Coventry University Featured PhD Programmes
University of Leeds Featured PhD Programmes
University College London Featured PhD Programmes

Managing Elite Sport at the Provincial Level in China: Interorganisational Relationships and Strategic Planning (Ref: SF20/SER/ZHENG)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

About the Project

Existing elite sport management literature is devoid of a focus on provincial/territorial-level organisations’ approaches to elite sport development, despite provincial-level sport organisations’ notable contributions to the delivery of elite sport success in many countries (e.g., Russia, China, Japan and Australia). Concomitantly, this proposed project aims to address some of these gaps and will be underpinned by two research objectives:

Research objective 1: Provincial sport organisations’ relationships with their national superiors
(1) Characteristics and nature of the relationships/conflict;
(2) Contributory factors to the cooperation or conflict;
(3) Initiatives to alleviate the conflict or improve the harmony;
(4) Impact of the relationships/conflict on provincial sport organisations and teams.

Research objective 2: Provincial sport organisations’ elite sport strategy and sport prioritisation approaches
(1) Evidence of any prioritisation strategy amid all sports and types of sports prioritised;
(2) Endogenous factors considered for the strategy/selection;
(3) Exogenous factors considered for the strategy/selection;
(4) Impact of the strategy and evidence of and spurs for any changes.

The theory of interorganisational relationships (Parmigiani & Rivera-Santos, 2011) and interorganisational conflict (Das & Teng, 2000; Lumineau, Eckerd & Handley, 2015) will act as the main theoretical gateway directing the exploration of Objective 1, while Porter’s (1990, 1998, 2008) models on strategic planning and competitive advantage including the diamond model will underlie Objective 2.

A comparative case study research design (Camel, 1999) will be adopted and three provinces will be selected based on their significance (Denscombe, 2007) and representativeness (Stake, 1995) and the researchers’ ‘convenience and feasibility’ (Denscombe, 2007, p. 41). Data will be sourced from both semi-structured interviews (15-25, including 5-6 for each provincial-level organisation) and documents. Qualitative data collected will be subject to thematic analysis (Patton, 2002). Themes will correspond to the research questions and interview themes identified, espoused by Ryan and Bernard’s (2003) theme generation methods.

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 (for this specific project, at least 7.0 overall and 6.0 in writing with 7.5 overall and 6.5 in writing preferred – Academic Test rather than General Training Test).
• Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.
• A certain level of proficiency in Chinese writing, reading and speaking.

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., SF20/…) will not be considered.
Deadline for applications: Open
Start Date: October 2020 or March 2021
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.

Enquiries can be directed to Dr Jinming Zheng ()

Funding Notes

Please note, this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend; the studentship is available to Students Worldwide. Fee bands are available at View Website . A relevant fee band will be discussed at interview based on project running costs


1. Zheng, J., Chen, S., Tan, T. C., & Houlihan, B. (2019). Sport policy in China. Abingdon: Routledge.
ISBN: 978-1-138-05166-9.
2. Zheng, J., Lau, W. C., Chen, S., Dickson, G., De Bosscher, V., & Peng, Q. (2019). Interorganisational
conflict between national and provincial sport organisations within China’s elite sport system:
Perspectives from national organisations. Sport Management Review, 22(5), 667-681.
doi:10.1016/j.smr.2018.10.002. (SSCI).
3. Zheng, J., Tan, T. C., & Bairner, A. (2019). Responding to globalisation: The case of elite artistic
gymnastics in China. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 54(5), 536-556.
doi:10.1177/1012690217730679. (SSCI).
4. Tan, T. C., Zheng, J., & Dickson, G. (2019). Policy transfer in elite sport development: The case of elite
swimming in China. European Sport Management Quarterly, 1-21.
doi:10.1080/16184742.2019.1572768. (SSCI). (Corresponding author).
5. Zheng, J., Chen, S., Tan, T. C., & Lau, W. C. (2018). Sport policy in China (Mainland). International
Journal of Sport Policy and Politics, 10(3), 469-491. doi:10.1080/19406940.2017.1413585. (ESCI).
6. Zheng, J. (2017). A policy analysis of the development of elite swimming in China between 2000 and
2012: A national team perspective. The International Journal of the History of Sport, 34(12), 1247-
1274. doi:10.1080/09523367.2018.1432599. (SSCI).
7. Zheng, J., & Chen, S. (2016). Exploring China’s success at the Olympic Games: A competitive
advantage approach. European Sport Management Quarterly, 16(2), 148-171.
doi:10.1080/16184742.2016.1140797. (SSCI).
8. Peng, Q., Skinner, J., Houlihan, B., Kihl, L., & Zheng, J. (Under Review). Towards understanding
change-supportive organizational behaviour in China: A qualitative investigation of the 2015 Chinese
national football reform. European Sport Management Quarterly. (SSCI).

Email Now

Insert previous message below for editing? 
You haven’t included a message. Providing a specific message means universities will take your enquiry more seriously and helps them provide the information you need.
Why not add a message here

The information you submit to Northumbria University will only be used by them or their data partners to deal with your enquiry, according to their privacy notice. For more information on how we use and store your data, please read our privacy statement.

* required field

Your enquiry has been emailed successfully

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2021
All rights reserved.