The UKFS-CDT has up to 25 studentships available for cohort 3. Applications are now open for one PhD studentship tethered to Royal Veterinary College in collaboration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency.
Please apply by 23:59 GMT on Monday, 8th January 2024.
Please ensure you have read the the guidence on this website, before you start completing your application forms - via the APPLICATION GUIDELINES, including ELIGIBILITY and ENGLISH LANGUAGE REQUIREMENTS (below).
The UKFS-CDT will train up to 60 interdisciplinary doctoral researchers capable of leading the UK towards a resilient, healthy and inclusive food future. Cohort 3 will started in autumn of 2023.
This 4-year programme is aimed at graduates with a strong interest in multi-disciplinary research and interdisciplinary food systems perspectives. Understanding the complex food system challenges requires holistic and novel interdisciplinary thinking. We invite highly motivated individuals from a wide range of academic or career backgrounds including humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and physical sciences to apply.
The UKFS-CDT brings together the NRI of the University of Greenwich (lead institution), UCL, Royal Veterinary College, IBERS at Aberystwyth University, Centre for Food Policy at City University, University of Sussex, and Brunel University London; and two leading agricultural research institutes, NIAB EMR and Rothamsted Research, plus over 50 food systems Academy partners from business, government and civil society.
Interdisciplinary Doctoral Studentships in Food Systems
The UK Food Systems Centre for Doctoral Training (UKFS-CDT) programme provides a unique opportunity for transformative and interdisciplinary food systems research. It is an innovative way of conducting a PhD centred on co-creation and exposure to a varied range of actors operating in UK food systems.
The UKFS-CDT is offering up to 25 fully funded studentships for cohort 3 in 2023.
Research will be interdisciplinary, combining natural sciences and social sciences approaches, and linked to food systems stakeholders. The research scope includes (but is not limited to) the following topics:
- Food environment, consumer behaviour, diets, nutrition and health (Healthy People)
- Livestock health and welfare (Healthy Animals)
- Environmental sustainability, climate change (Healthy Environment)
- Food production, distribution, manufacturing and waste (Healthy Economy)
- Food system governance and resilience (Healthy Society)
The UKFS-CDT welcomes interest from applicants with natural science, including STEM or social science backgrounds. Recruitment is not restricted to UK applicants*, but PhD projects must be UK food systems focussed.
The aim of UKFS-CDT is to create cohorts of future food systems changemakers who can lead the UK towards a resilient, healthy and inclusive food future using new, holistic and critical interdisciplinary thinking.
The UKFS-CDT brings together nine academic and research organisations, the students benefit from training provided by all partners. Each studentship is connected to a specific partner to register and complete the PhD research project. The Partners are: NRI of the University of Greenwich (lead institution), University College London (UCL), Royal Veterinary College, Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University, Centre for Food Policy at City University, University of Sussex, and Brunel University London; and two leading agricultural research institutes, NIAB EMR and Rothamsted Research.
The UKFS-CDT programme is a bespoke interdisciplinary food systems programme with a novel approach to doctoral training. The PhD programme will start in September 2023. In the first year, each UKFS-CDT student undertakes training activities based at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich in Medway, Kent and roadshow visits to partner institutions will take place until the end of November 2023. Then students will embark on two 4-month rotation projects at two different institutions in the UKFS-CDT consortium. Rotation projects are clearly defined studies designed to provide our students with the research skills, training and subject knowledge required to prepare a full interdisciplinary PhD proposal at the end of year 1. The PhD project will commence in year 2. There will also be a three-month placement with industry, government or civil society in the second or third year of the PhD programme.
UKFS-CDT values equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI) and we welcome applications from anyone regardless of age, disability, race/ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. We encourage individuals who have had worked in relevant sectors, a change in disciplines or career paths or career breaks, e.g. caring responsibilities, to apply.
We actively promote and encourage a more inclusive environment. We aim to provide high standards of support to all participants in order to ensure that each doctoral student has the skills and opportunities to excel in the programme.
Please continue to read the website for more information on how to apply.
Royal Veterinary College (RVC) is offering one fully funded interdisclinary PhD studentship through the UKFS-CDT programme, in collaboration with the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)
This opportunity is to join cohort 3 of the UKFS-CDT, which is made up of up to 25 studentships. This opportunity is only open to people classed as home students – please see the eligibility criteria for more details.
