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Award details

Wellcome Trust and University funded PhD Studentship: Following Animal Feed: knowledge, governance and industrial food production Ref: 4095

About the award

This fully funded studentship will be based at the Centre for Rural Policy Research, Department of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology.

Signs stating ‘Do not feed the animals’ are ubiquitous in zoos, national parks and many public urban spaces. They stress that uncontrolled feeding by people can affect animal health, alter wildlife behaviour and create public hygiene and nuisance issues. However, humans appear to have a widespread and longstanding proclivity to feed other animals. Many ancient cults fed animals, some modern religions require it, and feeding is often actively encouraged as a tourist attraction. Millions of people feed wildlife in gardens and in 2020, the pet-food market was forecast to be worth £2.9 billion in the UK alone. DNFTA will explore human fascinations with feeding animals - alongside the consequences for the shared health of humans, other animals, and wider environments. 

From ‘Feed the Birds’ to ‘Do Not Feed the Animals’ (DNFTA, is a collaboration between Exeter’s Departments of Sociology, Philosophy and Anthropology and the Department of Archaeology; alongside partners at the University of Roehampton (Anthropology), University of Reading (Geography and Environmental Science), and National Museums of Scotland (Department of Natural Sciences). 

We invite applications for this fully funded PhD studentship, starting in September 2021.  The position will support research investigating the history and present day governance of animal feeding, focusing specifically on: Following Animal Feed: knowledge, governance and industrial food production.

This project will use primarily qualitative research methods (such as interviewing; participant/observation; media, documentary and archival analysis) to investigate the development of animal nutrition science and feed industries in the UK from the mid-20th century into the present day. How have the sciences of animal feeding mutually shaped the production and consumption of food for domestic and wild companion species?  In turn, what roles does this knowledge play in the practical governance of animal feeding?  What are the consequences for shared health, ecosystems and environments?

In line with the transdisciplinary scope of DNFTA, this project will bring theory, ideas and methods from multiple disciplines to bear upon the above questions.  It will be co-supervised by project staff from the sociology, anthropology, and bioarcheology teams. The candidates will join a cohort of early career researchers joining DNFTA in 2021. They will be expected to collaborate closely with project colleagues across all disciplines and work with external stakeholders in the co-production of their research.

The studentship is for 3 years full-time and will cover University tuition fees at UK rates, with a stipend of £19,919 for year 1, £21,542 for year 2 and £23,298 for year 3, and a research allowance of £5,000 for the three years.
This studentship, including full tuition fees and maintenance allowance, is available to UK candidates. International fee-paying students can apply and pay the difference in tuition fees.

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact the primary supervisor, Dr. Angela Cassidy

Entry requirements

You should have, or expect to achieve, at least a 2:1 Honours degree, plus a Master’s degree, or equivalent research experience.

Suitable candidates will have training in a relevant field such as science and technology studies, history of science, technology and medicine, human geography, environmental social science or policy studies. 

Candidates with a first degree from outside the social sciences (e.g. history, biology, medicine, life or environmental sciences) must have a Masters degree in a relevant social science or humanities field.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

Residency Entry Requirements: 

1) UK only - This studentship, including full tuition fees and maintenance allowance, is available to UK candidates.

2) International students can apply and pay the difference in tuition fees.

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, covering letter, a research proposal (please see below for details) and details of two academic referees, and if relevant, proof of your English language proficiency, by 22 March 2021.

Your covering letter should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project.

You will also be asked to upload verified transcripts of your most recent academic qualification.
All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided.

Please also submit: A PhD research proposal (1500-2500 words) which gives an overview of your proposed project, working within the topic area of research outlined above. (Please visit Exeter’s Postgraduate Study Page for detailed instructions on how to put together a PhD Research Proposal).

You must ensure that your referees email their references to by 22 March 2021.

Please note that we will not be contacting referees to request references, you must arrange for them to be submitted to us by the deadline. References should be submitted by your referees to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee.

Please quote reference 4095 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.

For general information about this studentship and the application process, please contact

Interview Date - Week commencing 26th April 2021.

Please note - Interviews will probably be remote using MS Teams/Zoom.


Application deadline:22nd March 2021
Number of awards:1
Value:UK tuition fees and an annual maintenance allowance at current Wellcome Trust rate of £ 19,919 per year, rising to £21,542 for year 2 and £23,298 for year 3, and a research allowance of £5,000 for the three years.
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions