PhD Opportunities

PhD opportunities in the School of Social Sciences

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

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 £16,062 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 £16,062) and a fee waiver to the value of Home student PhD fees (currently £4,596).  All applicants will receive the same stipend irrespective of fee status, however only Home fees will be covered and non-Home fee status applicants will be required to meet the difference in fee costs from their own funds.

You must upload your Research Proposal to your application.  Please ensure you include the Project Number and Title on your Research Proposal and upload it in place of the Personal Statement. We are not able to consider incomplete Applications. Details of how to apply and what is required in a Research Proposal can be found here.

The closing date for applications is 23.59 on Saturday 1 October 2022

If you have any queries on the application process please contact the BLSS Doctoral Research College:

School of Social Sciences PhD Studentships

Project: Empowering Self-safeguarding, a participatory action research examination of the boundaries of safe and secure friendships in the lives of people with learning disabilities (PWLDs) living in the community

Reference Number: 9

School: Social Sciences, Department of Sociology and Criminology

Proposed Supervisory Team:

  • Geraldine Lee-Treweek
  • Ben Colliver
  • Elizabeth Yardley
  • Caroline Lee


Since the 1980s, policy emphasis has been placed on enabling independent living in the community for many groups previously labelled as requiring care or management. Whilst this has had many benefits for PWLDs, there is a tension between agency and safeguarding, which has been underscored by cases of PWLDs being harmed and/or exploited by those they perceived as ‘friends’. The boundaries of friendships and other relationships, how these are understood, negotiated and their role in the lives of PWLDs, is under-researched. In particular, there is a need to examine friendships as they are lived and experienced, from the perspectives of PWLDs. This doctoral project will develop a participant-involved methodology recognising the role of PWLDs as experts in their lived experience.

Research Environment:

School of Social Sciences. Department of Sociology and Criminology.

Applicant Requirements:

  • Undergraduate degree in a social sciences field
  • Desirable: MA or MSc degree in a social sciences field


(Queries to come via email in the first instance and we will make contact with applicants via phone where needed)


  • To examine the understandings and choices of PWLDs around the establishment, maintenance and evaluation of friendships and close relationships.
  • To identify risk and protective factors relating to friendship development and decisions around interaction with others.
  • To compare and contrast policy/practice notions of ‘safety’ and ‘risk’ with those of PWLDs.
  • To identify, and critically assess, means of enhancing the skills of PWLDs to be able to build safe and secure friendships and relationships in the community.

Indicative Methodology:

The project will begin with a full literature review to examine how safety issues and learning disabilities are conceptualised, situated and outlined in the academic, grey, policy and practice literature. Through networks and voluntary sector collaborative partners, the student will design and implement participant-involved methods using individual interviews and focus groups and working closely with PWLDs.

The research will develop and centre good practice for involvement of PWLDs in the research and knowledge exchange (Office for Disability, 2020). For instance, in year 1, a project advisory group of PWLDs who live independently, representatives of the collaborative partners and others from independent housing providers, will be set up to ensure an engaged voice across the doctoral research. Individual narrative interviews, with questions developed with the aid of the advisory group, will be used to examine friendship experiences with participants. These individual interviews (n=20) will be analysed and followed by six group interviews with samples of PWLDs living independently across Birmingham. Advisory group members will be supported to be involved in the interviews as co-facilitators, using ethical protocols and best practice from the Manchester Metropolitan University Gold Standards project for involvement of LD communities and individuals in research processes (Caton, 2018).

The data collected will be analysed thematically, following Clarke and Braun’s (2006) six-step procedure, with findings presented back to participants as a checking process to gain further understandings. Finally, the student will work with members of the advisory group, using the findings, to co-create a policy and practice set of guidelines on how to enhance the skills of PWLDs in building safe secure friendships. This participant-involved process will provide methodological and KE innovation for the thesis, enhance the project’s impact on policy and practice change and provide insight and greater awareness of friendship safety in the lives of PWLDs.

Expected Outcomes:
  • Enhanced awareness, evidence and conceptualisation of friendship-related risks in the lived experiences of PWLDs
  • Action and strategic impacts on local/regional and national policy and practice around supporting positive friendship and avoiding harm for PWLDs who live independently in the community.
  • Wider positive community impact on PWLDs themselves as beneficiaries and participants in the research, including greater confidence and knowledge of safe friendships and boundaries.

When you submit your application, could you ensure that your Proposal addresses the following:

  • How you would go about implementing the project
  • The challenges and opportunities you envisage in relation to the proposed approach
  • The outcomes of this PhD beyond the academic research itself

Project: Understanding the neuropsychological leadership qualities of SMEs’ Leaders

Reference Number: 16

School: Business School & Social Science

Proposed Supervisory Team:

  • Prof. Alexandros Psychogios
  • Prof. Eirini Mavritsaki
  • Dr. Silvio Aldrovanti


This research project will be based on the BIG Ten™ capabilities targeting at expanding our knowledge towards cognitive capabilities of SME leaders (business owners and managers). Focusing on cognitive capabilities of leaders and owners of SMEs requires us to take a multidisciplinary approach drawing on other social sciences e.g. Neuro-psychology. Advances in cognitive neuroscience and other approaches to understanding human behaviour are only now beginning to filter into leadership research. However, there is still a lot to know about how specific social behaviours are related to neuro-cognitive capabilities and how they influence leadership in general and leading people in SMEs in particular. In this respect, this study will be based on applying neuroscientific tools and techniques to investigate SME leadership. Specific biometrical tools will be used to carry out research that will explore cognitive capabilities of SMEs’ leaders, namely:

  1. Motivation (“approach” or “avoid” tendencies measured by increased frontal asymmetry in the brain)
  2. Resilience, (the ability to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity and stress measured by the theta/beta brain waves ratio).

The study will be based on two groups of experiments carried out on a specific sample of 50-80 SME leaders of in the West Midland. Beyond the participation in experiments, SME leaders will also fill in a series of questionnaires related to leadership perceptions and leadership style. Finally, the BIG Ten diagnostic will be used in order to evaluate their leadership role.

Research Environment:

The project will build on the present situation to forecast a possible impact of leadership attitudes in SMEs and development programmes in the coming years. This research will contribute to extent knowledge through publication and dissemination. In addition, specific seminars and other events will be organised around the idea and findings of this study, targeting at attracting SME stakeholders, policy makers, scholars, consultants, etc. There is potential for collaborating with government agencies to develop more effective leadership development programmes for SMEs. Finally, this research aligns with the university strategy of ‘informing and transforming practice’. The findings will allow us to be at the forefront in terms of teaching and engagement of leadership and growth.

Applicant Requirements:

The student is expected to obtain a PGCert as part of their development. Other requirements are a good first degree in social sciences or compatible disciplines and strong analytical skills. Experience of working within organisations is desirable. Understanding of data collection methods is important. Previous experience of knowledge of biological/neurosciences or psychology basic principles and possibly an experience in conducting neuropsychological experiments will be highly desirable.


Prof. Eirini Mavritsaki -

Prof. Alexandros Psychogios -