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Understanding risk, safety and mental health challenges in UK small-scale fisheries, Human Geography – PhD (Funded)

   College of Life and Environmental Sciences

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  Dr R Turner  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Small-scale fisheries are central to the viability of coastal communities, providing social, cultural and economic contributions to often-marginalised rural areas. The UK's small-scale fishing fleet face unprecedented rates of change and cumulative pressures including environmental change, conservation interventions, increasing competition for space at sea, policy and regulatory change, economic pressures and social change, culminating in a high degree of uncertainty about the future. Maritime charities report escalating mental health challenges in UK fisheries related to these interacting stressors. Furthermore, these pressures may increase risk-taking behaviours, undermining active campaigns to promote fishers’ health and safety. Despite these concerns, and in comparison to other industries (e.g. farming) and countries (e.g. Australia), fishers' mental health and physical safety remain important but understudied issues in the UK.

Co-developed with industry partners, this interdisciplinary project will collaborate with Cornwall Rural Communities Charity (CRCC) and The Seafarers Charity to conduct novel, impact-oriented research that aims to actively inform interventions related to public health, the wellbeing of coastal communities, and fisheries management and policy. The project will conduct a UK-wide survey to develop the first national assessment of fishers’ mental health. Based on the findings, qualitative case study research will further examine key drivers of poor mental health, and the relationships between interacting pressures and risk-taking behaviour. Drawing on the findings of this work and through an embedded placement with partners, the project will evaluate the potential for interventions to support this sector to help realise the societal and economic benefits of improved wellbeing among UK fishers.

The successful student will develop their PhD proposal together with the supervisory team, subject to their interests and expertise. This project could be suitable for students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including (but not limited to) Geography, Environmental or Marine Sciences, Health Sciences, Anthropology and Sustainable Development.

This award provides annual funding to cover Home tuition fees and a tax-free stipend. For students who pay Home tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £16,062 per year tax-free stipend. Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.  

International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD.

The conditions for eligibility of home fees status are complex and you will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or Republic of Ireland) within the past 3 years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme.

Entry Requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate discipline.  

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the required level (Profile A/B/C) as per our guidance at

How to apply

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents . 

• CV

• Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project, with particular reference to the collaborative nature of the proposed project and how this will enhance your training and research).

• Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying)

• Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to [Email Address Removed] quoting the studentship reference number.

• If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Monday 3rd October 2022. 

Interviews will be held virtually / on the University of Exeter Penryn Campus in the week commencing 17th October.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email [Email Address Removed] or phone 0300 555 60 60 (UK callers) +44 (0) 1392 723044 (EU/International callers)  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor.

For further information and to submit an application please visit -

Funding Notes

The University of Exeter is inviting applications for a PhD studentship fully-funded by Cornwall Rural Community Charity, the Seafarers Charity and the University of Exeter to commence on 9 January 2023 or as soon as possible thereafter. For eligible students the studentship will cover Home tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £16,062 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study. The student would be studying for a PhD Human Geography based in the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall.
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