South West Doctoral Training Partnership


We are delighted to announce the availability of Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded studentships as part of the South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP).

The closing date for applications is Friday 12 January 2024 at 12:00 (noon) GMT.

Studentship details

The South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to provide postgraduate research training in the social sciences.

UWE Bristol joined the SWDTP in 2016, bringing world-class research expertise to the six pathways as outlined below. Opportunities are available for research study in these pathways based in a number of our Research Centres and Groups.

Our research is characterised by our partnerships with external organisations, and provides good opportunities for working collaboratively to undertake research that will make a real impact.

The ESRC SWDTP 1+3 (a one-year Masters, plus three years funding for a PhD) or +3 (three years funding for a PhD only) studentships are available at UWE Bristol in six research pathways listed below. These studentships cover a £18,622 stipend per annum, plus UK tuition fees for eligible students.

Details of the six pathways are as below:

Climate Change, Sustainability and Society

The Climate Change, Sustainability and Society pathway focuses on the development and application of social science expertise to complex problems of climate change and sustainability. It brings together internationally recognised social and interdisciplinary scientists with expertise in the broad area of sustainability and climate change at six universities: Bristol, Exeter, UWE Bristol, Bath, Bournemouth and Plymouth Marjon.

Our research spans a wide range of social science disciplines, including psychology, geography, politics, business, education, health and the creative arts, with students benefiting from complementary and distinctive expertise at each institution. Researchers in this pathway are driven by a common goal: to conduct research with impact that influences policy and practice in the area of sustainability and climate change. This involves  addressing the complex and multifaceted challenges in this critical area, and working towards  solutions with real-world implications.

Research across the six institutions encompasses issues including the politics of sustainable transitions, resilience and adaptation, climate justice, energy and innovation, climate change communication, local sustainability governance, food systems, and the circular/green economy. Our students actively engage in interdisciplinary research groups, helping  break through disciplinary silos to build the skills, knowledge, and experiences to address these societal challenges. A wide range of qualitative and quantitative research approaches are welcomed, including innovative and creative approaches to data collection and analysis. This pathway will equip PhD students to develop the skills required for a wide range of careers in local and international contexts.

For further information about this pathway at UWE Bristol, please contact Professor Graham Parkhurst.

Contact details:

Health, Wellbeing and Society

The Health, Wellbeing and Society pathway brings together internationally recognised social scientists and practitioners who possess research and teaching strengths in the broad area of health, wellbeing and society – in particular the wider determinants of health, lifestyle behaviours, physical activity and mental wellbeing in contemporary society. It seeks to make a major impact in creating a thriving and healthy society, as well as addressing the conditions for which health and wellbeing can flourish. We seek to build research capacity at the interface of health and social sciences within and beyond academia, including through policy, services and using social science to positively influence health and wellbeing. This pathway addresses the grand challenges for health, wellbeing and society and is uniquely placed to train the next generation of future world leading researchers in social science relating to health.

We use multi and interdisciplinary perspectives to help understand how to tackle these grand challenges drawing on insights across a wide range of health-related social science (including public health, economics, health policy, psychology, anthropology, geography, sociology, social gerontology, social epidemiology, social work, social care and education). This pathway will equip novice researchers to apply cutting-edge methodologies that enhance our understanding of health and society for diverse groups, and in different settings, both in the UK and internationally.

For further information about this pathway at UWE Bristol, please contact Professor Stuart McClean.

Contact details:

Sociotechnical Futures and Digital Methods

A new pathway on social transformations and sustainable futures with and through digital technologies, including research with big data.

The Sociotechnical Futures and Digital Methods Pathway sits at the intersection between methodological advances and how related technologies continue to have a profound influence on social relations, government, commerce, health, education, and the economy. The pathway supports research both from the perspective of applying digital methods and technologies (including big data), qualitatively or quantitatively and perhaps with the backing of a collaborative partner, to address social issues, as well as from thinking critically about these technologies and their social impacts.

In the digital age, technologies and methods continue to change the way we live and the way we conduct research, communicate and engage. Organisations and societies are navigating new digital spaces that seamlessly connect our online and offline lives. Rapid changes to digital and physical infrastructures will continue, and the rise of the meta-verse is unstoppable. Regulatory bodies and technology developers face further challenges when it comes to understanding how people and societies relationship with technology can appear dualistic. For example, a single innovation (or sociotechnical future) can provide positive benefits for some while simultaneously creating new inequalities for others.

Sociotechnical developments also continue to inspire novel research directions in the social sciences. This can include the use of social media, smartphones, and sensors. When used successfully, both theoretical and applied contributions have supported the development of new technologies, public policy, and cemented the role social sciences can play when it comes to tackling the interdisciplinary challenges of our time. However, these developments have also amplified new challenges facing researchers when accessing, engaging, and sharing new and sensitive forms of digital data.

For further information about this pathway at UWE Bristol, please contact Professor Clare Wilkinson.

Contact details:


Doctoral research in Education is creative, participatory, critical and interdisciplinary. Ranging from practice-relevant and practitioner-led research at different levels, to research into policy, theory and social justice, there are many topics that might be supervised in varied contexts and via different methodological approaches. Topics could include, but are not limited to: teacher education, pedagogy, curriculum and schooling, assessment, outdoor education, social justice and citizenship, inclusive education and SEND, comparative education and international development, decolonisation, education leadership and management, early childhood education, youth studies, digital/postdigital education or digital disadvantage, Artificial Intelligence and learning, educational psychology and wellbeing, Higher, Further and Post Compulsory Education, Vocational Education, teaching, learning and creativity, philosophy of education, language education, educational policy and practice.

There are many methodological approaches through which to explore your topic and to gather and analyse data. This includes quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods approaches, content analysis, grounded theory, linguistic analysis, case studies, ethnographic and autoethnographic methods, different forms of participatory research, arts-based and transformative research practices, research using different technologies, and many others.

