Posted on: 2 July, 2019
Application deadline: July 25, 2019

4 fully-funded PhDs: Investigating: professional cultures of urban vacancy; arts led urban re-use; geographies of community self-help under austerity; Icelandic glacier fluctuations, Sheffield Hallam University, UK

Sheffield Hallam University, Natural and Built Environment Dept, 

PhD Studentship/Graduate Teaching Assistant bursaries

Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities

Duration: 3.5 years

Bursary £15,009 per annum

Closing date for applications: 12 noon 25th July 2019

The Department of Natural and Built Environment at Sheffield Hallam University intends to appoint PhD studentships (Graduate Teaching Assistants) on a three and a half year fixed term studentship from October 2019.

The studentship is for a period of three and a half years, subject to satisfactory progress, and will include full UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £15,009. Graduate Teaching Assistant bursary holders will be expected to contribute to the resourcing of the student experience, either through teaching or some other form of student support. This forms part of the terms and conditions of the bursary and there is no additional payment for it. Currently enrolled students are not eligible to apply. Applicants should hold a 1st or 2.1 honours degree in a related discipline. A Masters degree in a relevant subject area would be an advantage. We are particularly interested in supervising projects in the following areas, and preference will be given to applicants with an interest in developing research in one of the areas set out below.

1) Spatial infrastructures and distributed agencies: East Street Arts as urban activator 

In light of UK cities being increasingly dominated by large commercial developers and private interests (Cahill, 2001), (Minton, 2009), what role might arts and cultural organisations take in actively transforming cities according to different values and modes of action? How might they organise and operate not only to open up possibilities for artists, but to be an agent to stimulate possibilities for collective learning, community action and radical cultural practice? (Petrescu and Trogal, 2018), (Bohm, James, and Petrescu, 2018), (Traders, 2018). What are the tactics, strategies and roles they need take on and develop and the fields in which they must operate? (Brave New Alps, 2013, 2017), (Spatial Agency, 2017), (Gullino, Cerulli, and Seetzen, 2018). The Subject Group of Architecture at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU_Architecture) invites applications from architects, diverse spatial practitioners, urbanists and designers to a design-led PhD programme to investigate these concerns, in collaboration, and through active engagement with East Street Arts in Leeds (ESA). The project draws on the research and teaching of SHU_Architecture and the current activities of the nationally active arts organisation ESA, to provide a stimulating practice-based research environment in which to actively explore the potential for arts organisations to play innovative and alternative roles in processes of urban transformation. East Street Arts have developed a unique, also ecological, mode of practice as a civic arts organisation, operating a national network of art spaces, studios, community arts facilities and other tactics (Uglow, 2017), (Gee, 2017), (Thomas, 2018). They act in a diverse and complex way, and do not only support artists and their communities, but enact a particular form of urban development and transformation, which is supported by a range of spatial and creative tactics. The candidate would be based between SHU_Architecture and East St Arts, so as to be able to draw on archival materials and practices of the arts organisation, and through the design-led PhD to explore and add to this archive in productive and performative ways. The project will be supervised by: Dr Cristina Cerulli, Dr Julia Udall and Dr Sam Vardy. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Cristina Cerulli for further information prior to applying.

2) Wastes or in-waiting?: understanding professional cultures of setting-aside urban property

Within the broad interdisciplinary field of urban studies, and in associated policy areas, there has been much celebration in recent years of the rise of ‘meanwhile uses’ for urban sites (land and/or buildings) as they pass between phases of more conventional, established utilisation. However, despite this, vacant urban sites still exist and little research has been undertaken to understand how site owners and their property advisers perceive the passage of their sites between uses, and in particular why they might still prefer (or at least be comfortable with) a site remaining empty and unused for a period. The proposed study seeks to address this research deficit by investigating sites that appear to have fallen into disuse, and to understand the stories (and local logics) behind this apparent fate. Through case study-based research using primarily qualitative, interpretative methods (interviews, participant observation, focus groups, archival review) the study will build a rich insight into the way in which professional cultures of setting aside urban land are rationalised and implemented at specific sites. It is envisaged that there will be a comparative dimension (i.e. looking at case studies from more than one property type) – but within this there is scope for the researcher to focus on types of property that are of particular interest / relevance. For example, the supervisory team have research interest in the life cycles of former mental asylums, abandoned military bunkers and former industrial sites, and the rise and fall of particular types and configurations of office accommodation. Whilst a background in real estate is not mandatory for this position, the successful applicant will need to be genuinely interested in, and able to build effective research  relationships with, site owners, property professionals and their networks, in addition to showing a commitment to interpretative research methodologies. The project will be supervised by Dr Luke Bennett (Reader in Space, Place & Law), Dr Carolyn Gibbeson (Senior Lecturer, Real Estate) and Dr Barry Haynes (Principal Lecturer, Real Estate). Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Luke Bennett for further information prior to applying.

