Three Funded PhD Studentships on Urban Policy, Planning and Technology 

Academic Context and Shared Project 

We are seeking three excellent PhD students to join a community of scholars and fellow students working on urban policy and planning across faculties at the University of Strathclyde. The three positions are fully funded under the “Jeremy Whitehand Doctoral Scholarship Scheme”. 

The three awarded students will have the unique opportunity to work as a team on developing the research base for a project named “People Make Places: A Living Atlas of Urban Form in West of Scotland”. The project is the inaugural initiative of the new Strathclyde Centre of Urban Policy Planning and Technology. The new Centre is expected to start operations in November 2021.  

The focus of the project is on building a dynamic atlas of Glasgow in the West of Scotland, in which the link between digital information and local action is constantly re-generated and actioned. The choice of Glasgow in the West of Scotland allows for hands-on research as well as easy reach to problem-owners and stakeholders. The innovative nature of atlas is based on the dynamic interrelation of spatial, non-spatial and intangible information across the digital and the physical space, data and communities, visuals and the bodymind. The open and interactive aspects of the atlas create a vehicle for engagement, as well as a platform for supporting policy and decision-making.  

Glasgow presents a valuable case for research given it storied history, and its properties as a post-industrial and polycentric city. The atlas presents an opportunity to better understand the city as a complex adaptive system. The project uses an urban ecology / action research perspective to re-invent the connections between the various components of the city across scales. The project builds upon our prior research on social resilience  as well as urban morphometrics (1-4). 

Candidates are expected as a team to proactively take ownership of the project and creatively contribute to shaping it. We are seeking profiles of adventurous scientists willing to break the boundaries between disciplines while pursing disciplinary excellence, at the interface of data science, urban ecology and design, community empowerment and governance innovation. This involves: 1) urban data science and morphometrics; 2) human geography and digital humanities, and 3) data art, simulation and animation. We are recruiting excellent candidates within the three profiles described in the following section.  

Profile Descriptions: 

Profile 1. Urban Data Science and Morphometrics 

The objective of this PhD studentship is to develop the urban morphometric layer of the Atlas, the one related to urban form in the West of Scotland. The student will work in particular in close contact with UDSU - Urban Design Studies Unit at Department of Architecture. The work includes the generation of a numerical taxonomy of the West of Scotland urban form, as well as a new dynamic model of profiling the urban types and develop an effective user model interface. The successful candidate knows how to manage and manipulate geo-databases, model this data through linear, non-linear statistics (e.g. random forests, gradient boosting) and clustering techniques. The candidates should be knowledgeable in GIS software packages, in particular Jupyter Notebook, Pandas and GeoPandas Python libraries. Familiarity with Osmnx and momepy python libraries is desirable. It is important that candidates are versed in map making and data visual communication. 

Profile 2. Human Geography and Digital Humanities 

The objective of this PhD studentship is to help decision-makers and the public better understand the built environment and its implications. Research will contribute to the Atlas of Glasgow in the West of Scotland the spatialized human and social profile of territories, their life and communities. The researcher will interpret, and give meaning to, the innovative geographies of urban form generated in the Atlas, and creatively facilitate the construction of paths of action that make sense to the communities involved locally. This will result in detailed action-studies on the field across a variety of different urban forms. These action-studies will utilize anthropological methods, as well as process mining approaches, to understand the affordances of the city for urban inhabitants. Outcomes of policy interest include the health and welfare as well as the environmental impact of citizens. Examples of these include the creation of social capital or the segregation and mixing of urban populations, creating feelings of safety and social cohesion, the equitable provision of services, and the evolution of mobility. Your role in the team is also, for example, to elicit and supplement the atlas with stories, images or videos of life in specific districts of the city. What constitutes a good urban development, and for which populations, is a topic for continuing study during the Ph.D. Appropriate techniques may include forced choice experiments, surveys and interviews, and mental maps. You will provide research and advice to the team concerning the often complex relationships that exist between lived experiences, urban form and the underlining social and economic drivers of change. Successful candidates should have a background in urban or human geography. Additional training in ethnographic approaches and in process mining will be provided as needed.  

Profile 3. Data Art, Simulation and Animation 

The objective of this PhD is to “make data dancing”. It is about developing strategies and techniques to link up big and small data, digital and experiential information, in order to generate a higher level of integrated cognitive and emotional knowledge in planners, public officers and local stakeholders. This has a twofold objective: on one side to support planners and decision-makers in actively encouraging desirable types of built environment using a full range of measures. On the other, to change the trajectory of decision making by “throwing life into” the picture of the decision-making process. The candidate will work in the team to expand the Atlas by adding data overlays for variables such as land value, infrastructure, green and blue zones, and the provision of public and private services as well as economic and environmental equity. Their work will also help expand the capabilities of the Atlas to display dynamic or animated data that make sense to people at the existential level, in order to elicit a more comprehensive notion of matters and actions and generate policy and design experiments. The results of the PhD can advise policy-making in Glasgow, in Scotland, and in comparable cities internationally. Your role in the team will be to develop a strategy for structuring, simulation and animation of data. Candidates should have a background in simulation or modeling, computer science, animation or computer game design. Additional training in selected areas of simulation and modeling, as well in urban economics and governance will be provided as needed. 

