HEMS 3: Ethnographies of environmental sustainability education providers

Faculty: Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care

Supervisors: Dr Paulette Luff, Dr Elsa Lee and Dr Nicola Walshe

Interview date: 27 May 2021

Education has long been recognised as essential in helping us mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to its impacts, as recognised by the UN SDG Target: Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning. In the UK there are many organisations that provide environmental sustainability education (ESE) to people across the age spectrum outside of formal education settings, for example SEED or the Green Schools Alliance.

Although this activity is intensifying, perhaps in response to the youth climate strikes and other global green movements, initiatives of this kind have been around for many decades and it could be argued that climate change has become worse despite their existence. If we are to avoid its worst excesses we must understand why (some of) these efforts have failed (if indeed they have) and what makes others successful at a local, national or global level.

As such, the aim of this research is to design and undertake detailed ethnographic and hermeneutic study of three ESE organisations within the UK, one in each of England, Scotland and Wales. Each case study will be undertaken with the aim of understanding both their internal workings and the contextualising social, political and cultural forces that shape them.

The researcher will develop thickly described portraits of ESE providers, focusing on organisations that work on education inside and outside of schools, rather than on formal practice in school settings. This is to address the lack of research around these sorts of informal organisations that appear to contribute significantly to the development and delivery of ESE across the education sector.

The project team has significant authority within this field. Dr Walshe and Dr Lee hold roles as co- and link convenors respectively of the ESE Research network within the European Educational Research Association, a growing publication record in this field and research council funding for projects on which they are Principal Investigators (AHRC for Dr Walshe and ESRC for Dr Lee).

Dr Lee has substantial experience of ethnographic research through her current research and teaching. Dr Luff is UK President of OMEP, the World Organization for Early Childhood Education; ESE is a key priority for OMEP. She is also an experienced PhD supervisor and examiner with experience of supervising participatory research in the field of ESE.

Apply online by 25 April

Funding notes

This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. For 2021/2 this will be £15,609 per year. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the scholarship terms and conditions. Please note that the University asserts the right to claim any intellectual property generated by research it funds.

Download the full terms and conditions.