Doctoral academy

Doctoral academy | Centres and institutes | University of Leeds

The CERIC Doctoral Academy was established in 2005 and has trained over 60 researchers. Each year, CERIC welcomes around six new doctoral researchers and our current cohort number is around 20.

Our doctoral researchers come from a diverse range of countries within Europe, Asia, Africa and North America, and are engaged in cutting-edge research on a broad range of topics within the area of work and employment, including:

  • Migration
  • Labour market disadvantage
  • Pay
  • Vocational education
  • Gender and work

Doctoral researchers are integrated into our CERIC research community through our regular CERIC seminars, the ‘Big Ideas’ papers in progress sessions, Reading Groups and CERIC research lunches.

Doctoral Conference

The annual CERIC doctoral conference typically takes place in May and is now recognised as a leading conference for doctoral researchers to present their work to leading experts. There are prizes awarded for the best paper (£500 towards attendance at a conference of choice) and best poster presentation (£100). 

In addition to the Business School-funded training and development fund and the conference match funding scheme for every doctoral researcher, CERIC provides funding towards additional activities to train the next generation of engaged researchers.

The CERIC Doctoral Programme Directors are Dr Charles Umney and Dr Ioulia Bessa.

Recently completed PhD projects

Cheryl Hurst (2020)

Interpreting gender equality initiatives: a discourse analytic study in higher education institutions

My doctoral thesis examines women’s continued underrepresentation in leadership roles in higher education institutions by exploring leaders’ constructions of gender equality initiatives. The thesis highlights how leaders contribute to the creation and maintenance of existing organizational culture. The study specifically combines critically-oriented approaches to discourse analysis with the identification of dominant interpretative repertoires to theorize the relationship between leaders’ text and talk and women’s underrepresentation. My research contributes to existing literature by identifying conflicting accounts of the values that underpin equality initiatives and by identifying how leaders use pre-existing discourses to legitimize unmeritocratic practices. This demonstrates complex connections embedded within gender (in)equality, discourse, and institutional leadership. When taken together, the findings illustrate that participants construct the need for transformative cultural change while resisting initiatives that lead to this change. This is referred to as the intervention paradox. Thus, although a vocal commitment to gender equality is identified, the paradox that underpins this commitment has ideological consequences for how initiatives are presented by leaders and decision makers. The thesis suggests that this paradox contributes to, and is constitutive of, a process of means-ends decoupling, where the means (initiatives) participants promote are disconnected from the ends (goals). This shows that leaders and stakeholders mobilize their discourse to construct gender equality initiatives in a way that promotes and legitimizes their effective commitment to change, and adheres to the overall goals of ‘gender equality’ in institutions, while simultaneously employing discursive strategies that work to maintain and (re)produce the existing status quo.

Supervised by Professor Jennifer Tomlinson and Professor Jean Clark

Maisie Roberts (2020)

My PhD explored how institutional and policy-led changes impacted the organisation of apprenticeships at the workplace level in England and Germany. Centred on two in-depth case studies in the chemical sector, it drew on 45 semi-structured interviews apprentices, managers, union representatives, training providers, labour market institutions and other associated actors.

My PhD integrated different social, political and cultural schools of thought within the apprenticeship literatures, challenging previous accounts which typically studied apprenticeships in a vacuum. In particular, my research examined how wider institutional and policy-led changes impacted apprentices’ identities and agency in their transition into work, the politics of apprentices’ skill formation within the workplace and apprentices’ learning experiences within their respective workplace cultures.

Arguing that previous studies have privileged certain actors over others, my research provided an inclusive and empirical multi-level account of how policy was implemented in practice by foregrounding the perspectives of all relevant apprenticeship actors. Departing from previous technocratic perspectives, my study also advocated for a comparative approach that recognises the institutional differences between apprenticeships but also embraces complexity and change.  

