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Funded PhD Opportunities in Marketing, Operations and Systems

Northumbria University is a research-rich, business focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. 

Results from the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2021) see us rise to 23rd place, climbing from our positions of 50th in 2014, and 80th in 2008.  Northumbria University is the sector’s largest riser in research power in the UK. 

Below you can find our available studentships for Marketing, Operations and Systems.

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student. Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

Immigration Health Surcharge

If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.

Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England

Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see  

For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of courses: 1 October 2023 TBC

Advert Reference: RDF23/MOS/SHOKRI

Transforming UK manufacturing through digitally empowered supply chains that are resilient, sustainable, and efficient is the future of the manufacturing sector. One mechanism in achieving this goal is the creation of a knowledge hub and support network. Convening stakeholders across the UK manufacturing landscape requires a digital innovation ecosystem to advance and accelerate the understanding and inclusion of digital technology in UK supply chains. Digital supply chain hubs across UK will be the platform that enables stakeholders to co-convene their digitally transformed supply chain in a more transparent and sustainable way, using advanced technologies. The digital supply chain hubs address contemporary supply chain challenges such as supply chain risk and resilience; supply chain sustainability and Net Zero; End-to-End supply chain visibility; circular economy; supply chain finance; and last mile logistics. The regional establishment of digital supply chain hubs is necessary to facilitate better national supply chain connectivity, visibility, coordination, transparency, and efficiency. The Northeast of England, however, is lagging even with the significant investment of automotive, renewable energy and food manufacturing sectors in this region. Our Marketing Operations and Systems (MOS) department is currently working with its partners including National Digital Supply Chin Testbeds and Made Smarter Innovate centres to develop the first Northeast digital supply chain hub. Despite the existence of some digital supply chain hubs and national digital supply chain testbeds, there is no specific research found to assess significant factors in launching, development, and smooth operation of these digital supply chain hubs. Our aim is to investigate the current digital supply chain and innovation landscape of the manufacturing sector in northeast of England, future aspirations in digital supply chain, strategic barriers, opportunities and key success and failure factors in launching and managing the digital supply chain hub. The question we will answer in this research project is:

“How does a people-led digital supply chain hub need to be launched, developed and operated to maximise supply chain resilience, sustainability and efficiency in the manufacturing sector of Northeast of England?”

The project will start with a multi-disciplinary review of existing literature including digital supply chain management, supply chain collaboration, efficiency and resilience that will lead to the development of a conceptual framework. This is followed by participant observation and mixed method data collection where the researcher will participate in launching and the development of the digital supply chain hub with a critical lens, while collecting data through survey questionnaire, interviewing potential stakeholders, and focus groups facilitated by National Digital Supply Chain Testbeds, Advanced Manufacturing Forum (AMF) and Supply Chain Directory database. The integration of digital supply chain with manufacturing maintenance has recently been studied by us through an Innovate UK funded project and recent journal paper submission (Shokri et al., 2022). The outcome of this research project is a validated practical framework for the digital supply chain hub stakeholders and participants. Our result contributes into Technological-Organizational-Environmental framework (TOE) theory (Srivastava et al., 2022), and Socio-technical system theory (Sony and Naik, 2020).


This project is supervised by Dr Alireza Shokri. for informal queries, please contact


Shokri, A. Toliyat, S. Skoumpopoulou, D. Hu, S. Li, G. and Ojra, A. (2022), Assessing integration of spare part inventory management and predictive maintenance as a digital supply chain solution: multi methods in automotive supply chain. International Journal of Production Research (under review)

Sony, M., Naik, S. (2020). Industry 4.0 integration with socio-technical systems theory: A systematic review and proposed theoretical model. Technology in Society, 61

Srivastava, D., Kumar, V., Ekren, B., Upadhyay, A., Tyagi, M., & Kumari, A. (2022). Adopting Industry 4.0 by leveraging organizational factors. Technological Forecasting And Social Change, 176, 121439. DOI: 10.1016/j.techfore.2021.121439


Advert Reference: RDF23/MOS/SUTHERLAND

Customer experience is a key marketing concept. Meyer and Christopher (2007:2) defined it as “encompassing every aspect of a company's offering—the quality of customer care, of course, but also advertising, packaging, product and service features, ease of use, and reliability. It is the internal and subjective response customers have to any direct or indirect contact with a company”. Customer experience is a complex concept that includes behavioural, sensorial, cognitive, emotional, and social aspects (Verhoef et al. 2009). Positive customer experience helps in improving marketing efficiency, developing customer loyalty, and generating revenues leading to overall business success.

