Environmental Planning: Fully Funded ESRC Wales Graduate School for the Social Sciences (WGSSS) Studentship in the Environmental Planning Pathway (RS593)

  • DeadlineDeadline: 19 April 2024
  • WalesWales


Closing date: 19 April 2024

Funding providers: ESRC Wales Graduate School for the Social Sciences (WGSSS) and Swansea University

Subject areas: Geography, coastal management, spatial planning, political science, environmental policy, conservation biology 

Project start date: 1 October 2024 (Enrolment open from mid-September)

Project supervisors: Dr Cai Ladd (First Supervisor), Dr Rhian Meara (Second Supervisor), Dr Emma McKinley (External Advisor)

This studentship is an ‘open’ award.  Applicants should consider approaching Dr Cai Ladd (, before submitting their application to confirm that there is appropriate supervisory capacity within the University and to discuss their draft application. Information on the research interests of our staff can be found on the Swansea University webpages. Short descriptions of each accredited pathway are available on the ESRC Wales DTP website.  

Aligned programme of study: PhD in Human Geography

Mode of study: Full or Part-time study is possible.

Project Title: Navigating the Politics of Cross-border Conservation of Coastal habitat (C3) 

Project description: 

Conservation and restoration of coastal habitat boosts flood protection, food security, and the wellbeing of communities. Unlike humans, coastlines do not abide by political jurisdictions. Coastal habitats are naturally dynamic, capable of expanding and contracting in response to both natural and human drivers that operate across scales of space and time. This dynamism challenges conservation planning, where rigid socio-political and flexible ecological borders intersect. Like the drivers of coastal change, socio-political borders also intersect local, national, and international scales, and may be more or less visible (such as ones between nations versus ones within communities). Understanding how coastal dynamics and socio-political borders positively and negatively affect coastal environmental planning remains an important research gap. 

This timely PhD project will identify bottlenecks to effective cross-border conservation planning of coastal habitat in the large estuaries that span national borders in the British Isles (namely the Scottish-English border [Solway Firth], Welsh-English border [Severn and Dee estuaries], and the Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland border [Carlingford Lough]) to support people and nature.

Research in practice placement: WGSSS funded students are required to complete a funded Research in Practice placement of 3 months in total. All students will have the opportunity to complete a placement in academia, policy, business or civil society organisations. 

Duration of study: 

The duration study is dependent on prior research experience and training needs which will be assessed by completing an Initial Development Needs Analysis (Initial DNA) at the application stage and a Full DNA prior to award if successful.  

Duration of study may vary from 3.5-4.5 years, full time (or part time equivalent) dependent on your prior research experience.  

Swansea University, in conjunction with colleagues in the WGSS, will undertake an assessment of the successful applicant’s training needs and work with them to tailor the training they are offered to meet their research needs. This might take the form of a full master's course, or might be comprised of individual courses designed to enhance skills required for their chosen area of study.

*Please note that full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold either a full-time job, permanent part-time job or temporary role for an extended period of time, during the period of their award. Part-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold a full-time job. 

For more details please see here:

Entry Requirements

To receive ESRC studentship funding, you must have qualifications or experience equal to an honours degree at a first or upper second-class level, or a master's from a UK academic research organisation. Please note that you may need to provide evidence of your English Language proficiency.  

Students with non-traditional academic backgrounds are also welcome to apply. 

WGSSS studentships are available to home and international students. Up to 30% of our cohort can comprise international students. International students will not be charged the fee difference between the UK and international rate. Applicants should satisfy the UKRI eligibility requirements.   

The WGSSS is committed to supporting and promoting equality and diversity and to creating an inclusive environment for all. We welcome applications from all members of the global community irrespective of age, disability, sex, gender identity, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.  

We welcome applications for both full and part-time study. 

Applicants are reminded to submit all relevant documents (transcripts, supporting statement, etc.) by the deadline. Due to the volume of applications received, incomplete applications will not be considered.  

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview. Interviews are expected to take place in April 2024. As part of the interview process, applicants will be asked to give a short presentation and answer a series of panel questions consistent with previous practice on the pathway during the Wales DTP and guided by the WGSSS’s commitments on EDI. 

Interviews may be held in person but should also be available through Zoom/Teams for all students who wish to participate in that way.  

Most applicants can expect to hear the outcome of their interview within 10-12 weeks. 


The studentship funded by the ESRC covers tuition fees, an annual tax-free living stipend of in line with UKRI minimum rates (currently £19,237 for 2024/25).

If you have a disability, you may be entitled to a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) on top of your studentship.  

Students have access to a Research Training Support Grant. 

How To Apply

To apply, please complete your application online with the following information:

1. Course choice – please select Human Geography / PhD / Full-time (or part-time) / 3 Years (or 6 years) / October

In the event you have already applied for the above programme previously, the application system may issue a warning notice and prevent application, in this event, please email where staff will be happy to assist you in submitting your application.

2. Start year – please select 2024
3. Funding (page 8)

  • ‘Are you funding your studies yourself?’ – please select No
  • ‘Name of Individual or organisation providing funds for study’ – please enter ‘RS593 - Environmental Planning'

*It is the responsibility of the applicant to list the above information accurately when applying, please note that applications received without the above information listed will not be considered for the scholarship award.

One application is required per individual Swansea University led research scholarship award; applications cannot be considered listing multiple Swansea University led research scholarship awards.

We encourage you to complete the following to support our commitment to providing an environment free of discrimination and celebrating diversity at Swansea University: 

As part of your online application, you MUST upload the following documents (please do not send these via email):

1. Cover letter (two pages maximum)- the cover letter must include the following bullet points as subheadings:

  • Set out your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Swansea University, and the Environmental Planning pathway.
  • Please detail your understanding, and expectations of doctoral study.
  • Provide detail of your academic interests generally, and particularly of those relating to your proposed research.
  • Drawing on your own background (including your life experiences, journey to/through university, work experiences or volunteering) please provide a summary of why you are ready to undertake a PhD now and how you will flourish as a result of PhD funding. You might include, for example, personal challenges that you have overcome or achievements that you are proud of in your work, study or life experiences and how these map onto the skills required to flourish in a PhD programme. Challenges could include, but are not limited to, protected characteristics, socio-economic status and of being a prospective first-generation student or care- experienced.
  • Reflecting on your own background and/or proposed approach to PhD study and the opportunities which it will present, how will you support diversity and inclusion in the PhD community?

2. Academic CV (two pages maximum)
3. Research proposal- the proposal should be up to a maximum of 1000 words, not including bibliographic references. We suggest that you use the following five headings in your research proposal:  

  • Title, aims and purpose of the research; 
  • Brief overview of the academic literature relevant to your field; 
  • Proposed design/methods;  
  • Academic contributions of your research;
  • Bibliographic References.

4. Two academic or professional references

  • Candidates must approach referees themselves and include references with their application. The reference must detail the applicant’s research strengths.  

5. Degree certificates and Transcripts (including translations if applicable)
6. If relevant, proof of English Language Competency (see institutional requirements for entry)
7. Copy of UK resident visa (if applicable)
8. Confirmation of submission of EDI Form 

Applications should be received no later than 19 April 2024 including all required documents. 

Informal enquiries are welcome, please contact Dr Cai Ladd (

*External Partner Application Data Sharing – Please note that as part of the scholarship application selection process, application data sharing may occur with external partners outside of the University, when joint/co- funding of a scholarship project is applicable.

Who is eligible to apply?

WGSSS studentships are available to home and international students.

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