The Centre for Educational Development Appraisal and Research (CEDAR) at the University of Warwick runs a small PhD programme in Education and Psychology. For October 2017, we have three fully-funded PhD scholarships available in partnership with a number of external organisations.
All three studentships are for full-time study and open only to applicants who meet the University of Warwick’s criteria for home/EU PhD fees. Each studentship covers PhD study fees and an annual stipend at the level recommended by the Economic and Social Research Council for a maintenance grant (£14,553 for 2017/18). Additional funding support is also available for research expenses and/or conference attendance in connection with the PhD research projects.
The studentships are available for three years each only. Thus, applicants should already have completed (or almost completed) a relevant research-intensive masters degree or have at least the equivalent level of research experience. Applicants’ first degrees are expected to be of an upper second class honours level as a minimum, and must be in a relevant discipline – Psychology, Education/Special Education or a closely related area.
All three students will be supervised by Associate Professor Vaso Totsika and Professor Richard Hastings, with involvement of staff from our partner organisations.
To apply for one or more of these studentships, please submit a single document via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadline of 4pm UK time on Thursday 15 June. The single document attachment (in Word or pdf format) should contain the following:
- A cover letter explaining your skills and interests relevant to the PhD project(s) for which you wish to apply,
- A statement of your order of preference/interest in these PhD opportunities (you can apply for one, two, or all three of these opportunities),
- Your full academic CV, and
- The names and contact details of two academic referees who can comment on your suitability for PhD study and can be contacted prior to the interviews (normally, referees will be University-based academics who have supervised a research project you have conducted as a student or who have employed you as a researcher).
Applications missing any of these required details may not be considered for short-listing.
Before applying for these PhD opportunities, we recommend that applicants watch a public lecture by Professor Hastings that gives an overview of our programme of work in family research (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB3jkmJatnU).
INTERVIEWS: Interviews will be held at the University of Warwick on Thursday 29 June 2017. Unfortunately, we are not in a position to pay for interview expenses for short-listed candidates. Short-listed candidates will also be asked to prepare a short presentation to the interview panel. The panel will also include representatives from Cerebra and Mencap.
PhD Scholarship 1
This studentship is funded through the Warwick Collaborative Postgraduate Research Scholarship scheme and the research charity Cerebra (http://w3.cerebra.org.uk/).
TITLE: The family context for the development of children with Down’s syndrome and rare genetic syndromes
Background and research focus: Societal interest in Down’s Syndrome has never been more intense – with the NHS’s introduction of a non-invasive blood test to detect the underlying chromosomal anomaly in foetuses, and resulting national debate about the value of individuals with Down’s syndrome and other genetic differences (e.g., recent BBC documentary presented by the actress Sally Phillips). A part of this debate is prospective parents’ need for high quality information about the quality of life and development of children with Down’s syndrome into adolescence and adulthood, and the potential impact (often assumed to be negative) on family members’ lives.
Professor Hastings’ and Dr Totsika’s research in CEDAR, in partnership with the child neuro disability charity Cerebra, has challenged the negative assumptions about the impact of individuals with Down’s syndrome on family members’ well-being. We pioneered the measurement of putative parental positive perceptions and outcomes and have shown that parents of children with intellectual disabilities (including children with Down’s syndrome) do not differ from other parents in terms of their positivity. This is seen alongside high quality evidence from secondary analysis of national population studies (pioneered by Dr Totsika) that parents of children with intellectual disabilities are 1.5--2 times more likely to have mental health problems compared to other parents of children of the same age. Down’s syndrome is an especially interesting case since parents of these children are often found to be the most positive of all parents of children with intellectual disability and the least likely to experience mental health problems themselves. In international research literature, the phrase “Down’s syndrome advantage” has been coined to describe these research findings.
The aims of the collaborative PhD will be: 1. To test the emerging hypothesis that parents (and potentially siblings) of children with Down’s syndrome may experience fewer problems than family members of children with other intellectual disabilities and/or those with rare genetic syndromes; and 2. To consider the oft-neglected reverse direction of influence: whether parental well-being and parenting or other family context factors influence outcomes for children with Down’s syndrome and rare genetic syndromes (potentially with an additional focus on Fragile X syndrome). To address the second aim, we will gather longitudinal data through this studentship.