The programme provides a unique opportunity for transformative and interdisciplinary food systems research. Offering an innovative way of conducting a PhD centred on the co-creation of, and exposure to, a varied range of actors operating in UK food systems.
Are you a potential ‘changemaker’? The UKFS-CDT aims to create cohorts of future food systems changemakers who can lead the UK towards a resilient, healthy and inclusive food future using new, holistic and critical interdisciplinary thinking. The studentships join a cohort of 25 studentships.
The UKFS-CDT brings together the NRI of the University of Greenwich (lead institution), UCL, Royal Veterinary College, IBERS at Aberystwyth University, Centre for Food Policy at City University, University of Sussex, and Brunel University London; and two leading agricultural research institutes, NIAB East Malling and Rothamsted Research, plus over 50 food systems Academy partners from business, government and civil society.
The PhD programme started in September, with this one studentships commencing in February 2024. In the first year, each UKFS-CDT student undertakes training activities based at the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich in Medway, Kent. Then students will embark on two 4-month rotation projects.
Rotation projects are clearly defined studies designed to provide our students with the research skills, training and subject knowledge required to prepare a full interdisciplinary PhD proposal at the end of year 1.
This studentship will focus on the (economic) sustainability of livestock production systems that depend on concentrates. This over-arching topic will be co-developed during the period of the studentship to suit the interests of the successful candidate.
Research will be interdisciplinary and may encompass economics, agriculture, animal health and social sciences, with both quantitative and qualitative methodologies employed to explore how the use of concentrates for livestock has wider impacts on humans, animals and the environment.
The second rotation will be based at a different academic institution of the UKFS-CDT consortium and will be selected from a catalogue of projects.
The combination of the two rotations will form the foundation for creating the full PhD proposal. Following the rotations, thesis proposals will be further developed and finalised by the student, supervisors, and partners from the Food System Academy in a capstone two-day “Project and Thesis Proposal Workshop”. The PhD project will commence in year 2 with the student based at Royal Veterinary College. It is an innovative way of conducting a PhD centred on co-creation and exposure to a varied range of actors operating in UK food systems.
Each student will initially register as a student with the University of Greenwich. After the first 12 months, when the PhD research starts, student registration will be transferred to the Royal Veterinary College.
In the second or third year of the PhD programme, students will undertake a three-month placement with industry, government or civil society.
Key Dates & How to Apply
Interested applicants should continue to read the UKFS-CDT website, including the Application Guidelines.
*The funders of the programme (UKRI) cap the maximum number of international students in each cohort to 30%. We aim to recruit 25 studentships in cohort 3.
UKFS-CDT highly values equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI). We welcome applications from a diverse range of candidates regardless of age, disability, race/ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. We also encourage individuals who have had a change in disciplines or career paths, or have taken a career break for various reasons such as caring responsibilities or ill-health, to apply.
Please contact us if you require an alternative format of application form, or you have any queries or concern regarding the application process. Additionally, we are pleased to discuss individual circumstances to support engagement with this programme. To discuss this further please contact the programme here.
Before submitting your application please read carefully the application guidelines here, on the website, to follow these instructions of how to apply. Before starting the application forms, please carefully read the eligibility criteria and english language requirements (below).
Note the UKFS-CDT implements a blind recruitment process. This means that prior shortlisting, we will remove information like name, gender, ethnicity, and nationality and other protected characteristics, so that candidates are judged based on skills.
Applications to the UKFS-CDT programme is a 3-part process. Firstly, you need to complete a UKFS-CDT application forms, and upload it to the Greenwich online application form. Secondly, the UKFS-CDT application forms will then be assessed by academics employed by the nine academic partners, at which point candidates whose applications scored highly will be invited for interview whilst others will be declined. Thirdly, the shortlist of applicants will be invited to interview before the final offers are made to successful candidates.
Part 1: Downloadable Word application forms
A: UKFS-CDT Application Form
This UKFS-CDT application form aims to collect information which will be assessed by trained academics, to judge your suitability to be shortlisted for an interview of this UKFS-CDT programme. This judgment will be based solely on the information you provide within the UKFS-CDT form and all the information you provide within the UKFS-CDT form could be used to form this judgment (unless otherwise stated within the application form).
All applications will be assessed with all reference to personal details removed. Please ensure you do not include any of the following information in your application: name, age, religion, gender identity (including pronouns), sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital/civil partnership status, disability/ies, religion, pregnancy and maternity, race/ethnicity, caring responsibility etc.
