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Developing a sensory processing measure for people with dementia

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Sensory processing changes, such as heightened sensitivity to touch, are common in dementia and they, alongside over or under-stimulation, are thought to contribute to increased distress and care interactions that staff may find difficult to support effectively. Understanding sensory processing changes may help staff to deliver care that is sensitive and tailored to the sensory experience of the individual, reducing negative care interactions and providing an early intervention for distress. Sensory processing measures are frequently used by occupationally therapists, but at present there are no validated tools for assessing for the presence of sensory processing issues for older people living with cognitive impairment in formal care settings and little research concerning these issues. This PhD project will seek to address this gap.

The successful applicant will use mixed methods to explore sensory processing changes and/or develop and validate a measure of sensory processing suited to use with people with cognitive impairment in formal care settings. Ideally the candidate will have experience of research with/working with people with dementia and/or a background qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods research or scale development. It would be beneficial for the candidate to have an understanding of the role of occupational therapists in care home settings.


Each studentship will have:
A stipend of £15,009 paid monthly (amount conditional as offered) and exempt from UK Income Tax and National Insurance
A tuition fee waiver

Length of Studentship

The PhD studentship is for a period of 3 years full-time study. Annual renewal will be subject to satisfactory progress.

Start date and Induction

The start date of the studentship is February 2020. The successful candidate will attend a compulsory induction on the 6th and 7th February 2020 at Leeds Beckett University.

Part of the Research Culture

We expect bursary students to be an integral part of the research culture of the university, contributing to seminars and conferences, perhaps to projects, and generally engaging in the exchange of ideas. Associated with this, all research students undertake a research training programme.

Funding Notes

Overseas applicants must refer to the UKVI regulations on studying in the UK and contact our Graduate School before submitting. The Graduate School: For all enquiries regarding the application process, please contact or telephone: +44 (0)113 812 5385.

Candidates should complete the online application form ( including your research proposal, scanned copies of your degree certificates e.g. undergraduate or masters degree certificates) and transcripts, scanned copies of your English language requirements, scanned copies of your passport and previous UK visas if applicable.

Proposals can be discussed with the Centre for Dementia Research lead, Professor Claire Surr (), or Dr Sarah Jane Smith ()

• Applicants are asked to complete the research student application form and provide a proposal of the research to be undertaken using the headings below as a guide:

Proposal Sections:

• 3-page outline of how you would approach the research project, including background literature, aims, objec-tives and a research plan using type Arial 12 font (with references as an addition to the proposal)

• Applicants are asked to include at the start of the proposal the research project title.

Please note applicants should use the project title along with the research project reference (CDR3) in the email subject line when submitting their applications.

There are currently two School of Health and Community Studies PhD studentships being advertised within the Centre for Dementia Research

Further Information

The School of Health & Community Studies has two fully-funded PhD studentships, that can be chosen from three topic areas, available for a February 2020 start. The studentships will sit within one of the School's well-established and discipline-leading research centres, The Centre for Dementia Research. For details regarding these projects, potential applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant Director of Studies for further information.

Each PhD studentship will have a bursary of £15,009 per annum (pro-rata into 12 monthly payments) plus UK/EU Fees paid initially for a period of three years.

The closing date for applications is midnight 6th of January 2020
Interviews due to take place 17th January 2020


Dementia is a national and international health priority and the numbers of people living with dementia are set to increase as the population ages. The Leeds Beckett University Centre for Dementia Research aims to facilitate a cross-disciplinary research community to support the conduct of applied dementia research that will lead to improvements in the lives of people living with dementia and those who provide care and support to them.

Undertaking a PhD at the Centre for Dementia research, you would be joining a multidisciplinary team of experienced dementia researchers.

The centre has membership from eight schools across the university, including Sport, Social Sciences, and Built Environment, Engineering and Computing. We have relationships with many local, national and international public, private and third sector organisations including Health Education England, Leeds City Council, Barchester Healthcare, and the Sporting Memories Foundation.

Our applied dementia care and service delivery research includes a number of major projects funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Department of Health Policy research programme (DH PRP) as well as commissioned research and evaluations. Our members have particular expertise in care homes research, hospitals research, evaluation of complex interventions, dementia training and education design and evaluation of its efficacy, care home staff support needs and well-being, pain assessment and dementia assessment and diagnosis.

There are currently two PhD studentships being advertised within the Centre for Dementia Research, applicants can choose which PhD they would like to apply for from the three topics listed below. To apply for any of the dementia-related PhDs, please complete the University application form and also prepare an outline research proposal of how you would approach the project you would most like to undertake (up to 3 sides of A4). This should include your understanding of the existing research in this area, proposed methodology and methods and consideration of any ethical issues that may arise. Please state on your application which of the PhDs you would like to be considered for. If you do not indicate otherwise we will consider the application for all of the PhDs being offered. You are only required to prepare a proposal for your preferred PhD

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