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Co-developing robust methods for identifying, measuring and valuing the social impact of community cultural assets programmes (RDF23/HLS/NMH/GRAY)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Prof Joanne Gray, Dr Angela Bate  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

It is widely acknowledged that communities represent the building blocks for health and wellbeing: enabling social connectedness and the creation of a sense of belonging. Communities can promote good mental health and can buffer some of the negative effects of adversity and stress (1). Furthermore, community assets can play a critical role in levelling up and addressing the key social determinants of health and well-being and can enable people to participate in activities, which might not only enhance health, wellbeing, and resilience, but also reduce pressures on health systems (2). A recent study based on the UK population demonstrated that engagement in community cultural assets is strongly associated with better mental health and wellbeing in people living in areas of high deprivation (3). In the context of austerity measures leading to public-sector funding cuts and faced with continuing, even growing, inequalities, more innovative, community-based solutions have gained prominence (4).

Increased scarcity of public resources has led to a concomitant drive to account for value-for-money of all interventions. As such, community asset interventions are being required to demonstrate the social and economic value they generate. Social Return on Investment (SROI) also known as Social Cost Benefit analysis is a methodology currently being encouraged to measure these broader socio-economic outcomes into a singular monetary ratio to help identify the most impactful and cost-beneficial interventions.

Whilst there are instruments to measure social outcomes in terms of wider definitions of wellbeing, there is a paucity of evidence regarding the valuation of these outcomes in terms of monetary units. Established valuation methods (stated preference techniques)(5) that do exist require time intensive primary research valuation each time an evaluation is conducted. However, community cultural assets programmes and policy-makers often lack the tools and capacity to readily demonstrate value for money. An alternative robust methodology that can be applied and used to value community assets is contingent valuation and willingness to pay

Given the lack of relevant social values for well-being, it is surprising that the updated version of the HM Treasury Green Book still calls for the use of social cost benefit analysis in any evaluation. This PhD will go someway into addressing this by providing a bank of social values for community cultural asset programmes/interventions and will draw upon several health economic methods (specified below).

This 3-year funded doctoral programme of research will be co-designed with selected community cultural assets programmes to:

  • Identify the range of outcomes and benefits that are important and relevant to all stakeholders involved in the funding, provision, and delivery of community cultural assets programmes, including the communities themselves. (focus groups to inform and develop vignettes)
  • Adapt and utilise contingent valuation methodology to value community cultural assets with all stakeholders (Willingness to Pay)
  • Develop a bank of social values for the range of outcomes generated above
  • Apply these social values to the evaluation of community cultural assets programmes using social cost benefit analysis methods (Economic Evaluation)

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Prof Joanne Gray. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions.

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • 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 they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

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.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

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

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


1. Friedli, L. (2009). Mental Health, resilience and inequalities. WHO Regional Office Europe.
2.Munford L at al (2020). Effects of participating in community assets on quality of life and costs of care: longitudinal cohort study of older people in England. BMJ Open. Feb 6;10(2)
3.Mak HW et al (2021). Associations between community cultural engagement and life satisfaction, mental distress and mental health functioning using data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS): are associations moderated by area deprivation? BMJ Open 2021;11
4.Roy et al (2015),The potential of social enterprise to enhance health and well-being: A model and systematic review,Social Science & Medicine,Volume 123,2014, Pages 182-193
5.Brazier, J. E. (2010). Is the EQ-5D fit for purpose in mental health? British Journal of Psychiatry, 197(5), 348–349

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