The UKFS-CDT is open for applications on 7th January 2021 to join the doctoral programme in October 2021. The closing date is Monday 15th February 2021 at 23:59 GMT.
From 2021 through to 2027, the UKFS-CDT will train over 60 interdisciplinary doctoral researchers capable of leading the UK towards a resilient, healthy and inclusive food future, with the first cohort starting in autumn of 2021.
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.
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.
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.
Please do not hesitate to contact the programme if you have any eligibility concerns.
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.
Candidates who are unsure if they meet the entry criteria should contact the programme prior to submitting an application.
UKFS-CDT offers 15+ UKRI doctoral studentships each year.
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. 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. International applicants should therefore be in possession of an additional scholarship or complementary funding to cover the difference between home and international fee rates. The ability of international applicants to be awarded UKRI studentships starts for the first time in September 2021. It is likely that the university policies on meeting the difference between home and international fees may evolve over time. The latest information will be posted here.
In addition to our UKRI studentships, the UKFS-CDT consortium partners contribute a number of institutionally funded studentship places on the programme each year. These awards pay UK domestic tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the same UKRI rate but they do restrict students to rotations and PhD projects that are based at the institution that is providing the funding.
UKFS-CDT is open for applications on 7th January 2021. The closing date is Monday 15th February 2021 at 23:59 GMT.
Application to the UKFS-CDT programme involves 2 application forms, required documents, and an interview process. Before completing the application forms, please carefully read the eligibility criteria and the information below.
Part 1: UKFS-CDT downloadable PDF application form
Please find the UKFS-CDT application form downloadable here.
Please provide details on all sections:
- UK Food Systems Focal Research Interest
- Professional qualifications, if applicable
- Research experience
- Workplace experience
- Statement of motivation
- 2 Referee details required, ideally at least one of the two is an academic referee
(Please note we have updated the instructions of the application process slightly, which has involved the re-named the UKFS-CDT application form. If you have started working on the application form before the title changed from "Part 2" to "Part 1", don't worry. You can still upload and submit your Part 2: UKFS-CDT application form on the University of Greenwich online application portal. Relevant fields in the UKFS-CDT application form are unchanged.)
Part 2: University of Greenwich online application form
Please register an account on the University of Greenwich Online Admissions Portal, web link here
Please complete sections:
- Permanent Address
- Mailing Address
- Statistical Information
- Programme Information
- Month/Year of Entry: '9/2021'
- 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:
- Part 1: UKFS-CDT application form, downloaded and completed
- Academic transcript(s)
- Curriculum vitae
- Scanned copy of your passport and residency permit(s), if applicable
- Proof of English language qualifications (e.g. IELTS), if applicable
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 on the 16th of February, 2021. At least two referees of shortlisted candidates will be contacted by UKFS-CDT to submit a reference letter or information outlined in a reference form. Shortlisted candidates will likely be contacted in March with an update on their application. If you are invited to interview, two dates will be available in early April. The exact interview dates will be confirmed.
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, video conference interviews are always available where the cost or time required for travel is prohibitive. Due to the current global situation, it is likely that only video conference interviews will be possible for this recruitment cycle. More information about this will be available in the new year and communicated to candidates after shortlisting. UKFS-CDT studentship offers are made shortly after interviews.
The UKFS CDT programme managers can assist with questions about applying to the doctoral programme. They are not on the recruitment panels. If you have any further questions regarding the recruitment process please contact the programme manager.
International applicants are welcome to submit an application to the UKFS-CDT programme but UKRI studentships do not cover international fees. Successful applicants will receive a full bursary at the UKRI agreed rate, which will cover the cost of the agreed home registration fee.
International applicants should therefore be in possession of an additional scholarship or complementary funding to cover the difference between home and international fee rates. The ability of international applicants to be awarded UKRI studentships starts for the first time in September 2021. It is likely that the university policies on meeting the difference between home and international fees may evolve over time. The latest information will be posted here.
Please contact the programme manager if you wish to discuss these options.
Do you have questions about the application process that you can't find the answer to? Need some advice or just want to talk to someone about the UKFS-CDT programme? Contact the programme here.
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 4.5-month rotation projects (October-February, February-June) at two different academic institutes 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 directly after the end of their 2nd rotation.
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.
All students 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.