Supervised by Professor Mark Stuart and Dr Vera Trappmann

Meenakshi Sarkar (2019)

In a taxi, stuck or going places? A Bourdieusian intersectional analysis of the employment habitus of Pakistani taxi drivers in the UK

My PhD is an ethnographic research about occupational segregation focussing on British Pakistani men working as taxi drivers. Almost one in four Pakistani men in the UK drive taxis for a living (EHRC, 2010). This figure has doubled from one in eight in 1991, and is high for British Pakistani men compared to ‘one in a hundred of the whole population’ (McEvoy and Haveez, 2009). For ethnic minorities working in low-paid occupations, occupational segregation can lead to inequality (Blackwell, 2003), and it has a long-lasting effect on intergenerational mobility (Corak, 2013). A largely masculine occupation, taxi driving is a rarely studied occupation, and has mostly been considered as a ‘marginal form of self-employment’ (McEvoy and Haveez, 2009) or an ‘immigrant’s job’ (Waterman and Kosmin, 1986). The study aimed to identify the structural and cultural factors affecting ethnic minorities in accessing standard employment in the British labour market and to understand how such (self) employment decisions are made. Drawing upon Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of social reproduction and feminist scholarly work on intersectionality, this study explored to what extent taxi driving is a choice or whether there are factors that constrain the employment opportunities for the men in this ethnic group. The central contribution advanced in my thesis is the nuances of the structure-agency debate in sociology through the case of Pakistani taxi drivers in the UK, by integrating intersectionality to the framework in the field of work and employment. A new metaphor for structure is offered as a CAGE like structure, as the intersection of class, affiliation (religious), gender and ethnicity, forming the habitus of Pakistani taxi drivers, affects the life chances and shapes the occupational choices of individuals. This has implications for policy and practice in terms of education, support in the early career years, and better practices to eradicate structural racism in the labour market.

Supervised by Jane Holgate and Gabriella Albert

Kosisochukwu Itodo (2019)

Title: The Impact of Restructuring, Liberalisation and Privatisation on Employment Relations in Developing Economies: A case study of the Nigerian Electricity Distribution Sector.

My PhD presents a detailed analysis of the restructuring, liberalisation and privatisation of a public enterprise and its employment relations implications within the context of a sub-Sharan African country, Nigeria. The study contextualises this investigation through an assessment of how the historical trajectory of reforms in the Nigerian Electricity Distribution Sector (NEDS) from 1940 to 2013, the underlining political interest that informed the reforms and the development of employment relations in the sector (1940s and 1990s), influenced the pace, design and implementation of the privatisation process (1999-2013), the Labour Based Agreement (an agreement between the government and union pre-privatisation which guaranteed job security and continued union involvement in the employment relations of the sector post-privatisation) in 2011 and the union’s responses during and post-privatisation.

While there are many comparative accounts of privatisation and employment relations, more academic interest is required to understand how a trade union’s conceptualisation of a strategic response during the privatisation process influences employment outcomes between survivors of privatisation and recruits in sub-Sharan African context. In order to explore this, the study employs a qualitative and embedded case study strategy that involved document analysis, 117 semi-structured interviews and diagrammatic with actors at the macro (policy and union representatives) and meso levels (survivors and recruits). The findings demonstrate that privatisation and the employment relations in the NEDS initially reflected government aspirations for a positive policy change that would improve efficiency in the sector and employment relations processes. However, the study concludes that the political interference in the process and the inability of the union to conceptualise a strategic response to the process resulted in a post-privatisation outcomes that allowed for a  multi-level employment relations with a near absence of collective bargaining which directly contrasted the ostensible intent of the Labour Based Agreement. Therefore, privatisation and implementation of the LBA depended not only on the political objective to privatise and institutional limitations within the political economy, but the union’s inability to conceptualise an effective strategic response to the process.

