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Access All Sports: A mixed methods evaluation of what helps or hinders disabled students to access university sport and how this impacts on their wellbeing. (DeaneKU19SF)

Project Description


Sports activities improve students’ wellbeing, fitness and sense of belonging to the university community and this enhances their resilience to mental-health challenges. Adults with disabilities are at double the risk of anxiety and depression. Access to sports for students with disabilities can be challenging for a variety of practical, environmental, and attitudinal reasons. So we need to better understand what are the barriers and facilitators, benefits and risks to accessing sports for this group of students in order to ensure efforts to improve access are correctly directed.


The student will conduct a systematic literature review and evaluate previous years Sportspark usage by student with disabilities. This will inform qualitative interviews with selected students with disabilities, sports clubs, and a survey of all current students with disabilities about what helps or hinders their sports participation, and the benefits and risks associated with it. The multidisciplinary project steering group will include students with disabilities, and expertise from the Sportspark.

Project Objectives:

1. To identify what helps or hinders students with disabilities access sports at the University of East Anglia, including;
a. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the sports clubs to support membership and participation by disabled students.
b. Identifying what helps or hinder students with disabilities to participate in informally organised sport, and the benefits and risks of doing so.
2. To identify the characteristics of disabled students who access the Sportspark.
3. To create an action plan to address barriers to access.
4. To create a good practice guide and disseminate it widely. This will include recommendations on infrastructure, equipment, coaching and club skills, knowledge, and attitudes.


This project will create guidance that aims to substantially enhance participation in sports by students with disabilities and identify if sports participation helps enhance student resilience for mental wellbeing.

For more information on the supervisor for this project, please go here: https://portal.uea.ac.uk/equality/success/dr-katherine-deane

This is a PhD programme.

The start date of the project is 1 October 2020.

The mode of study is full-time. The studentship length is 3 years with a 1-year registration period.

Entry requirements:

The student should have a good degree (at least a 2:1) in a relevant subject (e.g. health, sports, psychology, business). They will have good communication, organisational, problem-solving, and team working skills. They should be able to show the potential to be an independent learner; with the ability to identify goals and knowledge of how to work towards them. They should be confident in handling numerical and textual data, but training will be provided in the analysis methods to be used. They should have some knowledge of disability and sports.

Please note: Applications are processed as soon as they are received and the project may be filled before the closing date, so early application is encouraged.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at View Website.

A bench fee may also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project.


(i) Biddle, S.J.H., Mutrie, N. and Gorely, T. (2015) Psychology of Physical activity: Determinants, well-being and interventions (3rd ed.). Abingdon: Routledge.

(ii) English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) (2010) Overall participation in sport Active People Survey 5. EFDS: Loughborough.

(iii) Hunt P (2016) Design Guide Part 9: Universal design and access to all. RIBA Stages 2-4. Draft V0.3. University of East Anglia.

(iv) Rankin, M-A. (2012) Understanding barriers to participation in sport. EFDS: Loughborough.

(v) Sports Coach UK (2014) Coaching disabled people: What coaches need to know. Available from: https://www.bucs.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=28139&filetitle=sports +coach+UK+-+Coaching+disabled+people+factsheet [Accessed September 2018].

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