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 £14,777 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 £14,777) and a fee waiver to the value of Home / EU student PhD fees (currently £4,260). The closing date for applications is 23.59 on Thursday 31 May 2018.

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.

Twitter and online extremism: A Corpus Linguistics based approach to identifying risk factors and toxic online communities

Reference Number: 18 Social Sciences

Centre for Applied Criminology / Centre for Applied Psychology

Supervisory Team: Dr Pelham Carter and Dr Imran Awan

Advisors: Dr Mark McGlashan, Mr Matt Gee and Dr Robert Lawson

With the increase in internet and social media usage there has been an associated rise in the proliferation of online extremism. Whilst there is experimental evidence of how anonymity and length of group membership can have on aggressive or dis-inhibited behaviour generally this is largely limited to small scale experiments or short observations, and is not within the context of social media or extremism.

The proposed PhD aims to investigate factors relating to online extremism and membership of extremist online communities, largely within social media platforms such as Twitter. The PhD will combine approaches and theory used in Psychology and Criminology around potential influencing factors with Corpus Linguistic based methods of online data collection and analysis.

Download Full Proposal PDF

Contact information: Dr Pelham Carter


Tel: 0121 300 4076

Cultural and contextual differences in picture perception: building an ecological model of human visual perception

Reference Number: 19 Social Sciences

Supervisory TeamDr Panagiotis Rentzelas, Dr Eirini Mavritsaki and Prof Maxine Lintern.

The proposed postgraduate research project aims to investigate the cross-cultural differences on visual attention. This will be achieved by employing a ground breaking research methodology that will involve social and cognitive psychology research techniques and the use of psychophysiological equipment. This approach will enable the more detailed understanding of the underlying brain processes on human visual perception and its cross-cultural and ecological differences.

Applicant requirements: The ideal candidate should be a Psychology or Neuroscience graduate with a 2:1 or above BSc (Hons) with a strong interest and experience in behavioural and psychophysiological research. A postgraduate qualification in the area will be desirable.

Download Full Proposal PDF

Contact information: Dr Panagiotis Rentzelas and Dr Eirini Mavritsaki

Email: /

Tel: 0121 202 8515

An investigation into psychosocial challenges and quality of life in a Cystic Fibrosis population: Developing effective interventions

Reference No: 30 Social Sciences

Centre for Applied Psychology

Supervisory Team: Dr Helen Egan, Dr Rebecca Keyte and Dr Michail Mantzios

Cystic Fibrosis (CF) has an extensive impact on multiple aspects of a person’s life. The complexity and degree of symptoms present substantial challenges to people with CF and carers.

This research, in collaboration with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Trust, will focus on mindfulness and positive psychology to investigate the psychosocial challenges of people with CF to inform the development of effective interventions. A psychology (or related degree) graduate (2:1 or above), and a good understanding of quantitative and qualitative research methods is essential. A master’s degree, genuine interest in the field, and relevant voluntary or paid work experience is desirable.

Download Full Proposal PDF

Contact information: Dr Helen Egan


Tel: 0121 202 7794

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?  


Dr Imran Awan, Associate Professor in Criminology


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  


Dr Imran Awan, Associate Professor in Criminology


Tel: +44 (0)121 331 6548

Scepticism towards science technologies: The underlying psychological factors that influence scepticism and resistance towards modern technology

Reference Number: 20 Social Sciences

Supervisors: Dr Jason Martens, Dr Panos Rentzelas and Dr Pelham Carter

This PhD project aims to investigate what psychological factors influence scepticism towards scientific technologies. Previous work has identified several factors that play a role in science scepticism in general, including religious views, political orientation and beliefs, cultural background and scientific understanding. Although we are now starting to tease apart the relative importance of different factors on science scepticism, we know even less about scepticism towards science . This PhD research programme aims to identify the psychological predictors of resistance and scepticism for modern science technologies (e.g., nanotechnology, gene editing, and artificial intelligence), and to assess the effectiveness of various means of reducing this scepticism.

Download Full Proposal PDF

Contact information: Dr Jason Martens


Tel: 0121 331 5235

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


Tel: 0121 331 6547