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Techno-Environmental Habitus in the UK Higher Education (Advert Reference: MRDF22/ADSS/HDD/RAGNEDDA)

   Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences

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  Dr Massimo Ragnedda, Dr Maria Laura Ruiu  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

The pervasive presence of technology in students’ everyday life has affected social practices by producing a dynamic conceptualisation of learning “communities” in Higher Education (HE) and students’ support networks (Raaper and Brown, 2020). The abrupt changes caused by the pandemic have produced a shift towards a technological paradigm in HE globally by imposing to more than 1.6 billion learners to interrupt their face-to-face educations in 161 countries (Parthasarathy and Murugesan, 2020). The centrality of technology in this crisis has been shown by a massive effort to create a sustainable digital environment for teaching and learning, which is likely to persist in some respects after the end of the pandemic (Gov.UK, 2020). This uncertain scenario creates an opportunity for Governmental Departments and Universities, to develop a concerted plan, to simultaneously drive strategic technological and environmental advances. This is particularly relevant if considering the UK Government’s commitment to net-zero carbon by 2050.

Extensive literature has been produced on the role of habitus in education in relation to economic, cultural, and social backgrounds and class (Reay, 2005) and their transformation/adaptation throughout individuals’ learning careers (see e.g., Abraham and Ingram, 2013). Furthermore, several researchers have used the concept of habitus in relation to environmental dispositions by referring to ecological or eco-habitus (Adams, 2012). However, only limited studies have concentrated on HE education and environmental awareness (Wachholz et al., 2014) and none have considered the relationship between environmental predispositions and technological attitudes.

The candidate will investigate the intertwined relationship between a) students’ existing backgrounds, b) their technology use and c) their environmental dispositions. The aims are to shed light on the digital sustainable policies that might a) ensure that all students can benefit from online education, b) help digitally marginalised users to benefit from learning, and c) support the development of environmental consciousness among young people.

The research will adopt the concept of habitus (Bourdieu 1993) to interpret why technology users with diverse degrees of expertise interpret climate change differently. The combination of a) a Biographical Narrative Interview Method and b) a review of both the UK policy-responses implemented by governments from the start of the pandemic and environmental policies that might create the potential for technological applications, will provide evidence to policymakers and stakeholder as to how digital sustainable policies can be improved and fostered in a more efficient way.

The findings will shed light on how structural forces (represented by existing cultural, economic, social, and technological backgrounds) interact with the acquisition of new technological skills and attitudes acquired during HE careers by in turn showing different environmental dispositions. HE is a privileged context to observe such differences given that students start their university experience equipped with a widely varying range of digital skills and competencies (Jisc, 2020).

The Principal Supervisor for this project is Dr Massimo Ragnedda

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.

·      Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere or if they have previously been awarded a PhD.

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. MRDF22/ADSS/HDD/RAGNEDDA) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: 15th June 2022

Start Date: 1 October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes

The studentship supports a full stipend, paid for three years at RCUK rates (for 2022/23 this is £16,062 per year) and full tuition fees. Only UK candidates may apply, due to funding constraints.


1. Ragnedda, M. (2020), Enhancing Digital Equity: Connecting the Digital Underclass. Palgrave.
2. Ragnedda, M., and Ruiu, ML. (2020) Digital Capital. A Bourdieusian approach to Digital Divide, Emeralds Publishing.
3. Ruiu, ML., Ruiu, G., and Ragnedda, M. (2021), Conceptualisation of Techno-Environmental Habitus, First Monday
4. Ruiu, G., Ruiu, ML, and Ragnedda, M. (2021) Change in Climate Perception Prompted by the COVID-19 Pandemic, American Behavioral Scientist
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