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ESRC-funded PhD in Journalism Studies (1+3 or +3) (PhD Studentship)

Reference Number: R2686
Closing Date: Closed for applications
Duration: 4 years (on a 1+3 basis) or 3 years (on a +3 basis)
Funding Amount: full UK/EU fees, plus Stipend
Level of Study: Postgraduate Research
Regions: EU (Non UK), UK
This funding opportunity is now closed for application

The Journalism and Democracy Pathway is based in the vibrant scholarly environment of Cardiff University’s School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, which is recognised as a world-leading centre for journalism research.

The School combines a long-standing record of excellence in teaching and training with an outstanding research portfolio – routinely winning funding awards from a wide range of professional bodies across the breadth of civil society. The School’s PhD students are routinely offered opportunities to become involved in colleagues’ funded research projects. This type of engagement affords them exposure to conceptual issues pertinent to the field while, at the same time, enhancing their skills with research methods and their application. Students also benefit from participation with the School’s regular seminar series, practical brown bag seminars (with advice on getting published, conference presentations, teaching, etc.), and through postgraduate seminar events, both within and outside the School.

The ESRC and AHSS are committed to supporting research in the vibrant field of research in Journalism and Democracy, with the ESRC Wales DTC awarding a Pathway and studentship for this purpose in 2015 . Our newly-awarded PhD studentship project, “Photojournalism, NGOs and Crisis Reporting in a Digital Age” is part funded by the ESRC Wales DTC (50%) and the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (50%), Cardiff University. This project examines the diverse factors shaping photojournalists’ engagement with crisis reporting in volatile situations, including in war, conflict and disaster zones.

Recognition of the School’s high quality and globally relevant research has been reflected in successive Research Assessment Exercises, including the most recent REF in 2014. A GPA of 3.49 and ranked as 2nd in the UK, JOMEC’s communication research is recognised internationally as world-leading. The significance and impact of JOMEC’s research in shaping the media, journalism and communication landscapes is endorsed by this ranking. JOMEC is almost double the sector average for quality that is world leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour. 100% of our research has been deemed ‘outstanding’ for its impact in terms of its reach and significance. A distinctive feature of this unit is that 100% of our research environment was rated as conducive to producing research of world-leading quality in terms of its vitality and sustainability.

About the PhD Project

Project title: Photojournalism, NGOs and Crisis Reporting in a Digital Age

This project examines the diverse factors shaping photojournalists’ engagement with crisis reporting in volatile situations, including in war, conflict and disaster zones. Professional photojournalism is widely perceived to be undergoing a transformation due to financial rationales (e.g., the decline of major photo agencies, changes in editorial priorities due to news organisations’ budget constraints, the impact of the internet on distribution and recompense, etc.); technological imperatives, such as digitalisation across online platforms; the casualisation of the craft, including shifts from salaried professionals to freelancers; and the advent of mobile digital photography, where citizen witnesses provide first-hand news imagery via social media sites, amongst other concerns. NGOs are increasingly proactive in responding to these challenges, some electing to commission photojournalists to document crisis events that would otherwise elude news organisations’ purview. Such initiatives raise pressing ethical questions, not least with regard to the journalistic status of the ensuing photographs’ truth-claims.

To achieve its aims, the project will identify and evaluate diverse viewpoints on key issues, firstly by reviewing existing studies from interdisciplinary academic research literatures, as well as pertinent media commentaries, news organisation policies, NGO statements and guidelines, policy makers responses, single issue campaigns, etc. Research questions will be formulated to probe precisely what is being visually documented (including how, by whom, when, where and why) as evidenced in professional and/or non-professional reportage, and corresponding implications for visually framing the significance of crisis situations. Methods will be twofold:

  1. visual and textual analysis, including gathering and interpreting pertinent forms of photo reportage from both news organisation and NGO websites (in conjunction with relevant policy);
  2. semi-structured interviews (conducted in person, telephone, email or Skype) with project partners, as well as photojournalists, NGOs and related stakeholders. The study will thus elucidate photojournalistic cultures of visuality shaping the representation of crises.

Supervisors: Professor Stuart Allan and Professor Richard Sambrook

Start date: October 2016

Number of Studentships: 1


This studentship is generously funded by the ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Centre and Cardiff University on a 1+3 or +3 basis. It consists of full UK/EU tuition fees, as well as a Doctoral Stipend matching UK Research Council National Minimum (£14,057 p.a. for 2015/16, updated each year).

One studentship is available.


Academic criteria: Academic criteria: Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a 2.1 degree or higher in a relevant humanities or social sciences subject for the 1+3 studentship. Applications for the +3 studentship should have or be about to obtain a Masters qualification in a relevant humanities or social science subject.


To be eligible for a full award a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay and
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences) and
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

To be eligible for a fees only award:

  • Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award. To be eligible for a fees-only award, a student must be 'ordinarily resident' in a member state of the EU.

How to Apply

Consideration is automatic on applying for Doctor of Philosophy (Journalism Studies), with a start date of October 2016 via Cardiff University's Online Application Service. In the research proposal section of your application, please specify the project title and supervisors of this project and copy the project description in the text box provided. In the funding section, please select "I will be applying for a scholarship / grant" and specify that you wish to be considered for the ESRC Wales DTC studentship "Photojournalism, NGOs and Crisis Reporting in a Digital Age".

The deadline for applications is 15 March 2016.

Short listed applicants will be required to attend an interview sometime during April 2016.

Cardiff University reserves the right to close applications early should sufficient applications be received.

Further Information

General information about research within the School can be found on their Research pages.

Information about the ESRC Wales DTC can be found on their website.

Informal enquiries are welcome and should be directed to Dr. Cynthia Carter or Mr. Timothy Pullam using the contact information below.


Name: Mr. Timothy Pullham  




Name: Dr. Cynthia Carter  

Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 6172