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Materials, Sustainability and Commodity Markets


Key facts

Type of research degree
Mastership by Research (including MA by research, MSc by Research, MSc (Eng) by research)
Application deadline
Friday 13 October 2023
Project start date
Monday 1 April 2024
Country eligibility
UK only
Source of funding
University of Leeds
Dr Mark Sumner and Dr Mark Taylor
School of Design
<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Summary</h2>

We are pleased to announce that the School of Design is offering one fully funded research scholarship for a 1 year Masters by Research project for the academic year 2023/24. The Scholarship award includes a maintenance grant and the standard tuition fees for a 1 year research project. The scholarship is open to UK applicants only.<br /> <br /> This fully funded Masters by Research project provides an exciting opportunity to pursue postgraduate research at one of the University of Leeds&rsquo; most diverse and exciting Schools. <br /> <br /> The Masters by Research project intends to explore an important but often under researched field within the fashion and textiles industry. Materials, such as cotton and polyester, have a major impact on the costs as well as the sustainability of the fashion industry. But the production and trading of these materials are generally controlled by international commodity markets which are poorly understood by many within the industry. <br /> <br /> Commodity markets are influenced by local factors as well as by macro geo-political factors. The dynamics of the markets for each type of material varies, but they are also interlinked. As a result, fluctuations in one market can affect another, and major global events, such as the financial crash of 2008/9, can also have a profound effect. <br /> <br /> By developing a better understanding of these dynamics, it has been suggested that industry and policy makers can navigate better strategies for material traceability across the global supply chains, and also improve the utilisation of sustainable materials. <br /> <br /> The School of Design has a long heritage of research and study across a wide range of fashion and textile subject areas, and this new research opportunity aims to extend and expand the School&rsquo;s research portfolio.<br /> <br /> The School of Design invites applications from prospective postgraduate researchers who wish to commence study for this Masters by Research scholarship in the academic year 2023/24. We especially welcome applications from candidates who have experience of working in commodity markets and/or the fashion and textile industry.<br />

<h2 class="heading hide-accessible">Full description</h2>

<h6><strong>The project:</strong></h6> <p>The demand for greater transparency across textile supply chains has highlighted the reliance of the industry on global commodity markets for key raw materials such as cotton, polyester, MMCF and wool.&nbsp;</p> <p>These markets have direct impacts on the cost of clothing. The commodity markets also have indirect impacts on the sustainability of clothing and textiles. However, there is limited understanding of these impacts and the interactions across the commodity markets.&nbsp;</p> <p>The price of a garment is typically made up of many different components, but the most significant cost is that of the raw materials, with the cost of the cotton, polyester or wool used in a garment being up to 60-70% of the overall cost of the product.&nbsp;These materials are also one of the most significant factors determining the sustainability of a garment. The largest component of a garment&rsquo;s water, carbon, chemical and social footprint is associated with the materials and where these came from.&nbsp;But these materials are traded on global commodity markets. As a result, material traceability is poor, and therefore, understanding the sustainability of these materials is also poor. Furthermore, these markets can be affected by changes in global stock levels, currency exchange rates, and national farming subsidies. These markets can also be very significantly affected by major political or economic shocks, such as the financial crisis of 2008/09, the pandemic and war such as that seen in Ukraine.&nbsp;<br /> Importantly these markets operate independently of even the largest fashion brands and retailers, with individual brands having little influence or control of these commodity markets. Despite the fact that these markets have been well established for hundreds of years, the dynamics of commodity markets are poorly understood by the fashion industry.</p> <p><br /> This project aims to address two important research questions:</p> <p>Firstly, the research project will attempt to identify the major factors that influence the dynamics of individual fibre markets. For example, cotton and polyester, the two most common fibres used in clothing, are very different. Cotton is a renewable fibre that is heavily reliant on agricultural factors such as labour, fertilisers and water, whilst polyester, a non-renewable resource, is very dependent on crude oil. However, both fibre markets are linked. Availability and stock levels of cotton can affect the polyester commodity market, and vice versa.&nbsp;</p> <p>The second area of research is understanding how the material dynamics are reflected in the complex network of supply chains through to brands and retailers. The financial crash of 2008/9 saw cotton costs quadruple, resulting in many businesses across the whole of the supply going bust, and this incident may be used as a case study to map these connections across the supply network.&nbsp;</p> <p>By using quantitative methods, historic data for key commodity markets will be analysed and cross referenced with geo-political events to explore the dynamics of these markets. The analysis will be complemented with qualitative interviews with industry experts to identify key factors specific to the fashion industry that also affect these commodity markets.&nbsp;<br /> This analysis will be used to explore how traceability of materials could be improved and how this may better aid the utilisation of sustainable materials for the fashion industry. The outputs of the project will have value for academia, for industry stakeholders, such as brands, retailers and their suppliers, and for policy makers.&nbsp;</p>

