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A Post- Covid HE Future: Do we need a ‘Restorative University’? (Advert Reference: RDF21/BL/LHRM/JONES)

Faculty of Business and Law

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Prof D Jones No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project Rationale and Description

The main contention in this proposed research is that universities have lost their bearings and capacity to deal with uncertainties and complexity in terms of crises such as COVID-19 and the upcoming ecological challenge. The current COVID crisis has exposed in the starkest economic terms the costs of a sectoral strategy built on a combination of top-down managerialism and marketisation, constantly striving for external legitimisation in the form of global league tables, accreditation, research income and measures of teaching, impact, sustainability and quality assurance bodies. The circle of attract (primarlily through international students) and spend was virtuous for as long the supply chain remained unbroken but the pandemic broke it. With a reactive short-term stance without any slack in the system, it is contested that universities’ core social purpose has largely been neglected. At best, the most marginalised and powerless are subject to token ‘well-being’ gestures that satisfy ‘transparency’ and ‘accountability’ concerns, but do not tackle the fundamental systemic issues. 

It is contended that we need no less than a new social purpose for universities, representing an enhanced substantive rationality (to counter the instrumental rationality of managerialism), where values-based action is crucial in determining alternative courses of action, since this is how fundamental priorities are established. A useful way of imagining such a future would be through the metaphor of the ‘Restorative University’ based on research by the principal supervisor (Jones, D.R. (2014, 2015 a,b,c, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020).

This research will explore how and why such restoration needs to happen, specifically from an academic perspective. By using the restorative metaphor as a conceptual lens, this research will explore the significance of individual and collective restorative space (physical, social, cognitive & emotional) for academics, across the UK higher education sector. Taking a processual approach, it will track when, where, how and why academics enact such spaces in their working lives. For example, in the current COVID context, academics are increasingly calling for much greater attention to the following areas (Jones et al. 2020):

  1. Acceptance and support for vulnerability, self and collective care 
  2. Bio-cultural connection
  3. Physical and emotional well-being 
  4. Collegiality and inter-disciplinarity
  5. Aesthetic sensibility

Such research could have implications for wider citizenship initiatives around well-being and sustainability agendas within business schools and universities as a whole. It will draw on the collective auto-ethnographic approaches used in prior research by the principal supervisor, to unmask any significant implications for organisational development, performance management, metric management and accreditation practices in universities. Such a focus, may also cast a post-COVID spotlight on new public management practices across other sectors, such as healthcare and education. This proposal thereby is aligned to departmental, faculty and university research (MDRTs) priorities around sustainability, social responsibility, work futures, critical management studies in the former and ecological futures and integrated health and social care in the latter. Finally, this research area has much potential around publishing in the major 3 and 4* journals in this field, AMLE, Studies in Higher Education, British Education Research Journal and Management Learning – The Principal Supervisor is an Associate Editor for the latter and has just led a SI in this research area (Jones et al., 2020).   

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see 

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. RDF21/BL/LHRM/JONES) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 29 January 2021

Start Date: 1 October 2021

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

For informal enquiries, please contact Prof David Jones ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home students and includes a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2020/21, this is £15,285 pa) and full tuition fees.
Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
• Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
• have settled status, or
• have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
• have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.


[1]Jones DR, Visser M, Stokes P, et al. (2020) The Performative University: ‘Targets’, ‘Terror’ and ‘Taking Back Freedom’ in Academia. Management Learning. 51(4):363-377. doi:10.1177/1350507620927554
[2]Friedman VJ, Robinson S, Egan M, Jones DR, Rhew ND, Sama LM. (2020) Meandering as Method for Conversational Learning and Collaborative Inquiry. Journal of Management Education. 44(5):635-650. doi:10.1177/1052562920934151
[3]Rhew ND, Jones DR, Sama LM, Robinson S, Friedman VJ, Egan M. (2020) Shedding Light on Restorative Spaces and Faculty Well-Being. Journal of Management Education. October 2020. doi:10.1177/1052562920953456
[4]Jones, D.R. & Patton, D. (2018) Academic resistance to the ‘Entrepreneurial University’: Could ‘Slow Swimming’ offer an external campus space for entrepreneuring as play? Studies in Higher Education.
[5]Jones, D.R. (2017). Could Slow be Beautiful?: Academic Counter-Spacing Within & Beyond “The Slow Swimming Club” Journal of Management Inquiry. DOI:10.1177/1056492617704720. ABS 3*
[6]Jones, D.R. (2016). Slow is Beautiful in the 'Restorative University'. Heterotopic Spacing for Ecological Sustainability?’ Environment & Planning D. DOI: 10.1177/0263775816680820
[7]Jones, D.R. (2015). Opening up the Pandora’s Box of Sustainability League Tables of Universities: a Kafkaesque Perspective. Studies in Higher Education. DOI:10.1080/03075079.2015.1052737.
[8]Jones, D.R. (2015). The ‘Biophilic Organization’: An Integrative Metaphor for Corporate Sustainability. Journal of Business Ethics. DOI 10.1007/s10551-015-2640-2
[9]Jones, D.R. (2015). Embodying Tao in the ‘Restorative University’. Sustainability Science. 10 (1): 3-16.
[10]Jones, D.R. (2015). Restorative Counter-Spacing for Academic Sustainability, Organization & Environment. 27: 207-214.
[11]Jones, D.R. (2014) Biting the league table that feeds: Reflections on managerialism at work within U.K. university sustainability agendas, Journal of Workplace Rights.17(4).
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