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KESS 2 Master of Research: The efficacy of storytelling for building identity and agency with people with Learning Disabilities

Research & Innovation Services

Dr Emily Underwood Wednesday, June 09, 2021 Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

This is a funded MbyRes, including a generous stipend and tuition fees, with well-resourced circumstances for a successful scholarship.

Here is an exciting opportunity to study a method which could lead to entirely new understandings of the benefits of storytelling as a means of enabling people with learning disabilities to share their stories and thus shape their own representation and identity and have an impact on both service provision and policy within health and social care.

The selected candidate will apply their research skills and ambition to study the existing collection of stories created by Mencap Cymru and to analyse how stories can be used to meaningfully and ethically share the voices and experiences of learning disabled people. This project will allow the student to develop transferable knowledge and skills in these most exciting and active fields of applied storytelling and learning disability research.

This Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarship (KESS) project will be jointly held in the Faculties of Creative Industries and Life Sciences and Education at the University of South Wales. KESS is a programme funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) awarded by the Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) in the Welsh Government. The Masters by Research will be associated with Mencap Cymru. The project will focus on storytelling methodologies within Mencap particularly and health and social care more widely, in order to ensure the voices and experiences of people with learning disabilities are captured and inform service provision and policy. Storytelling offers a way in which views and experiences can be meaningfully and ethically accessed but it is important that we explore how this can best be facilitated and the impact that it has. The research project will provide evidence which will inform the development of storytelling within Mencap Cymru and potentially influence its development across the health and social care sectors. Further, this research will create a greater understanding of how storytelling might enable people with learning disabilities to take control of their representation and shape their identities.

The project is backed by Mencap Cymru, one of the leading organisations supporting and campaigning with people with a learning disability across Wales. Mencap Cymru’s vision is a world where people with a learning disability can lead happy and healthy lives. The candidate will work closely with Mencap Cymru’s Storytelling Development Lead, and will come to understand Mencap Cymru’s innovative approach and commitment to ensuring that the voices and stories of learning disabled people are at the heart of policy and practice.

Programme of research:


The MbyRes will be undertaken between October 2021 and October 2022 (Stipend paid for 12 months, with a further 3 months unfunded for writing up, 3 months unfunded for Viva). The student will be principally based within the Faculty of Creative Industries at USW in Cardiff, although this programme will be cross-faculty, reflecting the cross-disciplinary nature of the research, and the student will also have access to facilities within the Faculty of Life Sciences and Education at USW in Pontypridd. Office space will be provided within FCI (subject to Welsh Government Covid guidance; some working from home may be required).

The student will undertake a placement of six weeks at Mencap Cymru working with the Storytelling Development Lead to better understand the already existing practice and to support the development of storytelling as an embedded methodology within Mencap’s services. They will also engage in visits to the archive of stories created by Mencap, which is held in St Fagan’s National Museum archives. A full induction will be given by Mencap Cymru, as will training in working with people with learning disabilities. In addition, the student will be invited to relevant events, networks and other activities at Mencap Cymru on an informal basis.

The student will engage in the specialist post-graduate research training offered by the Graduate Office at USW and will also undertake post-grad research training offered within FCI.

Mencap Cymru will facilitate opportunities for the student to present their research findings at policy and strategy groups both within Mencap and externally. The student will also be encouraged to share their research at specialist conferences such as the ‘Storytelling for Health’ international conference, the ‘Culture Health and Wellbeing’ international conference, and the International Association for the Scientific Study of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Congress. Provision for conference attendance is included in the budget.



·      Gaining an understanding of the policy, practice and research context.

·      Review of existing literature on story and identity.

·      Review of Mencap archive at the National Museum Wales (St Fagan’s) archive.

·      Identification of case study.

·      Engagement with significant partners (Mencap Cymru Storytelling Development Lead and Senior Leadership, Participant observation in sessions with Mencap service users).

·      Analysis of existing case study stories.

·      Synthesis of literature and case study.

·      Writing up of thesis.

·      Submission of thesis.

·      Submission of final report.

Application Process:

To download an application package, please visit: Participant Application Package


For any queries on eligibility, please contact: KESS Team at Research and Innovation Services, University of South Wales:  Tel: 01443 482578


For informal enquiries or further programme information, please contact: Dr Emily Underwood-Lee ().

Further information at:

Closing date for applications: midnight Wednesday 9th June 2021**

Interviews will be held w/c 28th June

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover the fees for a full-time MbyRes programme and pay a stipend of circa £11.8k p.a. There is also around £3k project support costs available for consumables, travel, minor equipment, training (including the KESS Grad School) and conference attendance.
The position is available from 1st October 2021.

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