The need for greater generational renewal in agriculture is a pressing policy issue in the EU. This is reflected in current reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy which have made generational renewal a priority policy area and linked it with much-needed innovation and structural change. In Ireland, the need for generational renewal is apparent: the average age of farmers is almost sixty, just one-third of farms are economically viable, and the climate crisis has demanded a step change in how farms are managed and operated (Dillon et al., 2021).  Despite this, there remains limited empirical evidence on the drivers and barriers to generational renewal in Ireland. Previous literature has underscored the limitations of monetary incentives to facilitate renewal (Conway et al., 2021), but, to date, no study has holistically assessed the range of relevant factors across a range of stakeholders in Ireland.

This project will fill that gap. The project will adopt a mixed methods methodology and include an extensive literature review, a survey and semi-structured interviews. Participants will be targeted on both sides of the border to provide an all-island, comparative dimension. The survey will be targeted at potential farmer entrants in agricultural colleges (e.g. Teagasc, CAFRE), while the semi-structured interviews will purposively engage with existing farmers at various stages in their career lifecycle. The main objective of the research is to identify the salient variables in generational renewal and then identify appropriate policy solutions. Throughout, the project will recognise the important role that stakeholders play in solving their industry’s generational challenge, and thus will actively promote their involvement in the design of policy solutions. Indeed, we recognise that the solutions to generational renewal are likely to emanate from building consensus and fairness across the farming lifecycle – from young, potential farmers to farmers with decades of industry experience.

The PhD researcher will be supported by two experienced academic supervisors from Ulster University and two experienced supervisors from Teagasc. You will receive training on each methodological approach from Ulster University's Doctoral College and gain experience of designing and distributing questionnaires, and undertaking interviews with farmers, potential farmers and relevant policymakers. You will also get the opportunity to spend one year working with policy experts in Teagasc and receive a budget for attending conferences to present your research. We encourage inquisitive individuals who would enjoy delving into the multitude of motivations behind farm-level decision-making to apply. The project provides an excellent opportunity to generate high-quality research with real-world policy implications.

Essential criteria

Applicants should hold, or expect to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class Honours Degree in a subject relevant to the proposed area of study.

We may also consider applications from those who hold equivalent qualifications, for example, a Lower Second Class Honours Degree plus a Master’s Degree with Distinction.

In exceptional circumstances, the University may consider a portfolio of evidence from applicants who have appropriate professional experience which is equivalent to the learning outcomes of an Honours degree in lieu of academic qualifications.

  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement
  • Research proposal of 2000 words detailing aims, objectives, milestones and methodology of the project

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Masters at 70%

Funding and eligibility

This project is funded by: Teagasc Walsh

This scholarship will cover tuition fees and provide a maintenance allowance of £16,062 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship is open to both UK and Republic of Ireland (ROI) applicants. Applicants who already hold a doctoral degree or who have been registered on a programme of research leading to the award of a doctoral degree on a full-time basis for more than one year (or part-time equivalent) are NOT eligible to apply for an award.

The Doctoral College at Ulster University


My sincere thanks to Prof Pauric McGowan and Dr Alison Hampton for walking alongside me on my PhD journey.  The path was at times rocky; at times full of twists and turns; at other times offered some steep learning moments - but with a clear runway to the end and together we crossed the finishing line!  Their supervision was top class and will be for me true role model supervisors.

Breda O'Dwyer - PhD in Business and Management

I completed by BSc in International Travel and Tourism Management at Ulster which inspired me to go on and begin my PhD after 2 years in industry. My supervisors, Professor Stephen Boyd and Dr Peter Bolan have been fantastic throughout my PhD journey. My time at Ulster, in particular Coleraine campus, has been amazing through undergrad and PhD.I am most proud to have finished my PhD and survived the rollercoaster ride of many ups and downs especially during the past year and a half. I could never have got through it all without my office bestfriend, Natasha McClelland. We both started and finished PhD together. We've been on holidays, shopping trips and spa days. We've laughed (a lot), ranted and cried. Our sweetie jar was the best addition to the office! My advice for future PhD researchers would be to get yourselves a PhD bestie and just keep telling each other "You can do this!".

Nicola Allen - PhD in Business and Management

I'm just delighted to be sitting here as a PhD graduate - what a process and for anyone who completed their PhD part-time, an extra tip of the hat. I would never have gotten through this without the support and guidance from my supervisors - Martin, Judith and Alison, thank you! You are a crack team and I was fortunate to be supervised by you. Also massive thank you to my family! Your love and support meant the world and would not have been able to get through without your support and sacrifice, especially my wife Rebekah and kids, Isaac, Theo and Abigail. My proudest moment was my Viva - it was tough, fair but really enjoyable at the same time! If I could speak to myself at the start of my PhD, the best piece of advice I would give myself would be keep going and embrace the journey! Surround yourself with good people - you will need them along the way! Finally, congratulations to my fellow graduating colleagues - well done.

Ian Smyth - PhD in Business and Management

My journey in Northern Ireland began 11 years ago when I started my BSc in International Travel and Tourism Management at Ulster University and graduated with a first-class honours in 2015. During my first year as an undergrad, the professor who stood by me throughout all the years, mentioned the possibility of a PhD. At that time, it felt like a very distant and unlikely dream. He was also the one who inspired my research subject which combined two passions of mine, film and heritage, and became my main supervisor, Dr Peter Bolan. I also have to mention Dr Clare Carruthers and Prof Audrey Gilmore who completed my supervisory team and provided incredible support and encouragement throughout.My happiest moment during the PhD was when I discovered I was pregnant with my beautiful girl, Isabella! She did come as a bit of a shock and surprise and journeyed with me through my data collection. At seven months old, I am sure she must have been the youngest participant observer in the field.

Mihaela Ghisoiu - PhD in Business and Management

I completed my BSc Consumer Studies at Ulster University and graduated with a first-class honours in 2017. It was here that I found my passion, desire and academic support to undertake my PhD. My time at Ulster University has been amazing and I couldn’t have got through this experience without my supervisors - The Dream Team. I am deeply grateful for their guidance, invaluable advice, support, encouragement and for ensuring that my supervisor meetings were never dull. Ulster University has provided me with so many learning and training experiences and the opportunity to attend regional, national and international conferences, in addition to many external networking events. I was always encouraged and supported to progress my personal and professional development. Along the way I had the pleasure of meeting Professor Paul Dion, who helped me to understand statistics and has always remained in contact checking in every so often. In exchange I taught him some very valuable Northern

Natasha McClelland - PhD in Business and Management