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The University as a Platform: Co-creating Community Infrastructure (RDF23/CIS/DOW)

   Faculty of Engineering and Environment

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  Dr Andrew Dow, Prof Rob Wilson  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

As part of the UKRI’s Knowledge Exchange Framework (KEF) (, modern Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are expected to work with local partners to the benefit of the economy and society. Adopting a civically oriented focus, universities seek to maximise opportunities to work and collaborate with local organisations such as local government, charities or civil society organisations. For example, Northumbria University is part of the Civic University Network and the Collective Newcastle initiative. However, it is not clear how to capitalise on these collaborations, nor how partnerships should be established and configured for the pooling of knowledge and resource in beneficial ways. Concurrently, new digital technologies (e.g. social media platforms) have come to occupy a pivotal position in our digital economy and play an increasingly important role in civic engagements or interactions with the state. This represents a shift in citizen/government relations from one that is transactional to relational (Olivier & Wright, 2015). 

Government as a Platform (GaaP) represents an attempt to adopt similar approaches within the public sector. GaaP seeks to join different government agencies online, offering citizens support for their service-oriented requirements (Jamieson et al., 2020). GaaP promises to embed digital technologies to support the resolution of collective action problems at the regional and national levels through shared software, data and services (Margetts and Naumann, 2017). While GaaP has found success within transactional services like taxation and transportation, it has often failed where relationships between ‘service providers’ and ‘customers’ are complex and multi-faceted, e.g. education or social care (Dow et al., 2018). 

Recent research in HCI has shown the potential for civically oriented, digital tools to empower citizens, lowering the barrier to participation and consultation about public services (Dow et al., 2022). However, there remain significant challenges to the design, implementation and governance of such tools, especially within the existing structures of HEIs and local government bodies (Dow et al., 2018). The ‘University as a Platform’ (UaaP) is an emerging strategy representing a means to address these challenges. The UaaP explores HEIs as a space for the intermediation and brokerage of services, creating relationships between collaborators.

Concretely, we seek to explore the design of new digital tools and design methods that will support and define the UaaP as a means to co-create community infrastructures. Through embedded participatory design work across sectors, it involves co-inquiry with citizens and organisational partners. It will result in the design, creation and evaluation of a framework and set of associated digital tools and methods capable of connecting citizens and supporting them to work together as co-investigators. Through active participation, it supports the co-creation of a community of users (including University researchers), creating and defining new forms of collaboration. 

The candidate would be embedded in a faculty-based research group (NorSC) who will support and inform the work with the supervision team, in a fully supportive environment for completion and impact. The PhD also aligns with the Centre for Digital Citizens (the supervisory team includes co-investigators of the CDC).

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr. Andy Dow. 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


Dow A., Comber, R., Vines, J. Between Grassroots and the Hierarchy: Lessons Learned from the Design of a Public Services Directory, 2018, (CHI'18)
Dow A., Montague, K., Concannon, S. and Vines, J., 2022, June. Scaffolding Young People's Participation in Public Service Evaluation through Designing a Digital Feedback Process, (DIS’22)
Jamieson, D., Wilson, R., Martin, M., Is the GaaP wider than we think? Applying a sociotechnical lens to Government-As-A-Platform 2020, Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance
Margetts, H., and Naumann, A., 2017. Government as a Platform: What can Estonia show the world. (Research Paper, University of Oxford)
Olivier, P., and Wright, P., 2015. Digital Civics: Taking a Local Turn (Interactions)

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