Leeds_Beckett_268 purple

About the programme


Obesity is a major global health crisis, one in four adults are obese and childhood obesity has been classed by the World Health Organisation as one of the most serious challenges for the 21st Century with significant health, social and economic consequences. However, tackling obesity is a complex and multifaceted problem with over a hundred contributing factors as identified in the Foresight Tackling Obesities systems map. Tackling obesity effectively will therefore require the development of a sustained ‘whole systems approach’.  This approach joins up the many influences on obesity that promotes transformative, coordinated action across a wide variety of sectors, many of which are outside what has traditionally been referred to as the health sector. By working across multiple disciplines, this will help us to identify the opportunities to support individuals at key points throughout their lives to help reduce the occurrence and impact of obesity.


A whole systems approach seeks to link together many of the influencing factors on obesity and will require co-ordinated action and integration across multiple sectors including health, social care, planning, housing, transport and business to bring about major change to combating obesity, making better use of resources and improving wellbeing and prosperity


The role of local authorities (LAs) in tackling and working to prevent obesity is crucial. Public Health England, Local Government Associations and the Association of Directors of Public Health are exploring how to make greater in-roads into tackling obesity by developing whole systems approaches’ that act across the local system. Leeds Beckett University has been commissioned to lead a three-year programme to explore with LAs and other partners what a Whole Systems Approaches may look like on the ground.


Leeds Beckett University and a range of other partners will be working closely with LAs to understand what is working well and what the opportunities and realities are for LAs in tackling obesity over the short, medium and long term within a sustained whole systems approach. This programme aims to support the vital leadership role of LAs in tackling obesity by working collaboratively with them.  It will help equip LAs with approaches to make headway in what is an increasingly complex and challenging landscape involving many sectors with competing priorities and resource pressures.


The key to this is exploring what works well and what options might work, drawing on both international learning and the experiences of colleagues working in LAs across England, UK and internationally. We aim to produce a first draft of this roadmap by autumn 2016, and a tested, refined and expanded final version by September 2018.
The programme is seeking to understand the following major questions:


  •  How can the framework set out by Foresight be best translated into a ‘Whole Systems Approach’ appropriate for the local system?
    •    What does it mean in practice for Local Authorities (LAs)? What does it look like and what are the key principles?
    •    How can LAs create a whole systems approach and what benefits can it bring?

In parallel with our in-depth work with local authorities, we will also be working with national and international colleagues to understand best practice and experience in systems science, whole systems working and evidence and case studies of what works well. We will also be running a series of events and seminars, for a range of different audiences.


How the PHDs fit in


This programme provides an exciting and unique opportunity to be involved in and make a contribution to a major national programme, with international connections, that is seeking to understand and create a different – and hopefully more successful – approach to tackling one of the world’s most pressing challenges.  Successful candidates will be joining a team of colleagues from different backgrounds and disciplines as well as engaging with decision-makers and influencers in national and local government, and in major bodies that can create more joined up working, more effective and more sustainable solutions.

As part of this programme, Leeds Beckett University will be generating research material and findings, and seeking to produce a range of publications for different audiences. We recognise that this programme raises a number of opportunities for PhDs, and we are therefore offering four full studentships for PhD students to join the team.


These studentships include tuition fees for three years and a bursary of £14,047 per annum (pro-rata into 12 monthly payments) plus UK/EU Fees paid for a period of three years.


Timescales and Application Process


A key part of the programme, the successful students will be expected to dedicate their full time to the programme for three years, joining an initialisation programme from April 2016. We are not able to accept part time students for this programme as the research work will be integral to the programme, which is of a fixed duration in the first instance. Successful candidates will be expected to join the programme, full time, from early April 2016. Applicants will be expected to attend a research student induction programme in June 2016. The deadline for applications is midnight 31 January 2016.


Candidates should complete the online research student application form and send completed applications to Researchadmissions@leedsbeckett.ac.uk. You should title your email PHE studentships   Applications will then be considered by the University’s Review Panel and shortlisted during February. We anticipate that the interviews will be held on Friday 26 February 2016, at Leeds Beckett University.


The proposal of the research can be up to four A4 pages in length (with references as an addition to the proposal) using type Arial 11 point. The criteria listed below will be used in both selecting those applicants who will be called for interview and those who will be successful in securing a Studentship.


  1. a)    Qualifications, expertise and experience relevant to undertaking study for a PhD;
    b)    Knowledge of the subject area that will allow the development of a focussed line of enquiry;
    c)    Knowledge and understanding of research methods appropriate to undertaking a PhD/MPhil in your chosen area of research
    d)    Clarity on the original contribution that the completed PhD/MPhil will make to the body of knowledge in the relevant research literature
    e)    Scale and scope of the proposed research in terms of delivery within the two year studentship

For more information about the programme please see http://www.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/wholesystemsobesity/


Research Regulations

For further information and guidance relating to research degrees and for Research Candidates please click here.



We are seeking applications on the following topics:



Leeds_Beckett_268 purple