ESRC/ Scottish Government PhD studentship at the University of Strathclyde

ESRC/ Scottish Government PhD studentship at the University of Strathclyde

Since 2007 public service delivery and reform in Scotland has been aligned with a set of National Outcomes and a single Purpose: “To focus Government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.”  Over time, the Scottish Government, working with its partners in the public, third and private sectors, has developed a distinctive approach to public service delivery and reform to deliver the Purpose and National Outcomes set out in Scotland’s National Performance Framework (  That approach responds to particular strengths and challenges in Scotland seeking to reduce inequalities and to help ensure the long term sustainability of public finances.  The distinctive Scottish approach is committed to protecting and improving public services through reform and efficiency, and in these tough times, the power of public services to enhance quality of life and improve economic opportunities has never been more important.  To successfully reform our services and ensure they improve outcomes, reduce future demand for services and are financially sustainable, innovative approaches to reform are required to understand the needs and capabilities of communities, and through the implementation of the Government’s reform principles; the four pillars of prevention, performance, people and partnership, a recognition of the importance of place and utilising co-production and assets-based methodology to deliver improvement in practice.


Innovative participatory systems-based methods which can help address the challenges of public service reform exist but have not yet been applied in this context.   In this project, the student will draw on three system-based methods (SBMs): Strategic Options Development and Analysis (SODA), Soft Systems Methodology (SSM), and System Dynamics (SD).  The aim is to develop concrete accounts of how these SBMs, SODA, SSM and SD, can be used (in isolation or combination) to help service providers and communities to reform their services in a thoughtful and participative manner.  We envisage the student will undertake a small number of  action research case studies, where we will actively seek to deploy the SBMs in question to help service managers and key stakeholders (e.g. community planning partnerships, third sector) discuss and agree system reforms following the principles of the Scottish approach and the 4 pillars of reform.   The development of the case studies will be informed by insights from What Works Scotland which is expected to be launched in June 2014.


The student will be supervised by Professors Alec Morton and Susan Howick and will be expected to interact regularly with the Scottish Government as the sponsor and part-funder of this proposal.


The studentship covers home tuition fees and a stipend of £13,863 pa for 3 years.  Candidates are required to have an excellent Honours (Undergraduate) degree in a relevant business, scientific or social science subject, and a Masters degree (or equivalent) will be strongly preferred.   An understanding of the Scottish approach to public service delivery and reform would also be desirable.  Interested applicants should send a CV and a short statement of research interest to Professor Alec Morton ( by 31st May.  Applicants need to be eligible for UK/EU fees and should also read and confirm that they are eligible for funding according to the ESRC academic and residential criteria, summarised here:  The selected candidate will also need to be approved by the Scottish Graduate School-Doctoral Training Centre (

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