PhD Studentships NIHR GHR Group

  • PhD Studentships NIHR GHR Group


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Two New Fully-Funded PhD Studentships Available within CESI

Applications are sought for two new fully-funded PhD studentships within the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) in the area of early childhood development (ECD) and peacebuilding. The Deadline for applications is 18th September 2017.

Based within the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Early Childhood Development for Peacebuilding at Queen's University Belfast, that is led by CESI, these two studentships provide exciting opportunities to work with world-leading experts and strategic partners, including UNICEF, in undertaking research on ECD programmes in low and middle income countries that seek to promote sustainable development and contribute to social cohesion and peacebuilding. 



The studentships will begin in January 2018 and will run on a full-time basis for three years. The studentships cover the costs of all fees (currently £4,121) and a maintenance grant of £14,296 per year (as of 2016/17). Each studentship also has a budget of up to £1000 per year to cover research expenses and associated activities. In addition, all project-related travel and subsistence expenses incurred in undertaking fieldwork in one or more low and middle income countries will be covered.

Applicants should have a primary degree in a relevant social science subject and a masters degree (either awarded or due to be awarded before January 2018). These two awards are only available to applicants currently resident in the UK or European Union (see further details on eligibility criteria). 

In addition to these two awards, applications from those resident in other countries are also welcome and will be considered if they have alternative sources of funding and/r are self-financing. For such applicants, please contact Dr Sarah Miller or Dr Laura Dunne to discuss options.

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We work in partnership with communities, service providers, professionals and policy makers to find innovative solutions to key global and societal challenges. Using robust evidence, we seek to make a real difference to the lives of children, families and communities. The Centre draws together over 100 academics and researchers from a wide range of disciplines at Queen’s, including education, social work, nursing and midwifery, public health, psychology, economics, sociology, social policy and criminology. The size of the Centre, its interdisciplinary focus and breadth of expertise as well as its strong emphasis on working in partnership with external stakeholders makes this an unparalleled place to study for a PhD. 

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There are approximately 250 million children (43%) under 5 years of age in low and middle income countries (LMICs) at risk of not achieving their developmental potential. These developmental deficits are evident from birth and worsen across the lifespan. By adulthood, the cumulative costs associated with this has been estimated to cost LMICs up to twice the current amount they spend on health each year. These risks are compounded in countries affected by conflict due to the harmful effects of children’s exposure to sustained violence.

There is now considerable evidence demonstrating that early childhood development (ECD) programmes that focus on creating and sustaining positive nurturing environments for young children can have a significant effect in reducing these developmental delays and that this is associated with improved long-term outcomes in adulthood. Moreover, it is suggested that such programmes can also contribute to reducing violence and preventing conflicts at a community level.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals offer an historic opportunity to advocate for national policy frameworks for ECD amongst LMICs, especially those affected by conflict. Working with UNICEF as a strategic partner, this NIHR Global Health Research Group will create a sustainable network of global researchers to: develop and test ECD interventions in LMICs affected by conflict; create an international evidence base; and develop impact plans at local, national and international levels to promote ECD programmes for sustainable development and peacebuilding.

The Group draws upon an existing strong track record of interdisciplinary social science research at the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI), including considerable expertise in working in partnership with local communities and service providers to support the development and evaluation of ECD programmes. It also has specific experience working in partnership with a local ECD organisation to develop, pilot and take to scale a preschool peacebuilding programme for Northern Ireland that is now being adapted for delivery in several other conflict-affected countries. 

Through a strategic partnership with UNICEF, and with the support of global research centres at Yale, Harvard and New York University, the Group will create a network of researchers from six LMICs affected by conflict (Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Mali, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste and Vietnam) that will: build research capacity; run pilot research evaluations of ECD programmes in each country; and develop a strategy to achieve impact locally, nationally and internationally. Each of the six ECD programmes will be led by UNICEF’s Country Offices in association with local partners.

The immediate impact sought will be measurable improvements to the lives of young children and their carers in the six LMICs. In the medium term, this direct impact will be extended to other LMICs affected by conflict with plans to expand the Group. In the medium to long term, the Group will also seek, through its partnership with UNICEF and the global Early Childhood Peace Consortium, to demonstrate the relevance of ECD interventions for peacebuilding to achieve national ECD policy commitments in the partner countries and also international impact. This will include building understanding of the relationship between ECD and Peacebuilding within the United Nations and the inclusion of ECD indicators for the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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The two studentships may focus on any aspect of ECD for peacebuilding in relation to one or more of the six partner countries listed above, and making use of any type or combination of methodologies appropriate to the focus of the research. It is not expected, at this stage, that applicants will have a clear focus and research plan in place. Rather, part of the work during the first year will be for the successful applicants to work within the NIHR Global Health Research Group to identify a specific focus for their respective PhDs, to agree aims and objectives and to draw up and finalise a research plan.

