Research Scholarships

Digital Economy and Society: ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership PhD Collaborative Studentship with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and Fieldbay Care Group

Closing date: 1 February 2019

Key Information

ESRC Wales DTP logo   ABMU Brain Injury Service logoFieldbay Care Group logo

This scholarship is funded by ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and Fieldbay Care Group.

‌Swansea University, supported by the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales (Wales DTP), invites applications for funded PhD study, available to start in October 2019. The following collaborative studentship is available in the Digital Economy and Society pathway of the Wales DTP:

‘Investigating Meaningful Making in Communities of People Living with Brain Injury’ (working title), in collaboration with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and Fieldbay Care Group.

The Maker Movement has the potential to help people with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) enormously by giving them the ability to make unique, personally tailored assistive technology while at the same time engaging in social, communities and therapeutic meaningful work. This research explores how the skills and community can be introduced to people with ABI.

We are looking for a student with a background in psychology, social care, social sciences, or computer science who can bring their own unique perspective to this work.

Project description:

Acquired brain injury (ABI) causes cognitive issues with far reaching consequences for those who live with it. Social care services and neuro-rehabilitation groups struggle to deal with the unique, wide-ranging needs this group exhibits. Pervasive digital technologies can help address these challenges by collecting data and, with analysis, act as a cognitive aid, however, in practice the people who could benefit most from this use it the least. Advocates within the Maker Movement want to help by enabling people living with disabilities to remake the world around them to tap into big data’s potential, and have shown success with people with physical disabilities.However, the tools needed are not easily accessible for people living with cognitive issues.

Our approach has three primary benefits:

  1. Participants in the process produce bespoke, low-cost sensors that can help them in their day-to-day lives.
  2. The Making process is therapeutic in nature providing meaningful, stimulating work in a social group setting.
  3. The process increases participants’ confidence with digital technology and data in general.

The approach has been successful in pilots. However, it is challenging to evaluate, so this studentship will offer a chance to work in a uniquely interdisciplinary manner leveraging social science approaches to evaluate it via qualitative work such as interview analysis and quantifiable wellbeing assessments.

Research question and scope

This studentship will take an existing approach to engagement and consider this by asking:

“What are the most engaging ways to share maker culture with populations living with Acquired Brain Injury to enhance personal wellbeing and drive novel digital technology development?”

Methods, aims and design

The question will be answered through an action research informed approach taking the following steps: 

  1. Researching the range of available approaches to evaluating the efficacy of the making approach and design a tailored set of criteria.
  2. Using access to the Computational Foundry MakerSpace and Morriston MakerSpace to run making activities with a wide range (n=30) of people living independently in the community with ABI ensuring safety via collaboration with the medical engineering group.
  3. Qualitatively evaluating the impact that the technology produced in the process has on the quality of life of the participants and how it compares to off-the-shelf technology.

The studentship will involve collaborating with the Morriston team in using both quantitative and qualitative approaches to evaluate the wellbeing changes that engaging in the process gives rise to.

We welcome applications for both full and part-time study, and studentships are available as either ‘1+3’ (i.e. one full time year of research training Masters followed by three years of full-time doctoral study, or the part-time equivalent), or ‘+3’ (i.e. three years of full-time doctoral study or its part-time equivalent), depending on the needs of the applicant. Swansea University values diversity and equality at all levels and encourages applications from all sections of the community.

Research is at the core of Swansea University’s vision. We aim to foster research excellence across a broad range of subject areas, with internationally leading research staff informing all our teaching. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, showed that Swansea is now a top 30 research university, soaring up the leagues table to 26th in the UK from 52nd position in 2008.


This studentship is a ‘collaborative’ award. Applicants should take careful consideration of the working title and description of the project, and may wish to contact the named supervisor and / or the Swansea pathway contact for a discussion prior to applying. They are: 


Residential eligibility:

Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. You must:

• be ordinarily resident in the UK, meaning there are no restrictions on how long you can stay, and

• have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for at least three years prior to the start of the studentship grant. This means you must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences), and

• not have been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK nationals and EU nationals who were ordinarily resident in the EU immediately before the period of full-time education).

Due to funding restrictions, these scholarships are not open to international candidates.

Academic eligibility:

ESRC studentships are highly competitive. Candidates should have an excellent background in the social sciences or a relevant area such as psychology, computer science (with a demonstrable focus on HCI) or Design and hold a 1st or upper 2nd class degree. Applications from those also holding a relevant research training Master's degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a ‘+3’ award. 


Full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold either a full-time job, or a permanent part-time job, during the period of their award. Part-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold a full-time job.


The studentship provides the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend. There will be additional funds available for research expenses.

Studentship awards commence in October 2019 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £14,777 per annum for 2018/19 for full-time students, updated each year) and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, oversea institutional visits and other small grants.

A ‘1+3’ studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Masters in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A ‘+3’ studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent).

How to Apply

The application must contain the following documents and be submitted to

  1. Covering letter: Please address to Dr. Matthew Roach. The covering letter must set out your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Swansea University, and the chosen pathway; your understanding, and expectations of doctoral study; your academic interests generally, and particularly how these relate to the description of the project supplied. The covering letter should be no more than two pages. Please specify whether you wish to apply on a ‘+3’ or ‘1+3’ basis. Remember also to specify that your application concerns ESRC Wales DTP collaborative studentships and include in your application the title of the project to which you are applying.
  2. Academic / professional qualifications: Please provide copies of certificates and transcripts. Where appropriate, this should also include proof of English Language Competency (7.0 IELTS minimum).
  3. References: All applications require two academic references to be submitted in support. Candidates must approach referees themselves, and submit the references with their application.
  4. Curriculum Vitae: It should be no longer than two pages.
  5. Research Proposal: For collaborative studentships, the proposal should build directly on the outline description that has been supplied. The proposal should be up to a maximum of 1000 words, not including bibliographic references. We suggest that you use the following five headings in your research proposal: 
    • Your reflections on the title, aims and purpose of the research;
    • An overview of some key research literature relevant to the study;
    • Your proposals for developing the design and methods of the study;
    • A description of potential outcomes of the project for understanding, knowledge, policy and practice (as appropriate to the topic);
    • Bibliographic references.

Please note that incomplete applications or applications received after the specified time will not be accepted. 

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 1 February 2019.

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview; interviews are expected to take place in March 2019. After interview, a final shortlist of applicants will be put forward to a Panel convened by the ESRC Wales DTP Management Group at which final decisions with regard to studentship awards will be made. In most cases, successful applicants can expect to hear by mid-April 2019.

Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome, and should be directed to Dr. Matthew Roach (