’, keynote plenary presentation at the Annual Conference of the British International Studies Association, Birmingham, UK, 20 June 2013.
  • ‘Human Trafficking, Slavery and the Governance of Global Production’, presented at the workshop on ‘Governance in a “Global Value Chain” World’, Duke University, Durham NC, USA, 11-13 April 2013.
  • ‘Forced Labour, Child Labour, Human Trafficking: Explaining the Resilience of the Worst Forms of Labour Exploitation in the Global Economy’, public lecture, Liu Institute for Global Affairs, University of British Columbia, Canada, 24 February 2013.
  • ‘The “Dark Side” of the Migration-Development Nexus in Latin America’, public lecture, Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies, Australian National University, 20 September 2012.
  • ‘A Global Economic Crisis or a (Big) Storm in a (Small) Teacup? Bringing the Rest of the World Back In’, plenary presentation at the inaugural conference of the Sheffield Political Economy Research Centre (SPERI), University of Sheffield, UK, 16-18 July 2012.

Key Projects/Grants

Awarding Body: The Leverhulme Trust: Major Research Fellowship
Title of Research: ‘Forced Labour’ and Trafficking for Labour Exploitation in the Contemporary Global Economy
Duration: 3 years October 2010-October 2013
Total award: £137,617

Awarding Body: Chronic Poverty Research Centre
People Involved: Principal investigator, collaboration with research teams in Brazil (based at Repórter Brasil, São Paolo) and India (the Institute for Human Development, New Delhi)
Title of Research: Vulnerable Workers in Global Production Networks: Case Studies of Trafficked and Forced Labour in Brazil and India
Duration: 1 year, September 2009-September 2010
Total award: £73,500

Awarding Body: Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC): Research Seminars award
People Involved: Principal investigator, collaborating with a group of colleagues at the University of Manchester
Title of Research: Unfree Labour
Duration: 2 years, 2009-2010
Total award: £17,772

Professional activities and recognition

  • Vice-Chair and Chair-elect, British International Studies Association
  • Member, Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 Sub-panel C21: Politics and International Relations.
  • Member, International Advisory Boards, Review of International Political Economy and New Political Economy.
  • Member, Peer Review College, Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
  • Member, Robert and Jessie Cox Award Committee, International Studies Association (ISA).

Current Research

Professor Phillips’ current research is organised around three linked areas of interest:

Global economic governance. This strand of research is interested in the changing forms and dynamics of governance in the global economy, particularly in connection with the evolution of global value chains as the principal structures around which production and trade are organised. It connects to interests in labour and labour standards in global production, the politics of public and private forms of governance, and the ‘ethics’ of production. This work involves both individual and co-authored research projects, alongside collaboration with a network of partners in the US, UK and other parts of the world.

The governance of international migration. This research involves collaboration with Professor Andrew Geddes and others on his five-year European Research Council Advanced Grant on ‘Prospects for International Migration Governance’. The project explores how actors’ understandings of migration shape the governance of migration at state, regional and international levels. The project website is at

Unfree labour and human trafficking in the global economy. This ongoing work focuses on the global phenomena of forced labour and trafficking for labour exploitation, exploring how and why these forms of exploitation emerge and the reasons for their resilience. It was supported recently by the award of a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust, a research grant from the Chronic Poverty Research Centre and a research seminars grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.

Indicative publications

  • Anthony Payne and Nicola Phillips (eds), The Handbook of the International Political Economy of Governance, Edward Elgar, 2014, viii + 492pp.
  • Nicola Phillips and Fabiola Mieres, ‘The Governance of Forced Labour in the Global Economy’, Globalizations, DOI: 10.1080/14747731.2014.932507, 2014, pp. 1-17.
  • Nicola Phillips, Resmi Bhaskaran, Dev Nathan and C. Upendranadh, ‘The Social Foundations of Global Production Networks: Towards a Global Political Economy of Child Labour’, Third World Quarterly, 35:3, 2014, pp. 428–46. DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2014.893486.
  • Nicola Phillips, ‘Adverse Incorporation and Unfree Labour in the Global Economy: Comparative Perspectives from Brazil and India’, Economy and Society, 42:2, 2013, pp. 171-96.
  • Nicola Phillips (ed.), Migration in the Global Political Economy, Lynne Rienner, International Political Economy Yearbook series, 2011, vi + 338pp.
  • Nicola Phillips, ‘Informality, Global Production Networks and the Dynamics of “Adverse Incorporation”’, Global Networks 11:3, 2011, pp. 380-97.
  • Anthony Payne and Nicola Phillips, Development, Polity Press, 2010, viii + 211pp.
  • Nicola Phillips and Catherine E. Weaver (eds), International Political Economy: Debating the Past, Present and Future, Routledge, 2010, x + 261pp.
  • Nicola Phillips, ‘Migration as Development Strategy? The New Political Economy of Dispossession and Inequality in the Americas’, Review of International Political Economy 16:2, 2009, pp. 231-59.

View Professor Phillips' full list of publications.

PhD Supervision

Nicola Phillips enthusiastically welcomes applications from prospective doctoral students interested in pursuing research in her areas of interest. She has previously supervised 13 students who have successfully completed their PhDs.