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Personal profile

Research interests

Phil Ashworth is a Professor of Physical Geography specialising in river morphodynamics and sedimentology. His research interests span a range of scales including the largest rivers and estuaries in the world. He focusses on the field quantification of alluvial morphodynamics, the diversity of large river pattern and the application of fluvial sedimentology in characterising reservoir heterogeneity. This work has been supported by 16 NERC grants and several contracts from the petroleum industry.

Scholarly biography

Phil Ashworth is the Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Knowledge Exchange), the Interim Director of the Brighton Doctoral College and a Professor of Physical Geography.

As the Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor he is responsible for ensuring that the actions arising out of the University Research and Knowledge Exchange Strategic Plan are supported and implemented effectively to maximise the scale, quality, impact and international reach of the University’s research and KE. Phil leads development of the Centres of Research and Enterprise Excellence (COREs), and leads on the financial management of the quality-related (QR) income (£8.6m). Since February 2023, he is the Interim Director of the Brighton Doctoral College and oversees its £1.7m budget. He also Chairs the University's Commercialisation Panel that invests HEIF income in new innovation projects and exploits IP and business opportunities. Phil was a member of the Executive-led 'Securing our Future' Group that planned the new size and shape of the university from 1 September 2018. As part of this work, he led the workstream making £2.2m of efficiency gains and savings across the Research and KE remit. Phil co-leads the University planning on investing and opimising QR investment and led the scoping and approval for a reorganisation of School R&KE adminstration that was completed in April 2023. He also serves on the IT Governance Board and TRAC group and is the lead on the 'Internationalising R&KE' workstream of the Brighton2025 R&KE Strategic Plan. Phil also serves on the Research Design Service South East (RDS SE) Advisory Board that is due to finish in 23/24. He was a lead member of the REF2021 executive team, including principal author of the Institutional-Level Environment Statement.

Phil is an international scholar in the earth, physical and environmental sciences with H-Index of 50 and over 7100 citations. He currently works on landscape evolution and sedimentation across a range of scales including the largest rivers and estuaries in the world. His research has been supported by over £5.5m of funding including 16 grants from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Phil has close links with the petroleum industry and recent projects include working on the Albertan Oil Sands in Canada.

Phil has a strong association with the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) where he was one of only 14 UK scientists invited to chair all the Responsive Mode grant panels (2010-2014). He has also chaired panels for a number of Directed Programmes, Strategic Capital Equipment, International Opportunities and Global Partnerships. Phil is currently a NERC Core member of the Peer Review College and was a member of the NERC Scientific Support and Facilities Review Group in 2022. He is a member of the UKRI Future Leaders Panel Pool and was Deputy Chair in interviews for Rounds 1 and 4 and a Sift Member for Round 5. He also recently served on the EPSRC AI CDT panel and was a panel reviewer for outputs from the Royal Society Africa Capacity Building Initiative. Phil was a council member and trustee of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) (2014-2017) and is a co-author of the Benchmark Review of UK Physical Geography produced in association with the RGS. He was made a Fellow of the British Society for Geomorphology in 2014 and received the RGS Cuthbert Peek Award in May 2021 from the RGS for 'pioneering wide-reaching research methods through remote sensing and modelling of river dynamics'.

Phil was appointed to the REF2021 UoA14 Geography and Environmental Studies sub-panel and with a small group helped draft the C14 input to the Guidance on Submissions and Criteria and Working Methods. Phil completed a full assessment load grading outputs, impact case studies and environment statements. This work was completed in February 2022.

Phil is a keen advocate of research dissemination through different media and has outputs on ResearchGateYouTube, and Twitter and has published articles in the Times Higher Education and Wonkhe

Supervisory Interests

I will be delighted to supervise PhD students in river dynamics, sediment transport and morphological change in the world's largest rivers, flooding and river-floodplain connectivity and UAVs/drone applications in river mapping. An example of a recently completed PhD is 'Floodplain geomorphology and topography in large rivers' Strick, R.

Education/Academic qualification

PhD, University of Stirling

1 Oct 19831 Jun 1987

Award Date: 1 Jul 1986

Bachelor, Geography BSc, Aberystwyth University

1 Sept 19801 Jul 1983

Award Date: 1 Jul 1986

External positions

UKRI and Ministry of Earth Sciences (India): Understanding geohazard processes and their impacts across India. Co-Chair of Panel

6 Nov 20236 Dec 2023

British Society for Geomorphology: Fellowships Panel

26 Jul 2023 → …

Royal Society FCDO Africa Capacity Building Initiative (ACBI): The Congo River: user hydraulics and morphology. Output Evaluation Panel member

17 Jul 202314 Sept 2023

NERC Independent Research Fellowships: Sift and Interview Panel A Member

2 Feb 202315 Mar 2023

UKRI Talent Panel College

15 Dec 2022 → …

NERC Panel Chair: Economics of Biodiversity Panel

21 Jun 2022

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Sift Panel Round 5

2 Feb 20213 Feb 2021

NERC Strategic Need Advisory Working Group (SNAG)

31 Jan 202131 Jul 2021

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Interview Panel Round 4: Deputy Chair

29 Jul 2020

Member of Research Design Service South East (RDS SE) Advisory Board

Jul 2020 → …

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship Interview Panel: Deputy Chair Round 1

21 Jan 201922 Jan 2019

UKRI Future Leaders Panel Pool

11 Jan 2019 → …


6 Nov 20188 Nov 2018

REF2021 UoA14 Sub-panel Member, UKRI

1 Mar 20181 Apr 2022

NERC Peer Review College Core member

9 Nov 2017 → …

Fellow BSG (10% of membership), British Society for Geomorphology

1 Sept 2014 → …

Fellow RGS, Royal Geographical Society

2013 → …

NERC Pool of Grant Panel Chairs



  • GB Physical geography
  • Rivers
  • Sediments
  • Floods
  • Channel pattern
  • Erosion
  • Deposition


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