It is crucial you follow the word limits indicated in the Application Form and do not include text over the limit. The word limit is not enforced by the form and any text over the indicated limit will not be taken into account.
Please provide details on all sections:
- UK Food Systems Focal Research Interest
- Statement of motivation
- Indication of preference for an institution
- Professional qualifications, if applicable
- Research experience
- Workplace experience
- English Language requirement (only for Applicants whose first language is not English and are not a national of a country deemed by the UK Home Office to be “majority English speaking” )
If you have completed your education (part or all of previous education) in a country which is not part of the UK, please add your grades into the ‘UKFS-CDT – Application Form’, including the country/ies of study. These grades will be converted to the UK equivalent internally.
B: Equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI) Monitoring Form
This form aims to collect information which will not be used to assess your application. The form asks you to provide information about your nationality, and yourselfing including your background.
To ensure the CDT can comply with the funders rules, please ensure you complete the nationality status section of the form. The funders limit the proportion of international students appointed each year through individual doctoral training programmes to 30 percent of the total (https://www.ukri.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/UKRI-170321-InternationalEligibilityImplementationGuidance.pdf). If you are not sure whether you would be deemed as a national or international student, please refer to the link above. Please note that the UKFS-CDT team cannot provide advice about your nationality status.
The EDI monitoring information section of the form is optional, you do not need to answer the questions. This data is used exclusively to ensure the UKFS-CDT advertising, shortlisting and recruitment of students whilst maintaining equality, diversity and inclusion. UKFS-CDT highly values equality, diversity, inclusion (EDI), and is built into all process during student recruitment. We welcome applications from a diverse range of candidates regardless of age, disability, race/ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The UKFS-CDT is committed to providing equal opportunities for everyone regardless of their background. We value diversity and lived experience, and acknowledge the under-representation of people from certain backgrounds.
In order to ensure we are doing all we can to encourage applications for people of all backgrounds we need to collect monitoring data. All answers will be treated confidentially and will not affect your application. Some questions will appear similar to those on the online application portal. This form was created to capture a broader range of data and complementary information.
C: Referee Form
In this form, please provide details of two referees. Ideally one of the two should be an academic referee.
After completing your application, please save all documents in WORD (.doc). Other formats (eg. PDF) will not be considered.
Please find the application documents here:
Part 2: University of Greenwich online application form
The University of Greenwich on-line application is the mechanism for candidates to select the course they wish to apply to, as well as upload the UKFS-CDT application form, as well as other documents.
Please complete sections:
- Permanent Address
- Mailing Address
- Statistical Information
- Programme Information
- Month/Year of Entry: '9/2023'
- Programme of Study: Please select 'Associate Postgraduate Research - Food systems PGR Pathway to level 8' from the drop-down menu
- Mode/Point of Entry: Please select 'Full Time/Year 1'
Important note: If another Programme of Study has been selected, your application may not be considered for the UKFS-CDT programme.
Do not complete the following sections below
- Referee details
- Previous / Current Education
Please leave these sections empty AND select 'Continue' to advance on the University of Greenwich online admissions portal. Information for these sections should be entered in the downloadable Part 1: UKFS-CDT application form as one of the required documents of the University of Greenwich online application.
Please ensure you have uploaded the required documents to the 'Qualifications' Section, 'Attach transcripts' link:
Press "Choose file", "Upload", and "Refresh list of files" to see the files that you have attached to your applications.
- Part 1a: UKFS-CDT application form, downloaded and completed - saved in word
- Part 1b: EDI form - saved in word
- Part 1c: Referee Form - saved in word
- Academic transcript(s)
- Curriculum vitae
Note: Applicants to the UKFS-CDT do not need to submit a research proposal as part of the application.
Before you sign and submit the University of Greenwich online application, please double-check your online application, upload your completed UKFS-CDT application form, and upload other relevant supporting documents.
*ATTENTION* Once you press "Application is Complete", your full application will be submitted. You will not be able to change your application or upload additional documents. If you have submitted by error, please inform our programme manager. Unfortunately, you will have to login and create a new application on the University of Greenwich online admissions portal.
University of Greenwich Students Applicant Privacy Notice can be downloaded here.
