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Capacity Building in Community Sport Asset Transferred Facilities (Ref: RDFC18/SER/FINDLAYKING)

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Wednesday, May 08, 2019
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

The purpose of this jointly funded PhD (with Power to Change) is to critically examine the human capacities and capitals that volunteer groups need to successfully undertake and sustain the running of a previously local government managed community sports centre. While the community management of public sport and leisure facilities has attracted increasing attention in terms of government policy, there has been surprisingly little empirical study of this phenomenon in action. Indeed, scholarly inquiry in this topic area has been limited to considering benefits associated with a community model of delivery (Findlay-King et al., 2018) and exploring the associated policy rhetoric of empowerment, inclusivity and responsible sport and leisure service provision (Skeratt & Hall, 2011). Significantly, there has been a paucity of inquiry that has addressed the micro-level enactment of this change. Such work is essential to understand what human capital and capital development is required for community sport facility businesses to move from ‘surviving’ to ‘thriving’, to cope with tensions around ‘legitimate’ ways to manage and to achieve sustainability.

The aim of this study is to examine human capacity: mobilisation, challenges and building needs in this context. In doing so it will consider the sufficiency, knowledge, skills and experience requirements, of community human resources. To achieve these aims qualitative methods (surveys, individual interviews and focus groups) will be utilised to address the following questions:
• What are the human capacities and capitals needed to successfully acquire and sustain a community sports centre business, as a community asset transfer?
• How is community human capacity developed and supported?
• What support is needed to sustain community sport businesses?
• What are the differences between voluntary and paid staff capacity requirements?
• What impact does the balance between voluntary and paid staff have on community sport centre success and how can this be managed?

Eligibility and How to Apply:
Please note eligibility requirement:
• Keen interest in the community and voluntary sector (essential) and the sport/leisure context (desirable) – developed through recent undergraduate or Masters study in a relevant subject (e.g. social policy, geography, sport management, social enterprise, business, community development)
• Related policy or practice experience is also desirable.
• 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.
• Experience in qualitative (essential) and in quantitative (desirable) research techniques
• Appropriate IELTS score, if required.

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. RDFC18/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 8th May 2019
Interviews: June 2019
Start Date: 1st October 2019

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds an Athena SWAN Bronze award in recognition of our commitment to improving employment practices for the advancement of gender equality and is a member of the Euraxess network, which delivers information and support to professional researchers

Funding Notes

The studentship is available to Home and EU students with a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2019/20, this is £15,009 pa) and full Home/ EU Fees


Findlay-King, L., Nichols G., Forbes D. & Macfadyen G. (2018) Watching the pennies and the people - how volunteer led sport facilities have transformed services for local communities. Managing Sport and Leisure doi:10.1080/23750472.2018.1550369

Findlay-King L, Nichols G, Forbes D, and Macfadyen G (2017) Little leisure centres and libraries in the Big Society: fighting closures or empowering communities as an alternative to the state? Leisure Studies. Epub ahead of print. doi.10.1080/02614367.2017.1285954

Nichols G, Forbes D, Findlay-King L, and Macfadyen G (2015) Is the asset transfer of public leisure facilities in England an example of associative democracy? Administrative Sciences 5 (2), 71–87. doi:10.3390/admsci5020071

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