Encountering groundwater: Engaging with an invisible resource - PhD

Lancaster University

Lancaster, UK 🇬🇧

Lead supervisor

Professor Frances Cleaver

Project Description:

Pressure on groundwater is increasing globally as it is considered key to water and food security in the context of climate change (UN World Water Development Report 2022). Governing groundwater is notoriously challenging because it is often invisible, making it difficult to detect locations and flows of water. An additional complexity is that groundwater is a common pool resource which means that a balance must be achieved between individual and collective uses, and the health of ecosystems.

Mainstream approaches to managing groundwater are often dominated by technical perspectives. There is a relative dearth of social science studies of how people, whose livelihoods depend on groundwater, share and care for it. This PhD will address that gap. Building on approaches developed by the T2GS project https://www.t2sgroundwater.org/. this research will investigate how people encounter groundwater in their daily practices, with the aim of inspiring sustainable and just ways of managing it.

General eligibility criteria

Enthusiasm, independence, self-motivation, curiosity and the ability to communicate to a range of audiences are all distinctly advantageous qualities for a PhD. Applicants would normally be expected to hold a minimum of a UK Honours degree at 2:1 level or equivalent in a relevant degree course. However, applicants who have gained experience in relevant fields through non-traditional routes are strongly encouraged to apply. We particularly welcome applications from Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates, candidates who are in the first generation of their family to go to university, candidates who have been in care or who have been a young carer, and candidates from a low-income background.

English language requirements for overseas students can be found here.

Project specific criteria

Applications are encouraged from candidates with a background in social science/ humanities (Geography, Development Studies, Politics, Anthropology, History). Candidates with a background in Water Management and Water Engineering may be considered if they can demonstrate a sensibility to social science approaches and experience of working across disciplines. The prospective student will be expected to engage with key interdisciplinary debates on people-water-technology interactions.

The research will adopt an ethnographic approach, involving the development of rich case studies of groundwater encounters. Applicants should be able to spend significant periods of time undertaking in-depth research in rural areas in the global south. We encourage applications from scholars based in poor or middle-income countries, where groundwater dilemmas are pressing.

There is a small annual budget for fieldwork in this studentship but prospective candidates will need to source additional funds for extended fieldwork. We can facilitate opportunities for candidates from low or middle-income countries to apply for such funds.

Studentship funding

Full studentships (UK tuition fees and stipend (£16,062 2022/23 [tax free])) for UK students for 3.5 years or full studentships (International tuition fees and stipend (£16,062 2022/23 [tax free])) for International students for 3 years.

Selection information

Candidates should note that there are a total of six studentships available for this call, which means that not every project will be assigned a student. Applications will first be shortlisted by the project supervisor with a final interview and shortlisting conducted by a departmental panel.

One studentship is specifically reserved for a candidate from a global south country. If this applies to you, please make this clear on your application form.


Deadline for applications: 20th May 2022

Provisional Interview Date: to be confirmed

Start Date: October 2022

Application process

  1. Download the LEC Funded PhD Application Formand LEC Funded PhD Reference Form‌.
  2. Complete the Application Form, renaming the document with your ‘Name and Application Form’ e.g., Joe Bloggs Application Form.
  3. Submit the completed Application Form and a CV to [email protected]
  4. Please note only Word or pdf files are accepted.
  5. Rename the referee form with your ‘Name and Reference’, e.g., Joe Bloggs Reference. Send the renamed reference form to two referees and request them to forward the referee document to [email protected]
  6. Please note only Word or pdf files are accepted. It is important that you ensure references are submitted by the closing date or as soon as possible.
  7. You will receive a generic acknowledgement in receipt of successfully sending the application documents.
  8. Please note that only applications submitted as per these instructions will be considered.
  9. Please note that, if English is not your first language, you will be required to provide evidence of your proficiency in English. This evidence is only required if you are offered a funded PhD and is not required as part of this application process.
  10. Please note that, if you do not hear from us within four weeks of the closing date then you have been unsuccessful on this occasion. If you would like feedback on your application, please contact the supervisors of the project.

Submit all applications and references to this email address: [email protected]

1 days remaining

Apply by 20 May, 2022