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PhD Studentship opportunity exploring young people’s school to work transitions

Project Description

Location: London
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: £17,675 stipend pa for four years (tax free), home/EU tuition fees (also for four years) plus up to £1000 pa for training and support and up to £1600 for an overseas institutional visit
Hours: full-time for 4 years
Closes: 7th October 2019, with interviews to be held on 23rd October

This PhD study is linked to a larger five-year ESRC-funded project that will be investigating how England’s vocational education and training (VET) system can better support the transitions into further education and work of the 50 per cent of young people who do not go to university. Routes into further education, training and employment for these young people are often characterised by complexity, instability, uncertain prospects and drop-out. The research will focus on the 16-20 age group and will have a particular emphasis on engaging with the perspectives of young people themselves, including those who are marginalised and whose input is often not heard in policymaking. These young people are more likely to fall between gaps in the system and not be in education, employment or training, which is associated with a range of negative outcomes and lifetime costs. Of particular concern are the disparities in education and skill levels that can prevent those from disadvantaged regions, women and black and minority ethnic and disabled people from accessing high-skill employment. The project will provide new understandings of how these disparities are produced and how they might be reduced.

The larger project will use a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods to analyse how intersecting inequalities, local VET and employment opportunity structures and young people’s own values and agency interact to create very different experiences and outcomes for differently positioned young people. The PhD study will sit within the qualitative strand of the research and draw primarily on in-depth interviews with young people in up to four contrasting local authorities who are considering non-university post-16 VET routes and/or are classified as ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET) or at risk of being ‘NEET’. The study will explore the young people’s perspectives and experiences, including, for example, their experiences of inclusion and participation and of how multiple inequalities and identity categories are ‘lived together’ in everyday VET and employment settings.

Each year we will work with an advisory group of ten 16-20 year olds to discuss emergent design issues and policy and practice implications, produce different kinds of resources (e.g. information sheets) targeting young people and their parents based on the research findings, and plan and participate in dedicated youth-led slots within the annual meetings of the project’s adult advisory panel, thereby ensuring that the research is informed by young people throughout. The successful applicant will help to convene these groups.

The PhD is co-funded by King’s College London and the Edge Foundation, an independent charity specialising in sharing effective practice and influencing VET policy. The studentship will be based within the Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR) within the School of Education, Communication and Society at King’s but will involve close collaboration with - and a knowledge exchange placement hosted by - the Edge Foundation. CPPR is an interdisciplinary research centre, committed to using research to inform national and international public policy debate and to support professional practice. Its work is concerned to illuminate policy processes and effects in a range of global and local contexts and policy and practice settings, including education, health and social care, youth work and the cultural sector. It is a friendly and supportive group with a strong interest in promoting and supporting research by, and in collaboration with, its students. The student will be co-supervised by Prof Sharon Gewirtz and Dr Tania de St Croix.

This is a four-year study starting in January 2020.

We are keen to encourage applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds.

Entry requirements

• A first class or 2:1 honours degree (or equivalent overseas qualification) and a Master’s degree in a relevant social sciences or humanities discipline (e.g. sociology, social policy, gender, sexuality, race or disability studies, youth work) with at least a high Merit and showing evidence of capacity to work at Distinction level

• IELTS 7.0 or above overall with a minimum of 6.5 in each skill (or equivalent), OR a previous academic record that shows you can study and be examined in the English language

• Experience of grassroots work with young people (in a youth work or similar context) with a proven capacity to reach out to and develop rapport with diverse groups of marginalised young people

• A proven track record of working well in teams

• A commitment to working collaboratively with colleagues and others inside and outside of the university

• Previous experience of qualitative interviewing and data analysis would be an advantage

• Applicants must be prepared to travel as the research will involve data collection in different parts of England.

Further Information

The studentship will be based at King’s College London Waterloo Campus in central London.
Postgraduate study at King’s College London (
KCL Researcher Development Programme (

How to apply

To apply please send all your documents to:

Applicants are required to submit:

• A personal statement (maximum 2 A4 pages)

• An indicative research proposal (maximum 2 A4 pages). In constructing your proposal, you might like to consider the research aims or questions, the theoretical background to the proposed research, its significance, the methodological approach and the timescale of the study. As well as helping us with the recruitment process, this indicative proposal will provide a basis on which to plan the final proposal once the studentship has commenced

• An extended piece of independently produced academic work (e.g. a master’s essay or dissertation or a published or unpublished research paper) that you feel best demonstrates the quality of your academic writing

• A CV

• Two full references. At least one of these should be from an academic who has knowledge of your academic ability from your most recent study/programme. The other could be a second academic reference or a professional reference.

Closing date: 7th October 2019
Interviews: 23rd October 2019

Application enquiries

Professor Sharon Gewirtz

Only candidates shortlisted for interview will be contacted.

Funding Notes

This is a 4-year fully funded studentship with a stipend of £17,675 pa (tax free), home/EU tuition fees plus a research training and career development allowance of £1000 pa and up to £1600 for an overseas institutional visit.

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