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The role of environmental quality, economic success and social inclusion in sustainability transformation


Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2020.

This studentship belongs to ‘Transforming Portsmouth’, a cross-university interdisciplinary research programme designed to provide actionable evidence to underpin Portsmouth’s transformation to a sustainable city. Portsmouth faces multiple challenges related to climate, economy and environment. The programme will draw evidence from around the world to really make an impact in Portsmouth. Through early and ongoing engagement with key local agencies, Portsmouth residents, and leading international organisations, the programme will use global excellence to meet local needs.

The PhD will be supervised by Prof. Donald Houston, Dr Heather Rumble and Prof. Alessandro Melis. The research will be conducted in collaboration with Forest Research, with Kieron Doick acting as external supervisor. The supervision team is multi-disciplinary, spanning urban geography (Houston), urban ecology (Rumble), urban planning and architecture (Melis) and policy and practice (Doick).


The work on this project could involve:
● Ground-breaking research on the economic benefits of environmental amenity and green infrastructure.
● New insights into the potential of environmental amenity to either increase or decrease social inclusion.
● Chance to inform local planning, urban design and economic development policy or practice.
● Placement with Forest Research.


Project description
This PhD will explore how sustainability transformations can be both equitable and economically successful, based on the understanding that local environmental amenity is critical to urban economic success. Environmental amenity encapsulates both biophysical amenities (e.g. green/blue infrastructure) and social amenities (e.g. quality of services, neighbourhood social mix). The potential for places with high environmental amenity to become sought-after (and therefore expensive) places to live and so exclude less privileged groups (and so relegate low-income groups to low-amenity environments) through economic and social mechanisms appears substantial, yet surprisingly little evidence exists on how these relationships shape, and are shaped by, economic success. Social housing providers have led on sustainable energy solutions, but have been slow to develop ecological green space. Local authorities now recognise that investment in physical amenities, such as green infrastructure, can be a key transformational tool in urban areas, but evidence about how and where to implement this amenity in an equitable and economically productive way is lacking; this PhD aims to address this gap in knowledge by exploring more clearly the relationship between green infrastructure provision and inclusive growth.


General admissions criteria
You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements
The project requires a candidate alive to urban development processes, social inequality and ecological perspectives. The candidate requires knowledge of social research methods, which could be either quantitative or qualitative.

How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Prof. Donald Houston () or Prof. Steve Fletcher () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form.Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.


If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SEGG4801020 when applying.

Funding Notes

The scholarship covers tuition fees and an annual maintenance grant of £15,009 (UKRI 2019/20 rate) for three years. Scholarship recipients will also receive up to £3,000 for research project costs/consumables during the duration of the programme.

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