All applications will be reviewed and scored by UKFS-CDT academics from social and natural science disciplines across the consortium. Our shortlisting period will begin in January, 2023, late applications cannot be considered. For an indication of the shortlisting process, please find here the UKFS-CDT shortlisting guidelines the Consortium Partner academics used for cohort 2 (download here).
To apply, please find the link to the University of Greenwich Admissions Login Here
Candidates will be contacted in January with an update on their application. The exact interview dates will be confirmed, we aim for the start of February 2024.
At least two referees of shortlisted candidates will be contacted by UKFS-CDT to submit information outlined in a reference form (downloadable here).
Part 3: Interviews
Interviews will be with a panel of three UKFS-CDT academics. More details regarding the interview process will be provided to candidates who are selected for interview. Traditionally our interviews are held face-to-face, however, it is likely that only video conference interviews will be possible for this recruitment cycle. More information about this will be communicated to candidates after shortlisting. UKFS-CDT studentship offers are made after interviews.
The UKFS CDT programme managers can assist with questions about applying to the doctoral programme. They are not on the recruitment panels. Here are some useful guidance and resources on how to prepare for a PhD candidate interview.
Please inform us if you require interview assistance, to allow you to attend and participate, by completing and returning the form 'Interview Reasonable Adjustment Form'. If you do not require any reasonable adjustments, you do not need to complete and return the form.
The UKFS-CDT received a high number of applications; therefore, we will not be able to provide specific feedback.
The UKFS-CDT programme receives hundreds of queries and applications. The team will not be able to respond to every email query. Please ensure you have read the website before reaching out to the team.
Call for applications open: Thursday, 20th November 2023.
Application process close: Monday, 8th January 2024.
Feedback from shortlisting (assessment and scoring of application forms) – Janaury 2024.
Applicants who are invited to interviews will be provided with a date the week commencing 22nd January 2024.
Interviews will take place the week commencing Monday, 22nd January. Interviews will take place virtually.
Successful candidates will be emailed a provision offer of studentship, which they will need to accept. Official paperwork will be drafted, and references will be contacted. A contract will be emailed to the successful candidates, which will need to be returned within 2-weeks of receiving.
The PhD programme will commenced mid-September 2023, with some studentship joining on a delayed start date.
Applicants must hold, or be expected to achieve, a Bachelor or Masters degree in a relevant subject with a first or high upper second-class undergraduate honours degree or equivalent.
We would welcome applicants who have demonstrable research skills gained from an academic or a non-academic background.
UKFS-CDT values equality, diversity, inclusion and we welcome applications from anyone regardless of age, disability, race/ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation. We encourage individuals who have had worked in relevant sectors, a change in disciplines or career paths, or career breaks, e.g. caring responsibilities, to apply.
All students will be recruited and selected under a single UKFS-CDT banner and not to individual partner institutions. Recruitment will not be restricted to UK applicants but PhD research projects must be UK food systems focussed.
The one studentship teathered to The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) are open only to home students. The funders of the programme (UKRI) limit the number of international students in each cohort to 30%. Please see the funders guidance here. We aim to recruit 25 studentships in total.
To be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:
- be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
- have settled status, or
- have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
- have indefinite leave to remain or enter.
This section details important information for international applicants. Please ensure you have read, and fully understood this information. The funders of the programme (UKRI) limit the number of international students in each cohort to 30%. Please see the funders guidance here. We aim to recruit 25 studentships in total. The one Royal Veterinary College Research studentship is only open to people classed as home students.
There are three important aspects to consider:
- Additional expected costs
- Criteria for funding (see section below)
- English Language Requirements (see section below)
Consortium partners have agreed to waive the difference between national and international fees, which means that all formal offers will include payment of University Registration fees.
There are additional costs that international students are responsible for, when they are offered a studentship. The UKFS-CDT does not have the budget to cover extra costs, such as payment for the visa costs and health surcharge.
The University of Greenwich has a lot of information about the costs for international students, please ensure you read the website, the UKFS-CDT team is not able to provide advice about specific applicant information.
Please read more information here:
Applicants whose first language is not English and are not a national of a country deemed by the UK Home Office to be “majority English speaking” must be able to provide recent evidence that their spoken and written command of the English language is adequate for the programme.
The required evidence may be one of the following:
- A recently obtained acceptable English language qualification or test result no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment.
- Our preferred English language qualification is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic Version.
