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Photo of Professor Clare Saunders

Professor Clare Saunders

Professor in Politics (Cornwall)

01326 259466

Off Campus ESI Builiding 2.33

Since August 2022, I have been Head of Department for Humanities and Social Science Cornwall. This is an exciting transdisciplinary department that puts the attainment of social justice at the heart of its work.

My teaching and research are focused on my own personal mission to try to help make the world a better place. What I teach and what I research are entwined and focused on political participation and environmental politics. When I'm running POC3072: The Politics of Protest, I take students on a field trip to London to attend and survey a large-scale protest. This teaches my students how to apply the professional state-of-the-art Caught in the Act of Protest methodology, while also contributing crucial data to an international database.

My admin and teaching roles are in the Politics department, but I conduct inter-disciplinary research 'using natural systems for environmental change' as an Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) researcher. Please visit my ESI web page for more information on my interdisciplinary research:

Research group links

Research interests

My research is motivated by my underlying desire to want to make the world a better place to live in. I dream of a world in which we live in a clean environment that is managed with an inclusive and fair democracy. This had led me to be concerned to chart important environmental and social justice movements, to think about ways to resolve environmental and political conflict, and to try to find ways to encourage people to adopt more pro-environmental behaviours.  Here are details of some of the projects I have been involved in:

S4S: Designing a Sensibility for Sustainability, PI on this AHRC-funded project (£435,000 FEC) which seeks to generate more sustainable clothing practices through engaging project participants in workshops mending, making and modifyng clothes. The development of a sensibiity for sustainability is assessed using interviews, wardrobe audits, fashion consumption diaries, surveys and analysis of natural talk during the workshops.

POLPART: How Citizens Influence Politics and Why,  team lead for the UK case (€244,000 FEC). This project seeks to understand the multiple ways in which people participate in politics, and the nature of the issues that motivate them to do so. The UK case is part of a cross-national European Research Council Advanced Grant project run by Bert Klandermans (Amsterdam) €2.5m. The project website is available here:

Using Propensity Score Matching to Test the Normalisation of Protest Thesis, funded by the British Academy (£8,000). This was a Quantitative Skills Acquisition Grant, which I undertook at the University of Manchester, working under the guidance of Professor Natalie Shlomo. We combined data-sets from the Caught in the Act of Protest project (CCC) and the European Social Survey to introduce randomisation into the former. This has allowed us to make comparisons between protesters and non-protesters, which is not possible using the CCC data alone.

Doing TB Differently, funded by the ESRC (£200,000 FEC). This project explored the potential of deliberative forums to help create a more workable TB policy to blanket badger culling. I as principal investigator, with Steve Hinchliffe (Geography), Robbie McDonald (ESI, Biosciences) and Stephan Price (RA). For more information, please see the project website, here

Caught in the Act of Protest, funded by the European Science Foundation (£285,000  FEC for UK case). I led for the UK case of this pan-European project, which involved systematically surveying large scale street protests across Europe. For more information about this, please see the project website

Making Methods Matter: Embedding Employability and Enhancing Experience, funded by the Higher Education Academy (£7,000). With colleagues at the University of Southampton, I have worked to improve research methods teaching by engaging students in real-world research with genuine stakeholders. I will be building on this work as key member of staff in the University of Exeter's Q-Step Centre. To see a video series I presented and produced on research methods, see here:

Community Based Initiatives in Energy Saving, funded by the RCUK Energy Programme (£945,000 FEC). I work as co-investigator with colleagues from the Universities of Southampton, Westminster and Reading, using a matched case controlled experiment to understand whether community based intiatives can deliver a net saving in household energy demand. See for more information.

Comparing Climate Policy Networks, funded by the US National Science Foundation (US$24,000 for the UK case). With collaborators in over 20 countries, we are using policy network analysis to understand whether advocacy networks are responsible for divergent climate change policies across nations. You can find out more about the Compon project from this link:

Democracy in Europe and the Mobilization of Society, EC-FP7 project. Between 2004-8, I worked with Christopher Rootes on the UK case of this project, which explored activists conceptions and practices of democracy. The project website can be found through this link:

Research supervision

I would welcome applications from PhD students in any of the following areas:

* Social movements / protest

* Pro-environmental behaviour change

* Environmental discourses

* Climate change policy


I currently supervise several PhD students in the ESI / Politics department, University of Exeter:

Sophie Rich-Degeneve, The role of nature connection in shaping environmental awareness of state and Steiner educated people.

Amina Ghezal, The story of moving islanders: Exploring Tuvaluna migrants' place attachment and sense of belonging between the homeland and the host-land.

Joyce Liang, A comparison of the lifestyles of the Umbrella and Anti-Extradition Movement protest cycles.

Ella Rolfe, A future worth pushing for: The role of developing positive future visions in taking environmental political action.

Previous PhD students include:

* Phillip Passmore: Communicating climate science on-line.

* Sidan Wang: Newspaper discourse of climate change in China

* Molly Bond: How indigenous people shape (or should shape) the developing regime for the regulation of synthetic biology.

* Milka Ivanovka: Consequences of state benefits on political activities and membership involvement.

* Gina Angelescu: Environmental citizenship in Europe: A longitudinal analysis.

* Emily Rainsford, The nature of youth activism: Exploring young people who are political active in different institutional settings. 





Before working at the University of Exeter I was RCUK Academic Fellow at the University of Southampton (2008-12), where I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in October 2011. Prior to that, I was a research associate at the Centre for the Study of Social and Political Movements, University of Kent (2000-1, 2004-2008 with an ESRC funded PhD 2001-2004).

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