Supervised by Dr Ian Greenwood and Professor Robert MacKenzie

Marina Boulos (2019)

Understanding stress management intervention success: A case study-based analysis of what works and why

My thesis investigates the process behind stress management interventions (SMIs). This includes the design, implementation and evaluation of interventions (both formative and summative), along with exploring the roles of involved stakeholders. Although there exists a plethora of studies around work-related stress across several disciplines, they are predominantly focused on the effects of stress on individuals, organisations and society, highlighting the various costs which are associated with it. However, studies on SMIs are less common, particularly ones with detailed accounts of the SMI process. As a result, this hinders our understanding of which SMIs work for whom in what context (Biron, 2012), making it difficult for forthcoming studies to benefit from the results. A multiple case study research, of a higher education institute (Russell University) and an Arm’s Length (ALMO) housing association (Bravo City Homes), was conducted to address what the literature has neglected. Specifically, it examined the various steps of the SMI process, highlighting the key roles of the involved stakeholders, while contrasting the effects that context had across two different sectors. This was done through forty semi-structured interviews with relevant stakeholders from both organisations to gain retrospective insight into the SMI processes, understand their role and what they perceived it to be, and to evaluate what helped and hindered the success of SMIs. It was found that giving each step of the research process sufficient attention from each of the relevant stakeholders was key. The lack of communication around who the relevant stakeholders were significantly hindered the interventions. Managers, in particular, were found to be crucial to SMI success by supporting the interventions and enhancing communication. Other stakeholders whose roles were found to be vital were Human Resources and trade unions, which have also been neglected in the literature.

Interested to know more? You can find my whole thesis here: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/24856/

Supervised by Chris Forde and Jo Ingold

Matthew Cole (2018)

My thesis research examines the relationships between commodification, cooperation and conflict through the experiences of workers in the London hospitality industry. I am interested in the intersections of Marxist political economy, the study of the labour process, and the effects of technology on work and employment relations. I aim to conduct future research on digital platforms, automation and value production in service work.

Supervised by David Spencer, Mark Stuart, Kate Hardy

Jiachen Shi (2018)

The Development of Strategic Human Resource Management in the Chinese Financial Services Sector: Understanding the Roles of External Economic Factors and the State

My doctorate has sought to understand the roles of economic factors and the state in shaping HRM at organisational level. A single case study of the Chinese financial service sector with multiple firms is used. China is a particularly interesting context to look at as it is a case where economic change and the role of the state are closely connected. It is difficult to decouple these two sets of factors, and it would seem likely in the Chinese case that both could have a profound effect on each other and on systems of HRM. Moreover, most existing models of strategic HRM assume that good ‘fit’ between practices and the environment is possible (as well as fit amongst HRM practices). Also that better fit is desirable and a means through which organisations can improve performance. But what about non-fit? Firms that are moving towards better fit, by definition, have non-fit. Through 59 semi-structured interviews with policy makers, employers and employees from the Chinese financial services sector, the key contribution of the thesis is in its examination of ‘fit’ and ‘non-fit’ of SHRM in Chinese firms. Having non-fit may be temporary, or more permanent. Some non-fit may be systematic, and may actually arise from firms trying to adapt to the external environment, or policies of the state. This would seem particularly likely during periods of rapid change.  Furthermore, is non-fit necessarily a ‘poor’ outcome? Can firms still achieve good or good enough HR outcomes without close fit? My thesis seeks to Illuminate the idea that actively choosing ‘non-fit’ at both strategic and implementation level may enhance the effectiveness of organisational operation under certain circumstances. This non-fit can occur at strategic and more operational levels. I set out what these circumstances are, and how actions of the state in China may actually lead firms towards long-term non-fit in practices, in spite of stated aims of the state to move towards SHRM.