- IELTS Good level: Overall grade of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the subtests.
- Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT
- TOEFL Good level: Overall score of 100 with 24 out of 30 in reading and writing and 20 out of 30 in speaking and listening.
- Please note we do not accept My Best Scores
- Our preferred English language qualification is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic Version.
- Completed a minimum of twelve months academic education leading to an awarded qualification, in a country that the UK Home Office considers to be “major English speaking”, no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment. English language courses and study preparation courses such as pre-Masters are not acceptable.
- Completed a minimum of eighteen months of work experience in a country that is considers to be “major English speaking”, no more than two years prior to the proposed date of enrolment.
The UKFS-CDT brings together nine academic and research organisations, and the students benefit from training provided by all partners. Each studentship is connected to a specific partner to register and complete the PhD project. The Partners are: NRI of the University of Greenwich (lead institution), UCL, Royal Veterinary College, IBERS at Aberystwyth University, Centre for Food Policy at City University, University of Sussex, and Brunel University London; and two leading agricultural research institutes, NIAB EMR and Rothamsted Research. You can read more about each partner in the section below, and on their websites.
Consortium and Associate Partners contribute funding for studentships. The candidates who are selected to be offered a funded studentship by a specific Associate Partner will be approached after interviews.
The tethered studentships process is as follows:
In the first year, each UKFS-CDT student undertakes training activities based at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich in Medway, Kent and roadshow visits to partner institutions will take place until the end of November 2023.
Students will be asked to select their preferred rotation projects. One of the rotation projects will be based at the partner you are tethered to, the other rotation must take place at one of the alternative partners. The rotation projects are clearly defined studies designed to provide our students with the research skills, training and subject knowledge required to prepare a full interdisciplinary PhD proposal at the end of year 1.
The students will embark on two 4-month rotation projects. These rotations will form the foundation of creating the PhD proposal. The PhD project will commence in year 2, at the academic partner the studentship is tethered to.
Please note that international students must register at the Partner institution from the start of the UKFS-CDT programme, whereas home students will register to the tethered institution after completion of the first year of the programme. This is due to limitations imposed due to the visa process.
• Brunel University London (BUL) in West London is a dynamic institution with over 15,000 students and over 2,000 academic staff operating in a vibrant culture of research excellence. The University plays a significant role in the higher education scene nationally and has numerous national and international links and partnerships with both academia and industry. The food research at BUL involves: i) post-harvest technologies covering food processing, distribution, retail, consumption and waste valorisation; ii) energy and environmental impact reduction including Life Cycle Analysis along food chains; iii) food supply chain management and sustainable food value chains; iv) sensors, instrumentation, automation and robotics; v) environmental management and risks; vi) digital business analytics and food security.
• IBERS at Aberystwyth University, embraces multi-disciplinary approaches to improve environmental sustainability, food security, health and wellbeing. IBERS research capacity includes expertise in agri-food systems linking soil-plant-animal food pathways through to testing of metabolites in novel food products on human health. As a BBRSC institute with the ability to develop novel plant resources to meet global demands for future agri-food systems, IBERS expertise in sustainable food systems is built on a 100-year legacy and world-renowned reputation in plant breeding. Research capabilities span a whole farm systems approach, with livestock scientists working closely with plant breeders and stakeholders to deliver productive and resilient agri-food systems.
and two leading agricultural research institutes:
• Rothamsted Research, founded in 1843, offers a wide range of high-quality multi- and inter-disciplinary opportunities in the natural sciences aspects of food system research related to both arable and grazing-livestock food production. The Institute hosts 3 BBSRC National Capabilities: The North Wyke Farm Platform (NWFP); The Long-term Field Experiments and associated archives; The Rothamsted Insect Survey; alongside a diversity of bioscience expertise including cutting-edge gene editing technology. Rothamsted Research is involved in 9 national and international studentship programmes and therefore has experience of supervising students and collaborating successfully with University partners on successful postgraduate programmes hosting circa 45 PhD students.
As a term, “interdisciplinarity” is often understood in many different ways. Interdisciplinary research can be understood “a mode of research by teams or individuals that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice." (National Academies Report*)
Interdisciplinary study allows for synthesis of ideas and the synthesis of characteristics from many disciplines. At the same time, it addresses students' individual differences and helps to develop important, transferable skills.
- *Committee on Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (2004). Facilitating interdisciplinary research. National Academies. Washington: National Academy Press, p. 2.
