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Beyond the foodbank: An analysis of faith-based responses to hardship in the UK

   Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations

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  Dr Stephanie Denning, Dr C Shannahan  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship in the area of ‘Beyond the foodbank: An analysis of faith-based responses to hardship in the UK’.

The successful applicant will be based at the Centre for Trust, Peace, and Social Relations (CTPSR), a thriving and successful University Research Centre which has over 60 full-time researchers supported by a team of professional support staff.

CTPSR staff take a multi-disciplinary approach to their work that brings together creative thinking on concerns of trust, communities, social relations, peacebuilding, security, and on the contemporary challenges of societal relationships in a diverse and connected world. Our portfolio of excellent and impactful research seeks to change lives and enhance well-being. Our staff are extremely well-connected and are called upon to contribute their expertise on the national and international stage, as advisers to governments and international bodies or at conferences worldwide. We convene and contribute to public debates, provide effective policy guidance at local, national, regional and global levels, and generate international collaborative research through our global networks.

Poverty is a problem in the UK which has worsened during the Covid-19 pandemic; 1 in 5 people are living in poverty. Human geography and broader social science attention to responses to poverty have often focussed on foodbanks, with the largest foodbank provider in the UK – the Trussell Trust – being a charity based on Christian values. However, whilst Christian responses to poverty have been considered, attention has not sufficiently extended to responses to poverty by other faiths in the UK. Indeed, such responses are not necessarily labelled by other faiths as ‘poverty projects’. To respond to this, this doctoral research uses language of ‘hardship’ rather than ‘poverty’. Specific attention therefore needs to be given to faith responses to hardship besides Christian responses. This research uses a participatory methodology to understand faith responses to hardship in the UK. It will investigate how different faith communities in two multifaith cities are responding to hardship, motivations for responses, and the impact of responses on people’s experiences of hardship. By gaining understanding of different religious faith responses and people’s lived experiences of hardship, this research will inform policy understanding of faith responses to hardship, and generate academic impact in social and cultural geographies.

Training and Development

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

The successful candidate will benefit from a supervision team of experienced ‘Life on the Breadline’ social science and political theology researchers, including Dr Stephanie Denning (as the Director of Studies) and Dr Chris Shannahan.

The successful candidate will also benefit from participation in the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations’ Doctoral Training Programme and regular research seminars, and active involvement in the relevant Centre Research Group.

Entry criteria for applicants to PhD 

  • A bachelor’s (honours) degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum classification of 2:1 and a minimum mark of 60% in the project element (or equivalent), or an equivalent award from an overseas institution.


  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
  • An adequate proficiency in English must be demonstrated by applicants whose first language is not English. The general requirement is a minimum overall IELTS Academic score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the four sections, or the TOEFL iBT test with a minimum overall score of 95 with a minimum of 21 in each of the four sections.

 For further details please visit:

Additional items for candidate specification:

  1. An understanding of key themes within social science approaches to poverty and hardship
  2. A familiarity with faith-based responses to poverty and hardship
  3. An interest/experience in the use of qualitative social research methods
  4. A willingness to undertake fieldwork alongside faith-based organisations
  5. A commitment to collaborative study and research that impacts on grassroots practitioners

This studentship is open to applicants with a range of backgrounds, and particularly encourages applicants with undergraduate or Masters degrees in human geography although this is not a requirement.

How to apply:

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Stephanie Denning at [Email Address Removed] AND Dr Chris Shannahan at [Email Address Removed]

To apply on line please visit:

The PGR+ Link for this project is

Details of all available research opportunities at Coventry University can be found via

All applications require full supporting documentation, and a covering letter, plus a supporting statement (up to 2000 words) showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.


UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements

Start dates: September 2022

Duration of study: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline date: 1st April 2022

Interview dates: 10th or 11th May 2022

Enquiries may be addressed to: For enquiries please contact Dr Stephanie Denning at [Email Address Removed] AND Dr Chris Shannahan at [Email Address Removed]

Funding Notes

Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/International (including EU at international rates from Sept 21)
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