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Universities as transformative sustainability leaders


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 Dr Catherine Carroll-Meehan and Professor Steve Fletcher.

The work on this project could involve:
-Exploring the role played by universities in effecting transformational change at a city scale.
-Managing organisational change in universities to best enable them to offer leadership to address sustainability challenges.
-Working with key stakeholders to explore perceptions about sustainability to and enact recommendations leading to culture change and enhanced awareness of sustainability and local responses to global challenges

Project description
Major institutions within cities, as key employers and economic drivers, have potentially significant leadership roles in sustainability transformations. Universities are such an institution as they create space for raising awareness of sustainability challenges, changing behaviours and catalysing social action. The University of Portsmouth, is situated in the heart of the city and works in the community not only to improve the life chances of local citizens through education but has the potential to make a significant contribution to the city’s response to global sustainability challenges. To date the University has made a number of significant changes to reduce its carbon footprint, but the greatest resource of the University, staff and students perceptions and attitudes towards sustainability could increase engagement with sustainability agenda through increased awareness, commitment to change and social action.

The research context is within a University. The socio-political nature of universities alongside the transformational nature of education acts as a catalyst for change. Increasingly the University has adopted a civic leadership role and this has recently been formalised through a commitment to the civic university agenda.

This project intends to examine the role of universities in sustainability transformation, using the University of Portsmouth as one of several grounded case studies. Central to this study will be the principles underpinning transformational leadership and awareness of managing large scale change, measurement of perceptions and attitudes and effecting change through potentially an action research or participatory style methodology.



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
We are seeking someone with awareness of organisational culture and leadership styles (ideally in universities) and of the global sustainability agenda. Some experience of participatory and creative approaches to research would be welcome and you should have an ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing to a range of audiences.

How to Apply
We’d encourage you to contact Dr Catherine Carroll-Meehan () 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 EDSO5130220 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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