PhD Studentship Opportunity – East Anglia

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‘Envisioning Sustainability: A regional review of the East of England’

About the Global Sustainability Institute:

The Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) was established by Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge) in 2011 as part of our corporate commitment to sustainability in research, teaching and operations. It has built a reputation for high impact publications across a broad range of sustainability issues. The backgrounds of our academic staff are diverse and encompass economics, geography, international relations, psychology, sociology, science and technology studies, environmental social science, communications, climate change, mathematics and computer modelling. We are part of the newly launched £6m ESRC Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity, have won grants from four of the UK research councils, are currently delivering work packages on four European projects, and recently received recognition for world-leading research and impact in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework (REF).

About the PhD position:

Sponsored by Sustainability East, a social enterprise and the driving force behind the East of England’s sustainability agenda, this PhD position comes with a full bursary (£14.5k/year) and fee waiver.

This PhD will explore critical conditions for sustainability delivery at a regional level, using the East of England as a case study. A clear gap exists, and appears to be widening, in sustainability leadership and delivery at regional level in the UK. In the context of dramatically changing political structures (moving from regional development agencies, through Local Enterprise Partnerships into devolution), there is a need to understand how sustainability as a framing concept is being and perhaps should be delivered regionally. The East of England represents a particularly interesting case to explore such issues given that a decision will be made about devolution around halfway through the PhD research.

It is interesting to reflect on how notions of sustainability are being and may be utilised. Indeed, there are assertions that sustainability is more important than ever if community harmony, household prosperity and nurturing nature are to widely and to fairly flourish over the coming decades. On the basis of this, any vision for a sustainable region would need to bring out these qualities – but what other framings complement other sorts of imagined futures? And what are the institutional and ground-level implications of such framings and futures?

The PhD will begin with a literature review that will necessarily include an assessment of the strengths/opportunities for the region and the gaps in delivery. The review will also include cover interdisciplinary social scientific literature including, for instance, policy framings* and sociotechnical imaginaries**. Although this grounding will allow the doctoral researcher to structure their own methodology for the PhD, it is likely to include interviews with key regional/national stakeholders, local workshops and the possibility of ethnography via short secondments into key regional organisations.

In addition to contributing to academic knowledge, the PhD researcher will also seek to provide practical recommendations for the East of England, as part of stimulating change on the ground. Such a gap needs to be filled given that there is no region-based sustainability audit (although there are aspects of this such as the recent ‘Fit for the Future’ review of climate action by Local Enterprise Partnerships). Nor is there currently an assessment of how a successful framing for sustainability could identify opportunities for improving current performance over sustainability outcomes across the arenas of economy, jobs, training, enterprise, social support and confidence building, and environmental resilience and reconstruction. Essentially, there is no current plan of action to take forward the sustainability agenda in the East of England, and thus this PhD will be an active contributor to that.

* e.g. Dryzek, J.S. (1997) The Politics of the Earth: Environmental Discourses, New York: Oxford University Press.

** e.g. Jasanoff, S. & Kim, S-H. (2015) Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power (Eds.), Chicago: University of Chicago Press.


You’ll need to apply for the PhD studentship using the Research Degree Application form via Admissions, at: and marking your application clearly at the top with GSI PhD Studentship – SE.

You’ll include with your application your CV and a covering letter, indicating why you’d like to do the PhD and how you meet the requirements of the role, as indicated in the person specification below. Please remember to complete all sections of the application form: for the outline research proposal please state “see attached CV and covering letter”.

For further details, regarding Studentships and eligibility please contact For project enquiries please contact Dr Aled Jones (, Director, Global Sustainability Institute.

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