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Innovative Practices in Engineering Education: Recruitment, Experiences, and Outcomes of Non-traditional Entrants


Project Description

Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentship to investigate the overall student experience of females and students from other under-represented categories in engineering courses, including obstacles to their recruitment, effectiveness of conventional and innovative teaching and learning methods, and quality of the achieved outcomes.

The project
This PhD offers an exciting opportunity to design and develop a programme of research that evaluates the effectiveness of strategies aimed at recruiting and retaining female students and other underrepresented groups on Engineering degree programmes.

There is a considerable body of research demonstrating the underrepresentation of female students in STEM subjects in higher education, in both OECD and developing countries. In the UK, despite noticeable efforts to attract more females into STEM subjects, the proportion of women studying engineering and physics in HE has remained virtually static since 2012. This PhD will further understanding of the reasons underlying such trends and help identify possible solutions to them.

As part of the project, you will engage in particular with the Innovation Engineering (BEng [Hons]/MEng) course offered at the University of Portsmouth, which has been designed specifically to attract greater numbers of female students. A non-traditional engineering course, Innovation Engineering asks students to work collaboratively with each other and with industry partners to complete commercial (often environmentally based) projects, and offers bursaries in order to widen participation.

This PhD provides an excellent opportunity to work across traditional subject disciplines, bringing pedagogical and social science approaches to bear on STEM subjects. While it is envisaged that you will adopt a mixed-methods approach in your evaluation of innovative educational practice, this is not set in stone and you will have considerable flexibility in your research design. You’ll receive research methods training in order to develop your skills as part of the degree programme.

Candidate specification
You must be a UK or EU resident and hold a good honours degree (2:1 or above) from a recognised higher education institution in Education, Sociology or Engineering. For those applying from an Engineering background, you’ll be expected to have some understanding of qualitative research methods or be willing to explore mixed qualitative and quantitative methodologies in Engineering Education.
We require English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.
A Master’s degree in a related subject would be an advantage.


How to Apply
Please contact Dr Yuwei Xu () to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting both the project code and the project title.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form, making sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.

Please also submit a research proposal (up to 1000 words), detailing how you would develop this project:
• What research questions would you pose?
• How would you design the project?
• What research methods would you use?
• How would you engage with/ build on existing research?

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code EDSO4380219 when applying.

Funding Notes

The studentship will include tuition fees at UK/EU level for three years, a stipend in line with RCUK rates (currently £14,777), and up to £1500 research expenses for the duration of the studentship, subject to satisfactory progress.

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