<h2 class="heading">How to apply</h2>

<p><strong>Stage 1</strong></p> <p>First, apply for a research place of study, through the&nbsp;<a href="">online application form</a>.&nbsp;Please state clearly that the funding you wish to be considered for is &ldquo;The School of Design Masters by Research Scholarship&rdquo;. You will be expected to meet our&nbsp;<a href="">eligibility criteria</a>&nbsp;for Postgraduate Research candidates.</p> <p>In order to be considered for the Studentship you must submit all the required <a href="">supporting documents </a>for your application for Postgraduate Research study.</p> <p>To apply for this scholarship, in addition to the standard application form required for Postgraduate Research studies, you will also need to submit a <strong>project proposal</strong>. You should use the proposal to provide evidence of your research skills and demonstrate your academic expertise.&nbsp;<br /> As the project objectives have been described above, your proposal should focus on the following aspects:</p> <ul> <li>A brief description of commodity markets and how they function</li> <li>A suggested methodology describing the methods and structure you would use for this project</li> <li>Identify potential challenges for delivering the research objectives</li> </ul> <p>The proposal should be no longer than 1,500 words (excluding references)&nbsp;</p> <p><br /> Once you have received your student ID number (a 9-digit number) move onto stage 2.</p> <p><strong>Stage 2</strong></p> <p><br /> Apply for the School of Design Masters by Research Scholarship by completing this&nbsp;<a href="">Scholarship Application Form</a>. You must submit your scholarship application form by&nbsp;<strong>12.00 p.m. on Friday 13<sup>th</sup> October&nbsp;2023.</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>As an international research-intensive university, we welcome students from all walks of life and from across the world. We foster an inclusive environment where all can flourish and prosper, and we are proud of our strong commitment to student education. Across all Faculties we are dedicated to diversifying our community and we welcome the unique contributions that individuals can bring, and particularly encourage applications from, but not limited to Black, Asian, people who belong to a minority ethnic community, people who identify as LGBT+ and people with disabilities. Applicants will always be selected based on merit and ability.</em></p>

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">Entry requirements</h2>

Applicants to this scholarship in the School of Design should normally have an Upper Second or First class Undergraduate degree (in an appropriate discipline). Applicants who are uncertain about the requirements for a particular research degree are advised to contact the Graduate School Admissions Office prior to making an application.

<h2 class="heading heading--sm">English language requirements</h2>

The minimum English language entry requirement for Postgraduate Research study in the School of Design is an IELTS of 6.5 overall with at least 6.0 in each component (reading, writing, listening and speaking) or equivalent. The test must be dated within two years of the start date of the course in order to be valid.

<h2 class="heading">Funding on offer</h2>

<p><strong>Information about the Award</strong></p> <ul> <li>We are offering 1 full-time or part time Masters by Research scholarship in the School of Design for one UK candidate, covering a maintenance grant matching UKRI maintenance stipend (currently &pound;18,622) and UK&nbsp;tuition fees for 1 year, subject to satisfactory progress.&nbsp;</li> </ul> <p><strong>Duration of the Award</strong></p> <ul> <li>Full-time (1 year) or part time (2 years) subject to satisfactory academic progress.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Other Conditions</strong></p> <ul> <li>Applicants must not have already been awarded or be currently studying for a doctoral degree.</li> <li>Awards must be taken up by 1st April 2024.<br /> &nbsp;</li> </ul>

<h2 class="heading">Contact details</h2>

<p>For further information please contact the Graduate School Admissions Office&nbsp;via &ndash;&nbsp;<a href=""></a>, or <a href="">Dr Mark Sumner</a>&nbsp;</p>

<h3 class="heading heading--sm">Linked research areas</h3>