Metaverse is a virtual world where people work, shop, and interact with one another using avatars. In order to provide the users with an immersive experience, a mix of 3D technology, virtual reality, and augmented reality is used. Metaverse is built upon the concepts of presence, immersion, and interactivity. It helps businesses to stand out from the crowd and better engage with their customers. Metaverse marketing has a special importance when it comes to reaching out to millennials and generation Z. Many brands are currently investing in the metaverse. Tech giants have created their own metaverse platforms for instance; Meta, Niantic, Decentraland, and Roblox. While others are collaborating with these technology brands to market and advertise their products on their platforms for instance, Microsoft, Gucci, Nike, Louis Vuitton, Disney and Coca-Cola. The metaverse market is expected to be worth around $800 billion by 2024 (Hetler, 2022).

This research will look at the opportunities as well as the challenges of metaverse marketing, how consumer-to-consumer interaction on metaverses may impact the customer experience, and how metaverse can support value co-creation. This is an exploratory study that could achieve its objectives through using qualitative or quantitative research. The outcome of this research will help marketers to better understand the metaverse and its opportunities and how to overcome its challenges, it will also help marketers to use the metaverse technology to its maximum potential to enhance value co-creation, and support customer experiences.

This project is supervised by Dr Alyaa Darwish. for informal queries, please contact


Buhalis, D., Lin, M. S., & Leung, D. (2022). Metaverse as a driver for customer experience and value co-creation: implications for hospitality and tourism management and marketing. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.

Bushell, C. (2022). The Impact of Metaverse on Branding and Marketing. Available at SSRN 4144628.

Hetler, A. (2022). Marketing in the metaverse: What marketers need to know. Available at: Accessed on 7.11.2022

Hollensen, S., Kotler, P., & Opresnik, M. O. (2022). Metaverse–the new marketing universe. Journal of Business Strategy.

Dwivedi, Y. K., Hughes, L., Baabdullah, A. M., Ribeiro-Navarrete, S., Giannakis, M., Al-Debei, M. M., ... & Kim, J. (2021). Advertising in the Metaverse: Research agenda. Journal of Interactive Advertising, 21(3), 141-144.

Meyer, Christopher and Andre Schwager (2007), “Understanding Customer Experience,” Harvard Business Review, 85 (2), 117–26.

Advert Reference: RDF23/MOS/DJAFAROVA

Cancel culture is a recent phenomenon referring to boycotting an individual/group of people or a company on social media due to their certain behaviour or communication which was against another person or people’s views (Ng, 2020). Being cancelled is perceived as a last chance justice expression (Clark, 2020). The phenomenon is linked to the Generation Z representatives and is often referred to as one of the characteristics of this generational group (Djafarova & Foots, 2022). Generation Z are technologically savvy, educated, ethical and creative (Djafarova & Matson, 2021). Their consumer behaviour is perceived to vary from previous generations due to their characteristics including heavy technology use. They have high expectations of brands and pay more attention to experience (Priporas et al., 2017). The notion of brand distrust in the form of boycotting or provoking a brand response through negative consumer backlash, is becoming increasingly familiar for young consumers interactions.

As the cancel culture has been first brough up by Generation Z social interaction online, this study collects the data from representative of this age group to develop understanding of the phenomena using generational theory. The aim is to identify the factors that encourage the cancelling behavior among the Gen Z consumers, explore the implications of this behavior on the affected people and brands and suggest the actions to be taken to reduce the appearance of cancel culture.

Cancel culture has been recently introduced in the literature however the research and theories supporting this behavior are still very limited (Saldanha et al., 2022). To date there is no theoretical underpinning drawn to understand the concept, the reasons behind its widespread and practical implications for individual, societies, and organizations. This study employs generational theory approach to study attitudes of young consumers towards cancel culture. Social identity/social comparison theories can be used to identify factors that encourage cancel behaviour (Latif et al., 2021).

The following objectives are to be met:

To explore Generation Z consumer attitudes and expectations towards cancel culture.

To identify what encourages Generation Z consumers to cancel a person or a brand.

To determine the implications of cancel culture on the society and brands.

The data for the study will be gathered employing a qualitative research design comprised of interviews and focus groups with Generation Z. Thematic analysis will be employed to analyse the data.

