Funded (UK/EU and international students)

Project code



School of Strategy, Marketing, and Innovation

Start dates

October 2023

Application deadline

6 April 2023

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three year PhD to commence in October 2023. 

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Karen Middleton, Dr Judith Fletcher-Brown and Dr Jacki Tapley

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£17,668 for 2022/23). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £2,000 towards fieldwork. In addition, the Faculty supports conference costs with a contribution of £550 and training costs with a contribution of £450.

The work on this project could involve:

  • Developing social marketing solutions to prevent of violence against women and girls
  • Advancing understanding of the role of business in addressing societal grand challenges
  • A multi-method and multi-disciplinary approach spanning marketing, management, and criminology and victimology

Women’s safety remains an ongoing societal problem that requires purposeful and forensic examination (HM Government, July 2021; Stöckl & Quigg, 2021).  Deviant attitudes and behaviours towards women who socialise within night-time spaces are all too commonplace within the UK night-time marketplace, and must be eliminated. While cultural change of the gendered norms that underpin threatening, abusive behaviour towards women is essential, NTE businesses have played a significant role in creating and maintaining such distorted beliefs in advertising and in their practices, whereby they act to condone, tolerate and minimise wrongful behaviours and attitudes. Simultaneously there is increased academic understanding that collective ‘market actors’ or stakeholders have a keen ability to disrupt established practices in the marketplace (Baker et al., 2019; Zietsma & Lawrence, 2010). This view emphasises the power and impact of companies and brands themselves in changing consumer behaviour, and highlights their responsibilities to contribute solutions to institutionalised or ‘wicked’ problems in society (Guerreri et al., 2022; Fletcher-Brown et al., 2021; Middleton & Turnbull, 2021). Therefore, especially while growth in the UK pub industry in particular, has been driven by women in recent years (IFSEC Global News, 2021), it is even more incumbent upon these businesses to take up their obligations towards securing the safety of their female consumers.

From a transformative social marketing perspective this project has the potential to contribute to deeper understanding of how marketing can address critical and pressing global challenges. While brands are finding they must do even more to remain relevant, trustworthy and authentic to advertising-savvy consumers. Emerging academic research on ‘brand purpose’ is finding that consumers’ affinity with brands is increasingly dependent upon congruence between the brand's stated purpose and the consumers’ own core values, and they are more likely be drawn to brands that share, or are aligned with, their own important goals in life (Fletcher-Brown et al., 2021; Middleton and Turnbull, 2021; Williams et al., 2022). 

By exploring the alignment of the goals of academic research and market stakeholders and practitioners, there is greater likelihood of finding practical solutions to pressing, hands-on problems. For businesses, positive, sustainable relationships with stakeholders and wider communities increasingly is contingent upon their ability to manage the social impact on people and ecology (Steinfield, et al., 2019). The sharing of our outcomes would impact substantially on the capacity of business to align their work to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, thus shaping and influencing not just the marketplace but societal structures and consumers’ lives (de Ruyter et al., 2021; Middleton and Turnbull, 2021).

Project aim: to identify and develop the latent influence of NTE stakeholders towards improving women’s safety at night, and preventing VAWG.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in 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’ll need a passionate interest in equality, diversity and inclusion, and corporate sustainability, with the drive and ability to undertake research work independently. We are seeking an individual with tenacity and confidence to see the project through to success, alongside a willingness to work on sensitive topics. Some evening and weekend fieldwork is also required.



How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Karen Middleton ( 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. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code SM&I8110423 when applying and submit all required documentation.