Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



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

Start dates

October 2024

Application deadline

31 May 2024

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) studentship with Portsmouth City Council

The University of Portsmouth, and Portsmouth City Council are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded Collaborative doctoral studentship from October 2024 under the AHRC’s  Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships (CDP) scheme.

The doctoral project aims to explore critically the mediation and use of the public library service in Portsmouth in key periods of its history from its inception in 1883 to the present.

This project will be jointly supervised by Dr Robert James and Michael Gunton and the student will be expected to spend time at both the University of Portsmouth and the Library and Archive Service, as well as becoming part of the wider cohort of CDP funded students across the UK. Dr Ben Davies, Associate Professor in Literature and Culture, and Clare Liddell, Service Development Manager at Portsmouth City Council, will co-supervise the project. 

We encourage the widest range of potential students to study for this CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from students from PGM (People of the Global Majority) backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area.  

Students should have a Master's Degree in a relevant subject or can demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting. 

The studentship can be studied either full or part-time and is open to both home and international applicants.


Project Overview 

This project will critically investigate the role of Portsmouth’s public libraries since the service’s establishment in 1883, identifying key periods in their history where discussions about their social function were played out most vociferously. Since their establishment, public libraries have been spaces for community building, and debates have raged over library usage, including the library’s role as educator, the types of literature provided, the sorts of books users borrowed, as well as their ability to function as community spaces that aid the nation’s wellbeing. The student could focus on as yet unspecified periods between their founding and the present. There will be a particular emphasis on how the service was mediated and used, a hitherto neglected area of study. The mediation of the service will be compared to and contrasted with the actual experience of the service’s users through archival holdings and oral testimonies with past and present-day workers and users. This will be set within the broader context of society’s leisure participation and include a critical examination of the class, gendered and ethnic identities of leisure consumption.

The project draws on Portsmouth City Council’s library and related holdings. Based at the University of Portsmouth, the student will have access to collections through PCC’s Museums, Libraries and Archives service, along with archival material held nationally. Thus, the student will build a history of the role, mediation and use of public libraries, providing valuable insights for PCCMLA into the development of a model for future understandings of the library service’s function.


Research questions include:

  •  How has the role of public libraries changed over time?
  • What challenges has the service faced and how has it responded to them?
  • How have social, cultural, economic, and political factors impacted the public library service?
  • To what extent has the function of public libraries been mediated by the various stakeholders involved in the service’s funding and operation?
  • How has the public used library services and how has that changed over time?
  • To what extent has the use of the service been shaped by, and reflective of, contemporaneously specific cultural and societal norms and aspirations, such as class, gender and ethnicity?
  • How far is the history of Portsmouth public libraries representative of wider histories of public libraries in England since the 1880s?  
  • How can the current library service in Portsmouth draw on their history to shape their current practice?


Research with Portsmouth City Council

This research studentship is one allocated to the University of Portsmouth by the AHRC to support the work of Portsmouth City Council. The successful student will be expected to spend time carrying out research and gaining relevant experience with the partner in the Library and Archive Service, including Central Library and archive stores as part of the studentship.


Details of Award

CDP doctoral training grants fund full-time studentships for 4 years or part-time equivalent up to a maximum of 8 years. The award pays tuition fees up to the value of the full-time home UKRI rate for PhD degrees. Research Councils UK Indicative Fee Level for 2024/2025 is £4,786* .

The award pays full maintenance for all students both home and international students. The UKRI National Minimum Doctoral Stipend for 2024/2025 is £19,237, *plus a CDP maintenance payment of £600/year.

The student is eligible to receive an additional travel and related expenses grant during the course of the project courtesy of the University of Portsmouth worth up to £1500 per year for 4 years.

The successful candidate will be eligible to participate in events organised for all Collaborative Doctoral Partnership students who are registered with different universities and studying with cultural and heritage organisations across the UK.



  • This studentship is open to both Home and International/EU applicants. 
  • To be classed as a home student, candidates must meet the following criteria: 
    • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
    • Have settled status, or 
    • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
    • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

     Further guidance can be found here

  • International students are eligible to receive the full award for maintenance as are home students. 
  • We want to encourage the widest range of potential students to study for a CDP studentship and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply. We particularly welcome applications from PGM (People of the Global Majority) backgrounds as they are currently underrepresented at this level in this area. 
  • Applicants should ideally have or expect to receive a relevant Masters-level qualification in a relevant subject [History], or be able to demonstrate equivalent experience in a professional setting such as [History].  
  • Applicants must be able to demonstrate an interest in the libraries and archives sector and potential and enthusiasm for developing skills more widely in related areas.
  • As a collaborative award, students will be expected to spend time at both the University and the Library and Archive Service.

NB. All applicants must meet UKRI terms and conditions for funding. 

Entry requirements

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

How to apply

If you are interested in applying, you're welcome to contact Dr Robert James ( for an informal discussion about this opportunity.

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 (if required) and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. As this is a pre-defined project, you do not need to submit a research proposal at this stage.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SASS9160524 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.