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Walk Derbyshire: a whole systems approach to walking

Fully funded PhD student bursary

We are looking to recruit a full-time PhD student to explore the impact and learning of Walk Derbyshire – a social movement which seeks to create a culture of walking across Derbyshire and make everyday walking the norm. Walk Derbyshire aims to promote walking opportunities across the County by promoting collaborative working between all parts of the public sector, including: transport, health, housing, planning, and education. The voluntary sector and local communities are also fundamental in helping to make walking an easy and accessible choice.

The successful PhD candidate will be responsible for understanding how Walk Derbyshire works and what its associated impacts are. You will be involved in disseminating findings to continuously improve the programme delivery (given that Walk Derbyshire is an active and evolving social movement). The candidate has flexibility to shape the design and research focus, but some research priorities potentially include:

  • The benefits and drawbacks of whole system approaches to encouraging walking in Derbyshire
  • The diverse impacts associated with the delivery of the Walk Derbyshire programme on individuals, communities, organisations and wider policy
  • Reasons underpinning non-engagement in walking
  • Enabling and constraining factors in creating walking opportunities across the County
  • The rhetoric versus reality of whole system approaches to encouraging walking
  • A deep dive analysis of four active neighbourhood pilots

We are also looking for the candidate to act as an Embedded Researcher, working closely with Walk Derbyshire colleagues and to be embedded within Active Partners Trust, the organisation responsible for this work. Embedded researchers work “with” practice- or policy-based colleagues, rather than simply providing research “on” or “for” them. This process builds rapport and co-creates knowledge between researchers and stakeholders, which offers an effective mechanism for information to be fed back to stakeholders. Being embedded establishes a deep understanding of the organisational structures, practices, culture and relationships, enabling them to better identify, describe, analyse and understand changes. Being in close commute to the area would therefore be very desirable. Candidates with a range of methodological and analytical skills will be considered favourably, as will those with a demonstrated track-record in linking research to practice and policy development.

The PhD is supported by Leeds Beckett University. Our environment for supporting and sustaining research at the University has been independently assessed as part of the nationwide Research Excellence Framework. Across the areas the PhD students will be located, the environment was regarded as “an environment that is conducive to producing research of internationally excellent quality and enabling very considerable impact, in terms of its vitality and sustainability.” Your supervisory team bring international excellence in relation to: whole systems approaches; physical activity; embedded research approaches; public health and health promotion; and a range of analytical expertise.

This funded studentship is part of a wider project to examine the wider contribution of systems approaches to increasing physical activity in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, with additional studentships to be advertised in 2023 and 2024. The wider project will evaluate Making our Move, a shared vison for Uniting the Movement in Notts and Derbyshire to address inequality and empower everyone to be active in a way that works for them, considering if and how the way of working creates the change the vision hopes to see.

Candidates are required to develop a 2-page proposal for PhD research that aligns with the indicated research priorities. Candidates are invited to make direct contact with Dr James Woodall ( or Dr Duncan Radley ( to discuss their proposal in advance of submitting an application.

Plus Icon Eligibility

  • You should have, or expect to achieve, a first or upper second-class honours degree or equivalent. A master’s degree in a relevant subject is also desirable
  • Awards will be made on the basis of merit and research potential. This relates to your past academic record, any related professional experience and to an assessment of your likely aptitude to complete a PhD addressing the identified research priorities in the time allocated
  • This funded opportunity is only available for those assessed as being eligible for Home fees status. Living in close proximity to Derbyshire, given the nature of the research, will be necessary

Plus Icon Funding

  • 1 x full-time sponsored postgraduate research studentships available
  • Start date: February 2023
  • PhD students are entitled to a laptop and will have the opportunity to apply for funding to support fieldwork, attendance at conferences, workshops and/or meetings, during the 3-year studentship
  • The PhD studentship is for a period of 3-years funded full-time study. Funding will be subject to satisfactory progress throughout the project

Plus Icon Guide to making your application

As part of your application, please provide a CV and research proposal. The proposal should align to  research priorities and should outline: the topic of your proposed research, the questions it will address, a short review of relevant academic literature, and an indication of how you will conduct your research. It is an integral part of the application process (maximum 5 pages single spaced).

You are strongly advised to approach the contacts listed above regarding your research proposal in advance of submitting your application.

We can only consider complete applications. The research degree application is complete once you have uploaded all of the following:

  1. Your application form;
  2. Your research proposal, and CV where appropriate;
  3. Copies of your bachelors and master certificates, including transcripts;
  4. Copy of your passport;
  5. Applicants should use the research project reference Walk Derbyshire Bursary in the email subject line when submitting their applications.

All documents should be emailed to

The deadline for applications is midnight on 18th December 2022. 

Candidates must be available for interview w/c 9th January 2023. Interviews will be held online.