Sustainable Rural Futures

Leverhulme Doctoral Scholarships Programme

The rural is in crisis. People and wildlife alike face daunting challenges, and yet on them relies any plausible path to a sustainable future, for all of us. Through a commitment to community-led solutions and understanding the rural as a tapestry of multi-species entanglements, our Leverhulme doctoral scholars will show the way towards more sustainable futures for all the UKs rural inhabitants.

Guiding principles


SURF is committed to uphold a commitment to empower communities to lead their own solutions to rural challenges, collaborating with relevant rural organisations, individuals, and leaders. Our forthcoming doctoral scholars will closely engage with the communities they investigate, actively adjusting their research to meet identified needs. They will leverage Keele's extensive experience in delivering co-produced or community-led projects, supported by the University's coCREATE Collaborative research methods network.


One core characteristic of rural life is the interconnectedness of its human residents with a world that is also shaped by countless other species and processes. SURF research will integrate this characteristic, advocating ‘more-than-human' or ‘whole-system’ approaches to rural problems that might link soil, cultures, landforms, labour and ecologies, and demand an interdisciplinary approach.

Get involved

SURF’s research aspires to be community-led, and that means working closely with rural partners to research the problems that are important to them. We are already working with organisations such as CPRE: The Countryside Charity, the National Trust, Natural England, Equaans and the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. There are multiple ways to be involved in SURF, from setting its strategic direction, to suggesting and supervising projects, or hosting summer schools and other cohort events.

If your organisation would like to be involved, we want to hear from you – please send us an e-mail at, and we’ll get back to you.

William Smith Building
Keele University

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