The University of Leeds is part of the ESRC White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership (WRDTP), forming a collaboration between the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield, York, Bradford, Sheffield Hallam, Hull and Manchester Metropolitan. These studentships are available in named Thematic Interdisciplinary Training Pathways on either a 1+3 or a +3 basis and can be held full-time or part-time.
1+3 Studentships – an integrated Research Training Masters – MA Social Research (Interdisciplinary), delivering the majority of the core training requirements, followed by a 3-year PhD programme
+3 Studentships – 3-year PhD – applicants must demonstrate that they have already completed substantial social sciences training in research methods which would enable them to undertake an independent research project in a particular discipline or interdisciplinary field. An applicant must have at least 60 credits (not including dissertation) at Masters level of core social sciences research methods acquired in the last five years. This must include a broad range of methods, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods and the use of appropriate software/tools for their application and comprehension of principles of research design and strategy, and an appreciation of alternative approaches to research.
One ESRC White Rose DTP Collaborative Studentship is available in the Institute for Transport Studies, with the project title ‘New technologies, travel modes and passenger needs: understanding and predicting the future of rail travel’. The project’s lead supervisor is Dr Chiara Calastri, Institute for Transport Studies, with co-supervision by Professor Richard Batley, Institute for Transport Studies and Dr Benjamin Ford, Network Rail.
Closing Date for applications: 17:00 (UK Time) Monday 27 February 2023
Rail travel has been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with passenger numbers falling more than any other mode. Railway operators around the world have attempted to bring passengers back to rail through a range of policies, but current ridership is still substantially lower than pre-pandemic levels. The UK government increased from £10.4 billion to £16.9 billion as a result of the 77% reduction in passenger numbers resulting from the pandemic. To make rail financially sustainable and ensure that the recovery of travel patterns is in line with decarbonisation objectives, the rail industry and travel behaviour researchers seek to understand the factors that will maintain and potentially enhance the attractiveness of rail travel over the next 30 years. Will passengers expect faster trains, or will they prioritise comfort and the ability to work and relax while travelling? How will rail interact with new modes, such as shared mobility, autonomous vehicles, advanced air mobility (AAM) and hyperloop? Will new modes become a complement to or substitute for rail – and how will they affect the contribution of passenger rail to the journey as a whole? The answers to these questions will have wide ranging implications, not only for rail (eg future capacity needs, the planning of rail services, and the design of stations and vehicles), but also for other modes (eg the provision of road space), as well as associated implications for society such as economic efficiency, social equity and decarbonisation.
Some studies have provided initial insights, but existing evidence is limited, and existing data is characterised by a low representativeness and fidelity.
The project aims to explore the future challenges facing rail by exploring Network Rail’s unique positioning as the provider of GB’s rail infrastructure, together with the internationally recognised expertise of the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds in the fields of economics and behavioural/choice modelling applied to rail and transport more generally. The student will gather new and existing qualitative and quantitative data, to develop behavioural models that will elicit understanding of the factors affecting current rail demand, and inform predictions of how demand will change in response to a range of future scenarios. Since the research context deals with future states which do not presently exist, they naturally lend themselves to experimental techniques which elicit preferences relating to hypothetical scenarios, such as Stated Preference (SP) analysis. From this methodological starting point, there will be exploration of methods to reduce the biases (eg policy response bias) that are sometimes inherent in SP data, such as the scope for merging with other forms of data (eg Revealed Preference, RP) from the intra- and post-pandemic periods. The latter could conceivably capture trends which were already emerging before the onset of Covid-19, such as the increased propensity to work from home.
Network Rail will potentially exploit the new knowledge developed in the course of this project to inform policy and planning in a range of different areas, for example: the setting of track access charges to reflect the marginal value of rail to the passenger; the design of line plans and the timetable to meet passenger needs; the business case for investing in stations and other infrastructure to encourage modal interface (eg with e-mobility); and more generally, the future provision of rail that is needed to meet passenger requirements 30 years hence.
The successful applicant will have the opportunity to undertake a 3-month virtual internship, with the possibility of 4-week in-person period as well as a minimum of 5 visits to Network Rail’s offices.