Supervised by Professor Chris Forde and Dr Hugh Cook

Frederike Scholz (2018)

Disability inequality and the recruitment process: responding to legal and technological developments

This PhD project investigates how recruitment and selection practices impose social barriers for disabled people in the UK labour market. Despite the growing use of online recruitment methods adopted by employers, current literature has neglected the reactions of job applicants to web-based recruitment and selection practices from an equality perspective, in particular the voices and experiences of disabled jobseekers and their unequal access to the Internet. The study employs a qualitative and emancipatory research design, and consists of semi-structured interviews with disabled jobseekers and employment advisors, and UK employers. The aim of this study has been to represent as genuinely as possible the needs and voices of disabled people and their organisations in order to challenge social arrangements that lead to disability inequality, in recruitment and selection practices via the Internet.

Supervised by Liz Oliver, Jane Holgate and Robert Mackenzie

Juliet Kele (2018)

Career progression in small- and medium-sized law firms: experiences of a diverse workforce

My doctoral research examined how career progression takes place in small and medium-sized firms in the legal profession; the factors affecting this progression; and how and whether diversity within the smaller workforce is managed.

The impetus for this research is that despite the scholarly interest for professional service firms (PSFs), the smaller-sized PSFs remain insufficiently studied regarding diversity issues. Previous studies explore both career advancement and barriers to entry into the law, yet, they have primarily focused on larger companies. The use of intersectionality theory forms an innovative paradigm to examine gendered practices within the smaller law firm context. Data collection comprised 44 semi-structured interviews and document analysis within 4 smaller-sized law practices in Yorkshire. Data analysis using NVivo informs the case study methodology. The principal research contribution is to advance theories of intersectionality to generate more informative HR and diversity management policies; specific to the smaller PSF context.

Supervised by Professor Catherine Cassell and Professor Jennifer Tomlinson

James Brooks (2017)

An ethnographic study of the UK Fire and Rescue Service entitled ‘Know and Tell; Understanding Knowledge Transfer in the UK Fire and Rescue Service’

My thesis seeks to make a contribution to both the theoretical and empirical understanding of knowledge transfer in organisations. In particular, it explores and articulates how tacit knowledge is transferred within (and through) communities of practice. It does so via a single longitudinal case study of Northern Fire, the fourth largest Fire and Rescue Service in the UK. There is a paucity of studies on the UK Fire and Rescue Service and the extant literature is sparse. My thesis  offers a unique insight and perspective into how fire fighters construct knowledge and make sense of their everyday reality within communities of practice. Adopting a qualitative ethnographic approach, this research sets out a detailed exposition of the transfer of knowledge throughout Northern Fire. Focus groups of some 58 fire fighters together with 14 semi-structured interviews of senior management, support staff, HR and IT functions were undertaken. In addition, drawing upon Orr’s (1996) ethnographic account of photo-copier repair personnel, participant observation was used to explore the daily working lives of fire fighters.  Participant observation examined how Red Watch, a fictional name given to a group of fire fighters, transferred tacit knowledge and skills as a community of practice. The thesis also explores organisational memory loss. It extends our empirical understanding of how knowledge is both forgotten and retained on a both a voluntary and involuntary basis. 

Supervised by Professor Irena Grugulis and Dr Hugh Cook.

James won the Emerald / EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Award (Highly Commended) for his research in HRM sponsored by Personnel Review.

Chris McLachlan (2017)

Can employment restructuring be implemented responsibly? A case study of SteelCo’s ‘Socially Responsible Restructuring’ process

My doctoral research explored the implementation of a responsible restructuring process at a UK subsidiary of a multinational steel company, SteelCo. Responsible restructuring has been proposed as a managerial strategy to ameliorate the negative effects of employment restructuring and redundancy processes on employees, emerging in both academic and European policy literature. The research proceeded through a qualitative case study of SteelCo, following its claims to have conducted a putative ‘socially responsible’ restructuring process wherein 1700 jobs were cut between 2011-2015. The central contribution advanced in my thesis is that the concept of responsible restructuring is more appropriately characterised by a best fit approach, demonstrating a departure away from the prevailing emphasis on best practice approaches in the Strategic HRM literature and associated policy documentation. The findings from the SteelCo research therefore identified a range of contextual variables pertinent to the implementation of responsible restructuring. SteelCo’s responsible restructuring process was thus shaped by the contingencies of local organisational and institutional factors, the particularities of industrial relations, the histories of restructuring and the occupational identity of the workforce.

