PhD Opportunity: Postgraduate Residency with ‘the Network’

Researchers from Bristol University and The Network[i] are excited to announce an opportunity to study a PhD and deliver action research and/or engaged arts-based research as part of a four-year community development project in the city of Bristol. We will support an individual with appropriate expertise to apply for full PhD funding, based on a proposal that is co-designed between community partners at the Network, academic supervisors in the relevant discipline, and the applicant. We offer an opportunity to explore academic study while being grounded in an outward-focused, exciting social project, at the same time that we invite the potential applicant to infuse community development with the energy of reflexive critique and emerging scholarship.


The Network Project is a collaboration between Barton Hill Settlement, Wellspring Healthy Living Centre, Somali Resource Centre and St Werburgh’s City Farm. Over the next four years, the project will bring together residents around common causes and ideas, support the creation of community-led networks, and co-develop sustainable solutions to challenges faced by people living in Ashley, Easton and Lawrence Hill.

The broader austerity context marks a challenging time for the most deprived communities within Bristol as vital public services are cut and home ownership becomes increasingly unattainable, especially for those on low incomes[ii]. Meanwhile, depression and suicide amongst youth is at an all time high in the UK[iii] and those in the poorest parts of the city can experience life expectancy 10 years less than other parts of the city[iv]. Forced to save money, City Councils are needing to relinquish public assets such as buildings and green space to the private sector. Using Community Organising and Asset-based methodologies for community development, the Network offers a bottom-up approach to engaging the community, prioritizing those marginalized with new processed of urban gentrification and redevelopment. This approach provides an important opportunity for community members to influence policy and practice as well as for a range of exciting and inspiring activities across the usual social divides.

The Network are seeking a PhD researcher to become a part of their team, so as to bring critical reflection and theoretical innovation to the heart of this experimental social project. We envisage an embedded approach to research, where the proposed researcher will spend some time each week in residence within the organization, while also completing their training at the university and engaging with wider debates in their chosen area. We hope that the collaboration will also lead to shared understandings of how communities are responding to systemic pressures such as austerity, privatization of public space, processes of gentrification and Brexit, as well as what forms of intersectional action might strengthen community capacities. Interest from students wishing to explore an arts-based response (eg. film, performance, visual arts) to these questions is welcomed as well as approaches linked with the social sciences and humanities.

Person specification:

We are looking for a socially-engaged researcher who wishes to deepen their skills in research as well as take part in an outward focused project with a range of diverse communities. Some experience of working with communities or in the third sector is desirable, and good communication skills are essential.

In order to apply for the PhD funding, you will need to have completed a Master’s degree in a relevant area of the humanities or social sciences. If you have not completed modules in the research methods that you propose to use, you may be asked to take extra courses in the first year of your study.


We invite expressions of interest from individuals who would be interested to co-design a research agenda to explore these themes in the form of a PhD project. If you meet the person specification above, please send us a brief outline (1 - 2 sides of A4) telling us why you would like to pursue this option; what your approach would be; and any relevant experience that you have. You are also welcome to raise questions for us!

We will respond to all expressions of interest. Following informal meetings we will support the most suitable candidate to write a proposal for funding for either the Arts and Humanities Research Council ( or the Economics and Social Science Research Council ( University of Bristol Scholarships are also available if you would be studying as an international student.

Please check your eligibility for these funding schemes prior to expressing your interest.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Monday 18th Dec 2018 at midday and interviews on Thursday 21st December. The deadline for the submission of proposals to the AHRC is the 11th Jan 2018 and/or ESRC is 30th January 2018.

Please send your proposals and CVs to and