3) Holocene climate and environmental change in SE Iceland.

Iceland is located in a critically important region for the climate of the northern hemisphere. Its location means that Icelandic climate is strongly influenced by circulation in the North Atlantic Ocean, which is highly sensitive to change and has the potential to act as a trigger for abrupt climate change. Despite SE Iceland being the focus of a large amount of research into glacier fluctuations since the Little Ice Age (which ended around 1890), surprisingly little is known about the climate of SE Iceland prior to this time. This project will use multiproxy analysis of lake cores and glacial geomorphology to produce new reconciled records of Icelandic climate stretching back beyond modern records, which will be used to refine our understanding of ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, and potential sensitivities to rapid change. The successful candidate will use established techniques such as Chironomid-based transfer functions, tephrochronology and radiocarbon dating to produce climate records from a number of high altitude lake basins in SE Iceland. Alongside these climate records, glacial geomorphological research of some of the key outlet glaciers in SE Iceland will be undertaken, potentially including Cosmogenic Radionuclide dating of boulders, to understand the interactions between climate changes and glacier response. Together, these strands will produce robust new records of the climate of SE Iceland stretching back past the instrumental record. The project will be supervised by Dr Naomi Holmes, Dr Rob Storrar and Dr Jon Bridge. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Dr Naomi Holmes ( 0114 225 3516) or Dr Rob Storrar ( 0114 225 2798) for further information prior to applying.

4) Exploring the Geographies of Community Self-help in Times of Crisis and Austerity: some case study evidence from England.

At a time of economic crisis and austerity, with over 1.5 million people in the UK living in destitution (JRF, 2018), a deeper understanding as to how these precarious realities are shaping the informal geographies of community self-help (i.e. the extent, rationales, social embeddedness, and barriers to participation) is extremely timely and important. Harnessing a mixed-methodological framework to explore a range of material and emotional coping strategies, the research will consider how these are: (i) being weakened or dismantled (ii) acting as forms of resistance and resilience; (iii) underpinning new transformative forms of identity and engagement with others. The findings will address academic and policy implications that emerge when envisaging and enacting forms of community self-help “as a strategy for survival and a model for society” (Burns, et. al 2004: 6). The project will be supervised by Dr. Richard White (Reader in Human Geography), Dr. Rob Hunt (Senior Lecturer in Social Policy) and Rob Stevens (Senior Lecturer in Geography and Planning). Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Richard White (0114 225 2899 /

Applicants with interests in other areas should consult our web pages: for details of staff research interests in Natural and Built Environment and should consult the named contact before making an application. For general enquiries please email For general information about research degrees, visit the Research website

International applicants International applicants please be aware that the bursary will cover only the Home/EU fee. The shortfall between the Home and Overseas fee, currently around £8,000 per year, must be covered by the student for the 3.5 year duration of the studentship. We also have a mandatory English language requirement of IELTs 7, or equivalent language qualification. This qualification should have been taken within the last two years, with a score of at least 7 in all test areas.

Applying for a Studentship Before applying please check and consider the online advert available here (where terms and conditions and any revisions to these studentships will be stated): Then complete an application form as directed there, or alternatively as available here: Guidance on completion of your research proposal: Please submit a 2-page draft research proposal around your chosen area of interest along with your application form. In the subject field of your e-mail, please write ‘Studentship Application’ and e-mail your completed application form and research proposal to

Closing date for applications: 12 noon 25th July 2019. Late applications will not be accepted. Please note, at this stage you only need to include the names and contact details for referees and do not have to request references.

Interviews are likely to take place during the week commencing 12th August 2019. Shortlisted applicants must be available to attend an interview in person; there will be no Skype interviews.