The findings help to understand the roots of cancel behaviour which have implications for the companies and influencers to determine their interaction and communication strategies with potential consumers. The research offers measures to be taken by cancelled celebrities and brands to mediate impact following the cancellation. 

This project is supervised by Dr Elmira Djafarova. For informal queries, please contact


Clark, M. (2020). Drag them: A brief etymology of so-called “cancel culture.” Communication and the Public, 5(3–4), 88–92.

Djafarova, E. and Foots, S. (2022). Exploring ethical consumption of generation Z: theory of planned behaviour. Young Consumers, 23(30), 413-431.

Djafarova, E., & Matson, N. (2021). Credibility of digital influencers on YouTube and instagram. International Journal of Internet Marketing and Advertising, 15(2), 131-148.

Latif, K., Weng, Q., Pitafi, A. H., Ali, A., Siddiqui, A. W., Malik, M. Y., & Latif, Z. (2021). Social comparison as a double-edged sword on social media: The role of envy type and online social identity. Telematics and Informatics, 56, 101470.

Ng, E. (2020). No Grand Pronouncements Here...: Reflections on Cancel Culture and Digital Media Participation. Television & New Media, 21(6), 621–627.

Priporas, C.-V., Stylos, N., & Fotiadis, A. N. (2017). Generation Z consumers' expectations of interactions in smart retailing: A future agenda. Computers in Human Behavior, 77, 374-381.

Saldanha, N., Mulye, R., & Rahman, K. (2022). Cancel culture and the consumer: A strategic marketing perspective. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 1-16.


Advert Reference: RDF23/MOS/MA

Although most of the research on logistics and supply chain management has focused on forward logistics (e.g., Ma et al, 2022), the area of reverse logistics (RL, the supply chain process of moving products from the end customers to retain/recapture value) is gaining increasing attention and becoming more important in recent years (Govindan and Solemani, 2017). The research on RL has evolved from simply reversing the chains to flow the returns from the customers, to focusing on increasing recycles for better environmental and cooperative strategies.

The recent development of RL has focused on developing and designing an ecological business model for a closed-loop supply chain and sustainable value creation (Agrawal, Singh, and Murtaza 2015; Shabbir et al. 2021) – a model (see the technical model for circular economy below) that aims to better handle returned products, capture additional value and further integrating into supply chain activities (Guide et al., 2003). This arguably links to the conceptualisation of ‘inclusive businesses’ for an inclusive growth – a broad-based sharing model that aims to reduce poverty and inequality through rapid economic growth (Schoneveld 2020).

Reverse logistics by the virtue of selling recycled products, creating new jobs and consistent employability for low skilled populations, contribute to improving the overall quality of life (Sarkis, Helms, and Hervani 2010). However, defining the social aspects in RL has proven challenging and the area has remained unexplored, most of the existing research has rather focused on evaluating RL performance in general (Banihashemi, Fei, and Chen 2019). Therefore, it is a necessity to investigate social foundations of the sustainable RL and explore the relationship between RL and its impacts on inclusive growth.

Research Questions (RQ):

RQ1: How best can organisations implement a circular economy into the products and services they offer?

RQ2: How does the circular economy address and promote inclusive growth and sustainable development?

RQ3: What is the contribution of the circular economy to the key indicators of inclusive growth?

RQ4: What are the antecedents and barriers for the implementation of inclusive growth in the circular economy?

Research Methodology:

The research will start with a systematic literature review of topics relating reverse logistics, circular economy, sustainable supply chain management and inclusive growth. It will be followed by proposing a theoretical framework to understand the suggested causal relationships using the factors identified from the literature.

The framework will then be tested by structural equation modelling using primary data collected by empirical investigations (e.g., multiple case studies, focus groups and/or surveys). Secondary and Panel data can also be employed to compare and contrast the impacts.

The firms involved in this study can be in the manufacturing, remanufacturing or retail industry in the UK or other countries.

Expected Contributions:

The research will contribute towards a better understanding of the role of reverse logistics in inclusive growth and its impact on the proposed United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Further, it will contribute to both theory development and testing in the field of reverse logistics which is rarely done so far.

This project is supervised by Dr Jie Ma, Dr Sadaat Yawar and Dr Adrian Small. For informal queries, please contact


Banihashemi et al., (2019). Exploring the relationship between reverse logistics and sustainability performance: A literature review. Modern Supply Chain Research and Applications.


