The University of Edinburgh, in partnership with AHRC, SGSAH and the BBC are offering a 3.5-year full-time/7-year part-time funded PhD.

Value: Tuition fees and £15,609 stipend (pro-rata for part-time)
Eligibility: Open to Home and International applicants.

Qualification: PhD (School of Design)

Location: Edinburgh

Fee Rate: Open to Home and International applicants and tuition fees are covered. Potential applicants should note the eligibility requirements for this studentship published by UKRI at

Duration: 3 years and six months, full-time / 7 years part-time (September 2021 start)



A flourishing, balanced and active media is the cornerstone of our contemporary political system. Within Europe, this role is most reliably performed by Public Service Media (PSM), and in the UK this function is performed by the BBC. However, the media climate is broad and we have seen a substantial decline in quality of information, public media literacy, nuance of debate, and agonism (the positive facets of political disagreement) all of which dramatically influence participation.

PSM in particular plays a core role in upholding democratic values and rights including ‘the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information’ (article 10, European Convention on Human Rights). It strives to provide access to verified and balanced information and promotes values core to contemporary democratic political systems (democracy, diversity, fairness and social cohesion).

Fierce competition within the attention economy, the rise of misinformation and the proliferation of dark design have become core influences in public opinion and strongly influence the nature of participation, by design. All of these factors coalesce to create a climate within which PSM is both critically needed but also tightly limited.

In the current climate of disinformation, public judgement is filtered through a network of complex design patterns, opaque algorithmic rankings and direct misinformation, and all of this is designed in ways to appear seamless and legitimate to the user.  This trend sits in direct opposition to the tenets of PSM, which seek to present balanced and verified information.

The Project

This project will explore new models of civic media and participation in order to promote public good. Specifically, it will ask questions such as; How can Public Service Media be leveraged to create new models of public participation, by design?  Working with the BBC, we anticipate that this will be addressed through (a) a qualitative study of UK PSM values and practices, (b) the co-development and iteration of a range of participation prototypes, and (c) deployment and evaluation of prototypes in context. These are indicative methods.  The successful applicant will be expected to tailor the methodology to their research questions and skillset.

The PhD will be based in the School of Design at Edinburgh College of Art in the University of Edinburgh. The student will be supervised by Dr Ewa Luger at Edinburgh College of Art and Prof John Vines from the School of Informatics (University of Edinburgh) in addition to supervision from Drs Rhianne Jones and Michael Evans at BBC Research and Development in Salford. The student will have the opportunity to be based at a BBC site for 6 months of the studentship.

The Person

This is a multidisciplinary research area, and we are keen to receive applications from people with a wide range of experience and from across the academic disciplines. For example, you might come from a politics or social science background and be keen to understand how to develop and evaluate prototype example of your ideas. Alternatively, perhaps your academic qualifications are from the computer sciences or Design, but you wish to engage more with theory or social science. Candidates from entirely different academic disciplines are also welcome, particularly if they have relevant professional experience, such as in the media industry or the third sector.

Regardless of previous specialism, the successful applicant for the studentship should (by September 2021) have a First or high Upper-Second class honours degree and, preferably, a Masters-level qualification or comparable professional experience.  A key aim of this studentship is to help develop a future research leader in this important domain. As such, candidates should expect to learn new, cross-disciplinary skills during the project, including those related to empirical study design, data science/analysis and cutting-edge technology.


Prior experience and key attributes


  • First or upper-second class Honours degree or equivalent,
  • Masters-level degree (or equivalent experience) in Design, Human Computer Interaction (HCI), Politics, Social Sciences or an area relevant to the PhD
  • Demonstrable ability to work independently and willingness to work within a project context within the BBC
  • A real and demonstrable interest in civic media and participation
  • Willingness to engage with a broad range of audiences to disseminate the work
  • Willingness to travel between the BBC (site tbc) and Edinburgh, as required


  • An understanding of use of technology in and by the Media
  • Experience of fieldwork (ethnographic/interview/observation)
  • Experience of prototype development
  • Understanding of contemporary interaction challenges across new forms of media

Applicants will need to meet the requirements of postgraduate studies at the university, and will also apply through the University of Edinburgh’s online application system.

How to Apply

Apply for the PhD Design through the University of Edinburgh’s online postgraduate application system by no later than 21st May 2021.

Applications should be accompanied by:

a) A CV, certified copies of degree certificates and transcripts, the details of two referees and proof of eligibility (e.g. a copy of your passport or residence permit)

b) A short example of writing (e.g. chapter, paper, blog or article)

c) A statement/proposal of no more than two pages describing:

  • Research Proposal (500-1,000 words approx.)
  • Qualifications and/or Relevant Professional Experience (300 words approx.)
  • Preparedness for Doctoral Project (300 words approx.)
  • Personal Statement (300 words approx.)
  • Assessment of your Supervision & Training Needs (300 words approx.)

IMPORTANT: please also send an email to the ECA Postgraduate Research team:  stating that you wish to be considered for the “Redesigning Civic Media” AHRC/SGSAH PhD studentship, and noting that you have made an online application.  This allows us to fast track your application on the online postgraduate application system.

For queries about the application process please contact .

For further information about the PhD

Please contact Dr Ewa Luger ( or Dr Rhia Jones (


  • Closing date for applications: Friday 21st May 2021
  • Interviews are provisionally scheduled: Tuesday 1st June 2021 (date/time to be confirmed)
  • PhD Start date: September 2021

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