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PhD Opportunities

Experiences and needs of children who have a parent who has mental illness

School of Nursing and Midwifery | PHD
Reference Number
Application Deadline
None specified
Start Date
None specified


Parental mental illness (PMI) is a major public health issue internationally. Parental mental illness can negatively impact children’s cognitive, emotional, social, physical and behavioural development (Acri & Hoagwood, 2015). In order to promote children’s resilience there is a critical need to understand their experiences and needs related to living with a parent who has mental illness and what supports they would find useful. This project will involve undertaking: systematic reviews of the literature, interviews with children whose parent have a mental illness and possibly piloting a low threshold intervention.

Emerging evidence suggests that family focused practice (FFP) can support families when parents have mental illness (Siegenthaler et al., 2012). However, there is limited understanding of children’s experiences of living with a parent who has mental illness and the supports that would best promote their resilience.

Aims and objectives:
This qualitative study aims to increase understanding of children’s experiences of parental mental illness and the supports they require to promote their resilience. If possible, in an additional phase (using quasi experimental design), a low threshold intervention could be implemented on a small scale and evaluated.

Research impact:
Recommendations for research, education, practice and policy will be made to help develop, trial and imbed optimal supports and interventions for children whose parent has a mental illness.

Project Summary

Anne Grant

Primary supervisor
Anne Grant

Mode of Study

Full-time: 3 years

Apply now Register your interest

Nursing & Midwifery overview

You’ll be part of a dynamic doctoral research environment and will study alongside students from across the world undertaking research in key healthcare areas including our three core innovative research themes, which encapsulate lifespan health research from conception to end-of-life: Maternal and Child Health; Chronic Illness and Palliative Care and Education and Practice. You’ll have the opportunity to develop your research potential in a vibrant research community that prioritises the cross-fertilization of ideas and innovation in the advancement of knowledge.

Within the School of Nursing and Midwifery our area of strength is health innovation through co-design and rigorous evaluation of healthcare interventions with policymakers, practice partners, patients and carers.

The School of Nursing and Midwifery has a number of research projects open for application, however, if none of the projects listed align with your own research idea, you must check whether we can support your area of interest and identify a supervisor. To find out more information on next steps, click here:

Nursing & Midwifery Highlights
Industry Links
Internationally Renowned Experts
Student Experience
  • The School of Nursing and Midwifery provides a vibrant environment for postgraduate research training. There are currently 60 students undertaking a wide-range of social science and health research projects who work closely with academic staff across the school. Students are encouraged to interact both within and across disciplines through formal and informal School events, some of which are student-led and which include an annual doctoral conference in collaboration with the University of Ulster.
Key Facts

Research students are encouraged to play an active role in the wide range of research activities undertaken in the school including masterclasses, seminars, and qualitative and quantitative modules.

  • Ranked 4 in the UK for Health and Biomedical Sciences in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework
  • Our research is funded from the European Commission under Interreg and Horizon 2020, as well as large charities such as Alzheimer’s Society, Dunhill Trust, Marie Curie, Movember Cancer Research United Kingdom, Northern Ireland Chest Heart & Stroke.
  • Other funders include the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Newton Fund, the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), and the Public Health Agency of NI.

Course content

Research Information

Research Themes
Chronic Illness and Palliative Care (PhD)

The aim of this research theme is to improve the health and wellbeing of those with chronic illness, and those requiring palliative care and their informal carers. Our team's research fosters a sound evidence base in which multiple research approaches are promoted including epidemiology, ethics, health services research, behavioral sciences and randomized control trials. An innovative feature of the team is in pioneering the viability of the palliative care approach beyond the field of cancer care into areas such as dementia care, heart failure, kidney disease and a range of chronic illnesses.

You'll work with an internationally recognised and connected group of researchers conducting research with them to provide new solutions for supportive care in chronic illness and innovative palliative care.

Maternal and Child Health (PhD)

The aim of this research theme is to improve health and well-being in pregnancy, childbirth, and early years care and amongst children with long term health conditions or disabilities, such as acquired brain injury and cerebral palsy. Our team’s research is renowned for developing and evaluating interventions, contributing to the evidence base worldwide in improving Maternal and Child Health outcomes, especially focusing where need is greatest. One of the many valuable innovations we make to the field of Maternal and Child Health is in relation to fathers and prospective fathers, unlocking men’s potential to improve health and social care outcomes for children, and in turn to men’s own health.

