Leadership for Grand Societal Challenges


College of Business and Law at UWE Bristol invites applications for a fully funded PhD studentship in Leadership on the topic of “Leadership for Grand Societal Challenges”.

Ref: 2324-OCT-FBL01

Closing date for applications is Monday 1 May 2023.

Start date of this studentship is Sunday 1 October 2023.

Studentship details

Grand societal challenges (GSCs), such as those highlighted in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), require diverse actors to interact and collaborate in unique ways. Coordinated and sustained effort from multiple stakeholders, working across boundaries, are not amenable to received notions of leadership which tend to prioritise authoritative, heroic action by a visionary leader.

Despite the urgent need for a more nuanced understanding of leadership in multi-stakeholder partnerships, the conceptual and empirical understanding of leaders’ identities and practices at the intersection of organisation and society is underdeveloped. Various areas of scholarship have been established that focus on responsible leadership, collective leadership, unleadership, complexity leadership and CEO activism, among others. This studentship invites project proposals that seek to explore the role of leadership in shaping collective action and cross-boundary working to address GSCs.

Suggested research questions may include (but are not restricted to):

  • What capabilities, attitudes and values inspire leaders to give attention to GSCs in their practice?
  • How can leaderly practices be theorised in order to influence sustainable development at a systems level?
  • What are the ways to develop responsible leaders who look beyond organisational objectives and address societal outcomes?
  • What institutional, political or cultural systems inhibit leaders from actively engaging with GSCs?

We especially welcome proposals with a qualitative/mixed methods approach, innovative methodologies and multi-/cross-disciplinary insights.
Prospective students will be based in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre (BLCC).

About the college

The studentship reflect ongoing commitment of the College of Business and Law at UWE Bristol to the development of its doctoral programmes. 
Prospective student will be based in the Bristol Business School, which is home to several multidisciplinary research groups.
Doctoral students at the college benefit from comprehensive support and guidance from the UWE Bristol Doctoral Academy, including extensive professional development programme, research skills training and careers advice.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please contact Director of Doctoral Research, Dr Paweł Capik at pawel.capik@uwe.ac.uk.

For an informal discussion about the project proposal please contact Dr Selen Kars at selen.kars@uwe.ac.uk.


The studentship is available from Sunday 1 October 2023 for a period of 3.5 years, subject to satisfactory progress, and includes a tax exempt stipend, currently at £17,668 per annum.

In addition, full-time home/international tuition fees will be covered.


Applicants must have at least 2.1 degree in business management or cognate discipline, and preferably Masters degree (with average programme mark of no less than 65%, UK grading scale or international equivalent).

A recognised English language qualification is required. IELTS score of 7.0 overall, or equivalent.

How to apply

Prepare your research proposal (no more than 5 pages all-inclusive; font size 11, 1.5-spacing, 2-inch margins). This should ideally happen in consultation with the potential supervisor. You should contact the potential supervisor with an advanced draft of the proposal to confirm they are willing to support your application.

Please submit your application online. When prompted use the reference number 2324-OCT-FBL01.

Supporting documentation: You will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application, so please have these available when you complete the application form.

References: You will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is at 18:00 (UK time) on Monday 1 May 2023.

Further information

It is expected that interviews will take place in June 2023. If you have not heard from us by Friday 30 June 2023, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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