Posted on: 21 January, 2019
Application deadline: March 29, 2019

ESRC-funded UK/EU PhD Scholarship: Shelter Scotland on student homelessness, University of Stirling, UK

Understanding student homelessness in higher education in Scotland

This studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of the Social Sciences

Institution: University of Stirling

Pathway: Social Work and Social Policy

Mode of study: Full time / Part time

Application deadline: 29 March 2019

Project details

This doctoral research project provides an exciting opportunity for the successful candidate to work closely with one of the leading organisations specialising in supporting homeless people – Shelter Scotland – in producing new research knowledge and evidence to support practice.

It is recognised that people between the ages of 16-25 are at the highest risk of homelessness and make-up the majority of the homeless population in Scotland and the UK. This has remained constant while the proportion of young people attending higher education has grown. Growing student numbers mean that a greater diversity of students are attending higher education institutions (HEIs) and these are more likely to share the characteristics of the population that are at higher risk of experiencing homelessness: poverty; family breakdown; experience of care. It is therefore likely that a greater number of students in HEIs are experiencing homelessness. Despite this, very little is known internationally about homelessness among students in higher education. This project aims to start filling the evidence gap with research from Scotland.

One of the key issues for students in the UK is that they could be particularly vulnerable as they cannot access welfare benefits (particularly Housing Benefit or the housing component of Universal Credit) while they are registered as a student. This may make it difficult for them to access accommodation in an emergency. There may also be blurred lines of accountability between a HEI’s duty of care to students and the statutory duty of local authorities to house people who are homeless.

Working with Shelter Scotland, the project would research all HEIs in Scotland to understand the extent of their supporting of homeless students. Through students’ unions and HEIs, the research would also engage with students who had experienced homelessness to better understand the reasons for their homelessness and what support they got and wish they had received. The project would produce internationally important research on the role of HEIs in supporting homelessness young people, as well as practical guidance for HEIs, students’ unions and students themselves.

The successful candidate will have demonstrable expertise in social sciences and research methods, show an enthusiasm and interest in the subject area and be keen to work with non-academic partners to use social science evidence to change policy and practice.

About the institution

At the University of Stirling, we believe that great ideas and ground-breaking research can transform our society and help redefine economic, social and cultural conditions across Scotland, the UK and internationally. Research is a critical aspect of our learning and teaching. As a postgraduate research student, you’ll be given an insight into that research – and will also earn the opportunity to make key research contributions of your own. You will be joining Stirling’s Institute for Advanced Studies, which provides opportunities for development in a vibrant interdisciplinary setting and to build a strong postgraduate career. The studentship is hosted in the Faculty of Social Sciences, home to internationally- recognised research in: housing; dementia; education; social work; sociology, social policy and criminology.  Research in the Faculty covers theoretical and applied work in a range of fields including: child welfare and protection; housing policy; social justice; professional education; social survey analysis; sustainable communities; dementia-friendly design; teacher agency and curriculum development.


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  •  A good first degree (2i or above) in a social science subject, preferably social policy, public policy or housing/urban studies/urban planning, or a good Masters-level qualification (Merit or above, or equivalent);
  • Skills and confidence in gathering and analysis qualitative data
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and oral
  • Excellent project management skills
  • An interest in the research topics of this research: young people and higher education; homelessness and housing; service delivery.

Applicants may also have:

  • Experience of working with non-academic partners in the co-production of research.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here.

Award details

The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training.  This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process.  The programme will commence in September 2019.  It includes

  • an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (2018/19 rate £14,777 full-time)
  • fees at the standard Home rate
  • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

Other information

How to apply
  • Applicants register on GradHub and fill out EO data (this is a requirement of the application process)
  • Applicants complete and upload the prescribed list of required documentation to include:
  • Application form
  • Academic transcripts
  • References
  • CV
  • Any other additional questions as specified by the supervising team – this should be uploaded in a standalone document with a naming convention as follows


  1. Applicants submit application through GradHub

Selection process

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 5 April 2019. Interviews will take place on 23 April 2019. All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Stirling.  Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Supervisor/Contact details

Name Dr Peter Matthews