Studentship opportunity

International labour migration and fair employment in the Scottish fishing industry

This studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of the Social Sciences

University of Glasgow
Human Geography, Environment and Urban Planning
Mode of study

Full time / Part time

Application deadline
15th March 2019

Project details

This collaborative PhD project between the University of Glasgow and Marine Scotland explores the dynamics of international labour migration in the Scottish fishing industry. The Scottish fisheries landscape has changed dramatically in the past two decades. The introduction of market-based management approaches to increase efficiency, profit and stock sustainability have had unintended consequences for the industry and people working in it. One significant consequence is the stratification of labour on fishing vessels connected to the shift from traditional `share based’ payment systems, where crew are remunerated based on share of the catch, to a fixed wage arrangement predominantly paid to agency-contracted, migrant fishers (Cardwell, 2015; Jones et al., forthcoming). The UK exit from the European Union, and the overarching framework of the Common Fisheries Policy, requires fresh insight into these issues. In order to contribute to effectively managed and sustainable fisheries in Scotland, it is vital to understand the labour market dynamics of this industry which makes significant contributions to Scotland’s local economies, and what it means for fishers and wider coastal communities.
Almost a third of crew on Scottish fishing vessels are employed through agency contracts from outside the UK, with almost 20% coming from non-EEA countries (Marine Scotland, 2016). This project explores this developing trend through a detailed and systematic analysis of the dynamics of migrant labour on Scottish fishing vessels and what this means for the wellbeing of workers and the future of Scottish fisheries. A key component of the studentship will be working in collaboration with researchers from Marine Scotland to explore the legal, economic and social relationships surrounding the recruitment of migrant fishers, working conditions and cultures on fishing vessels, remuneration differentials among crew and the wider impacts of this growing trend on coastal communities. Understanding these dynamics makes an important global contribution to fisheries and environmental policy, and economic systems more widely, given the popularity of market-based management for fisheries and environmental governance.

Aims and Objectives
The core aim of the project is to understand the relationships between fisheries governance and international labour dynamics, identifying future policy directions that protect the wellbeing of both domestic and migrant labour on Scottish fishing vessels, and contribute to promoting healthy and sustainable fishery firms and coastal communities. The student will explore:
• The legal, economic and social relationships surrounding the recruitment and retainment of migrant fishers in the Scottish fishing industry
• The relational dynamics between different actors on the vessel and in the firm (e.g. crew and skippers; agency and share-based fishers; on-shore and off-shore)
• The perceptions, experiences and outcomes for migrant workers on Scottish fishing vessels regarding recruitment, working conditions, remuneration and rights
• The perceptions of Scottish fishing communities on migrant labour in the fishing fleet
While this sets out the vision for the project the student will be encouraged to take ownership of how it runs in detail (conceptually, methodologically, collaboratively).
The project will make clear impacts to academic and policy fields of international migration and fisheries governance.
• Through a focus on the lived relationships and experiences of migrant fishers the project will advance interdisciplinary scholarship on the ‘geographies of the sea’ contributing to emergent scholarship on the ocean as a `social’ and ‘territorialised’ space
• By generating policy-relevant data on recruitment processes, migrant motivations, working conditions and remuneration as well as the broader implications for industry and coastal communities, the project will have significant impacts for the Scottish Government in an important growth area of Scotland’s economy. This will have the potential to shape policy on migration management in fisheries and other maritime growth sectors and provide critical, independent reflection on transnational recruitment processes which will be vital for regulating and ensuring ethical employment in the sector.

About the institution

The student will join an internationally recognised Human Geography Research Group (HGRG), in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences at the University of Glasgow. Human Geography at Glasgow ranked 1st in the UK for world-leading and internationally excellent research and 1st in the UK for published work. The HGRG is an expanding community of academic staff, postdoctoral researchers and postgraduate students, with a well-established reputation for geographical research that is theoretically innovative, politically engaged, empirically diverse and inclusive of a broad range of communities and partnerships. There are five main threads running through HGRG research: • Space, Politics and the Urban • Geopolitical Trajectories • Exploring Vitalised Geographies • Knowing, Creativity and Experiment • Stressed Environments and Communities Collectively, HGRG researchers have sought to explore the workings of power in its myriad forms and the different places through which it flows. We engage with differing critical theories of feminism, postcolonialism, posthumanism, post-structuralism, political economy and historiography, enabling work that asks significant questions about the configuration of contemporary geographies, or that shapes The HGRG is committed to engaging with local communities and broader publics, and to forging transnational solidarities between the Global North and South. Our research practice, whether operating through sustained fieldwork or deskwork, enables progressive forms of activism and intervention in daily struggles and public campaigns. Our critical analysis is designed to speak back constructively to user-groups, and differing policy fields (urban, alternative economic and health). Our commitment to creatively, engaging research takes shape through collaborations with artists, composers, and curators in exhibition settings, public spaces and contested landscapes. Glasgow has a dynamic and supportive postgraduate research community offering advance graduate training for researcher development, employability and skills support and access to interdisciplinary research networks across the University, including GramNet and the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland (MASTS) pooling initiative. For more information about human geography research at Glasgow University see:


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria • (If applying on a 1+3 basis) A good first degree (at least 2:1) in Geography, environmental studies/policy, anthropology or an equivalent social science subject • (If applying on a +3 basis) Have a Masters degree that meets ESRC eligibility requirements for advanced research training, or equivalent professional experience • Have a working knowledge of social-scientific research, through any disciplinary background, on matters of international migration, environmental policy and/or marine/coastal management • Have a good grounding in, and ideally experience of using, quantitative and qualitative research methods • Preference may be given to applicants who have prior experience of working collaboratively on projects related to environmental policy and/or marine or coastal management.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here.

Award details

The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process. The programme will commence in October 2019. It includes: • an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (2018/19 rate £14,777 full-time) • fees at the standard Home rate • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

Other information

The project will be supervised by Dr Kate Botterill, Dr Emma Cardwell and Dr Cheryl McGeachen based in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences with complimentary expertise in international migration, fisheries governance, and the geographies of mental health. A significant proportion of the studentship will involve working directly with policy researchers and analysts based in Marine Scotland, the Scottish Government directorate responsible of managing Scotland’s seas. This includes a three-month internship in year 1 based at Marine Scotland’s Edinburgh office, with shorter placements throughout the course of the studentship where the student will gain experience in communicating with senior officials and preparing policy briefings. Supervisory input from a principal researcher at Marine Scotland Science will mean student will have access to Scottish Government training, including analysing Scottish databases, engaging with Scottish Parliament (FMQ and SPICE), understanding the Scottish approach and ethics of government research. For more information about Marine Scotland see: For additional information and to express an interest in the project please contact Dr Kate Botterill (

How to apply

1. Applicants check the ESRC eligibility criteria listed above and found here:
2. Applicants register on GradHub and fill out EO data (this is a requirement of the application process)
3. Applicants complete and upload the prescribed list of required documentation to include:
• Application form
• Academic transcripts
• References
• CV
• An example of academic writing (approx. 2000-3000 words) – this should be uploaded in a standalone document with a naming convention as follows: candidate name, Supervisor: Kate Botterill, University of Glasgow, Collaborative Open Competition and date
4. Applicants submit application through GradHub

Selection process

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by April 15th. Dates for interview will be confirmed in due course. All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Glasgow. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Supervisor/Contact details

Kate Botterill