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PhD Studentship (3 years): From farm to fork: building resilience into our food systems

College of Business & Social Sciences - Studentships

Location:  Aston University Main Campus
Basis:  Full Time
Closing Date:  23.59 hours BST on Friday 15 July 2022
Reference:  R220369
Release Date:  Wednesday 15 June 2022

Applications are invited for a three-year postgraduate studentship, supported by the College of Business and Social Sciences and to be undertaken within the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at Aston University. The studentship is offered in collaboration with the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC)

The position is available to start in October 2022.

Financial Support

This studentship includes a fee bursary to cover the UK/Home fees rate, plus an annual maintenance allowance of £16,062 (current rate for the 2022/23 academic year). International applicants not eligible for UK/Home fees rate will need to show evidence that they will be able to cover the difference between UK/Home and international fees.

Background to the Project

Curry houses are a much-loved feature of the UK’s hospitality sector. But Bangladeshi business owners are facing multiple challenges, including demographic and economic issues now compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and BREXIT. Scarcity of labour and rising costs are putting at risk the viability of small and medium enterprises within the sector. Up until recently, the curry house trade has provided a modicum of security for a community that faces multiple disadvantages. Urgent action is required if this much-loved British institution is to survive, and the potential knock-on effects on others along the food supply chain are to be mitigated. 

In response to the need to develop more sustainable business models, the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at Aston University is collaborating with the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) to offer this fully-funded PhD opportunity focusing on ‘building resilience into our food systems’.

The successful PhD candidate will build on Aston University’s existing relationships with Bangladeshi restaurateurs and caterers in the UK and foster the development of sustainable business models through bringing together a broad base of stakeholders, from across the food supply chain and wider food ecosystem, who all have an important role to play in the conversation. This will involve engaging with producers (farmers and growers), processors, distributers, restaurateurs/caterers, and those who buy their end products, through knowledge sharing and learning. 

While the distribution, hotels and restaurants sector in the UK largely comprises ethnic minorities, with the combined Pakistani and Bangladeshi ethnic group having a higher percentage of workers in the sector than any other ethnic group (30.7%), in contrast, farming in the UK is predominantly white, with 1% of the population owning 50% of the land and 98.6% of farm managers and holders being White-British. There is often very little communication from one end of a food supply chain to the other (i.e., from farm to fork). This PhD is one way to address the disconnect, to create space for open dialogue and people coming from different parts of the food supply chain to explore what the future could hold.

The findings arising from this project will be used to influence critical policy decisions on key issues such as productivity and sustainability of our food systems in the context of BREXIT and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We expect the successful candidate to engage in participatory research with stakeholders across the food sector. Making sense of complex information and narrative will be an important feature of this work. 

Person Specification

The successful applicant should have been awarded, or expect to achieve, a Masters degree in a relevant subject and/or a First or Upper Second-Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution). 


  •  A First or Upper Second-Class Honours degree (or an equivalent qualification from an overseas institution), preferably in a social science, business, or environmental subject.
  • Interest in food supply chains, sustainability, productivity, and inclusion.
  • Enthusiasm for learning and applying qualitative research skills to explore complex issues.
  • Able to engage with practitioners across the food supply chain.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.


The successful candidate will be under the academic supervision of Professor Monder Ram, the Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME). He is a leading authority on small business and ethnic minority entrepreneurship research and has published widely on the subject. He has extensive experience of working in and acting as a consultant to small and ethnic minority businesses.

Project supervision will also be provided the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC) who are partially funding the studentship. The FFCC focuses on connecting food, farming and the public’s health, for a just transition to a greener, fairer economy, in response to the climate, nature and health emergencies. They convene diverse stakeholders to understand needs and priorities in different places and across sectors.

Contact information

For informal enquiries about this project, please contact Professor Monder Ram: 

Submitting an application

As part of the application, you will need to include:

  • A ‘Personal Statement’ detailing how your knowledge and experience meets the essential criteria and what you will gain from the PhD (maximum 1 side of A4)
  • A copy of your current CV (maximum 2 sides of A4)
  • A research proposal that clearly addresses the topics given above with a brief review of relevant research literature (maximum 4 sides of A4)
  • Two academic references
  • Copies of your academic qualifications for your Bachelor degree, and Masters degree; this should include both certificates and transcripts, and must be translated into English if obtained in another language.
  • Proof of your English Language proficiency (if required)

Details of how to submit your application, and the necessary supporting documents can be found here

Please select ‘Aston Business School Research Degree Programme (Oct 2022)’ from the application form options.

Please include the supervisor’s name, project title and project reference in your Personal Statement.

If you require further information about the application process, please contact the Postgraduate Admissions team at

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