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Keep On Keep Up for Stroke Survivors (KOKU4Stroke): An investigation of the usability and acceptability of a digital rehabilitation program to train balance and strength and fitness in stroke survivors (RDF23/HLS/SER/AUDSLEY)

   Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

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  Dr Sarah Audsley, Dr Sarah Moore  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Northumbria University is a research-intensive modern University, ranked 23rd in the UK for Research Power in the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2021). The Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation has a global reputation for academic excellence that is underpinned by a vibrant, high-quality research-rich environment. As such, Northumbria’s Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation is now ranked 5th in the UK for research power (REF2021), with 90% of our research publications rated as being world-leading or internationally excellent.

We are currently seeking enthusiastic and talented PhD candidates for the following stroke rehabilitation project:

Stroke is a major cause of disability worldwide. Stroke leads to motor, sensory and balance impairments impacting on walking, leading to physical deconditioning and increasing falls risk. Rehabilitation exercise improves physical recovery and reduces falls risk. Yet, many stroke survivors experience long-term falls due to gaps in post-stroke rehabilitation service provisions. Keep on Keep Up (KOKU) is a digital-health program that engages older people in falls prevention exercise (https://kokuhealth.com/). The acceptability and usability of KOKU has been established in older adults at risk of falls. It is unknown whether the KOKU program is acceptable in stroke survivors at risk of falls.  

This studentship focuses on investigating the acceptability and usability of the KOKU program and identify the adaptations needed to maximise acceptability in stroke.   The aim of the project is to work with key stakeholders to co-design and explore the suitability of a newly developed KOKU4Stroke program for use in stroke survivors.

The project will be conducted in three phases: Phase 1, the KOKU program will be investigated in stroke survivors to explore the useability and the adaptations needed for use in stroke. Phase 2, a community of practice workshop will use the phase 1 data to adapt and co-design the KOKU program. The acceptability and useability of the new KOKU4Stroke program will be investigated during Phase 3. 

Studentship opportunities: You will be supervised by a multidisciplinary team of Northumbria University experts from the fields of stroke rehabilitation research (Dr Sarah Moore) and digital health design (Dr Gill Barry) and intervention development (Dr Sarah Audsley). The supervisory team have extensive local, national and international collaborations in their fields.  

During the studentship you will develop applied research skills and create professional stakeholder links by working closely with stroke services, stroke survivors and external academics (from University of Manchester and UCL) to co-design and test the new KOKU4Stroke programme. The supervision team will support you in developing high quality research publications and presenting your work at national and international conferences.  Upon project completion, we will seek NHS digital approvals for the KOKU4Stroke program and will make the digital programme publicly available on App stores to positively impact the wider community and increase the impact of your PhD outputs.

Candidates with a background in rehabilitation, health and exercise science, neuroscience, health psychology with an interest in clinical populations, physiotherapy, stroke, exercise science and digital healthcare are particularly encouraged to apply.

Academic Enquiries

This project is supervised by Dr Sarah Audsley, Dr Sarah Moore and Dr Gill Barry. For informal queries, please contact Dr Sarah Audsley ([Email Address Removed]) or Dr Sarah Moore ([Email Address Removed]). For all other enquiries relating to eligibility or application process please use the email form below to contact Admissions. 

Funding Information

Home and International students (inc. EU) are welcome to apply. The studentship is available to Home and International (including EU) students and includes a full stipend at UKRI rates (for 2022/23 full-time study this is £17,668 per year) and full tuition fees. Studentships are also available for applicants who wish to study on a part-time basis over 5 years (0.6 FTE, stipend £10,600 per year and full tuition fees) in combination with work or personal responsibilities).  

Please also see further advice below of additional costs that may apply to international applicants.

 Eligibility Requirements:

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2:1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities [preference for 1st class honours]); or a Masters (preference for Merit or above); or APEL evidence of substantial practitioner achievement.
  • Appropriate IELTS score, if required.
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if they are already a PhD holder or if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria or elsewhere.

 Please note: to be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter.

If a candidate does not meet the criteria above, they would be classed as an International student.  Applicants will need to be in the UK and fully enrolled before stipend payments can commence, and be aware of the following additional costs that may be incurred, as these are not covered by the studentship.

  • Immigration Health Surcharge https://www.gov.uk/healthcare-immigration-application
  • If you need to apply for a Student Visa to enter the UK, please refer to the information on https://www.gov.uk/student-visa. It is important that you read this information very carefully as it is your responsibility to ensure that you hold the correct funds required for your visa application otherwise your visa may be refused.
  • Check what COVID-19 tests you need to take and the quarantine rules for travel to England https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-to-england-from-another-country-during-coronavirus-covid-19
  • Costs associated with English Language requirements which may be required for students not having completed a first degree in English, will not be borne by the university. Please see individual adverts for further details of the English Language requirements for the university you are applying to.

How to Apply

For further details of how to apply, entry requirements and the application form, see


For applications to be considered for interview, please include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words and the advert reference (e.g. RDF23/…).

Deadline for applications: 27 January 2023

Start date of course: 1 October 2023 tbc


Xu, T., et al., Risk factors for falls in community stroke survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation, 2018. 99(3): p. 563-573. e5.
Ramage, E.R., et al., Look before you leap: Interventions supervised via telehealth involving activities in weight-bearing or standing positions for people after stroke—A scoping review. Physical therapy, 2021. 101(6): p. pzab073.
Stanmore, E., Developing, Testing, and Implementing a Falls Prevention and Healthy Aging App (Keep-On-Keep-Up) for Older Adults. Innovation in Aging, 2021. 5(Suppl 1): p. 516-516.

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