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Improving Student Mental Health and Academic Success through On-Campus Nature and Animal Interventions (VP2229)

   Education & Social Sciences

  , Dr Nicola Douglas-Smith,  Thursday, June 30, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Poor mental health in the university student population is an ongoing global problem and emerging evidence shows a significant worsening of symptoms since the onset of COVID-19. This will place an unprecedented strain on university services that may not be able to meet increased demand. Finding ways to support student mental health, particularly during the transition out of the pandemic and back to on-campus teaching, is a key priority. Improved psychological health, through novel on-campus interventions, will subsequently impact academic motivation and performance, and self-esteem, thus increasing student engagement, reducing retention rates, and ultimately, supporting academic success. Through novel mixed methodology, this project aims to explore current issues relating to student mental health and the subsequent impact on academic success, and barriers to support, and will examine the acceptability, feasibility, and effectiveness of implementing nature and animal-based on-campus interventions to improve student outcomes. The overarching goal is to improve student wellbeing, increase resilience, and improve academic success.

This role involves working within an interdisciplinary team and carrying out mixed methodologies (quantitative and qualitative analysis, creative methods) to address the research questions. The specialisation in the PhD would be in Psychology (PhD in Psychology). The successful candidate will be at the forefront of tackling poor student mental health, making a significant contribution to improving student wellbeing, experience, and academic outcomes. This aligns with UN SDGs Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education, and Reduced Inequalities.

 This project is led by Dr Roxanne Hawkins (Lecturer in Psychology) and will be based in the Division of Psychology, School of Education and Social Sciences, Paisley, Scotland, UK (with potential travel to Lanarkshire campus), working with Dr Nicola-Douglas-Smith (Lecturer in Psychology), and Dr Nick Jenkins (Senior Lecturer in Sociology & Social Policy). Find more about the school here: https://www.uws.ac.uk/about-uws/academic-schools/school-of-education-social-sciences/

Candidates should hold a first or second class honours degree from a university in the United Kingdom in a relevant discipline. Please quote the Project Reference number above when submitting your research proposal.

 In the first instance, any informal enquiries and applications to these competitive studentships should be made by email to Dr Roxanne Hawkins (). Successful applicants will be asked to submit the application through the UWS online system (https://www.uws.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/admissions-application/).

Funding Notes

The University of the West of Scotland (UWS) is seeking to attract a PhD candidate of outstanding ability and commitment to join its vibrant and growing programme of internationally excellent research. The funded studentships are open to UK citizens and EU applicants with pre-settled or settled status. Funding for applicants meeting these criteria will cover UK fees and they will also receive an annual stipend (currently £15,609)


Baur, J. (2020). Campus community gardens and student health: A case study of a campus garden and student well-being. Journal of American College Health, 1-8.
Ward‐Griffin, E., Klaiber, P., Collins, H. K., Owens, R. L., Coren, S., & Chen, F. S. (2018). Petting away pre‐exam stress: The effect of therapy dog sessions on student well‐being. Stress and Health, 34(3), 468-473.

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