£1m award for Global Academies

Some of the biggest challenges facing mankind are to be investigated in a study by the University’s four Global Academies.

The £1m Leverhulme Trust doctoral scholarship grant entitled “Perfect Storm - Interdisciplinary Doctoral Training” will train four cohorts of doctoral researchers, 20 in total, to examine major problems around the world.

Food insecurity, climate change, access to energy, religious unrest and the increasing risk of zoonotic diseases that afflict both humans and animals represent research topics that students will tackle.

The money will help fund research into these various threats and analyse how they disrupt and destabilise the lives of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

The term “the perfect storm” was coined in 2009 by the UK Government’s then Chief Scientific Advisor Professor Sir John Beddington to describe the creation of conditions necessary for disruptive global events.

Professor Beddington, an Edinburgh alumnus, is now Convenor of the Global Academies Advisory Board and an expert on global challenges and their impact on society.


On 19 November 2014, Professor Beddington delivered the University’s annual Enlightenment Lecture. In it, he discussed the pressing challenges facing society today.

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I am delighted we have secured this funding from the Leverhulme Trust. The possibility of funding successive cohorts of interdisciplinary doctoral students working on our most compelling global challenges is hugely exciting and perfectly reflects the work and focus of our four global academies and highest aspirations of the University of Edinburgh. We will draw on supervisory expertise and research and training opportunities from across the Colleges of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, Science and Engineering, and Humanities and Social Sciences to ensure that our graduates are equipped to make fundamental contributions to issues of health, environment, development and justice.

Professor James SmithVice-Principal, International

Global Academies

Established to encourage students and staff to break down traditional subject barriers, the Global Academies bring together academics from a wide range of disciplines, encouraging them to pool knowledge and approach challenges from a range of positions.

The Global Health Academy, the Global Environment and Society Academy, the Global Justice Academy and the Global Development Academy have together played a key role in supporting the work of University Schools in creating more than 20 postgraduate programmes, which are delivered both as on-campus courses and as distance-learning options - an area in which Edinburgh is a world leader. These include:

  • Biodiversity, Wildlife & Ecosystem Health
  • Carbon Management (2015)
  • Human Rights
  • Global Environment, Politics and Society

Additionally, the Academies have already secured in excess of £6m in grants for the academic year 2014/15 and have established and strengthened links with Yale University, the Clinton Foundation, Columbia Earth Institute, and Makerere University.

The Academies have also helped to empower students to collaborate around local and global concerns, encouraging the transformation of ideas into action.

Student experience activities include: foundation of TEDx, coordination of student engagement with the Clinton Global Initiative University Network, postgraduate reading groups, doctoral networks, work-based placements and student societies.