The Nigel Baker PhD Studentship on Food System Sustainability

Nigel Baker was a member of the very first cohort of Masters students to complete CAWR’s Msc in Food Security Management in 2014. He was committed to trying to make the world a better place by tackling injustice and environmental destruction. In his Master’s thesis he proposed a new concept called ‘Net System Productivity’ which measures food system productivity by taking into account food waste and nutritional quality – elements which are ignored in conventional measures of productivity. He applied this measure to an agroecological system in the form of a Community Supported Agriculture scheme and made some preliminary comparisons with the conventional supermarket – industrial agriculture food system.

In September 2015 Nigel began work on a PhD to extend and deepen the research he had begun in his Master’s thesis. Sadly, he had to suspend his studies in the springtime of 2016, owing to illness. He lost his fight against cancer on 16th February 2017. This award is dedicated to Nigel’s memory.

Coventry University - Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR)

Assessing the Impact of Agroecological Practice: Transdisciplinary approaches in contrasting geographical contexts

Agroecology is emerging as an increasingly important alternative to industrialised agro-food systems. Agroecological practices are diverse and vary according to natural, socio-political and economic conditions. The benefits of agroecology, and its potential to contribute to global food security, have been widely celebrated amongst advocates of ecological farming systems, but they have also been strongly contested. In particular, the relationship between agroecology and widely promoted production approaches such as sustainable intensification remains ambiguous and unexplored in many contexts. Methods for rigorous assessment of the impacts of agroecology are still in their infancy. PhD proposals which aim to contribute to the development of better tools and methods for assessing the impacts of agroecology in a variety of different conceptual and geographical settings are therefore invited.  Proposals must include a transdisciplinary methodological approach, and international comparative proposals would be welcomed (ideally UK and one other country, but not restricted to this). Proposals should state whether they wish to focus on one particular set of impacts (e.g. Social impacts) or take a holistic approach which deals with multiple impacts. 

The doctoral candidate will be recruited by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR), Coventry University. Established in 2014, CAWR represents a multi-million research investment by Coventry University. It is comprised of a multi-disciplinary team of 50 research staff and some 35 doctoral students. CAWR’s research develops and integrates new knowledge on the environmental, socio-cultural and economic dimensions of agroecological and hydrological processes, systems and practices, as well as on the pivotal role that communities play in developing resourcefulness and resilience. Research at CAWR encompasses a wide range of disciplines, philosophies, and methodologies.

Doctoral students are an integral part of the CAWR research community. They are regularly invited to participate in CAWR’s thematic group meetings, guest seminars and general staff meetings - thus gaining access to research expertise and mentoring beyond the immediate supervisory team. Our ethos is for PGRs to be fully integrated into the CAWR community and this allows them to gather insight into work culture, practices and norms by working alongside researchers and other professional services staff at the Centre.

Entry criteria for applicants to PHD (standard)
A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the Project element or equivalent with  a minimum 60% overall module average.

In the event of a first degree classification of less than 2:1, a Masters Degree in a relevant subject area will be considered as an equivalent. The Masters must have been attained with overall marks at minimum merit level (60%). In addition, the dissertation or equivalent element in the Masters must also have been attained with a mark at minimum merit level (60%).


  • a taught Masters degree in a relevant discipline, involving a dissertation of standard length written in English in the relevant subject area with a minimum of a merit profile: 60% overall module average and a minimum of a 60% dissertation mark


  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a three-year period of study
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

In all cases the most recent and highest qualification attained will be that utilised for assessment purposes

Additional criteria 

  • a good knowledge of agroecology and sustainable food systems
  • interdisciplinary research skills
  • experience of (or a willingness to quickly learn) about transdisciplinary research

How to apply
Application form, full supporting documentation, and covering letter, plus a 2000-word proposal addressing the research theme.

UK/EU/International students with the required entry requirements.

Duration of study
Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term.

Proposed start date
January 2018

Interview dates
Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates.

Enquiries may be addressed to:

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Midlands of England