CEDAR-Cerebra partnership: The research context will be primarily the Cerebra 1000 Families Study, supported with research funding from Cerebra and based in CEDAR. By summer 2017, we expect that 1000 families will have been recruited into this study and currently around 20% of recruited families have a young child with Down syndrome. We will use the PhD research to extend the project to collect repeat data on these families over time – allowing us to examine questions of causality. We will also link the collaborative PhD student with related research on other rare genetic conditions (especially Williams syndrome) through a recently funded research grant between Edinburgh, Durham and CEDAR (http://www.genisys.ed.ac.uk/) . Thus, the student will be a part of a larger new collaborative programme of research.
PhD Scholarship 2
This studentship is funded through a grant from Cerebra (http://w3.cerebra.org.uk/) supporting family research in CEDAR.
TITLE: Longitudinal analysis of parental and/or sibling well-being in families of children with intellectual disabilities
Background and research focus: Dr Totsika’s and Professor Hastings’ research on well-being in family members of children with intellectual disabilities has emphasised the importance of tracking paths of influence between family members’ well-being and outcomes for children with intellectual disability. Typically, these pathways of influence are bi-directional.
This PhD studentship will combine research carried out within the Cerebra 1000 Families Study with the use of secondary analysis of UK and/or international datasets. Dr Totsika has led a programme of research over several years using the Millennium Cohort Study and focused on the sample of 5-600 children with intellectual disability within that dataset. The precise research questions to be addressed within this studentship will be developed with Dr Totsika and Professor Hastings.
CEDAR-Cerebra partnership: The research context will include use of the Cerebra 1000 Families Study, supported with research funding from Cerebra and based in CEDAR. By summer 2017, we expect that 1000 families will have been recruited into this study. We will use the PhD research to extend the project to collect repeat data on these families over time – allowing us to examine questions of causality.
PhD Scholarship 3
This studentship is funded through the Warwick Collaborative Postgraduate Research Scholarship scheme and both the Royal Mencap Society (https://www.mencap.org.uk/about-us/what-we-think/early-years-what-we-think), and the research charity Cerebra (http://w3.cerebra.org.uk/). Ambitious about Autism (https://www.ambitiousaboutautism.org.uk/) is also a partner in this project.
TITLE: Early Intervention and Early Years support for young children with intellectual disability and/or autism: Facilitating access
Children with intellectual disability and/or autism (often referred to “developmental disabilities”- DD) are a population at risk of poor developmental outcomes, and health inequalities. Exploring how best to ensure better outcomes for young children with DDs has been identified as a research priority by families and other stakeholders (e.g., James Lind Alliance, 2016; WHO, 2014).
Early intervention (EI) as a system of coordinating services and responding to the needs of families in a comprehensive and holistic manner is essential for improving child outcomes (Brito et al., 2016). Existing research suggests that levels of access to mainstream, targeted and specialist services do not correspond to the level of need in children with DD (e.g., Toms, Totsika, Healy, & Hastings, 2015). The barriers to accessing EI services, and associated adjustments that might be made, are poorly understood (Emerson & Hatton, 2013). The focus of this PhD is to generate understanding of the problem, to develop solutions based on this understanding, and test whether they work to improve access to services.
- What are the factors associated with access to EI services in families of children with DD?
- How can we improve access to EI services for families of children with DD?
The PhD will include four linked studies: Studies 1 and 2 addressing the first research question; studies 3 and 4 the second.
Study 1: Realist review of barriers to EI access and support for children with DD
Study 2: A UK survey of early years support for families of young children with developmental delays
Studies 3/4: Intervention to facilitate access to EI and enhance EI outcomes - Synthesis of the findings from Studies 1 and 2 will inform intervention design. The aim of Study 3 will be to develop and evaluate the feasibility of a group or individual family intervention to facilitate access to EI services (mainstream, targeted or specialist). Study 4 will be a small randomised controlled trial evaluation of the intervention testing a range of outcomes including: access to EI services, satisfaction with EI services, parents’ perception of partnership with EI professionals, and children’s functional skills. The design will most likely involve a comparison with EI services as usual. Qualitative methods will also be used to examine intervention process, via interviews with parents and professionals.
Partnership: The research has been designed jointly between CEDAR and the three charity partners to provide research data that can inform each charity’s campaigning and policy work in early intervention and/or their research strategy. Both Mencap and Ambitious about Autism have key strategic priorities relating to access to early intervention supports for children with DD and their families. All three organisations are committed to extending the evidence base for both policy and family supports. The three organisations have already held joint strategy discussions with a focus on early intervention, and this proposed research linked closely to policy is one result. Mencap and Ambitious about Autism will work with the CEDAR team (including the PhD student) to use the research findings in campaigning and policy work – thus ensuring strong Impact of the research and excellent learning opportunities for the student.