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Listening to children’s voices: an impossible possibility?

School of Education and Social Work

About the Project

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) was fundamental in establishing a discourse of children’s rights. Article 13 of the Convention argues that children have the right to freedom of expression. We have often interpreted this as meaning that children need to have a voice. Various policies and practices have responded to this call of the Convention and are addressing this by encouraging children’s voices to be heard in their contexts. This ‘listening to children’s voices’ is not without complexities and difficulties. The first complexity is how to ‘capture’ children’s voices and make sense of such voices. Whose voices do we hear? Why and how do we hear them? The issue of power of the adults concerning children’s voices is also another major complexity. Can we ever escape the power of the adult in relation to children’s voices? Then we need to ask, what does it mean to listen? How does the act of listening correspond to voice? Does having a voice, necessitate acts of hearing and listening?

The study will seek to make sense of children’s voices in educational contexts. The study will initially try to locate and describe what children’s voice looks like in educational contexts, and who the actors that contribute to this voice are. This study will then question the power relations in an educational context that gives rise to children’s voice. By focusing on a particular area of the candidate’s choice, s/he will be encouraged to explore and experiment with ways of listening to children in that area. The PhD candidate will be encouraged to experiment with and implement child-led methods, such as those suggested in the Mosaic (see Clark & Moss, 2011) and/or Storying approaches (see Phillips & Bunda, 2018). This empirically-based research will need a sound theoretical foundation, so the PhD candidate will be encouraged to read various thinkers and philosophers to form (and deconstruct) their ideas around children’s voices and listening. The candidate may opt to engage in feminist, decolonized, disability studies discourses. The candidate will also be encouraged to explore different ways of representing and interpreting data that reflects the journey of listening to children’s voices.

For informal enquiries about the project, contact Dr Duncan Mercieca ()
For general enquiries about the University of Dundee, contact

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK in a relevant discipline.

English language requirement: IELTS (Academic) score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 5.5 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted. Full details of the University’s English language requirements are available online:


Step 1: Email Dr Duncan Mercieca () to (1) send a copy of your CV and (2) discuss your potential application and any practicalities (e.g. suitable start date).

Step 2: After discussion with Dr Mercieca, formal applications can be made via UCAS Postgraduate. When applying, please follow the instructions below:

Apply for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Education: Select the start date and study mode (full-time/part-time) agreed with the lead supervisor.

In the ‘provider questions’ section of the application form:
- Write the project title and ‘’ in the ‘if your application is in response to an advertisement’ box;
- Write the lead supervisor’s name and give brief details of your previous contact with them in the ‘previous contact with the University of Dundee’ box.

In the ‘personal statement’ section of the application form, outline your suitability for the project selected.

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The successful applicant will be expected to provide the funding for tuition fees and living expenses, via external sponsorship or self-funding.


Clark, A., & Moss, P. (2011). Listening to young children: The mosaic approach (Second edition), London: National Children’s Bureau.

Phillips, L.G. & T. Bunda. (2018). Research Through, with and as Storying, Abingdon: Routledge.

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