You’ll work with an outstanding group of researchers who are at the heart of improvements in parental and child health, recognising that improving health in pregnancy, infancy and childhood is important for adult health and wellbeing across generations.

Education and Practice (PhD/MPhil)

The school is at the forefront of educational innovation and this theme showcases emergent research and scholarship in education and practice.

This programme promotes the integration of research in curriculum and practice development enabling us to develop the future leaders in nursing and midwifery.

The theme is developing four key areas of activity:

• Technology enhanced learning.
• Promoting mental health and wellbeing.
• Innovations in assessment.
• Simulated learning.

Our vision is to facilitate integrated scholarly activity and promote innovation in health care education and practice.

Research Impact
The school's research is having a profound impact on the health of the population, from cradle to grave.

The enrolment of increased numbers of international students to all our programmes provides a unique and valued perspective of nursing practice to the School of Nursing and Midwifery. The opportunity for students from home and abroad to study together promotes perfect opportunities for sharing ideas and networking.

The school has links with academic institutions and state organisations in many countries including Oman, Nigeria, Brunei, China, Saudi Arabia, USA, Canada and Finland. We have particular expertise in specialist areas of nursing across the spectrum of nursing and midwifery from primary care through to development of leadership and management skills.

Our research Impacts on how we promote health and well-being and deliver patient care throughout Northern Ireland and internationally. More detail can be found at the link below.

Research Success
Queen’s University Belfast is ranked =233 in the world (QS World University Rankings 2023) and 29th in the UK (QS World University Rankings 2023).
15 Queen’s subjects are in the top 200 in the world (QS World Rankings by subject 2023) including, Nursing (51-100).

The research profile produced by the 2021 UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) graded 88 per cent of our research activity as 'world-leading' or 'internationally excellent', and over 99% of Queen’s research environment was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent confirming the University’s reputation as an internationally leading establishment. In addition, Queen’s is ranked =4th in the UK for Allied Health Professions, Dentistry, Nursing and Pharmacy (REF 2021/ Times Higher Education Subject Rankings).

A PhD is a great opportunity where experienced professionals study and explore the issues and challenges facing healthcare. On the PhD programme is ongoing exchange of ideas that build on the students’ knowledge and expertise so that they can develop new knowledge and become leaders in their workplace post PhD.

Professor Helen Noble, Director of PGR
Career Prospects

Queen's postgraduates reap exceptional benefits. Unique initiatives, such as Degree Plus and Researcher Plus bolster our commitment to employability, while innovative leadership and executive programmes alongside sterling integration with business experts help our students gain key leadership positions both nationally and internationally.

Employment after the Course
For further information on career development opportunities at PhD level please contact the Director of Postgraduate Studies, Professor Helen Noble at

People teaching you

Professor Helen Noble
Director of Post Graduate Studies
Nursing and Midwifery

Learning Outcomes
A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field. Undertaking a research degree can enhance a student’s written and oral communication skills and a PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic post.
Course structure
There is no specific course content as such. You are expected to take research training modules that are supported by the school which focus on quantitative and qualitative research methods. You are also expected to carry out your research under the guidance of your supervisor.

Over the course of study you can attend postgraduate skills training organised by the Graduate School.

You will normally register, in the first instance, as an ‘undifferentiated PhD student’ which means that you have satisfied staff that you are capable of undertaking a research degree. The decision as to whether you should undertake an MPhil or a PhD is delayed until you have completed ‘differentiation’.

Differentiation takes place about 9 months after registration for full time students and about 18 months for part time students: You are normally asked to submit work to a panel of up two academics and this is followed up with a formal meeting with the ‘Differentiation Panel’. The Panel then make a judgement about your capacity to continue with your study. Sometimes students are advised to revise their research objectives or to consider submitting their work for an MPhil qualification rather than a doctoral qualification.

To complete with a doctoral qualification, you will usually be required to submit a thesis of up to 70,000 words and you will be required to attend a viva voce [oral examination] with an external and internal examiner to defend your thesis.

A PhD programme runs for 3-4 years full-time or 6-8 years part-time. This includes a writing up year which students can apply for should it be required.

The PhD is open to both full and part time candidates and is often a useful preparation for a career within academia or a clinical setting.

Full-time students are often attracted to research degree programmes because they offer an opportunity to pursue in some depth an area of academic interest. A research degree offers students an opportunity to foster their capacity for independent research and critical thought. It also allows students to explore an area of interest and so understand and solve theoretical and practical problems within the field. Undertaking a research degree can enhance a student’s written and oral communication skills and a PhD is almost always a formal requirement for an academic post.