Supervised by Ian Greenwood, Robert MacKenzie and Jane Holgate

Angeliki Skondra (2017)

This thesis investigates the impact of the recent economic downturn on the training practices of British small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Extant research has paid only limited attention to the impact of the recent recession on training, while the training responses of SMEs to the economic crisis remains an unexplored area. The study focused specifically on SMEs operating in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. The data were gathered through a multi-method approach that included a survey of local SMEs, interviews with key informants from peak-level organisations and a qualitative investigation of small firms themselves.

Supervised by Mark Stuart and Chris Forde.

Reece Garcia (2015)

Title: Negotiation and Egalitarianism in the Sexual Division of Labour

Summary: Extant literature demonstrates that the division of paid and unpaid labour remains heavily gendered among contemporary couples. There are a range of theoretical approaches that help to explain how these gendered arrangements come into fruition, yet relatively few examinations of how these are negotiated, and re-negotiated in practice. This research explores how couples re-negotiate their shares of paid and unpaid work following one partner's redundancy in full-time dual-earning couples. A unique feature is the direct comparison between cases of female redundancy and male redundancy to examine if, and how, the processes of negotiation and outcomes differ depending upon which partner suffers employment loss. Evidence of 'silent bargaining' over relative resources and the subconscious 'doing' of (normative conceptions of) gender was found, coupled with both collaborative, long-term strategising about what is best for the household as a whole, versus more individualistic, instrumental tactics to avoid greater shares of unpaid labour.

Supervisors: Jane Holgate, Jennifer Tomlinson and Mark Stuart

Zinovijus Ciupijus (2015)

Socio-economic experiences of Central Eastern European migrants in Yorkshire

The project’s aim is to explore working and non-working lives of the accession countries’ citizens in Britain. In particular, I am interested in a number of themes: migrants’ livelihood strategies, interactions with social support groups and the affects of EU citizenship on labour migration from post-communist Central Eastern Europe. Furthermore, on the basis of research findings, I critically examine the view portraying Central Eastern European mobility with the enlarged EU as a predominantly circular and temporary phenomenon. The study employs a qualitative research design – the main bulk of data is expected to be collected via biographical semi-structured interviews.

Supervised by Robert MacKenzie and Chris Forde (LUBS funded).

Jo Cutter (2015)

Getting learning into the bargain: trade union strategies for bargaining over learning in the workplace

 Supervised by Mark Stuart and Hugh Cook.

Nicholas Jephson (2014)

The Perceptions and Prospects of Future Professionals

This PhD research project explores current perceptions of the meanings and experiences of ‘professional’ work and the ‘professional project’. More specifically, it is focused on the changing profiles and perceptions of trainees in UK accounting firms. The project will utilise insights gained from examinations of national statistics as well as interviews with senior partners and trainees in UK accountancy firms. Contemporary perceptions of professional socialization and organizational and occupational commitment will be investigated. The professional education of accounting trainees, and the varying stages at which this takes place in different employment models, will also be explored.

Supervised by Chris Forde and Robert MacKenzie (ESRC Funded).

Hugh Cook (2014)

My thesis was on The Internal and external vulnerabilities of  high performance work systems.  It focussed on the implementation of strategic HRM practices in the retail sector, the sustainability of high performance work systems during recession and retrenchment, and the interacting dynamics between trade union representation and organisational HRM systems.

Key findings exposed vulnerabilities, both internal and external, of HRM systems to losing their soft outcomes because they are typically derailed by management seeking to increase short-term profit. The thesis demonstrates the channels through which HRM systems are used to improve profitability, which is often through work intensification rather than commitment focussed channels, by illuminating the complex social processes through which this is achieved.  

Supervised by Chris Forde and Rob McKenzie.

A full list of current students can be found here