PhD Programme 

You will be registered to the new ESRC accredited graduate programme at Strathclyde in Human Geography, Environment and Urban Planning, under the direct responsibility of professor Sergio Porta and professor Scott Cunningham. In addition to the training provided, you will be able to attend a selection of the classes from various MSc level courses across the university depending on your background, training needs and specific research topic. 

Your work will be conducted within the Centre for Doctoral Training in Urban Policy, Planning and Technology, at the core of the newly established Strathclyde Centre of Urban Policy Planning and Technology. As part of the inaugural flagship project of the new Centre, you will have the chance to contribute setting its agenda and open new ways to innovation in your field. Membership in these centres will enable you to engage with a vibrant community of PhD students and academics consisting of a number of PhD students and academics, meeting weekly. The group has several funded research projects and a publication pipeline in which you will have opportunity to participate. In your second and third year, depending on your progress, you will also have opportunity to contribute to teaching activities. Finally, you will have the opportunity to engage with our external partners who will provide summer internship opportunities to expose you to industry and policy related projects and to gain on-the-job training. 


All candidates must possess a Master degree in disciplines relevant to the aforementioned profiles. Required skills varies according to the profiles as described above. Each of the profiles includes disciplinary knowledge, existing methodological skills, and computational capabilities. Fundamental to all four profiles is interest in interdisciplinary research as well as a creative, proactive and exploratory attitude at the interface between social science and engineering.  

Expected Outputs 

Expected outputs for this studentship would include 3-4* articles in the relevant fields, public engagement events to communicate the students' voice to policymakers, and future grant applications to support signature research in this area.   

Funding details 

Funding includes the following for 36 months from the 01/10/2021: 

  • Waiver for tuition fee (home rate) 
  • £17,000 per annum living stipend (tax free, paid monthly) 
  • IT equipment 
  • Support for conferences and field study (if applicable) 

The funding covers the stipend at the home rate (not the international rate). To be classed as a home student, applicants must meet the following criteria: 

  • Be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or 
  • Have settled status in the UK, or 
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements) in the UK, or 
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter in the UK 


Applicants who do not meet the home tuition rate criteria are still eligible to apply for the scholarships. They would receive the monthly stipend and contribution towards their tuition fee at the home tuition rate, but the difference between the international tuition rate and home tuition rate (currently £10,800 per annum) must be financed by the student or their third-party sponsor.  

Please indicate if you are eligible for the home tuition rate and if not, your additional funding source in your cover letter. We also welcome fully self-funded or externally funded applications for additional places. Please indicate this in your cover letter. 

Pandemic Arrangements 

The health, safety and wellbeing of our staff, students and their families remain at the forefront of decision-making at Strathclyde. Our commitment to providing a first-class learning experience for all our students in a safe and supportive environment is detailed by our Principal, Sir Professor Jim MacDonald, in The Strathclyde Student Pledge. Currently the University of Strathclyde’s on Campus facilities are open to students and staff in a blended learning experience, where arrangements have been established for remote work/study as well as in-presence contact. Updates on the local situation are continuously offered to our students and staff. 


Application Procedure 

Applicants should send the following documents to Scott Cunningham and  Sergio Porta with subject “Application for PhD Scholarships” by Friday September 10 2021. Please complete this in addition to any other application process that may be requested by the university through central administration. Earlier applications are highly encouraged as virtual interviews will be conducted on a rolling basis. Successful candidates will be announced on Friday October 1 2021 for the PhD starting on Monday November 1 2021. 

  • Curriculum Vitae 
  • A cover letter (max 3 pages). This should include: your motivation to pursue a PhD degree, which of the three profiles described above you are applying to and your interest and understanding of the chosen topic. Please also discuss how you meet the eligibility criteria, and the areas in which you would like to grow into the research. 
  • A research proposal is not required at this stage, but we highly recommend that you demonstrate a critical understanding of the topic in your cover letter. 
  • Two academic references: If you are unable to provide the letters, please supply contact details. 
  • Undergraduate and Postgraduate (if applicable) degree transcripts. If you do not have the final formal transcripts yet, preliminary documents are also acceptable. 
  • One piece of a substantial writing sample (e.g. an academic article, thesis, dissertation, project report or assignment). 
  • If your primary language is not English, English language test results. If you do not have any test results yet, this might be evaluated at a later stage. 



  1. M. Fleischmann, O. Romice, S. Porta, Measuring Urban Form: Overcoming Terminological Inconsistencies for a Quantitative and Comprehensive Morphologic Analysis of Cities.Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science10.1177/2399808320910444 (2020). 
  2. M. Fleischmann, A. Feliciotti, O. Romice, S. Porta, Methodological Foundation of a Numerical Taxonomy of Urban Form.arXivpreprint arXiv:2104.14956  (2021). 
  3. M. Fleischmann, momepy: Urban Morphology Measuring Toolkit.The Journal ofOpen Source Software 4, 4 (2019). 
  4. M. Fleischmann, A. Feliciotti, O. Romice, S. Porta, Morphological tessellation as a way of partitioning space: improving consistency in urban morphology at the plot scale.Computers, Environment and Urban Systems80, 101441 (2020).