PhD: Wrestling With Social Value: An Examination of Methods and Approaches For Heritage Management and Conservation

University of Stirling

The University of Stirling is offering a funded PhD Studentship in collaboration with Historic Environment Scotland (HES). The studentship provides costs of Home/EU fees and student maintenance (at AHRC rates) for 3 years of PhD study. International students are welcome to apply, but will be liable for the difference between Home and International fees. The successful candidate will be expected to commence study on 1st January 2018.

Heritage is a rapidly growing area of research excellence at the University of Stirling and this is an exciting time to join us. Recent academic appointments in the fields of heritage and conservation have led to a growing cohort of PhD students and we also have an MSc in Environment, Heritage and Policy. PhD students working on heritage topics benefit from membership of the Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy. Research impact, public engagement and knowledge exchange are an integral aspect of our research on heritage. HES is a key heritage research partner for the University. Collaboration is underpinned by a formal partnership between the two organisations (and Forth Valley College) to promote and develop expertise and training in heritage and conservation.

The University of Stirling and Faculty of Arts and Humanities:

Founded by Royal Charter in 1967, the University of Stirling was the first genuinely new university in Scotland for over 400 years. It has a pioneering spirit and a passion for innovation and excellence. The University aims to be at the forefront of research and learning that helps to improve lives. Working with academic, commercial, public, private and voluntary sector partners, Stirling is one of the UK’s leading research universities in the fields of health and wellbeing, the environment and people, culture and society, enterprise and the economy, and sport.

Postgraduate research students are integral to our academic community, generating new knowledge and ideas to meet the needs of a global society. PhD students at Stirling work with leading academics who provide advice, guidance, direction and support, ensuring students fulfil their potential. The postgraduate student experience is often deeply embedded in Faculties and academic Divisions, however students also benefit from being part of Stirling Graduate School, which provides additional student training and resources.

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities is one of the largest in the University. Our subject areas are renowned for international and world leading research. The Faculty encompasses four multidisciplinary divisions: Communications, Media and Culture; History and Politics; Literature and Languages; and the Stirling Law School and Philosophy. This studentship will be based in the Division of History and Politics and closely associated with the Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy:

Historic Environment Scotland (HES):

Historic Environment Scotland is the lead public body for the historic environment in Scotland. It is a Non-Departmental Public Body with charitable status and a wide remit of regulatory and enabling functions. Specifically it is charged to lead and enable the heritage sector to deliver maximum benefit to the people of Scotland by conserving and enabling access to the spectrum of Scotland’s historic environment. Encouraging research is a major element in this role, as is the management of the portfolio of 336 historic properties under the care of Scottish Government. HES has a staff of 1,280 across Scotland and 4 million people visit its sites each year. Working with HES offers this studentship unparalleled opportunities for dissemination and impact, both in practice and policy contexts. HES’s new Engine Shed in Stirling offers state of the art facilities for training in heritage conservation.

The Studentship: 

The AHRC’s Cultural Value Project highlighted a pressing need for further qualitative social research on the value of Arts and Culture, including heritage (Understanding the Value of Arts and Culture, 2016). The aim of this collaborative doctoral project is to develop a better understanding of how to capture ‘social value’ in a variety of ‘real-world’ heritage contexts. The doctoral student will develop and trial an innovative suite of rapid qualitative methods for examining social values and produce a methodological ‘toolkit’ that can meet the needs of the heritage conservation profession. It will provide Scotland’s lead public heritage organisation, Historic Environment Scotland (HES), with a firmer evidence base to inform policy, guidance and decision-making at national and local levels. More broadly, it aims to deepen understanding of the social value of the historic environment and allow the heritage sector, in Scotland and beyond, to better demonstrate its impact upon society. Whilst the research context is a national one, the problems that the project addresses are global in scope and the results of the research will be of international significance in terms of both academic debate and heritage management practice.

Research questions:

  • How can we better understand and evidence the social values associated with the historical environment?
  • What are the barriers in terms of institutional values, expertise, time and resources?
  • What kinds of rapid qualitative research methods are best suited to examining social values in ‘real-world’ heritage contexts?
  • What kinds of knowledge do these methods produce?
  • How can these be adapted to different aspects of management/conservation and different kinds of historic environment?
  • How do these deepen our understanding of the social value of the historic environment?

