Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

23 May 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD, with opportunities for visiting scholarships in Hong Kong and Mainland China, to commence in October 2021.

In 2019 Lloyd’s Register (LR) celebrated 150 years of operation in China. This doctoral-level research project will assess the influence and impact that LR and its surveyors had on international understandings of health, safety, and risk management, and their broader influences on local infrastructures and imperial cultural knowledge between the years 1869-1918.

This exciting opportunity includes an annual stipend at the UKRI rate (£15,609 for 2021/22) and a generous travel allowance for the student to conduct national and international research.

The PhD is funded by Lloyd’s Register Foundation (LRF) and supported by the University of Portsmouth’s Port Towns and Urban Cultures (PTUC) research group in the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature. The visiting scholarship in 2023 is supported by Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) and Dalian Maritime University (DMU), who will host the student as a visiting scholar. An international conference will be co-hosted by HKBU in Hong Kong during summer 2023.The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and will be supervised by Dr Matthew Heaslip, Dr Melanie Bassett and Professor Brad Beaven

By working on this project you’ll: 

  • Gain privileged access to LRF’s extensive maritime archive to provide new insights into the social and cultural history of Lloyd’s Register in China through the study of the role and operations of LR Surveyors.     
  • Benefit from the Port Towns and Urban Culture team’s wealth of knowledge and international networks while simultaneously showcasing cutting-edge research.   
  • Acquire enhanced doctoral programme training from the University of Portsmouth and gain valuable skills in organizing an international conference and disseminating your research into scholarly and publicly-accessible formats.     
  • Be supported in your research gain experience in different cultural settings and working environments via Visiting Scholarships in Hong Kong and Dalian, and opportunities to collaborate with LRF’s Heritage and Education Centre in London.

‘Lloyd’s Register Surveyors in China, 1869-1918’ will critically assess the role of LR in developing cultural and scientific exchanges during a formative phase in Anglo-Chinese relations. 

The company sent surveyors around the globe to record standards of international ships. Surveyors sent comprehensive reports to their London office, which would often detail how they settled themselves in to their new surroundings and became involved in aspects of local life. They, therefore, became key agents for spreading British culture and values throughout the globe. In addition to understanding how the surveyor operated and in what context, the PhD will inform a burgeoning field within maritime history concerned with health, safety and risk management. The original contribution of this research will fuse the nuances of imperial networking and socialisation with the application of a ‘western’ preoccupation with safety and the negation of risk in shipping and shipbuilding. Thus, the PhD will highlight the process of knowledge exchange and provide historic analysis of the ways in which LR Foundation met its challenges: ‘Safety at Sea’, ‘Skills for safety’, and the ‘Public Understanding of Risk’.

The ‘Lloyd’s Register PhD Bursary’ includes full fees, bursary, and an additional travel bursary to support international research and dissemination. The successful candidate will help to develop teaching and learning materials, co-organise an international postgraduate conference in Hong Kong, and undertake visiting scholarships at Hong Kong Baptist University and Dalian Maritime University in 2023 (Covid-19-permitting). Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s Heritage and Education Centre (HEC) is undertaking extensive digitisation of their collection which will be exclusively available to the PhD student. The candidate will also be mentored and collaborate with the HEC on a number of public outreach and access resources which will bridge the gaps between the ‘academy’, the institution (LRF), and the public. 

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in History or an appropriate subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

You must be prepared to live and work for periods of time in Portsmouth and Hong Kong. Willingness to work with members of the Port Towns and Urban Cultures group (University of Portsmouth), and Lloyd’s Register Heritage and Education Centre to produce blogs and educational material based on your research is essential. An understanding of, or willingness to learn, basic Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) is desirable.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Matthew Heaslip ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SASH6300521 when applying.

Anticipated interview date: 14 June 2023