Govindan & Soleimani (2017). A review of reverse logistics and closed-loop supply chains: a Journal of Cleaner Production focus. Journal of Cleaner Production, 142, 371–384.

Shabbir, et al., (2021). Closed-loop supply chain network design with sustainability and resiliency criteria.


Sarkis, J., Helms, M. M., & Hervani, A. A. (2010). Reverse logistics and social sustainability. Corporate social responsibility and environmental management, 17(6), 337-354.


Yawar & Kuula  (2021). Circular economy and second-hand firms: Integrating ownership structures. Cleaner Logistics and Supply Chain, 2, 100015.

Advert Reference: RDF23/MOS/FATTAHI

Generation expansion planning (GEP) is a complicated optimization problem which finds the optimal long-term plan for the new generation capacity based on various techno-economic constraints. Generally, it requires solving a large-scale, non-linear discrete, and dynamic optimization in an extremely constrained and uncertain environment. Traditional methods to capacity planning have concentrated on realizing a cost-effective plan. However, during the last decades, different models for GEP have developed that are conducted by environmental and political factors. This issue has resulted in the formulation of multi-criteria methods that allow power system planners to simultaneously take into account multiple objectives in the decision-making procedure. More recently, the growing integration of intermittent renewable energy sources (RESs) in the system to sustain power grid decarbonization and energy security has introduced new challenges. In addition to ensuring adequacy of generation capacity, it is vital to take into account the operational characteristics of the energy generation sources in the planning strategy.

Furthermore, high penetration of the renewable energy, especially variable renewable energy (VRE) such as wind turbine and solar power, is a major issue for both generation expansion and operation planning. The integration of VRE into the electricity grid may lead to the emergence of other crucial considerations, such as the reliability and flexibility of the power system. To deal with the intermittency caused by these VRE generators, mobile energy storage systems (MESSs) have been introduced. Besides, the power-to-hydrogen (P2H) facility can be applied as a growing technology to convert surplus renewable energy into hydrogen through electrolysis. The conversion procedure is bidirectional where the hydrogen can be re-generated to electricity via a fuel cell or straightforwardly sold. Since VRE, MESS, and P2H facility will play even more important roles in power systems in the near future, it is necessary for the GEP model to incorporate these items and ensure a GEP with adequate generation capacity for the power system. In order to provide a realistic plan with the lower expanses, sufficient system reliability, and suitable CO2 emissions for the future decades, a complicated multi-period mixed integer linear programming (MILP) problem needs to be appropriately formulated and solved with the characteristics of the generation units along with hourly energy balance constraints. This problem requires extensive computational effort since there are many possible scenarios with multiple variables in a single calculation.

This research study aims to propose a novel strategy to develop GEP algorithm considering MESSs, P2H technology, characteristics of generation units, and full-year hourly energy balance constraints under the uncertainties of power generation and consumption. In fact, instead of directly identifying the globally optimal results of such MILPs, a simplification approach can be proposed, dividing the problem into several linear subproblems, which are less challenging to solve as a hierarchical optimization problem. It is clear that in each subproblem, constraints, the VRE profiles, charging/discharging patterns of MESSs, values of P2H conversion, and the reliability of the system can be taken into consideration.

This project is supervised by Dr Mohammad Fattahi and Dr Mousa Marband. For informal queries, please contact


Ahmadi, S. E., Marzband, M., Ikpehai, A., & Abusorrah, A. (2022). Optimal stochastic scheduling of plug-in electric vehicles as mobile energy storage systems for resilience enhancement of multi-agent multi-energy networked microgrids. Journal of Energy Storage, 55, 105566.


 Govindan, K., Fattahi, M. and Keyvanshokooh, E., 2017. Supply chain network design under uncertainty: A comprehensive review and future research directions. European Journal of Operational Research, 236(1), 108-141.



Mansouri, S. A., Nematbakhsh, E., Ahmarinejad, A., Jordehi, A. R., Javadi, M. S., & Marzband, M. (2022). A hierarchical scheduling framework for resilience enhancement of decentralized renewable-based microgrids considering proactive actions and mobile units. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 168, 112854.


Ahmadi, S. E., Sadeghi, D., Marzband, M., Abusorrah, A., & Sedraoui, K. (2022). Decentralized bi-level stochastic optimization approach for multi-agent multi-energy networked micro-grids with multi-energy storage technologies. Energy, 245, 123223.