The urgent need to transform the UK food system presents an opportunity to reframe and address the country’s needs. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of sustainable food systems with reduced environmental impacts and emissions, that support the population, and are resilient to the impacts of climate change and world food price fluctuations. The pre-pandemic rise in use of foodbanks, followed by prolonged lockdown with reduced access to school meals, vouchers and nutritious food for many families, high COVID-19 mortality rates among BAME groups (in some part related to diet and underlying health conditions) are stark reminders that no-one should be left behind. The Health Survey for England 2017 estimates that 28.7% of adults in England are obese and a further 35.6% are overweight. Post-Brexit, it is anticipated that household food security issues will arise due to median food price increases. As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector (£28.3Bn/year), our food system provides employment and economic growth, affects our environment and shapes our landscape, influences our health and wellbeing, and is of great social and cultural importance. Single use plastics and food waste impacts on the environment are of increasing concern.
The UK food system is complex and interrelated, with inevitable trade-offs between costs and benefits, and competing priorities. In the context of changing demographics, diverse cultural influences, technological development, climate change, and environmental challenges, there is a need to train future leaders and innovators, who can bring new ideas, provide evidence, and safeguard values to advance a vision that develops Healthy People, Healthy Animals, a Healthy Environment, a Healthy Economy and a Healthy Society thus transforming the UK Food System.
The UKFS-CDT has adapted the food system framework presented by the High-Level Panel of Experts (Figure 1), which recognises contributions of food supply chains, food environments and consumer behaviour to nutrition and health outcomes as well as social, political, economic, and environmental drivers and impacts.
To ensure that our food systems are sustainable and support healthy people, healthy animals, a healthy environment, a healthy economy and a healthy society, students will develop challenge-led projects across five strongly interrelated theme areas informed by the framework with topics such as, but not limited to:
- Understanding and influencing consumer behaviour change for improved diets.
- Healthy food environments and access to healthy dietary choices.
- Basic science of nutrition and diet-related health outcomes.
- Food safety and sanitation
- Livestock in sustainable food systems.
- Livestock welfare, animal ethics.
- Livestock and environmental impacts.
- Animal-sourced foods and nutrition security.
- Environmental sustainability of food systems from production to consumption (e.g., efficient production and processing, plastic packaging, planetary dietary patterns).
- Impact of climate change and variability on food systems.
- Biodiversity, ecosystem services and food systems.
- Urban farming (e.g., vertical farming, community gardens, rooftop gardens, sack gardens).
- Low-carbon food systems (e.g., reduced emissions and sustainable and circular economy of production and consumption)
- Food production, distribution, manufacturing and waste
- Efficient and equitable resource use in the food system (e.g., sustainable agricultural intensification, labour in food systems, conservation of natural resources).
- Transformative food innovations via novel product and process technologies (e.g., innovations in design-led manufacturing, automation, packaging, storage, distribution and marketing).
- Reducing and upcycling food loss and waste.
- Food system governanceand policies (e.g., global food trade, Brexit, UK food imports).
- Food system resilience (e.g., zoonotic epidemics, antimicrobial use and resistance, uncertainties and consequence of changes).
- Food culture and diets (e.g., intergenerational differences, food heritage, multicultural exchanges, traditional knowledge transfers, migration and transfer of food practices).
- Food poverty, social & health inequities, and the role of food charities in UK’s food system.
- Social protection/Responsible business practices / Equitable labour reform (e.g., workers’ rights & wellbeing, informal & unpaid/unrecognised labour, employment impacts of robotics and automation).
- Political ecology and geography of food (e.g., interrelationships between nature, people, and environment; social and ecological impacts of new and emerging technologies)
- Social movements (e.g., food sovereignty, Indigenous hunting and fishing rights).
- History of food systems (e.g., past lessons to prepare for the common food future).
