The JSLF PhD Studentship on UK natural environment


The John Spedan Lewis Foundation is a UK nature charity established in 1964 to continue the interests of John Spedan Lewis, the founder of employee-owned retailer the John Lewis Partnership.

In 2022 the JSLF is launching a new PhD studentship and seeks proposals from UK universities[1] and their collaborators to address a research question relevant to the UK natural environment, including natural history and conservation.

The JSLF invites applications from prospective academic supervisors who demonstrate how they will widen participation from underserved communities. Proposals are welcomed from across the natural sciences, social sciences and humanities and panels of mixed academic disciplines are encouraged.

Who can apply:
We seek expressions of interest from prospective PhD supervisors in the UK.

The research project must be designed by a supervisory panel, with a minimum of two supervisors (ideally from different organisations), and with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.

We would prefer proposals that include supervisors from mixed disciplines and multiple organisations (including industry, public sector or non-profit expertise among the supervisors).

Funding award:
Acknowledging that socio-economic barriers to participation can include carer responsibilities, and other financial commitments such as supporting household/ family income, we offer a PhD stipend (fixed sum) that is higher than that recommended by UKRI.

The student stipend (including London weighting) starts in year 1 at £22,228, and increases incrementally to £25,142 in the third and final year, or pro rata equivalent for part-time PhD students.

We expect to be able to provide supervisory teams with a further £10,000 per annum for research costs, professional development fees for the student, and university fees.

The research topic:
The topic must be relevant to the UK natural environment (including natural and conservation).

PhD candidate recruitment:

The PhD academic supervisory panel will lead the PhD candidate selection process.

Recruitment should be in line with the Equalities Act 2010, in addition to satisfying the requirements of the funding opportunity outlined above.

The JSLF Trustees have the right to veto PhD candidate selection if they do not think the candidate profile fulfils the objectives of the Studentship award.


How to apply:

At this stage, Expressions of Interest are invited from supervisory panels for a proposed PhD research project.

Please send the following documents as attachments to Ruth Bone (JSLF Secretary) by email by 17 hrs BST, Friday 20th May 2022.


Supervisory panel
Please provide short biographies of all members of the supervisory panel, including:

  • PhD supervision experience (or equivalent experience of coaching/ mentoring for non-university co-supervisors)
  • A summary of research experience
  • Experience supporting students from under-served communities in academia (e.g. supervision, mentoring, involvement in Widening Participation activities)
  • Relevant qualifications
  • Role and responsibilities in the proposed supervisor panel

[500 word limit per supervisor. Full CVs may be requested at a later stage for shortlisted proposals].

Please note:

  • The panel must comprise a minimum of two supervisors.
  • Roles and responsibilities of the primary and secondary supervisors should be clearly outlined.
  • Interdisciplinary projects are encouraged, and co-supervisors from outside academia are very welcome.
  • The primary supervisor should have regular supervision meetings with the student either in person, via video conference or by phone, normally at least once every month, or part-time equivalent.
  • The PhD student will be invited to submit annual reports to the Board of Trustees on the quality of supervision and university support.


Outline research proposal  [1000 word limit]

The topic must be relevant to the UK natural environment, including natural history and conservation.

Please provide a proposal outlining:

  • Title
  • Research objectives
  • Methods:
    • We welcome research methods and approaches that best serve the research topic and the PhD candidate
  • Anticipated outcomes/ impact, to advance the research topic.
  • A brief statement of plans for the PhD candidate’s career development, including an outline of resources available at the host institution.
    • In line with the Researcher Development Concordat (2019), a minimum 10 days per annum (pro-rata) should be dedicated to the PhD candidate’s engagement in professional development activities. This should not only include networking, conference attendance and acquisition of skills relevant for an academic research career. There should in addition be explicit provision for training to support transition to non-academic career paths.
    • Please note: Host institutions will be required to periodically provide evidence of the effectiveness of the PhD candidate’s career development plan.
  • Budget estimates:
    • Research costs: At this stage this can be an estimate, to be finalised during the shortlisting process
    • Professional development and networking opportunities
    • Please note: We will request annual financial reports against the final, approved budget


Evidence of university support (primary supervisor’s host university) and PhD candidate recruitment:

The application must be supported by a letter (as an attachment) from the Widening Participation team of the primary supervisor’s university, outlining:

  • The university’s approach to PhD candidate recruitment from historically under-served backgrounds in academia.
  • How student recruitment for this project will achieve our widening participation aims.

We request that:

  • High tariff universities waive a 2.1 or Masters degree requirement for PhD applicants for this award.
  • The university is open to applications from mature students with equivalent life experience.
  • The university is supportive of alternative modes of study, including part-time hours, to accommodate students with time-limiting or financial commitments.


Deadline for Expressions of Interest (PHASE 1): 17 hrs BST, Friday 20th May 2022.

Next steps

Shortlisted Expressions of Interest will be asked to submit an extended application with a more detailed research proposal and budget.

Shortlisted PhD supervisors from Phase 2 will be invited to interview with JSLF Trustees.

[1] England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Get in touch

The JSLF Secretary Ruth can be contacted by email with questions or comments on this new opportunity: or