John Oldacre Foundation PhD Studentships in the Sociology and Politics of Agriculture and Food Systems

Type of job: 
various posts
Closing date for applications: 
Monday, 17 June, 2019
About the Job: 

About the award

Applications are invited for up to four PhD studentships (available for study on either a full time or part time basis) in the Centre for Rural Policy Research within the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter. We are looking for PhD proposals in any of the following areas or any other social science issue related to the changing role of agriculture and the countryside and relevant to the core research interests of the supervisors

1. The debate on livestock agriculture

There are those who argue that meat and dairy consumption should be drastically cut or eliminated altogether because it is an inefficient way of feeding people, requiring disproportionate amounts of land and other inputs.  This critique of dairy and livestock farming is reinforced by concerns over the health implications of meat in the human diet, the waste streams associated with meat production, and the role of methane as a greenhouse gas.  Counter arguments have been put forwards suggesting that livestock production has a role because of the many grassland areas of the word are not suited to cultivation, and grazed systems may also help to lock up carbon and maintain biodiversity.  Animals, it is argued, may also play a role in the consumption of crop residues and in rotational agriculture that is less dependent on artificial fertilizers.

Possible research questions:

a. Why and in what way is there disagreement about the place of meat and/or dairy products in contemporary diets?

b. What are the views of farmers on the ‘meat and/or dairy debate’?

c. How might farmers adapt their businesses in the light of concerns over meat and/or dairy?

d. To what extent might more sustainable livestock systems answer some of the concerns expressed by consumers and activists?

e. Are there differences between rural and urban consumers in their responses to the dairy/meat debate?

f. What are the implications of the dairy/meat debate to scientists working on these issues and/or to science policy?

2. The debate on productivity in UK agriculture

Poor productivity in UK farming has led to a major investment in agri-tech research and innovation in recent years. However this is not only a technological issue. There may be good business reasons why farmers have not adopted certain technologies or there may be barriers to change associated with social and policy factors.  In the context of Brexit some of these policies are likely to change but the issues are deep rooted and there are some who argue that technology and production at scale are less important than a return to more locally responsive and ecologically sensitive styles of farming.

Possible research questions:

a. What are the causes of low productivity in UK agriculture?

b. To what extent are the agri-technological solutions on offer appropriate to UK agriculture?

c. Why do agri-technologists and agro-ecologists disagree?

d. Might GMOs (re-)emerge as a potential solution to some of farming’s challenges?

e. What do consumers/citizens make of the new technologies on offer?

For more information about the project and informal enquiries, please contact, Professor Michael Winter. <>

Entry requirements

  • You should have at least a 2:1 Honours degree, or International equivalent, in social science (eg. Anthropology, Geography, Politics, Sociology) and will ideally already hold or be currently working towards a Masters degree at Merit level, or international equivalent, in a subject area giving appropriate knowledge of social science research methods.
  • 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.
  • Please note that these PhD projects may entail extensive travel to remote, rural farm locations and national travel with extended periods of fieldwork.
  • UK/EU only
  • This studentship, including full tuition fees and maintenance allowance, is available to UK/EU candidates.
  • Application deadline: 17th June 2019



More info and how to apply

Members of the Permaculture Association can add Events, Courses, Jobs and Opportunities to the website noticeboard.

Join or log in to add yours.