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ESRC Collaborative Studentship 2023

Posted on 2 February 2023

ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership has been awarded to the Department of Politics

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Funding Provider: ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership

Subject area: Politics, International Relations.

Deadline for Submission of Applications: 13 March 2023, 17:00

Interview date: TBC

Lead supervisor: Dr Claire Smith, Department of Politics, University of York

Co-supervisor: Prof Nina Caspersen, Department of Politics, University of York

Partner supervisor: Mariam Tadros, Regional Director for Asia and MENA, International Alert

Project description: 

The risk of armed conflict and the ability to respond effectively has been significantly affected by global challenges such as climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, economic crisis, authoritarianism and polarisation, and the resulting shrinking of civil society space in many contexts. 

Working closely with International Alert, one of the world’s leading peacebuilding organisations, this fully-funded PhD examines the challenges faced by peacebuilding in a changing world. Much remains to be understood about the extent to which these challenges fundamentally alter the dynamics of conflicts and the prospects for peace, or whether they are temporary changes requiring more transitional adjustments to how peacebuilding operates. At the same time, the once-dominant ‘liberal’ and Western-driven approach to peacebuilding has not only been questioned, but has also waned in influence alongside rising tendencies towards ‘illiberal’ peacebuilding, reflecting rising authoritarianism and shrinking civil society space. While the need for local, decolonised and contextually appropriate approaches has been stressed in the critical peacebuilding literature, and indeed has been adapted by organisations such as International Alert, it remains unclear how successful such adaptations have been, and whether further adaptations are required to meet these rising global challenges, while remaining committed to liberal values such as inclusion, human rights, and accountability. This project examines the challenges facing the liberal peacebuilding model in a rapidly changing world and explores how and where it has been successfully adapted.  The project also explores situations where the approach has either failed to adapt, or has been too constrained to do so, and the consequences of this. The project has been developed in collaboration with International Alert and it will include an evaluation of one or more of its programmes in the Asia-MENA region. The findings will feed into International Alert’s new strategy. 

Collaboration between the Department of Politics and International Alert offers an unrivalled opportunity for training at the academic-practitioner interface. You will combine academic training, including advanced methods training, with several visits to the HQ of International Alert in London, and a placement with one of International Alert’s country teams in the Asia-MENA region (Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, Nepal, or Myanmar). This placement will ensure unique access to material, interviewees, and possible focus group participants. It will also enable participant observation. 

Funding Notes:

The studentship will commence in October 2023. It is available on a part-time or full-time basis. Funding will cover a tax-free annual stipend at the standard Research Council rate (ESRC stipend £17,668 in 2022/23) plus full fee waiver, and relevant research training costs, including additional funding for placement costs.

For applicants who do not have adequate social science research methods training credits, the studentship is available on a 4-year basis, the first year of which would entail completion of the MA (Social Research) at the University of York. For applicants who already have existing research methods training credits, the studentship is available on a 3-year basis (see eligibility requirements for more details).

Eligibility Requirements: 

Candidates should have an excellent background in politics, international relations or a closely related social science, holding a first-class or strong upper-second-class degree. An interest or training in relevant contexts, and a working language, would also be an advantage.

This award is available to home and international candidates. Applicants whose first language is not English require an IELTS 6.5 (with a minimum of 6.0 in each component.

For a 3-year studentship, existing research methods training requirements are as follows: the candidate must have at least 60 credits (not including dissertation) at M level of core social sciences research methods training acquired in the last five years. This must include a broad range of methods, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods and the use of appropriate software/tools for their application, and comprehension of principles of research design and strategy, and an appreciation of alternative approaches to research. In instances where a Masters degree was taken five years or more prior to the application for the studentship, full details must be given to explain the relevance of the social sciences training for a 3-year award and whether further relevant research training, qualifications and/or experience has been gained subsequently.

Other information:

This PhD project is part of the ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Programme. By combining the expertise of the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York, the DTP delivers excellent supervision, first-class training and vibrant intellectual environments for postgraduate research students.

Selection Process: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and successful applicants will be notified promptly.  Shortlisted applicants will be invited for an online interview. 


Applicants must first submit an application for a place on the PhD programme. You do not need to have had your academic application assessed and/or an offer made before you submit your scholarship application (see below), but you will need to have secured an applicant reference number for use in the scholarship form.

Applicants must also submit a separate application for the ESRC WRDTP Collaborative scholarship. Please visit the York ESRC WRDTP webpage for further details on the process and a link to the online Collaborative Scholarship application form.

Further information and application details.