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ESRC CASE PhD Studentship: "Challenges in Home to School Transport: Large-Scale School Bus Routing inclusive of Special Needs Students and Heterogeneous Fleets in the North West"

The University of Manchester

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Manchester
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students, International Students
Funding amount: £18,609 tax-free stipend
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 22nd February 2021
Closes: 26th March 2021

A full-time PhD research studentship is available commencing September 2021.  

Theme of the PhD project:

Planning the routes of school buses to transport children from/to school is a widely studied problem in the operations research literature (Park & Kim, 2010) with hundreds of papers written about it. Transporting children is an understandably sensitive topic and the planning of school bus routing has implications for school policies such as school budget and bell-times (Bertsimas et al., 2019)  and the inclusivity of special-needs students (Caceres et al., 2019).  Another reason for this vast literature is the broad range of possible variants of the problem. 

The aim of this project is to improve the school bus system in England, in particular with regards to delivering a satisfactory service to special-needs children, while aiding the decision-making by school districts. The objectives are:

  1. Identify the criteria and constraints that are relevant to the different stakeholders (parents, school district, etc) and other features that are characteristic of England’s school bus system.
  2. Create quantitative decision-making and optimisation models that build upon the broad literature on school bus routing and, possibly, extend it.
  3. Explore the wide range of solution methods available and identify the ones that may be appropriate to the characteristics identified above
  4. Develop new solution methods that are able to address the challenges not addressed by the existing solution methods.
  5. Develop an intelligent decision-aid system able to adapt the solution methodology to the characteristics of particular school districts and the school policy in effect. 
  6. Provide clear evidence that the developed decision-aid system helps decision-makers to produce better plans for school buses.


The successful candidate will be supervised by Prof. Julia Handl and Dr. Manuel Lopez-Ibanez (Management Sciences and Marketing Division at AMBS) and the 365response team led by Dr Chris Jones.

Nature of the Studentship:

The studentship will commence in September 2021 and will be available for three years, with an enhanced stipend equivalent to UKRI rates (£18,609 tax free for 2021/22),  plus an additional allowance of £2000 from 365Response.

Entry Requirements:

Applications are sought from exceptional UK/EU/International candidates with an outstanding academic background in the fields of Business Analytics, Data Science, Operations Research, Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science or Advanced Statistics.  You must demonstrate that you are highly motivated, intellectually astute, with high-level analytical competencies and development skills.

Applicants must hold:

  • 1st or 2:1 Honours degree (or equivalent), and
  • Masters level qualification with Distinction

English Language requirements (where required) are IELTS 7.0, TOEFL 623 (100 ibt), PTE 66.


Candidates should submit a PhD application for the PhD Business & Management, and indicate that they wish to be considered for the ESRC CASE PhD Studentship.

The application must contain the following:

  • A 3000-word research proposal related to the topic, and
  • A written statement clearly indicating how your research competencies and interests to date are aligned with the specific nature of the PhD project.

Application deadline: 26 March 2021


Further details about the project: or enclosing an up-to-date CV and any publication profile. 

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