Fattahi, M., Govindan, K. and Farhadkhani, M., 2021. Sustainable supply chain planning for biomass-based power generation with environmental risk and supply uncertainty considerations: a real-life case study. International Journal of Production Research, 59(10), 3084-3101


Mansour-Saatloo, A., Pezhmani, Y., Mirzaei, M. A., Mohammadi-Ivatloo, B., Zare, K., Marzband, M., & Anvari-Moghaddam, A. (2021). Robust decentralized optimization of multi-microgrids integrated with power-to-X technologies. Applied Energy, 304, 117635.


Zeynali, S., Nasiri, N., Marzband, M., & Ravadanegh, S. N. (2021). A hybrid robust-stochastic framework for strategic scheduling of integrated wind farm and plug-in hybrid electric vehicle fleets. Applied Energy, 300, 117432


Advert Reference: RDF23/MOS/ALRAJA

More recent research but still under exploring concerns is the Virtual Influencers (VIs) which refers to interactive avatars or artificial Computer-Generated Imagery (CGIs). They have some similar functionalities to human influencers sharing online content, others can follow them, and they can advertise many brands, however, they are not human. A very common VIs character is Lil Miquela who has over 3.1M followers which can give a good indication of the huge number of consumers believing the VIs stories despite the possible fake and suspicious content. Also, the credibility of the VIs is still lacking in authenticity, legitimacy, and competency. Followers’ trust in VI is still arguably controversial. Also, investigating the parasocial relationship between the virtual influencer and brand equity is still unaddressed. To date, no attempt was made to quantify the association between parasocial theory (including parasocial relationship (PSR) and parasocial Interaction (PSI)), trust, and brand equity (Vrontis et al., 2021).


Similarly, studying the impact of parasocial dimensions (trustworthiness, attractiveness, expertise, and homophily) [1], [2] when measuring the consumers’ perceptions of VIs on other important marketing results such as brand attitude and brand love [3], [4] are still uncovered. Therefore, this project will concentrate on how trust in virtual influencers can leverage the social exchange process through the PSI, and the effect on brand equity, brand love, and brand attitude. As well as what could be the most appropriate theory to justify the consumer-virtual influencer relationships. However, previously published studies on influencers are limited to real influencers so more work is required to extend the social exchange mechanism when persuading followers of various Vis [5].


Although the source credibility theory was found to contribute to explaining the causal variables relationships of human interactions, yet not much attention has been given to exploring if it can be suitable for VI, especially when combining these two theories with the social identity theory. Individual perceptions belonging to particular social groups are an important concept in group settings but have not been considered by marketing influencers [4] across different cultural settings. Thus, examining important marketing outcome variables through assessing the effects of followers' cognitive, evaluative and affective social identity would shed the light on the benefits of integrating virtual influencers and human influencers into a brand’s strategy and marketing strategy. Accordingly, understanding the differences between real and virtual influencers and whether the antecedents, moderators, and outcomes of social media influences can similarly be applied to both.


On other hand, previous studies on influencers have not yet dealt with consumer age, gender, influencer topic, and the type of social media platform, as testing their moderating/direct effect would hopefully emerge new thoughts for marketers. Additionally, studies on VIs did not distinguish between developed and emerging countries despite addressing the differences that can uncover globally acceptable characteristics in followers’ behaviour and younger consumers’ perceptions of VIs perceptions across different countries and different industries as well. 


This project is supervised by Dr Mansour Alraja. For informal queries, please contact



C. Lou and S. Yuan, “Influencer Marketing: How Message Value and Credibility Affect Consumer Trust of Branded Content on Social Media,” vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 58–73. 2019.

M. de Veirman, V. Cauberghe, and L. Hudders, “Marketing through Instagram influencers: the impact of number of followers and product divergence on brand attitude,” vol. 36, no. 5, pp. 798–828. 2017.

C. A. Lin, J. Crowe, L. Pierre, and Y. Lee, “Effects of Parasocial Interaction with an Instafamous Influencer on Brand Attitudes and Purchase Intentions,” THE JOURNAL OF SOCIAL MEDIA IN SOCIETY, vol. 10, no. 1, 2021.

S. Farivar and F. Wang, “Effective influencer marketing: A social identity perspective,” Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, vol. 67, p. 103026, 2022.

D. Y. Kim and H. Y. Kim, “Trust me, trust me not: A nuanced view of influencer marketing on social media,” J Bus Res, vol. 134, pp. 223–232, Sep. 2021.


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