Building capacity for more sustainable and equitable governance of the rangeland commons in South Africa

Building capacity for more sustainable and equitable governance of the rangeland commons in South Africa

Eligibility: UK/EU/International graduates with the required entry requirements  

Funding details: Tuition plus Bursary

Duration: Full-Time – between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 15 May 2020

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2020

For queries contact Dr James Bennett

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship affiliated to Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience.

The studentship will co-supervised with Centre for Peace Trust and Social Relations (CTPSR) at CU and Conservation South Africa (CSA), in South Africa. Funding is available for 3.5 years and the studentship will commence in September 2020.


Communal rangelands within South Africa provide a range of important ecosystem services (e.g. water, grass for grazing of livestock and thatching, timber and fuelwood), sustaining the livelihoods of local people. This research studentship will build on an existing BBSRC-GCRF award (2019-2021) examining trade-offs between different stakeholders (policy makers, NGOs, communities) with an interest in the use and management of the rangeland commons in South Africa.

The project has begun to co-construct with these stakeholders alternative land use and management scenarios to meet a range of different environmental and social outcomes. These have included removal of invasive alien plants such as wattle (Acacia spp), which opens up more land for grazing as well as providing timber and fuelwood, and alternative livestock management practices (e.g. resting of rangeland leading to greater availability of grass for forage). However, in the context of limited institutional capacity and the continued marginalisation of many groups such as women from the use of rangeland in these communities, it is critical to characterise in more detail the social and ecological benefits that are accruing from these practices (what, how, to whom and how much), as well as their efficacy and sustainability over the longer term. 

The studentship will focus on addressing these unknowns, using a mixture of social and environmental research. The student will be seconded to the South Africa partner during the second year of the studentship to undertake their fieldwork in the Mvenyane community of Eastern Cape Province.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

Entry requirements

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
    the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a 3.5 years.
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

The candidate must be a self-starter happy to spend one year undertaking fieldwork in a rural community in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa. They can potentially be from any academic background (typically geography, agriculture, environmental studies or agriculture) but must be confident collecting and working with quantitative data from both the sciences and social sciences as well as qualitative data and in using appropriate methods to do so. They must also have a full, clean drivers licence and be prepared to drive on dirt roads as part of their fieldwork.


How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr James Bennett

To apply online please visit PGR plus website.

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Apply to Coventry University