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Creative Responses to Sex and Relationship Education. Facilitating young people’s expression of complex emotions through creative writing.

School of Humanities

About the Project

The UK and Scottish governments have recently established new guidelines for Sex and Relationship Education (SRE).

It is striking that in the consultation phases only a tiny fraction of the respondents disclosed that they were pupils. The guidelines go to great lengths to establish why SRE is needed, how it links with Health and Wellbeing, and how to balance the civic rights of a diverse population with religious sensibilities. The views of pupils before and after they have reached the age of consent do not appear to have been of great concern in these processes.

This research projects aims at a local level (potentially Dundee, Angus or Fife) to engage with young people in secondary schools and community groups in order to explore their views on matters of SRE specifically and friendship, love and sexuality more generally. Particular attention will be paid to marginalised groups and individuals such as LGBTQ+ youth and youth who are neuro-diverse.

Creative writing is a well-established tool for creative engagement inside and outside the classroom. The principal supervisor has further established proof of concept that zine making and a focus on fictionalising are viable approaches in enabling participants to disclose in a safe and supportive environment.

The Postgraduate Researcher will establish under the guidance of Professor Michael Gratzke a participatory action-research project in collaboration with local schools and community groups. They will facilitate creative writing groups and – if the participants agree – public readings, zine making, exhibitions or podcasts. The Postgraduate Researcher will further develop an evaluation tool, a toolkit for schools and community groups and pathways to impact on best practice in schools.

Participatory action research develops research questions in collaboration with lay particpants. It is, therefore, not opportune to attempt prescription of questions before research design has started. Possible research questions may, however, include:

Why is SRE so strongly linked to Health Education? Are there aspects of relationships and sexuality which are precluded once healthiness is established as the guiding principle?

Why is SRE structured by a focus on committed, long-term relatonships between two people? Are there aspects of the experiences young people such as experimentation, preference of friendships over romantic love, or an absence of sexual or romantic interests which should be presented in SRE as valid choices?"

For more information about the Love Research Network, see

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Professor Michael Gratzke ()
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK in a relevant discipline.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Professor Michael Gratzke () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Professor Gratzke, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in English: Select the start date and study mode (full-time/part-time) agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.


"Success and productive failure in zine making with young people. A Hull case study into creative expression and relationships research”, Michael Gratzke (under review)

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