PhD Opportunities

PhD opportunities in the School of Social Sciences

There are currently both funded and self-funded PhD opportunities in the following areas. For further information, contact the named staff below.

You can find further details on studying for a PhD and details of how to apply by clicking here. 


Funded PhD Opportunities

The School of Social Sciences is seeking to recruit a new cohort to undertake research in a number of key areas. The funding consists of a tax-free stipend paid monthly and has a current value of £15,009 per annum. The bursary is renewable annually for up to 36 months in total, subject to you making satisfactory progression within your PhD research.

Successful applicants for our funded PhD studentships will receive a tax-free research stipend that tracks UK Research Council rates (currently £15,009) and a fee waiver to the value of Home / EU student PhD fees (currently £4,327). The closing date for applications is 23.59 on Friday 07 June 2019.

You can find further details on studying for a PhD and details of how to apply here. To apply, please click on the ‘How to Apply’ tab and quote the Reference Number and Title on your Research Proposal.


Exploring the influence of alexithymia and emotion dysregulation on emotional eating: a mixed-methods investigation and intervention

Reference Number: 16

School: Social Sciences, Psychology

Supervisory Team:
Director of Studies: Dr Deborah Wallis
Co-Supervisors: Dr Helen Egan & Dr Michael Mantzios

Emotional eaters are at risk of weight gain, binge eating, and low mood. However, current theories of emotional eating do not address in detail the multifaceted nature of the problem. Substantial evidence suggests that difficulties in regulating emotions is a significant component of disordered eating and can lead to emotional eating in both clinical and non-clinical samples. Research has also identified that deficits in the ability to recognise emotions in those high in disordered eating are associated with elevated levels of alexithymia, a personality construct characterised by difficulties in identifying and describing feelings. The proposed research seeks to examine the factors that mediate the relationship between alexithymia and emotional eating, including difficulties in regulating emotions and other mood-related factors. The aims of this research are to: 1. explore, using qualitative methods, experiences of emotional eating and the use of emotion regulation strategies; 2. examine the direct and indirect effects of alexithymia on emotional eating (via self-report and laboratory food intake); and 3. test the efficacy of interventions to reduce emotional eating.

Social Sciences PhD - Exploring the influence of alexithymia and emotion dysregulation on emotional eating: a mixed-methods investigation and intervention

Contact information: Dr Deborah Wallis
Email: deborah.wallis@bcu.ac.uk
Tel: 0121 331 6321


Examining the time course and neural events of sentences which convey implicit meaning

Reference Number: 17

School: Social Sciences, Psychology

Supervisory Team:
Jeffrey Wood (supervisor)
Paraic Scanlon (supervisor)
Emma Bridger (supervisor)
Craig Jackson (advisor)

Conditional statements of the form if p, then q can be used to convey information on how the world could have been, how it is and how it could be. This project will build on recent work studying contextualised conditionals which utilise wider pragmatic information (e.g. if you call me at home again, then you’ll get the sack). It is likely to provide key theoretical insights into how readers make sense of meaning in these conditionals, using a combination of electroencephalography (EEG), eye-tracking and behavioural experiments. Work of this kind is critical if we are to develop a complete picture of how people process conditionals in everyday contexts.

Social Sciences PhD - Examining the time course and neural events of sentences which convey implicit meaning

Contact information: 

Jeffrey Wood
Jeffrey.wood@bcu.ac.uk
0121 331 5715

Paraic Scanlon
Paraic.scanlon@bcu.ac.uk
0121 202 8532

Emma Bridger
Emma.bridger@bcu.ac.uk
0121 331 6580

Craig Jackson
Craig.jackson@bcu.ac.uk
0121 331 6369


Examining statistics anxiety in students

Reference Number: 18

School: Social Sciences, Psychology

Supervisory Team:
Dr Jeffrey Wood
Dr Emma McDonald
Dr Keeley Abbott

The study of Statistics is an important part of many subject areas. One of the most important barriers to student success in this area has been shown to be statistics anxiety. This project will look at whether poor performance in one assessment has a long-term impact upon students’ performance throughout their degree. Furthermore, the previous research has not focused heavily on what aspects of statistics it is that students find most anxiety provoking. It is, therefore, critical that this be investigated so that those teaching statistics have a better understanding of how to present information in a way, which helps students understand the concepts without provoking high levels of anxiety.