The CDT’s approach is interdisciplinary, based on partnership with a broad range of stakeholders across the UK food system, and building on the latest research findings and approaches. In order to co-create and disseminate a body of knowledge capable of achieving significant policy and impact in practice the UKFS-CDT will focus on doctoral projects at and across national and regional levels and in key rural and urban geographies including: London, Kent and Medway, and Aberystwyth, Mid-Wales. London links with partners’ strong local connections (e.g., London Food Board/Greater London Authority) and is the UK’s only megacity, an exemplar of challenges of urban food systems, with multiple and complex issues for diverse populations. Kent and Medway link with a new £17.9M UKRI Strength in Places ‘Growing Kent and Medway’ investment. It is a major area of fruit and vegetable production with transport and logistics operations serving communities with high levels of social deprivation and diet-related health issues; Aberystwyth, Mid-Wales as a geography, under a devolved administration, reflects the great importance of the UK grasslands in agri-food systems, occupying approx. 70% of total agricultural land area in the UK and dominating landscapes of mid-Wales. With the agricultural supply chains at the heart of the rural economy, this location provides an ideal context to study the interrelated complexities of how food systems contribute to the wider sustainability of rural communities and integration between rural and urban linkages.
This four-year programme is aimed at graduates with a strong interest in inter-disciplinary food systems research. Understanding complex food system challenges requires holistic and novel interdisciplinary thinking.
Each student will initially register as a student with the University of Greenwich. After the first 12 months, when the PhD research starts, student registration will be transferred to the University of the first supervisor (or the second supervisor, if the first supervisor works at NIAB-EMR or Rothamsted Research).
All UKFS-CDT students start at the beginning of the academic year with 3-weeks of induction events.
These weeks contain a variety of information sharing and cohort building activities to introduce students to the programme, help them make informed decisions for the year and begin the bonding process for the cohort.
Information sessions will showcase a catalogue of core project ideas known as ‘project kernels’, presented by prospective supervisors from academic institutions, covering the widest interpretation of the food systems remit. Other information sessions include introduction to taught elements, rotations opportunities at academic institutions in the first year, and Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) during Year 2 and 3. The induction events, training, and rotations at academic institutions will provide students with a rich exposure to a variety of food systems research challenges, questions, and methods that will help inform the preparation of their PhD research proposal.
Additional activities during Induction focus on well-being and cohort building. One of our first workshops focuses on the common stressors that PhD students might experience and some excellent techniques to manage and mitigate them. Induction events will include team-building and networking opportunities for students to meet and mingle with Food Systems Academy members. Food Systems Academy currently has over 50 partners from business, government departments and civil society, so there are ample opportunities to build students' network.
The UK Food Systems Academy and Project Co-Design
The UK Food Systems Academy is an integral part of the CDT. All students and potential supervisors will become members of the Academy. The Academy also has members from business, government and civil society. These members have agreed to support the CDT in a number of ways including offering placements, partnering in research and contributing to training.
All students will be engaged in the co-design of their own research projects in collaboration with the UK Food Systems Academy which is the gateway for students to supervisors and core project ideas (project kernels). Early in Year 1, students will select from a catalogue of project kernels that will form the basis of their rotations with potential supervisors. Following the rotations, thesis proposals will be finalised in a capstone two-day Project and Thesis Proposal Intensive Workshop with partners from the Food System Academy.
In the first year, each UKFS-CDT student undertakes two 4-month rotation projects at two different academic institutions in the UKFS-CDT consortium.
All rotation projects represent a clearly defined and significant fraction of the work proposed for an entire PhD project. As a result, a rotation project is an authentic sample of the work expected for the PhD. Consequently, our students can reassure themselves of the scientific merit of the project, the quality of the research environment, available resources, the strengths of the supervisory team and their own capacity to pursue the investigation.
Most CDT students select a PhD project associated with one of their two rotation projects, although this is not a requirement, they then join their chosen research group after the end of their 2nd rotation or in Year 2.
Teaching and Learning
Students will complete courses in research ethics and integrity in addition to (i) Exploration of Food Systems, (ii) Investigation of Systems Thinking (iii) Application of Food Systems Methods and (iv) Intervention for Food Systems Change. Students will engage in participatory learning that involves working with their cohort peers and stakeholders across multiple disciplines, with training and practice on effective communication and complex systems thinking needed to face the vast range of challenges faces by the UK Food System.
PhD Research (Year 2 to 4)
In years 2 and 3 of the programme students are dedicated to their research. In year 2, students will be enrolled at the institution of their primary supervisor. They will be expected to conduct their research based at the chosen institution.
All students will have an annual review with a member of the management committee to evaluate progress and manage any issues that arise. There is also a suite of employability events and wellbeing training sessions. It is common that students will undertake their Professional Internships for PhD Students in years 2 or 3.
