• Research topic: Decision-making and governance for residential heat decarbonisation in the UK
  • Start date: October 2023 (for 3.5 years)
  • The studentship will be held at Reuben College.

The School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford and Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) are pleased to announce the availability of a fully funded doctoral studentship from October 2023. The award is subject to the UKRI rules and the studentship will be restricted to those eligible for home studentships.

This studentship will be supervised by Dr Tina Fawcett and Dr Jacob Barnes.


To meet the UK's international climate change commitments residential space and water heating must be decarbonised by 2050, with government playing a central role. In October 2021, the UK government published its Heat and Buildings Strategy which set out the nature of the challenge and included a target of installing 600,000 heat pumps per year by 2028 and a timeline for decisions on the role of hydrogen in the heating system. The strategy has been praised by the Committee on Climate Change as setting a clear direction of travel. However, the Committee also warns government plans are not yet comprehensive, that significant delivery risks remain, and that further decisions will be needed on policy design and effective implementation if the strategy's ambitious goals are to be met. The next five years are critical, with important decisions required on a range of issues, including: support for some technologies and energy vectors and the prohibition of others, the relative costs of gas and electricity, electricity market reform, carbon and energy standards for new homes, renovation and heating system standards for existing homes at point of sale and rental, requirements on social and private landlords, investments in skills and training, local, regional and devolved powers in relation to net zero.

Research aims

This research will critically examine decision-making processes and governance arrangements required to deliver residential heat decarbonisation in the UK. It will contribute to emerging research on heat decarbonisation and policy processes, decision-making, and the roles and responsibilities of government and other actors including devolved, regional, and local authorities, regulators, market actors and civil society.

The specific research problem to be addressed can be tailored to the interests of the successful applicant. Example research questions might include:

  • What critical heat decarbonisation decisions must be made, by when and by whom?
  • How have the institutional contexts influenced residential heating decarbonisation in countries such as The Netherlands, Norway or Sweden where decarbonisation is more progressed?
  • What governance arrangements and institutions are being created to govern residential heat decarbonisation and are they fit to deliver system transformation?

The student will be expected to pursue a socio-technical, interdisciplinary approach, mobilizing a variety of concepts and theories from across policy studies, science and technology studies, sustainability transitions and governance more broadly. Research methods may include: analysis of policy documents within the UK and abroad; expert elicitation techniques to critically examine for instance, timing and extent of key decisions and the roles of different actors; semi-structured interviews with civil servants and politicians; focus groups, deliberative workshops, interviews across government, industry and civil society actors to understand the extent to which contemporary emerging institutional arrangements are fit to deliver residential heat decarbonisation.

Research Environment

The studentship will benefit from being part of the interdisciplinary Energy Group at the Environmental Change Institute. We are an active research group with many related ongoing projects on residential energy use, low carbon heating, building retrofit and energy demand policy and governance. The successful candidate will be able to connect with our networks of key stakeholders in residential heating decarbonisation and benefit from direct access to emerging research evidence and live policy debates.

Person specification


  1. Good Masters degree (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline including energy policy, science and technology studies, geography, sociology, economics, environmental studies, architecture and the built environment.
  2. Experience with diverse research methods including, but not limited to, interviews, surveys, focus groups, observations.
  3. Strong grounding in theory relevant to heat decarbonisation including, but not limited to, policy studies, decision making, institutionalism, multi-level governance, socio-technical transitions.
  4. Willingness to undertake interdisciplinary research.
  5. An interest in energy policy and governance and an understanding of its importance in addressing the climate emergency.

Details of Award

The studentship guarantees funding for 3-3.5 years starting in October 2023 at the Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford.

Funding is subject to EPSRC rules for Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) and studentship values are calculated on the basis of current costs of a UKRI studentship in the Oxford EPSRC DTP. The value of the award will be confirmed following selection, but will be sufficient to cover 3.5 years of fees and stipend at the UKRI level (not less than £17,668 p.a.).

In line with the UK Research and Innovation Diversity Principles, CREDS has adopted an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Plan. Applications are particularly encouraged from members of groups under-represented in the UK energy research community.


  • Applications are restricted to those eligible for home studentships. For details of the classification of fee status for applicants see the University of Oxford Fees webpage.
  • We want to encourage the widest range of potential students and are committed to welcoming students from different backgrounds to apply.

How to apply

Applications must be made through Oxford University Graduate Admissions and not direct to the School of Geography and the Environment.

View the onine application form on the University of Oxford website.

Further questions

Questions about the application process should be directed to the at the School of Geography and the Environment.

Further information