Social Sciences PhD - Examining statistics anxiety in students

Contact information:

Jeffrey Wood
Jeffrey.wood@bcu.ac.uk
0121 331 5715

Emma McDonald
Emma.mcdonald@bcu.ac.uk
0121 331 6939

Keeley Abbott
Keeley.abbott@bcu.ac.uk
0121 331 4090


Building a dynamic network model of complex decision making development

Reference Number: 20

School: Social Sciences, Psychology

Supervisory Team: Dr Stacey Bedwell, Dr Jack Rogers, Prof Michael Brookes

This is an exciting opportunity to conduct interdisciplinary research, spanning neurophysiology, development and mathematical modelling. The project aims to uncover how decision making processes develop through building network models using EEG methods.

We are seeking an applicant with experience in psychology research at M.Sc. level. The ideal candidate will have a sound knowledge of decision making and high order functions, as well as an understanding of neuroscience and/or biology. Experience of laboratory based research would be advantageous.

Social Sciences PhD - Building a dynamic network model of complex decision making development

Contact information: Dr Stacey Bedwell
Email: stacey.bedwell@bcu.ac.uk
Tel: 0121 331 6629


Design, Creation & Evaluation of a Social Prescribing ‘App’ for Smartphones

Reference Number: 21

School: Social Sciences

Supervisory Team: Dr Angela Hewett, Dr Atiya Kamal, Dr Pelham Carter

This is a mixed-methods project which aims to design, deliver, and evaluate a smartphone social prescribing application (app),  which is part of a wider collaboration with Birmingham City Council. The aim of this collaboration is to increase the availability and ease-of-use of social prescribing for primary care health professionals to utilise with their child and adult patients across Birmingham. The use of behaviour change theory and techniques is imperative for creating an environment where people can change their health practices (Webb, Joseph, Yardley & Michie, 2010).  This project therefore aims to use behaviour change theory to inform the design of the social prescribing app.

Social Sciences PhD - Design, Creation & Evaluation of a Social Prescribing ‘App’ for Smartphones

Contact information: Dr Angela Hewett
Email: angela.hewett@bcu.ac.uk
Tel: 0121 202 4205


Evaluating the Efficacy of School-Based Anti-Knife Crime Interventions

Reference Number: 22

School: Social Sciences, Psychology

Supervisory Team: Dr Laura Hammond, Dr Rahul Jalil, Professor Michael Brookes

Youth knife crime has doubled in the West Midlands since 2012. In 2018, nearly 700 school children in the region were victims of knife crime, and more than 800 youngsters were caught with knives. A range of school-based interventions have been developed to try and communicate the dangers of knife-crime to children; however, it is unclear how effective such interventions are in changing attitudes towards knife crime and/or reducing risk. This study will evaluate the efficacy of different types of intervention and delivery method for children of different ages from varying backgrounds. It is hoped that findings will help inform the development and targeting of such interventions, in order to increase their effectiveness and help reduce youth knife crime in the area.

If you’re considering submitting an application, please notify the supervisor in the first instance on the contact details provided.

Social Sciences PhD - Evaluating the Efficacy of School-Based Anti-Knife Crime Interventions

Contact information: Laura Hammond
Email: Laura.Hammond@bcu.ac.uk
Tel: 0121 331 7263


How do students assess debt? A socio-cognitive investigation

Reference Number: 24

School: Social Sciences, Psychology

Supervisory Team: Dr Silvio Aldrovandi, Dr Emma Bridger, Dr Pelham Carter

This project will involve a systematic investigation into the cognitive and social factors that underpin students’ perception and appraisal of indebtedness in an effort to examine how cognitive biases and abilities, social norms comparisons and socio-economic status can interact to determine students’ concern about, and decision-making related to debt. The subsequent effects on debt-related outcomes, including participation in higher education and strategies to deal with debt will also be addressed. We expect the present project to be quantitative in nature and to utilise different methodologies such questionnaire- and laboratory-based studies, and intervention studies to assess the applicability of the principles observed through prior testing.

Social Sciences PhD - How do students assess debt? A socio-cognitive investigation

Contact information: Dr Silvio Aldrovandi
Email: Silvio.Aldrovandi@bcu.ac.uk
Tel: 0121 331 6547


British Muslim Women in public and political spaces

Reference Number: 25

School: BLSS

Supervisory Team:

Dr. Nazia Hussein, Lecturer in Sociology (Director of studies)
Safina Din, Senior Lecturer in Law
Professor Rajinder Dudrah, School of Media
Dr. Dionne Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Sociology

Department of Sociology and Criminology at Birmingham City University welcome applications for an interdisciplinary doctoral research opportunity to explore and assess Muslim women’s public and political activism in UK, an area often overlooked in research on Muslim women. The research will use innovative research methods such as comparative analysis of online vs. community level activism, social media analysis etc. Additionally, the research will address social categories such as gender, class, culture, religion and location.