The part time research degree is an exciting option for professionals already working in the healthcare field who are seeking to extend their knowledge on an issue of professional interest. Often part time candidates choose to research an area that is related to their professional responsibilities.

If you meet the Entry Requirements, the next step is to check whether we can supervise research in your chosen area. We only take students to whom we can offer expert research supervision from one of our academic staff. Therefore, your research question needs to engage with the research interests of one of our staff.

Application Process
Please review the eligibility criteria on the webpages. If you believe that you meet these criteria then follow the steps below:

Select ONE potential supervisor from our list of Academic Staff and send an email containing:

- a brief CV (1-2 pages maximum)
- a concise statement that you are interested in studying for a PhD, stating when you would start, and how you would plan to fund the research
- a brief statement of the research question or interest, and how you think the question could be investigated.

Our academic staff welcome approaches from prospective students. Staff can liaise with applicants to develop a research proposal of mutual interest. The potential supervisor should get back to you within a couple of weeks. They may invite you to meet with them or they may invite you to apply formally.

If you have difficulty identifying or contacting an appropriate supervisor, please contact Professor Helen Noble (email: who will be happy to help.

The Annual Progress Review requires students to present their work in writing and orally to a panel of academics from within the School. Successful completion of this process will allow students to register for the next academic year.

The final assessment of the doctoral degree is both oral and written. Students will submit their thesis to an internal and external examining team who will review the written thesis before inviting the student to orally defend their work at a Viva Voce.


Supervisors will offer feedback on draft work at regular intervals throughout the period of registration on the degree.


Full time PhD students will have access to a shared office space and a desk with personal computer and internet access.

Entrance requirements

The minimum academic requirement for admission to a research degree programme is normally an Upper Second Class Honours degree from a UK or ROI HE provider, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University. As part of the application process candidates will be required to submit a research proposal and undertake an interview.

International Students

For information on international qualification equivalents, please check the specific information for your country.

English Language Requirements

Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

Tuition Fees

Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £4,712
Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £4,712
England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £4,712
EU Other 3 £18,900
International £18,900

1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled or pre-settled status, are expected to be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly Student Fees Regulations. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB are expected to be charged the GB fee, however this is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

2 It is expected that EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI will be eligible for NI tuition fees. The tuition fee set out above is provisional and subject to the publication of the Northern Ireland Assembly student fees Regulations.

3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2021-22, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

Nursing & Midwifery costs

There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

Additional course costs

All Students

Depending on the programme of study, there may also be other extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies . Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £100 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges. Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen. There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, and library fines. In undertaking a research project students may incur costs associated with transport and/or materials, and there will also be additional costs for printing and binding the thesis. There may also be individually tailored research project expenses and students should consult directly with the School for further information.

Bench fees

Some research programmes incur an additional annual charge on top of the tuition fees, often referred to as a bench fee. Bench fees are charged when a programme (or a specific project) incurs extra costs such as those involved with specialist laboratory or field work. If you are required to pay bench fees they will be detailed on your offer letter. If you have any questions about Bench Fees these should be raised with your School at the application stage. Please note that, if you are being funded you will need to ensure your sponsor is aware of and has agreed to fund these additional costs before accepting your place.

How do I fund my study?

1.PhD Opportunities

Find PhD opportunities and funded studentships by subject area.

2.Funded Doctoral Training Programmes

We offer numerous opportunities for funded doctoral study in a world-class research environment. Our centres and partnerships, aim to seek out and nurture outstanding postgraduate research students, and provide targeted training and skills development.

3.PhD loans

The Government offers doctoral loans of up to £26,445 for PhDs and equivalent postgraduate research programmes for English- or Welsh-resident UK and EU students.

4.International Scholarships

Information on Postgraduate Research scholarships for international students.

Funding and Scholarships

The Funding & Scholarship Finder helps prospective and current students find funding to help cover costs towards a whole range of study related expenses.

How to Apply

Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

Find a supervisor

If you're interested in a particular project, we suggest you contact the relevant academic before you apply, to introduce yourself and ask questions.

To find a potential supervisor aligned with your area of interest, or if you are unsure of who to contact, look through the staff profiles linked here.

You might be asked to provide a short outline of your proposal to help us identify potential supervisors.

Download Postgraduate Prospectus