The primary pathway relevant to this project is: Cities, Environment and Liveability (CEL)
Duration of the Award
- 1+3 Studentships: Full-time (4 years) or part-time (7 years);
- +3 Studentships: Full-time (3 years) or part-time (5 years).
Full-time awards will be made for one year in the first instance and renewable for a further period of up to two years (+3 Studentships) or up to three years (1+3 Studentships), subject to satisfactory academic progress;
Part-time awards will be made for 24 months (two calendar years) in the first instance and are renewable annually for a maximum of five years (+3 Studentships) or seven years (1+3 Studentships), subject to satisfactory academic progress.
- The award will cover fees at standard UKRI rates;
- Fees may rise during the course of your candidature: this will be by no more than the rate of inflation, calculated according to the Retail Price Index;
- A maintenance grant (£17,668 in Session 2022/23 for full-time study, pro-rata for part-time study). This amount increases per annum in line with the Research Council UK rate (announced on this website);
- Research Training Support Grant covers travel and research costs during the PhD part of the award – variable amount depending on the scheme plus other allowances where applicable;
- Please be aware that any expenses related to the relocation of international students to the UK (visa, insurance, NHS fees, flights, etc) would be their responsibility and is not covered by this award.
- Applicants applying on both a 1+3 and a +3 basis MUST in the first instance apply for a place on a research postgraduate programme and be in receipt of a Student ID Number to be eligible for an ESRC White Rose DTP Studentship. Applications without a valid ID Number will be rejected;
- +3 awards must be taken up on 1 October 2023; 1+3 awards must be taken up in September 2023;
- Applicants must live within a reasonable distance of the University of Leeds whilst in receipt of this Scholarship;
- Applicants should read the ESRC Postgraduate Funding Guide and be willing to abide by the conditions and regulations therein.
After a School selection process, applicants will be informed as to whether they are being nominated for an ESRC WRDTP Collaborative Studentship. The White Rose Academic Quality Committee will review the nominations and decide on the final list of awards. The University will use the data provided in the application form for internal selection and statistical purposes and publish the names of the successful applicants within the University and externally on the University website. The final outcome is expected end of April 2023 for the Collaborative Studentships.
How to apply
First of all apply for a research programme of study by completing the application form. Please state clearly that the funding you wish to apply for is the ESRC WRDTP Collaborative Studentship – New technologies, travel modes and passenger needs: understanding and predicting the future of rail travel
In order to be considered for the studentship you must submit all the required supporting documents for your application for study. Any study applications that are not accompanied by the documents requested by the studentship deadline will not be considered for the award.
Please note that an unsuccessful application for this studentship does not exclude you from applying for other research study opportunities or scholarships offered by the University of Leeds.
- Once you are in receipt of your 9 digit Student Application ID complete the online studentship application form.
After receipt of your Studentship application, the relevant School will provide further advice on your suitability for either a 1+3 or a +3 studentship and advise whether you are required to apply for a Masters study place for MA Social Research (Interdisciplinary) programme. Please be aware that you may be required to provide 2 academic references to the relevant School in support of your studentship application.
If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet the University’s minimum English language requirements (below).
As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.
Applicants applying for a 1+3 award must hold a First Degree at undergraduate level equivalent to at least a UK Upper Second Class Honours Degree or equivalent (a less than sufficient undergraduate degree may be enhanced, e.g. by a Masters degree). Applicants should either have graduated with the appropriate First Degree of be in their final year of study. Applicants applying for a +3 award must demonstrate that they have already completed substantial social sciences training in research methods which would enable them to undertake an independent research project in a particular discipline or interdisciplinary field. An applicant must have at least 60 credits at M level of core social sciences research methods training acquired in the last five years. This must include a broad range of methods, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods and the use of appropriate software/tools for their application, and comprehension of principles of research design and strategy, and an appreciation of alternative approaches to research.
English language requirements
The minimum English language entry requirement for research postgraduate research study is an IELTS of 6.0 overall with at least 5.5 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid. Some schools and faculties have a higher requirement.