The University of Sheffield
Department of Politics

Academic Staff: Nicola Phillips

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

Professor of Political Economy

Telephone: +44 (0)114 222 1668
Fax: +44 (0)114 222 1717
Room: Elmfield 1.24


Nicola Phillips joined the Department in May 2012 as a Professor in Political Economy. 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.

Professor Phillips’ research and teaching interests cluster around the study of global political economy and the political economy of development. Between 2010 and 2013, she held a Major Research Fellowship from The Leverhulme Trust, for work on forced labour and human trafficking for the purposes of labour exploitation in the global and UK economies. Her recent research on these topics has also been supported by grants from the Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). She is currently collaborating with Professor Andrew Geddes, a colleague in the Department, on his European Research Council Advanced Grant on ‘Prospects for International Migration Governance’, and pursuing other work on global economic governance and global value chains.

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.


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.

In the first semester of 2013/14, I will be leading the MA module POL612 on The Political Economy of Globalisation.

Examples of Recent Invited Papers and Keynote Lectures

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

Current Research

Professor Phillips’ current research is organised around four 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.

Labour and labour standards in global production and trade. This work features a particular interest in issues of poverty, vulnerability and informality and their connections with how workers are incorporated into global economic activity, as well as the politics of public and private forms of regulation and the ‘ethics’ of production.

Unfree labour and human trafficking in the global economy. This 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.

The political economy of migration and development. This final strand of research explores the so-called ‘migration-development nexus’, enquiring into the nature of this nexus and its implications for countries, regions, societies and individuals across the world.

Indicative publications

View Professor Phillips' full list of publications.

PhD Supervision

Nicola Phillips enthusiastically welcomes applications from prospective doctoral students interested in pursuing research in the area of global political economy and the political economy of development, particularly, but not exclusively, on questions associated with labour, migration, and poverty and inequality. She has previously supervised 13 students who have successfully completed their PhDs.