New Justin and Victoria Ash PhD Scholarship available

Changing the Story: Building Inclusive Civil Societies with, and for, Young People in Post-Conflict Countries”.

Working in partnership with The British Council, the Centre for World Cinemas and Digital Cultures at the University of Leeds is very pleased to be able to offer a full PhD scholarship to support a major international project being led by both organisations - Changing The Story (

This PhD will investigate ways to evaluate arts for social change and participatory arts projects focussed on delivering social reconciliation and transitional justice in the aftermath of conflict, as they are being used in the Changing the Story project, as well as across the British Council’s wider portfolio of art-based activities. 

Justin and Victoria Ash PhD Scholarship

Our specific focus is on the challenges faced by young people - frequently a disproportionately large part of the population in such countries. Even if they did not witness specific historical events, they can still be deeply affected by the memories and still present effects of past violence that have profoundly affected their parent's generation, all of which can shape and limit their capacity to be active change makers in rebuilding their society. In each of the countries.

Changing the Story is working in, participatory arts have played a key role in the construction of post-conflict civil society. Invariably they are considered 'an essential component of peace-building work' (Zelizer 2003). Such initiatives can have immediate, therapeutic impact for participants. They can, of course, also have damaging effects, making people relive trauma, or reinforcing existing power relations. Similarly, they can help to build stronger societies, raising awareness of human rights in the face of, frequently, weak state structures. The role of post-conflict community arts institutions and arts-based programmes working with young people – including locally-grown arts initiatives as well as external interventions – becomes more complex and, perhaps paradoxically, more urgent as time passes and a new generation comes of age with no direct experience of these events, but whose place in society has been fundamentally shaped by them. The successful applicant will work in partnership with researchers across our case-study countries, locally-based civil-society organisations (CSOs), the British Council and its in-country network of partners, in order to develop new methods, and practical toolkits, for engaging young people with the many ways that violent national pasts continue to impact on their communities and countries. Alongside studying for their PhD, the student will study with and have the opportunity to shadow and observe work at the British Council to support their arts-based research and programmes, producing academic papers and policy recommendations that will inform the BC’s global practice.

The kinds of questions the PhD will address include:
1. What lessons can be learnt from the ways in which participatory arts have
attempted to deal with the legacy of past violence on the key issues facing
young people in post-conflict societies today, be it the process of reintegrating
child soldiers recently returned from the Colombian conflict between the
government and the FARC, or how the legacy of apartheid shapes
contemporary attitudes to xenophobia, most specifically the phenomenon of
'undocumented children', in South Africa?
2. How can these lessons be shaped into practical, and sustainable,
development projects on the ground, localising best practice to the situation
faced by specific communities?
3. How can CSOs most effectively share best practice internationally? What are
the policy implications for their work and how can they best be realised?
4. How do participatory art initiatives contribute to the wider development of a
region, including the cultural sector?
5. How might sharing learning from these initiatives across the wider
development sector shape the future practice of development and of civil

The successful postgraduate researcher will be jointly supervised by Paul Cooke at the University of Leeds and Emily Morrison of the British Council. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact Professor Cooke to discuss the project in the first instance (
To apply for this PhD you must:

  • be a UK/EU fee rated applicant
  • have achieved at least a 2:1 honours degree or equivalent at undergraduate level
  • hold/be studying for a relevant Master’s degree or have equivalent
  • professional experience
  • meet the English language requirements of your programme of study if English is not your first language
  • not have already been awarded or be currently studying for a doctoral degree
  • not already be in receipt of a doctoral scholarship.

The successful applicant will receive payment to cover their University tuition fees up to three years, along with a maintenance grant matching the Research Council UK rate - £14,777 for 2018/19.

Applicants will need to apply to the University of Leeds for a place to study and to include a CV with their academic and professional experience, as well as a 500 word proposal in their supporting documents.

Application deadline: 30 June 2018.

This project is open to full-time and part-time applicants.