Posted on: 9 July, 2019
Application deadline: July 25, 2019

PhD studentship: Rural regional development, Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES), Cornwall, UK

Britain’s leading edge? The impact and implications of economic development policy in rural regions – Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES), Cornwall – PhD (Funded) Ref: 3587

About the award


Academic Supervisor: Professor Jane Wills, Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES), University of Exeter, Penryn, Cornwall

Cornwall Council Supervisor: Jessie Hamshar, Director of Strategy, Cornwall Council, Truro

Location: Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES), Cornwall Campus, University of Exeter

The University of Exeter’s College of Life and Environmental Sciences and the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science, in partnership with Cornwall Council, is inviting applications for a fully-funded PhD studentship to commence in late September 2019 or as soon as possible thereafter.  For eligible students the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free stipend of at least £15,009 for 3 years full-time, or pro rata for part-time study.  The student would be based in the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science, in the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall. They would also have close working relationships with relevant staff at Cornwall Council.

Project Description: This PhD studentship will explore the legacy and impact of regional economic development policy on rural areas in Britain, over the recent past. The student will explore the rationale for regional economic development policy and its impact on rural areas and smaller towns. Particular attention will be paid to Cornwall’s economic development history and the parallels evident in other largely rural areas on the ‘edge’ of the nation (such as the wider South West, non-metropolitan North East and North West, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). The studentship is designed to explore the shared experiences of what might be called ‘the leading edge’ with a view to then considering new ways of practising regional economic development and the narratives that are needed to accompany any shift in strategy. The PhD will provide an opportunity to explore the ways in which narrative plays a key role in the development of policy, looking at the way in which city-regionalism has risen to prominence with a view to then testing out alternative narratives that push the rural leading edge up the political agenda.

The post-Brexit shared prosperity funds provide an opportunity to rethink the assumptions of regional economic development policy. Hitherto, much UK policy making has relied upon dominant assumptions about the importance of investing to grow value (through the measure of GVA) and this has inherent spatial biases, favouring larger metropolitan areas and cities. The PhD studentship will explore the potential impact of using other measures to shape new investment and intervention decisions such as productivity levels, wages, green investment and well-being. The project will also explore alternative development strategies that reflect the particular history, culture and capacities of the local population, using Cornwall as an example. The potential impact of further devolution of decision-making in relation to public policy and expenditure will also be a consideration in looking at alternative models of regional economic development that include greater levels of political autonomy from the centre.

The project will produce a number of research outputs for Cornwall Council that will also comprise material used in the PhD thesis. Research outputs will increase the impact of the PhD and will provide enhanced opportunities for student training and experience, including report writing, presentation skills, and a range of media activities. As such, the successful candidate needs to have skills in both economic analysis and political organising. We intend that the project feeds directly into political work to build an alliance around the idea of Britain’s leading edge and the need for alternative policy and practice. We need a student who can work comfortably in both academic and policy fields. The project encompasses exciting opportunities to help develop a new policy agenda for rural economies in the UK after Brexit.

The successful student will be based at the University of Exeter’s campus in Penryn, and spend at least one day a week working at County Hall with Cornwall Council. They will join a supportive community of research students in the Centre for Geography and Environmental Science (CGES) with access to local and wider opportunities for networking and training provided by the University of Exeter. This award provides annual funding to cover UK/EU tuition fees and a tax-free stipend.  For students who pay UK/EU tuition fees the award will cover the tuition fees in full, plus at least £15,009 per year tax-free stipend.  Students who pay international tuition fees are eligible to apply, but should note that the award will only provide payment for part of the international tuition fee and no stipend.

The studentship will be awarded on the basis of merit for 3 years of full-time study to commence in late September 2019, or as soon as possible after this date.

Entry requirements

Applicants for this studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of social science. If English is not your first language you will need to have achieved at least 6.5 in IELTS and no less than 6.0 in any section by the start of the project.  Alternative tests may be acceptable (see

How to apply

Apply through original listing

In the application process you will be asked to upload several documents. • CV • Letter of application (outlining your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake the project including your ideas about the proposed research). • Transcript(s) giving full details of subjects studied and grades/marks obtained (this should be an interim transcript if you are still studying) • Two references from referees familiar with your academic work. If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to quoting the studentship reference number. • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English.

The closing date for applications is midnight on Thursday 25 July 2019.  Interviews will be held on the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus or at County Hall, Truro on Wednesday 31 July 2019.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process please email or phone +44 (0)1392 722730 or +44 (0)1392 725150.  Project-specific queries should be directed to the main supervisor – Professor Jane Wills, phone: 01326253761.


Application deadline: 25th July 2019
Value: £15,009 per year for 3 years
Duration of award: per year
Contact: STEMM PGR Admissions +44 (0)1392 722730 / 5150