Within the SWDTP, we have strengths across Education and opportunities for exciting interdisciplinary supervision of your chosen research area. Studying for a PhD in Education within the SWDTP enables you to work with globally recognised experts who publish in leading journals and win international research funding. You will gain the skills and knowledge to shape your own cutting edge research to contribute to a better understanding of local or global educational challenges and make a difference in the world.

For further information about this pathway at UWE Bristol, please contact Professor Richard Waller.

Contact details:

Management and Business Studies

Management and Business as a discipline drives innovation and best practice for organizations. Research in management and business seeks to address challenges that organizations face by providing evidence-based solutions set within wider theoretical contexts. These challenges range from strategic issues to managerial struggles, to operational barriers. Whether it is related to the wider business environment, resource-driven issues, or the socio-cultural aspects of organizational life, business and management research strives to discover underlying causes and develop research-informed practical solutions to bring about positive change to organizations and thus contribute to better impact on the society and communities that they reside in.

Within the College of Business and Law, we have wide-ranging research expertise including leadership, human resources management, organisational behaviour, marketing, entrepreneurship, international business, operations and supply chain management, economics, financial management, business law and ethics. We work across industries and service sectors, public and non-profit organisations and lead engaged projects that aim to make a positive impact on businesses and societies in the UK and globally. Our colleagues publish their research in leading management as well as in interdisciplinary journals and our research is funded by national and international funding bodies.

Further details of research focus, achievements, activities and membership of the College of Business and Law research groups and centres are available on their webpages:

We welcome projects exploring any of the focal points of research conducted in the College, sitting within wider theoretical contexts and utilising single and multi-method approaches.

For further information about the Management and Business pathway at UWE Bristol, please contact Dr Pawel Capik.

Contact details:

Social Policy

The social policy pathway includes large departments with research excellence related to social policy across a wide range of issues, including inequality, poverty, and social justice (Bristol, Bath); gender, violence, and criminal justice (Bristol, UWE Bristol); death and society (Bath); health inequalities (Plymouth); and body image (UWE Bristol).

The partnership has two broad areas of shared research excellence: 

  1. public health policy, including social care, social justice, and healthy aging
  2. planning and policy for healthy environments.

All four universities where the pathways are located were submitted to Social Policy in REF2021 and demonstrated good performance at 3* and 4* level for publications, impact and environment. All universities are active in winning external research grants. Each pathway has significant supervisory capacity, with the number of eligible supervisors in pathway lead departments ranging from 70 to 227 and completion rates of 95% in the period 2017–2022. All partners provide general research methods training through a cross-pathway MRes program, including access to specialist quantitative and qualitative MRes units and specialist one-off unaccredited research methods training. Some specialist training will be organised in collaboration with other SWDTP pathways, such as Health, Wellbeing and Society. Postgraduate researchers will be encouraged to seek advanced training from external providers.

The pathway has collaborations with local, national and international stakeholders and researchers beyond academia, and so is well placed to support research in practice placements to support PhD graduates into careers beyond as well as within academia.

For further information about this pathway at UWE Bristol, please contact Professor Kieran McCartan.

Contact details:


In order to receive ESRC studentship funding you must have qualifications/experience equal to the standard of a good honours degree at first or upper second class level from a UK academic research organisation. Degree qualifications gained from outside the UK, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience that is equivalent to a relevant UK degree, might be accepted in some cases.

The full award does not cover the difference between the UK rate and the international fees set by universities, so UWE Bristol will cover the difference in these fees for successful candidates.

Please ensure that you read the SWDTP eligibility criteria carefully before submitting your application.

How to apply

Closing date

The closing date for application is 12:00 (noon) GMT Friday 12 January 2024. 1+3 studentships will start in September 2024 and +3 studentships will start on 1 October 2024.

Initial enquiries

We strongly encourage you to discuss your proposed research topic with an academic staff member in your field, and the proposed supervisor will need to provide a supervisor's supporting statement as part of your application. You can explore the member lists of our research groups and centres or search staff profiles using subject-area search terms (eg robotics) or an individual's name. Please also see the SWDTP potential supervisor database.

If you still can't find what you're looking for, please contact us and we'll try to put you in touch with the right people.

Applications with a strong collaborative focus are encouraged. Please see the ESRC website for collaboration guidance.

Application process

Please read 'A guide to applying to the South West Doctorial Training Partnership' which provides key information on preparing your application. 

Follow the steps to apply for a PhD at UWE Bristol. Please use the following references when applying:

  • Climate Changes, Sustainability and Society - Ref: 2425-OCT-CCSS-SWDTP
  • Health, Wellbeing and Society - Ref: 2425-OCT-HWBS-SWDTP
  • Sociotechnical Futures and Digital Methods - Ref: 2425-OCT-SFDM-SWDTP
  • Education - Ref: 2425-OCT-EDU-SWDTP
  • Management and Business Studies - Ref: Ref 2425-OCT-MBS-SWDTP
  • Social Policy - Ref: 2425-OCT-SP-SWDTP.

You are required to complete the UWE Bristol application form and include the following documentation in order for us to consider your application to a PhD as well as SWDTP funding:

Please note:

  • Your application will only be considered if it contains the above and you have met our minimum criteria.
  • If you're considering overseas fieldwork, overseas institutional visits or difficult language training, you should also mention this in your application where possible.
  • If researchers in the appropriate pathway are interested in your research proposal, we will invite you to a formal interview for a more in-depth discussion about your application.


The information you provide as part of your application will be shared with other institutions in the partnership for purposes of shortlisting and interviewing.

Interviews for shortlisted applicants will take place in February 2024.

You may also be interested in