The applicant must:

  • Possess an undergraduate degree and preferably a Master’s-level post-graduate qualification in Sociology or another social science discipline.
  • Have some experience of conducting first hand research

Social Sciences PhD - British Muslim Women in public and political spaces

Contact information: Dr Nazia Hussein
Email: Nazia.Hussein@bcu.ac.uk



Self-Funded PhD Opportunities

How do terrorist and extremists use social media networks to target individuals?

Supervisors: Dr Imran Awan, Dr Andrew Whiting

The aim of the proposed PhD is to generate insights into the role and significance of how social media networks are used for terrorist and far-right extremist groups to target vulnerable people who are deemed to be at ‘risk’. Communications via social media sites, like Twitter and Facebook can be a criminal offence if deemed to fall under the CPS threshold of being an offence that can be prosecuted.  The CPS guidelines state that there must be either; a credible threat of violence, communications which specifically target an individual or group of people, communications which amount to a breach of a court order and communications which may be considered grossly offensive, indecent, obscene or false (CPS Guidelines, 2014). 

The aim of this research project, is to therefore investigate and detect the rise in use of digital media and communication used by terrorist and far-right extremist groups to recruit would be sympathisers. 

Another strand of this project will be to examine how policing and prosecutions of social media offences is conducted. 

Spec:  Social Sciences PhD - How do terrorist and extremists use social media networks to target individuals?  

Contact

Dr Imran Awan, Associate Professor in Criminology

Email: imran.awan@bcu.ac.uk

Tel: +44 (0)121 331 6548


Prevent within the public sector: Exploring public sector staff perceptions of Prevent and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015

Supervisors: Dr Imran Awan, Dr Andrew Whiting, Dr Keith Spiller

The aim of the proposed PhD is to generate insights into the role and significance of the new Counter-Extremism Strategy (2015) with particular reference to the statutory Prevent duty on all public sector workers. Following the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester there is an urgent need to explore and examine the Prevent strategy which has been a source of contention between the government, ministers, the media, academia and the public. 

On the one hand Prevent is viewed as a vital aspect of the broader CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy and something that is necessary to ensure national security.  On the other hand critics argue it disproportionately impacts upon individual liberty and has a particularly stigmatising effect on Muslim communities. 

The Counter Terrorism and Security Act (2015) outlines significant changes to the manner in which Prevent operates; notable among these changes is the formal extension of the duty to ‘prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’ to “specified authorities” in England and Wales (Prevent Duty guidance, 2015, p. 3).  One such authority specified in the CTSA is the higher education sector.  This reform of Prevent places an expectation that staff and management within University will actively engage with institutions such as the police and BIS, that there will be consultation with students and that there will be information sharing within the University (p. 22). 

Given the explicit desire to consult and form partnerships within the University between management, staff, students and external agencies this research looks to respond to this.  The Prevent duty also places doctors, mental health practitioners, teachers and lecturers as key people who can assist in helping tackle violent extremism. 

By consulting directly with mental health practitioners, doctors, teachers and academic teaching staff from different institutions the aim of this research is to promote greater awareness of this duty within the public sector and contribute to knowledge by conducting the first study of its kind that looks to gauge understandings, perceptions and experiences of this aspect of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act. 

Spec:  Social Sciences PhD - Prevent within the public sector: Exploring public sector staff perceptions of Prevent and the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015  

Contact

Dr Imran Awan, Associate Professor in Criminology

Email: imran.awan@bcu.ac.uk

Tel: +44 (0)121 331 6548


The development of rationality: Decision-making strategies in childhood and adolescence

Reference Number: 25 Social Sciences

Supervisors: Silvio Aldrovandi, Olga Fotakopoulou and Alexandros Psychogios

Policy makers, parents, teachers, and other adults responsible for the welfare of children and adolescents take decisions that need to be informed of the quality of the decision-making competence of the young. An important question thus revolves around how decision-making skills develop through childhood and adolescence.

The project aims to test how decision-making strategies change across development. In doing so, an individual-differences approach will be adopted in order to explore how underlying cognitive and social processes may support such development. 

Download Full Proposal PDF

Contact information: Dr Silvio Aldrovandi

Email: Silvio.Aldrovandi@bcu.ac.uk

Tel: 0121 331 6547