In year 4 of the programme, all students are enrolled in a dedicated programme and pastoral care, designed to prepare and support students in their PhD research write-up and thesis submission.
Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS)
UKRI mandates that all students funded in this programme take part in the Professional Internship for PhD Students (PIPS) scheme. This involves a three-month work experience placement that can be undertaken with any organisation in the public or privates’ sectors in the UK according to student interest and a suitable agreement with the host. The only stipulation is that the work must be in an area demonstrably unrelated to the student's research project. The timing of the internships has a degree of flexibility, taking place during the second or third year of the PhD, (months 18 to 36).
The aims of the Professional Interships are to provide a funded opportunity for students to: develop new skill sets, gain work experience in the non-academic research sector; assess the non-research career environments in the public or private sectors, evaluate a wider range of career options and understand how the skills gained during the PhD can be utilised in other sectors. Careers and programme administrative staff support all UKFS-CDT programme students in arranging their PIPS placement.
Cohort Building and Networking
Cohort building is integrated into interactive activities that combine training, outreach, and networking. By allowing students to network within and between cohorts, UKFS-CDT mobilises our large student body as an additional layer of peer support for both scientific and wellbeing issues.
Along with the final preparation and submission of students’ thesis, the students’ journey will culminate in a celebratory Graduates’ Showcase and Submitters’ Dinner which will feature publication of an accessible, industry-facing output report and presentation that bring together key findings and future implications for the sector. Students will transition into the UKFS-CDT alumni network, continuing interactions with members of the Food Systems Academy.
UKFS-CDT offers 13+ UKRI doctoral studentships each year.
The UKFS-CDT and the PSFF are supported through the £5 million Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) 'Transforming the UK Food System for Healthy People and a Healthy Environment Programme' (https://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/research/foodsystems-spf/ ), delivered by UKRI, in partnership with the Global Food Security Programme, BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, Defra, DHSC, PHE, Innovate UK and FSA.
The SPF funds 13 of the studentships in cohort 3, and the Partnership aim to increase the number of studentships available to 28.
This means that the number of studentships available in Cohort 3 depends upon the level of support from co-funding of partners, training between 13-28 studentships. This means that candidates maybe held on a reserve list, until additional funding is secured.
The UKRI has updated its eligibility criteria to confirm that international applicants will be eligible for all UKRI-funded postgraduate studentships from the start of the 2021/22 academic year.
All UKRI-funded PhD students will be eligible for the full award - both the stipend to support living costs, and fees at research organisations at UK rate, please see UKRI rates here. However, UKRI funding do not cover international fees set by universities. More information about the changes to EU and International Eligibility for UKRI funded studentships from Academic Year 2021/22 onwards can be found here.
Accepted applicants will receive a full bursary at the UKRI agreed rate, which will cover the cost of the agreed home registration fee. Consortium partners have agreed to waive the difference between national and international fees, which means that all formal offers will include payment of University Registration fees. UKRI only allows the CDT to offer a maximum 30% of places to International Students. The ability of international applicants to be awarded UKRI studentships started for the first time in September 2021.
The UKFS-CDT Consortium partners co-fund a number studentships on the programme each year which restrict students to rotations and PhD projects that are based at the institution that is providing the funding.
All UKRI-funded PhD students will be eligible for the full award - both the stipend to support living costs, and fees at research organisations at UK rate, please see UKRI rates here. The programme is able to support with specific research dissemination and training costs, and will be explained in more details once students are enrolled on the programme.
Please note that the UKFS-CDT students on the programme will be required to travel to NRI, University of Greenwich, Kent for training and this will be considered the main place of work throughout year 1 of the programme. This will be daily for the first 4 months of the program, the cost for this cannot be reimbursed by the UKFS-CDT and will be the responsibility of the student. Students are also required to travel to the nine different partners of the UKFS-CDT, especially in the initial months of the year 1 of the programme. Reimbursement of these costs will be in-line with the University of Greenwich financial policies, and approval must be granted. Buses may be provided from University of Greenwich campuses for specific trips.
Once a student becomes registered at a partner institution, the student will be required to work from the institution, and the cost of travel to institution will be the student’s responsibility. Any costs incurred throught the PhD will be reimbursed as per the financial regulation of the institution.
Please ensure you have read the website before reaching out to the team. The UKFS-CDT programme receives hundreds of queries and applications, and the team will not be able to respond to every email query.