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Award details

University of Exeter funding: PhD Fellowships in the Wellcome Cen

PhD Fellowships in the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health Ref: 4087

About the award

The Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health (WCCEH) is one of the four multidisciplinary Humanities & Social Science (HASS) centres funded by the Wellcome Trust.  We comprise around 40 staff and post-graduate research students, from four of the University of Exeter colleges: Humanities; Social Sciences and International Studies; Environmental & Life Sciences, and College of Medicine and Health. We collaborate with partners across and beyond the university, including the other Wellcome HASS centres.   Members work on one of three campuses: St Luke’s, Streatham (both in Exeter) or in Truro.  We have a purpose-built centre on Streatham campus, which has office, meeting and communal space and where these Fellowships will be based.

We invite applications for 4 full-time 3-year PhD Fellowships, to be based in the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Heath, starting Sept 2021. These Fellowships are open to students from any country, and provide UK/EU fees (which may be topped up for students from low/middle income countries) and a yearly stipend (Year 1: £19,919, Year 2: £21,543, Year 3: £23,298). There will also be a small annual allowance for research expenses. The primary supervisor will be from the Centre, co-supervisors can be from the wider academic body of the four Colleges.

Applicants can be based in any Humanities or Social Sciences discipline(s); all projects should be transdisciplinary and engaged in nature.  Proposals should contribute to one of the following five thematic areas:

1. Health across the life course
How does a ‘lifetime’ operate at different scales and sites?  Here we are interested in proposals on how healthy publics are sustained and constrained through the life course, focusing particularly on transitions, inter-generational relationships and health.  Topics might include issues of children’s mental health; legal and policy implications of transitions; loneliness; stigma and marginalization. We are particularly interested in projects which aim to: (a) to decentre dominant biomedical models of health and disease, or those rooted in the global north; and (b) co-create research that incorporates transdisciplinary insights into policy and interventions for healthy publics across, or at key transitional points within, the life course.

2. Ageing & Dying
A significant aspect of the Covid-19 pandemic has been the high proportion of deaths that have occurred in isolation in medicalised settings, where friends and families have been excluded. This has brought into focus a trend in affluent societies for medicalised deaths, which is now beginning to transfer to low- and-middle-income societies. One response to this trend is to argue that relational, community-based approaches offer a transformational alternative to the medicalisation of death and dyings.  How can collaborations between researchers, artistic practitioners, service providers, and community members address cultures and environments of ageing and dying?  Here we seek proposals on how we might  transform research practices and the provision of care around living well, dying well and grieving well – in populations and communities marginalised by poverty, racism,  and other forms of social exclusion.

3. The Healing City
Cities are sites of health risk and also of therapeutic intervention.  ‘Greening agendas’, for instance, aim to foster sustainable cities and mental wellbeing.  Yet they are also sites of contestation around gentrification and racialised control of space, and bring into focus questions of whose well-being is legitimised and prioritised. The healing city is, today, a major site for rethinking health through new cultural and environmental relationships – but, as yet, with strikingly little engaged and transdisciplinary research around it. We seek proposals for research that pays critical, interdisciplinary attention to fostering healthy urban publics.

4. Exploring Society with COVID19
COVID-19 is changing the world, and will continue to do so for some years to come. Beyond medical and scientific research, learning to live with COVID-19 requires identifying, understanding, and responding to the social, cultural, political, and environmental shifts emerging from the pandemic, as well as tackling the racial, ethnic, and economic intersections of inequity and disadvantage that fold infectious disease threats and chronic disease vulnerabilities into each other. Here we seek proposals for any project thinking critically about the social and cultural life of the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. Evidence
We are in a historical, socio-cultural, and political moment where ideas about what constitutes a ‘fact’ and how evidence is used to address health matters are rapidly changing.  Although access to data is increasing, data cannot be transformed into credible evidence without using hierarchies of knowledge, affective investments, and particular patterns to give them a meaningful shape. Changes in how people access information have transformed narratives and genres of evidence, while destabilising the consistency of discourses of fact and fiction and distinctions between the quantitative and the qualitative. Sometimes this enables richer understandings of the complexity of actions and relations, but sometimes it weaponizes uncertainty and cements inequalities. We are looking for topics that address this new scene of evidence in transdisciplinary and creative ways.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have an undergraduate degree (2.1 or above) in any relevant humanities/social science subject, and a Masters degree (or equivalent experience) which has provided some research training.

How to apply

To apply, please prepare:
• A two page proposal which outlines the project background, research question(s), and methods to address these questions. 
• A CV which includes details of your past educational and other experience
• A brief budget for your project, with any costs required for fieldwork, travel and other expenses.

For all themes, proposals should outline how the candidate proposes to utilise engaged, transdisciplinary methods.  We define transdisciplinary research broadly: whilst PhDs are submitted within a discipline, we expect all students to reach beyond that discipline, and to identify in their proposal how they will do this.  We are particularly interested in proposed projects which bring critical theories to bear on the topics above. Candidates are encouraged to read the following paper as background to the Centre’s approach:

Hinchliffe, S., Jackson, M. A., Wyatt, K., Barlow, A. E., Barreto, M., Clare, L., ... & Morrissey, K. (2018). Healthy publics: enabling cultures and environments for health. Palgrave communications, 4(1), 1-10. (available from the Centre’s website -

Engaged research encompasses the many ways in which researchers and people outside the university meaningfully work together throughout the research process, from understanding and expressing the nature of the problems, to agreeing the issues that need to be researched, to creating questions together, to delivering research in partnership and ensuring outcomes that are beneficial for all partners.  For further information on WCCEH and engaged research please see our Engagement Implementation Strategy:

The deadline for applications is 31st January 2021. 

We will shortlist proposals on the following criteria: fit with WCCEH themes; candidate’s track record in academic achievement; capacity for engaged research; capacity for working in a transdisciplinary way.  Shortlisted candidates will be notified by the end of the week commencing 8th February 2021 and invited for interview in the week commencing 22nd February 2021.

Prospective candidates are strongly advised to discuss their initial ideas with one of the following Centre members by 15th January 2021 before applying, and to develop their proposal in consultation with them

Applications should identify a primary supervisor willing to sponsor their application.

Anne Barlow (legal/policy issues in the above themes)

Luna Dolezal (shame and stigma, phenomenology, Exploring society with COVID-19)

Robin Durie (Health across the Life Course; Ageing, Death and Dying)

Des Fitzgerald (the Healing City; Evidence; Exploring society with COVID-19)

Judith Green (Health across the Life Course; the Healing City; Evidence)

Steve Hinchliffe (particularly where above themes intersect with questions of the more than human/Anti Microbial Resistance / zoonoses)

Karyn Morrissey (Health across the Life course; Exploring society with COVID-19)

Laura Salisbury (Ageing & Dying; Health across the Life Course; Exploring society with COVID-19; Evidence)

Felicity Thomas (Health across the Life Course; Exploring Society with COVID-19)

Dora Vargha (Health across the Life Course; Exploring society with COVID-19; Evidence)

Katrina Wyatt (Health across the Life Course; Ageing; Death and Dying; Evidence)


Application deadline:31st January 2021
Value:UK/EU fees and a yearly stipend (Year 1: £19,919, Year 2: £21,543, Year 3: £23,298). There will also be a small annual allowance for research expenses.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: HASS PGR Admissions