Whilst initial supervisors will be appointed for the first year, the supervisory teams for each studentship will be reviewed and supplemented, as required, during the first year to reflect the focus of each studentship and the specialist expertise required.

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See here for further information on the NIHR Global Health Research Group.

Applicants are strongly advised to contact either Dr Sarah Miller or Dr Laura Dunne to discuss their application prior to submission. Shortlisted applicants will be invited for interview. 

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You must discuss your ideas and seek advice on your application and research proposal before submitting it. This is a highly competitive process. You should therefore leave yourself sufficient time for this.

Please also check the eligibility requirements for these studentships as listed below.

Applications should be made online through Queen’s University Belfast’s website at:

When online, regardless of your primary subject area or location of your potential supervisor, please follow these directions carefully:

  1. Either login (if you have an existing account) or register
  2. Select Postgraduate research
  3. School - Choose School of Social Sciences Education and Social Work
  4. Subject Area – Choose Education
  5. Degree  - Choose Education (Doctor of Philosophy)

The deadline for submission of applications is: 4:00pm on Monday 18th September 2017. Late applications will not be considered.

You will need to complete a standard Application Form and also prepare and Supporting Statement:

  • Application Form - please make clear in your application that you are applying for one of the "NIHR Global Health Research Group Studentships". Alongside providing key information on education, qualifications and work experience, there is an opportunity to provide "Additional Information". You are strongly encouraged to use this to draw out and emphasis the range of knowledge, skills and experience that you have that are of relevance to your proposed project.
  • Supporting Statement- applicants should also prepare and upload a Supporting Statement of no more than four pages (A4 size and with font no smaller than 12 point) outlining their relevant professional and academic experience, specifically in relation to early child development and/or peacebuilding. Within this, applicants should demonstrate their understanding of the role that early childhood programmes can play in promoting sustainable development and peacebuilding. Applicants should also provide an initial indication of their broad areas of interest within this including, where relevant, existing knowledge of or interests in one or more of the country case studies.

The four page limit will be strictly adhered to. Where a Supporting Statement is in excess of this limit, only the first four pages will be read.

Applicants will be expected to have:

  • Gained, prior to commencing the studentship, a good honours degree (usually upper second class honours or above) or else an honours degree of any classification and masters degree in a subject area relevant to the project chosen;
  • Normally, a masters degree in a social science area, and preferably in a subject relevant to early childhood development (ECD) and/or peacebuilding;
  • Good background knowledge of relevant research and debates in relation to ECD for sustainable development and peacebuilding;
  • Good grasp of social research methods in general as well as specific expertise in relation to ECD and/or peacebuilding; and
  • Excellent presentational, interpersonal and team-working skills.

Applications received will initially be screened against the criteria set out above and a shortlist drawn up based on the quality of the application and supporting statement. Those shortlisted will be invited for interview.

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Residence Requirements

To qualify for the full studentships (i.e. payment of fees and maintenance) applicants must have been resident in the United Kingdom or Islands (includes Isle of Man and Channel islands), or elsewhere in the European Union (for fees only studentships), throughout the period of 3 years immediately preceding the start of the studentship (or would have been so resident had you, your spouse or either parent not been employed temporarily outside the UK).

  • For Non-EU nationals – the main purpose of your residence in the UK must NOT have been to receive full time education during any part of that 3 year period.
  • For EU nationals – where the main purpose for your residence in the UK was to receive full time education you must have been ordinarily resident in the European Economic Area (EEA) and / or Switzerland immediately before that 3 year period.
  • EU nationals may qualify for a “Fees only” studentship if you are in the UK as a self- sufficient person or as a student, or you are the family member of such a person. You must have been ordinarily resident in the EEA and / or Switzerland for 3 years before the first day of the first academic year of the course. The main purpose for your residence in the EEA and / or Switzerland must not have been to receive full time education during any part of that 3 year period.
  • Non-EU residents are not eligible for these particular studentships.

Citizenship Requirements

For these particular studentships you must be a British Citizen, EU national or relevant family member of an EU national. You may be eligible for support if you are the child of either a Swiss national or Turkish worker. For Non-EU nationals – You must be “settled” in the UK by the closing date for the award. “Settled” means being both ordinarily resident in the UK and without any immigration restriction on the length of your stay in the UK. To be “settled” you must either have the Right of Abode or Indefinite Leave to Enter or Remain in the UK, or be a national of the Republic of Ireland, or have the right of permanent residence in the UK under EC Law.

NB if you acquire “settled” status after the closing date for the award. Please contact the relevant University Authority. Your application may be considered as a late application.

Other Opportunities

Those who do not meet the above eligibility requirements above for the full studentships are welcome to apply to undertake a PhD studentship full-time if they have an alternative source of funding and/or are self-financing. For such applicants, please contact Dr Sarah Miller or Dr Laura Dunne to discuss options.

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