Sports Science/Management: Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarship: Outdoor Adventure Activities and Risk

Closing date: 22 January 2018

Key Information

Swansea University Research Excellence Scholarships (SURES)

Swansea University is proud to offer 15 fully-funded PhD scholarships for students commencing study in October 2018 or January 2019.

The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of student excellence across a portfolio of 34 potential projects.

Project title: Outdoor Adventure Activities and Risk

Start date: October 2018

Project Context

The outdoor sector makes significant economic and social contributions to Wales through education, physical activity, environment, and tourism. Activity tourism alone is worth at least £700m to the Welsh economy and supports over 8000 FTE jobs (Miller Consulting & Visit Wales, 2014). Across Wales opportunities for outdoor recreation are delivered via a range of organisations (commercial, voluntary, local education authorities, clubs, youth services, etc.). However, the sector’s contribution to the health and well-being of future generations is often inadequately recognized. Outdoor adventure providers in Wales are driving generational change, by using outdoor recreation as a platform for participation, fun, achievement and employment, which binds local communities and creates a sustainable use and understanding of the environment of Wales.

One of the key benefits of outdoor adventure and activity is the opportunities it offers for children and young people to learn about risk, to experience freedom and to take more responsibility for their own safety and well-being. At a time when children’s ‘home territories’ (spaces where they can go unaccompanied) have shrunk by 90% in a generation (Gill, 2010), adult anxiety over children’s safety is a real barrier to those who wish to extend children’s opportunities for outdoor and adventurous activities and experiences (Gill, 2010). Parents/guardians play a critical role in encouraging children to participate in and enjoy outdoor and physical activity through their provision of support and resources (Knight, Harwood, & Berrow, 2017) and their perceptions of potential risk of harm or injury in outdoor adventure is a determinant of this support (cf. Knight, Dorsch, Halidere, Ousi, & Sellars, 2016).

Project Outline, Aims and Methods

The purpose of this PhD is to address the research lacuna around parental perceptions of risk in outdoor activities and to inform initiatives designed to increase children’s involvement in such activities. It would thereby contribute to understandings of how an excessive focus on safety may deny children and young people experiences that help them handle life challenges and improve longer-term mental health and well-being (Gill, 2017). Indirectly, it will contribute to efforts to develop this economic sector and produce findings of use to those who provide outdoor and adventure activities and advice to educational establishments (the Outdoor Education Advisors Panel [OEAP] and Local Authority Outdoor Education Advisors). The project findings will improve messaging to parents/guardians highlighting the value of outdoor and adventurous activities for children and young people. 

The project has three main aims:

1)      Examine parents’ perceptions of risk in outdoor and adventure activities and the impact of these perceptions on their support for children’s engagement;

2)      Examine the processes through which parental perceptions of risk in relation to outdoor activities develop;

3)      Develop strategies to mitigate parental perceptions of risk and encourage children and young people’s involvement in outdoor activities.

The project will consist of three phases, drawing on a range of qualitative methodologies. The first aim will be addressed through in-depth semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis to identify parents’ perceptions of risk. Next, a grounded theory examining the process of risk perceptions will be conducted, drawing on interview data from parents, children, outdoor activity instructors/coaches, and members of various organising bodies. Finally, in partnership with the Wales Activity Tourism Organisation (WATO) and other key stakeholders, the final phase will take the form of action research, which will deploy findings from phases one and two to stimulate creative and novel strategies to address parents’ risk concerns.

Project Impact and Outcomes

The scholarship holder will work as part of a cross-College, cross-disciplinary team, uniting the School of Management’s (SoM) new tourism group specialising in wellbeing and outdoor adventure and the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences’ (SPEX) world-leading Paediatric Sport and Exercise Group dedicated to children’s health and performance. The scholarship would also link with the group at Grenoble University, working in the areas of outdoor activities and particularly mountain studies.

The project would contribute to theory and practice in parental risk perceptions and sport and leisure policy and outputs would include high-quality publications. It would deliver on the SPEX strategy for REF2021 and SoM’s proposed Wales Academy for Visitor Economies (WAVE), with a focus on the outdoors and wellness. It has the potential to begin the development of a cohort of doctoral students in this area with the recent and imminent arrivals of Drs Cater and Miller and Prof Nicholls in SoM (all with expertise in this area). The project also has a strong international dimension as, if successful, it will build collaborative capability with our strategic partner of Grenoble University. Significantly, the project will cohere sport science, leisure, tourism and wellbeing and demonstrate clear collaboration between two research groups considering a joint submission in UoA24 in REF 2021. 

The project has been developed in partnership with the Wales Activity Tourism Organisation (WATO), which supports the sustainable development of Wales as a world class outdoor recreation destination and a place that encourages door-step outdoor recreation. The project aligns with the Well-Being of Future Generations Act (2015) and can influence cross-sector awareness of the benefits that the outdoors can bring to children’s health and well-being. It also synergises with the Visit Wales-led strategy to develop a workforce and product base to underpin Wales’ ambitions to become a world-class outdoor adventure tourism destination. It thus has potential to develop into a REF impact case study and there will be opportunities to engage with and gain access to local and national government (e.g. Visit Wales), the voluntary sector (e.g. WATO), local small to medium-sized enterprises and local community groups.

References

  • Gill, T. 2017. The Evolution of Policy on Risk Management in Outdoor Play. In Waller, T. et al. (Eds.), Sage Handbook of Outdoor Play and Learning, Oxford: Sage.
  • Gill, T. 2017. Nothing Ventured, English Outdoor Council.
  • Knight, C., Berrow, S. & Harwood, C. 2017. Parenting in sport. Current Opinion in Psychology 16, 93-97.
  • Knight, C., Dorsch, T., Osai, K., Haderlie, K. & Sellars, P. 2016. Influences on parental involvement in youth sport. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology 5(2), 161-178.

The successful applicant will have access to our Postgraduate Research Student Training programmes.

Eligibility

Candidates should have (or expect to obtain) a first class honours degree (or equivalent) and/or a master's degree with distinction in a related subject area (sport and exercise sciences, leisure and tourism, sport and exercise psychology).

Experience in qualitative research is required.

Due to funding restrictions, this scholarship is open to UK/EU candidates only.

Funding

The scholarship covers the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend of £14,553 for 3 years. 

There will also be £1,000 per annum available for research expenses such as travel, accommodation, field trips and conference attendance.

How to Apply

To apply please complete and return the following documents to Dr Vivienne Jenkins (pgrsures@swansea.ac.uk) quoting reference COMAN1:

Student applications will be evaluated against the following criteria:

  • Literary and Academic attainments (60%)
  • Demonstrable esteem indicators i.e. ambassadorial skills, instincts and opportunities to demonstrate leadership, experience and interest in extracurricular and community activities (40%)

Informal enquiries before the deadline are welcome and should be directed to Professor Nigel Morgan (Nigel.morgan@swansea.ac.uk).

Supervisors / Academic Contacts: Professor Nigel Morgan / Dr Camilla Knight