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ESRC WRDTP Collaborative Studentship: Inclusivity and Engagement: children and the democratic process


Project Description

This interdisciplinary project, between politics and education, explores whether institutional political engagement programmes aimed at young people promote inclusivity in the way children are introduced to democratic rights and processes. It addresses a critical challenge of our modern societies: whether structures of governance empower young people in an inclusive manner to become more politically engaged, helping to redress existing inequalities. This speaks to the pathway’s wider preoccupations with citizenship and how different groups in society understand, participate in and shape our models of governance.

Recent movements such as the climate change strikes have mobilised thousands of children, highlighting the importance of democratic processes in shaping decisions about their future. Likewise, education programmes promoting political engagement amongst young people have risen. However, are these activities simply reaching those who would already become interested in politics, and therefore reinforcing existing divides in society? This is of acute interest to the UK Parliament’s Education and Engagement service, which will act as our partner in this PhD project. The UK Parliament has developed a wide range of political engagement programmes targeting young people. However, by taking young people as a holistic category, specific groups, such as those with disabilities or from deprived social backgrounds, may be kept at the margins of those programmes, solidifying and increasing social divides and political cleavages. In collaboration with Parliament’s Education and Engagement team, this project will investigate the extent to which the institution’s democratic engagement programmes aimed at young people promote an inclusive public engagement experience amongst participants.

The PhD will utilise mainly participatory qualitative research methods and work with schools in the Yorkshire and Humber region, to investigate the experiences of children as they undergo parliamentary programmes of democratic engagement. It will focus on children with special educational needs (SEN - including learning difficulties and physical disabilities), to investigate perceptions and experiences of democratic engagement amongst a group of children often kept at the margins of society.

Our core research question is therefore: how do SEN children experience programmes of democratic engagement?

The successful student will join a vibrant research environment and group of scholars within the Centre for Democratic Engagement

Funding Notes

Full awards provide UK/EU academic fees and a maintenance grant at standard Research Council rates (£15,009 in Session 2019/20) for full-time study, together with other allowances if appropriate. EU applicants will be eligible for an award paying tuition fees only, except in exceptional circumstances, or where residency has been established for more than 3 years prior to the start of the course.

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