Research into employment, empowerment and futures

Qualifications Duration Start dates Application period
(MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
February and October April to July
(February start)
November to February (October start)
PhD (MPhil also available)
Full time: 3–4 years
Part time: 6–8 years
Start dates
February and October
Application period
April to July (February start)
November to February (October start)

The Centre for Research into Employment, Empowerment and Futures (REEF) focuses on researching employment and organisations that offer empowerment and a compelling vision of a more egalitarian future for work. Bearing this commitment in mind, researchers are interested in technology at work, issues of racial justice, environmental justice, innovations in leadership and worker inquiry, gender equality at work, ethical practices and the production of knowledge and innovative methods for researching empowering practice. Students within REEF would be part of a thriving and welcoming academic community which values public and practitioner engagement as well as the production of world-class research.

Entry requirements

Minimum 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent). If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to prove your knowledge of English.

Potential research projects

  • Worker inquiry for just work: Such proposals would seek to build knowledge from the experiences of workers in organising for justice. The centre has a particular emphasis on the experiences of gig economy workers and workers organising through trade unions. We are particularly interested in projects that propose a gender and/or race component to the worker inquiry studies.
  • Racial (in)injustice at work: Projects would seek to enrich understanding of how racial injustice manifests in contemporary contexts that claim ‘colour-blind’ status; the centre is particularly interested in studies that explore manifestations of institutional, embedded racisms. Equally, we invite projects that develop understanding of organising and leadership in the pursuance of racial justice. In particular in this area, we are interested in projects that adopt an intersectional approach, embedding rich socio-economic analyses. Studies that account for geography and urbanism within leadership for racial justice and resistance against racial injustice are particularly desirable.
  • Anticipatory action under radical uncertainty – imagining and making the future.
  • Environmental activism: Projects in this area would focus on the democratic practice and leadership of activists, unions, community groups and ethical businesses in working towards a just transition to a green economy or a re-envisioning of the economy for a green new deal. We are particularly interested in projects that propose a gender and/or race component to the study of environmentalism.
  • Leadership, collaboration and learning for environmental change in business: Projects in this area would explore a. how businesses transition to more environmentally friendly approaches and b. how organisations, such as environmental charities, mediate the transition of businesses to more environmentally friendly practices.
  • Community organising: Such proposals could focus on learning from campaigns for community justice, in terms of the provision of essential life and local services, such as affordable and healthy housing. A gender and/or race component to such proposals is encouraged.
  • Technology and serious games: Projects in this area would explore how games can mediate organisational learning and innovation.
  • Organisational ethics and justice: Projects in this area would explore the everyday constitution of ethical practice.
  • We particularly welcome proposals under any of these headings that employ innovative research methods, such as visual or arts-based methods.

Potential supervisors

Fees and funding

UK fee International fee
Full time: £4,786 per year Full time: £12,146 per year
Part time: £2,393 per year Part time: £6,073 per year

Some of our research students are funded via The Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership or the Open-Oxford-Cambridge AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership; some are funded by University studentships; others are self-funded.

For detailed information about fees and funding, visit Fees and studentships.

To see current funded studentship vacancies across all research areas, see Current studentships.


Women in a library

How to apply

Get in touch

If you have an enquiry specific to this research topic, please contact:

Lin Nilsen

Email: FBL-PHD
Phone: +44 (0)1908 858365

Apply now

If you’re interested in applying for this research topic, please take a look at the application process.