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Staff Profile

Mr Thomas Sparks

Member of the Durham Law School

Contact Mr Thomas Sparks (email at


Tom Sparks is a PhD student in international law and a part time research assistant to Professor Schütze under the auspices of the Neo-Federalism project. He graduated from Durham University with a First class Law degree in 2013, where he developed a keen interest in international law and, in particular, questions relating to Statehood and self-determination. As part of his degree he completed a dissertation entitled ‘Is there, and should there be, a right to secessionary self-determination in international law?’ 

He has returned to Durham in order to undertake a PhD supported by a European Research Council studentship (2013-2016). Tom is also a member of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International UK Section. His academic teaching, writings and presentations do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International or Amnesty International UK.

Current Research

Tom’s research interests lie in self-determination, secession, statehood and in international legal theory. His PhD research examines the potential for self-determination to play a structural role within international law, and in particular the interplay between self-determination and other international law concepts such as sovereignty, obligation, statehood, and relative normativity. 

Tom's wider research focuses on the interface between peoples, States, and international systems. He is particularly interested in secession and its consequences, and in the role of law in governing the formation and break-up of States. In the course of this research he examines the definition and nature of self-determination and statehood, as well as the law on State succession and the legal obligations applicable to new States. He is also interested in the role of sociology and linguistics in the creation and conduct of international law.

Tom is supervised by Professor Robert Schütze and Dr Gleider Hernández.

Research Groups

Law and Global Justice

Human Rights Centre

Durham European Law Institute

Research Interests

Public International Law

Self-Determination and Secession

Statehood and the Nature of States

European Union and Convention Law

Legal and Political Theory


Other (Print)

  • Sparks, Tom (2014). The International Legal Significance of the Scottish Independence Referendum - A Long View. Opinio Juris Blog


  • Sparks, Tom (2016), Who Owns the State? Secession and Self-Determination after Kosovo, SLSA Annual Conference. Lancaster, England.
  • Sparks, Tom (2014), 'He who trusts to hope builds upon this ice': sovereignty and the uncertain foundations of international order, GPI Seminar Series GPI Seminar Series: Mr. Thomas Sparks. Durham University, United Kingdom.
  • Sparks, Tom (2014), An (Un)Necessary Connection to Statehood? Reappraising Sovereignty in its Historical Context, Durham Law School Annual Postgraduate Conference. St. Mary's College, Durham University, United Kingdom.


  • Tzouvala, Konstantina & Sparks, Tom (2015). Self-Defence as a Justification for UAV Strikes Overseas: The Legality of the Use of Force in Response to Terrorist Threats. Written Evidence Submitted to Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights.