Project code



School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Start dates

October 2021

Closing date

4 May 2021

Applications are invited for a fees-only three year PhD to commence in October 2021. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Lisa Sugiura, Dr Andy Williams and Dr Brian Frederick.

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK rate for three years and £2,000 for research costs/ conference attendance. 

The work on this project will involve:

  • The use of novel online research methods in order to explore how incel and other misogynistic online communities operate 
  • Benefit from the wealth and knowledge of the supervision team, who have been undertaking leading research in this field
  • Acquire enhanced doctoral programme training and the opportunity to engage with an established network of national and international industry and governmental partners 

Incel stands for “involuntary celibate”. Its origin goes back to 1993, when a Canadian student presenting as female – Alana – created a website to talk about their “Involuntary Celibacy Project”. On the website, Incel was described as “anybody of any gender who was lonely, had never had sex or who hadn't had a relationship in a long time”. However, since then, the term has been appropriated to exclude women, propagate misogyny, hate and violence. Incels’ hatred is often directed at feminists, they believe that feminism is to blame for societal issues, that feminism is unnecessary because equality has been achieved, and that advances of women’s equality is detrimental to men.

Incels are not an isolated phenomenon; they are part of larger backlash against feminism propelled by what has been defined as the “manosphere,” which involves groups of men including Mens Rights Activists (MRAs), Pick up Artists (PUAs), and Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), who are connected by a belief that feminine values have corrupted society and men need to retaliate against this misandrist culture to preserve their very survival.

Although the main interests of each group may differ, their common anti-woman philosophy creates a unified identity. Among these, Incels are considered particularly dangerous since they were associated with a series of killings committed in Isla Vista (2014), Oregon (2015), Edmonton (2016), Aztec (2017), Parkland (2018), Toronto (2018), Tallahassee (2018), and Christchurch (2019). This threat is seen as spreading to Europe, and experts suggest it is only a matter of time before the UK witnesses a violent attack by someone identifying as ‘involuntarily celibate.’ With Incels increasingly linked with acts of extremism and terrorism, they have begun to receive considerable media and academic attention, yet there is little understanding about their evolution, formation and influence. This research will develop upon existing work being undertaken at the University of Portsmouth and address a current gap in knowledge in regard to what motivates individuals to become incels. 

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

A willingness to showcase your research at national and international conferences, speak at events and media engagements during your funding. 

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Lisa Sugiura ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code ICJS6110521 when applying.