How do marginalised women and girls inform sustainable public services through new forms of decentralised decision making to ensure green goals are met? (Ref: RDF24/BL/LHRM/JOHNSTON)

   Faculty of Business and Law

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  Dr Lorraine Johnston, Dr Ally Memon  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Gender equality and the empowerment of women are recognised by the United Nations as an essential Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 5). Similarly, national, and international governments have long since recognised the significant and important role of women and girls in contributing to socio-economic growth and local development through raising productivity levels, strengthening social and physical capital and reducing social exclusion (OECD, 2022). Despite this, gaps remain as women and girls voices are often marginalised in public service decision making. Evidence shows women and girls feel silenced and are underrepresented in decentralised decision making as they experience persistent gender inequalities, unfairness and discrimination (UNDP, 2022). In many cases, the values and contributions of women and girls seeking more meaningful participative forms of decision making are overlooked (Ibid.). As such, women and girls are left feeling disempowered and facing ongoing personal struggles in navigating outmoded public services. Similarily, are structural barriers that prevent engagement in the co-design of sustainable public services. These aspects impact uniquely on capabilities of excluded female users seeking to rationalise public services that work for them. It is envisaged a PhD candidate will likely draw attention to multiplicity spaces through considering a diversity of policy challenges as education, employment, healthcare, housing, and skills.

More specifically, this PhD project will explore the research question – How do marginalised women and girls inform sustainable public services through new forms of decentralised decision making to ensure green goals are met? How women and girls are empowered, enabled and/or inhibited will draw attention to the barriers of new forms of decision making spaces and governance such as the mayoral combined authorities in austerity contexts (Fenwick and Johnston, 2019; 2020a; 2020b; 2023; Johnston and Fenwick, 2021). It is within this context that this PhD project will consider the voices and concerns of underrepresented and marginalised women and girls seeking transitional social justice processes. It is envisaged that a PhD candidate will adopt a feminist perspective in supporting the agency of women and girls in considering how environmentally astute women-led community groups are being ‘left behind’ by decision makers that overlook more human centred green transitions (OECD, 2022). This concern is having a significant impact on how policymakers plan and visualise green public services that respond to the concerns of marginalised groups. These challenges are pronounced and more critical following the COVID-19 crisis and are deeply interconnected in the legacy of post-industrial cities confronted by deprivation, discrimination, higher rates of mortality, security, climate change and green sustainability. We are therefore seeking a PhD candidate that orientates research towards qualitative research strategies and innovative methodologies that are inductive in building theory, interpretative in epistemological positioning and constructive in ontological direction to engage with the complex theories of change at multiple levels. It is envisioned that a potential PhD candidate will seek to embrace methodologies that transition across disciplinary areas as social and health policy; public management; environmental science; public administration, public policy and political science.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr Lorraine Johnston and Dr Ally Memon. For informal queries, please contact [Email Address Removed]. For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please contact Admissions at [Email Address Removed]. 

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities with 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 if they are already a PhD or Professional Doctorate holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

To be classed as a Home student, candidates must:

  • 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 must be fully enrolled in the UK before stipend payments can commence and cover any 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 It is important that you read this information 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.
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be paid by the University.


In your application, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF24/…).

Deadline for applications: 26 January 2024

Start date of course: 1 October 2024

Northumbria University is committed to creating an inclusive culture where we take pride in, and value, the diversity of our postgraduate research students. We encourage and welcome applications from all members of the community. The University holds a bronze Athena Swan award in recognition of our commitment to advancing gender equality, we are a Disability Confident Leader, a member of the Race Equality Charter and are participating in the Stonewall Diversity Champion Programme. We also hold the HR Excellence in Research award for implementing the concordat supporting the career Development of Researchers and are members of the Euraxess initiative to deliver information and support to professional researchers.

Architecture, Building & Planning (3) Business & Management (5) Geography (17) Politics & Government (30) Sociology (32)

Funding Notes

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 2023/24 full-time study this is £18,622 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 £11,173 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities.
Please also see further advice on additional costs that may apply to international students.


Fenwick, J. and Johnston, L. (2019) Leading the Combined Authorities in England, A new future for directly elected mayors, Public Money and Management, 40(1), 14-20.
Fenwick, J. and Johnston, L. (2020a) Leading Local Government – The role of directly elected mayors, Emerald, London.
Fenwick and Johnston (2020b) Public Enterprise and Local Place, New Perspectives on Theory and Practice, Routledge, Oxon.
Johnston, L. and Fenwick, J. (2021) Sub national government in England, institutions and places, Public Money and Management 40(1), 5-6.
Fenwick, J. and Johnston, L. (2023) A new public enterprise, Public Money and Management.

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