While the student will be able to shape the exact parameters of the project, the doctoral project will involve the development of a suite of rapid qualitative methods for assessing social value. These will be applied to different aspects of the historic environment, and different management and conservation contexts, in Scotland. The student will take a lead role in the selection of case studies in consultation with the supervisory team. Towards the end of the doctoral research the student will develop and pilot a ‘toolkit’ for practical application with guidelines and resources. He/she will also facilitate use of the toolkit through publications, workshops, and training.

This original research project will produce a high quality doctoral thesis providing new knowledge and understanding of the social values associated with Scotland’s historic environment and the advantages and disadvantages of the methodologies used. The research will be highly significant in terms of both advancing academic understanding and impacting on professional practice. It will bridge a gap between heritage conservation instruments, which place increasing emphasis on social value, and routine heritage management, where social value remains poorly addressed and understood. It will also lead to a more sophisticated understanding of how methods can be combined to evidence the social value of heritage, which can be ‘scaled-up’ to other aspects of Arts and Culture. In addition to the PhD thesis and the ‘toolkit’, the student will take the lead on a joint-authored journal article with the supervisory panel.

Supervision, resources, training and location:

The PhD student will be jointly supervised by Siân Jones (Professor of Heritage) in History and Politics at the University of Stirling and Judith Anderson (Cultural Significance Advisor) at HES. The supervisory panel will also include Peter Matthews (Senior Lecturer in Sociology) and Karen Robertson (Senior Research Manager at HES). The student will join a lively community of PhD students and participate in the research skills training provided by the University. HES will also provide training as well as a comprehensive introduction to the role and functions of the organisation. Networking will be encouraged by introductions to key sector stakeholders, such as Built Environment Forum Scotland and relevant government policy officials. The student will be able to access up to £1,500 p/annum for the costs of fieldwork, travel, equipment and transcription. HES will support the costs of producing the ‘toolkit’ and the training workshops.

The student will spend most of the first year at the UoS, whilst making regular visits to HES for supervision and institutional induction/training. During this time he/she will conduct background research relating to the wider intellectual and applied heritage contexts. He/she will also gain training in the relevant methodologies and skills. During the second year the student will spend at least 50% of their time in internship at HES or conducting fieldwork. The final year of the award will be split between UoS, where the student will be engaged in analysis and writing up, and HES, where he/she will develop and trial the toolkit and deliver workshops and training.

Who can apply: 

  • Applicants should have a good undergraduate degree (2:1 or 1st or comparable) and the equivalent of a Distinction or Merit in a Master’s degree (or one near completion).
  • Applicants who do not have a master’s qualification, but who have significant relevant professional experience will also be considered.
  • Relevant subjects include Heritage, Museum and/or Conservation Studies, as well as Archaeology, Social Anthropology, Sociology, and Cultural Geography.
  • Experience of study/research in the following areas is particularly welcome: monuments, memory, place and identity; architecture and the built environment; social and cultural value; heritage management; and the relationship between tangible and intangible heritage.
  • Research training is part of the studentship, but some experience of relevant qualitative social research methods is desirable.
  • This studentship provides Home/EU fees and student maintenance (at AHRC rates). International students are welcome to apply, but will be liable for the difference between Home and International fees.

The application – applicants should submit:

  • A summary curriculum vitae (max 2 pages).
  • An example of recent academic writing (e.g., MSc/MLitt essay or dissertation).
  • A short statement (1 page max.) outlining your qualification for the studentship, your reasons for applying, and your initial thoughts on how you would approach the project.
  • Applicants without a Master’s qualification should include an additional statement (1 page max.) outlining the relevant professional skills, experience and knowledge they have gained beyond undergraduate degree level, that could be considered equivalent to Master’s study.
  • Scanned copies of degree certificate(s) and transcripts of marks. (NB if your Masters degree is not yet awarded please submit a transcript of marks to date).
  • Two academic references on headed paper (to be submitted direct to

Applications should be submitted via email to by 6th October at 12pm (midday BST). References should be submitted to this email by the same deadline. Interviews for short-listed candidates will be held on the Tuesday 31st October at the University of Stirling (or by Skype where necessary).

Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Professor Siân Jones ( and Judith Anderson ( for informal enquiries.