• Shore Road, Jordanstown Campus

    BT37 0QB Newtownabbey

    United Kingdom

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Personal profile



Dr Karl O’Connor is Professor of Public Administration and Public Policy. He is the Research Director for Social Work and Social Policy (UoA20) and Co-director of the Centre for Public Administration at Ulster University. His research examines the role of the civil servant in the management of ethno-political conflict and international development.

After completing a BA in Public Administration with French at the University of Limerick (Ireland) and a Masters in Public Policy and European Integration at The Queen’s University of Belfast, he completed his PhD at the University of Exeter where his research was awarded the Hutton Prize for excellence for its contribution to improving standards of governance in society.

He has a keen interest in Middle East and Central Asian studies and has been a visiting scholar at Nazarbayev University. He has previously held post-doctoral and lecturer positions at the University of Limerick and Glasgow Caledonian University. He has also worked with Professor Claudio Radaelli at The Centre for Regulatory Governance and subsequently worked with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) in London.


Karl’s research examines the motivations and role conceptions of civil servants in contested societies. This work has addressed key questions related to international development and conflict management. His research has examined the role of street level bureaucrats (teachers) in delivering conflict narratives to children in East Jerusalem, the role of elite level bureaucrats in Central Asia in the pursuing development objectives within authoritarian regimes and has identified the role of the civil servant Northern Ireland and Belgium in managing ethno-political tensions. He has a keen interest in mixed methods, particularly Q Methodology.

His research has received funding from the British Academy, The British Council for Research in the Levant, the Department of Justice, the British Council, GCRF and the ESRC.


Karl developed and is course director of Ulster University’s prestigious Master of Public Administration programme that is delivered in close partnership with the Northern Ireland Civil Service. He teaches Policy Analysis and Applied Government. He is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Exeter


Award Date: 20 Jan 2012

Master, MA in European Studies and Public Policy, Queen's University Belfast


Award Date: 25 Aug 2006

Bachelor, BA Public Administration with French, University of Limerick


Award Date: 20 Aug 2004

External positions

PhD External Examiner, NUI Galway

18 Dec 2018 → …

External Examiner (Masters in Applied Social Science programme), University of the West of Scotland

30 Sept 2018 → …

External Examiner, Institute of Technology Sligo

1 Sept 2017 → …

PhD External Examiner, King's College London

3 Jan 2017 → …


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