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Scots language revitalisation in the 21st century

   College of Arts

This project is no longer listed on and may not be available.

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  Prof Bernadette O'Rourke, Prof Jennifer Smith, Dr Joanna Kopaczyk, Mr Bruce Eunson  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Glasgow United Kingdom Cultural Geography English Language European Studies International Relations Linguistics Education Sociology Social Anthropology Social Geography

About the Project

This project offers an exciting opportunity for a PhD student to work with the University of Glasgow and Education Scotland on a Collaborative Doctoral Award, funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) for a full-time period of 3 ½ years. This is an interdisciplinary project involving the School of Modern Languages and Cultures and the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow. 

Language revitalisation is crucial to developing sustainable multilingual societies. However, many governmental language plans and policies have failed with interventions criticised as fragmented because of a mismatch between top-down and local grass-roots initiatives. To examine this mismatch, this project will embed a researcher within Education Scotland, to examine the organisation’s (and partner bodies’) Scots language policies. It will investigate how these relate (or not) to the ideologies, motivations and language practices of grass-roots Scots language revitalisation efforts. The researcher will produce an evaluative framework of Scots language policies and programmes to maximise future effectiveness, in line with the broader aims of the Scots language revitalisation movement.

According to Census data, Scots is used by 1.5 million people in Scotland. Compared with other minority languages including Scottish Gaelic, critical sociolinguistic questions on modern Scots are under-researched and Scots has been largely absent from debates on minority language revitalisation. This lack of research makes joined-up, informed language policy and planning for Scots problematic. Strong, evidence-based foundations for Scots language policy and planning based on systematic research are lacking. This project builds these foundations. It constitutes the first study of Scots language revitalisation to implement a collaborative approach and a dedicated researcher to ‘bridge’ international models of language revitalisation, policies and programmes. This project will provide tools to align ‘top-down’ policies and planning more closely with learnings from other minority languages and the aims of Scots language revitalisation as a grass-roots social movement.

The overarching question behind the research is: Do Scots language policies and planning initiatives align with the motivations and practices of a grass- roots Scots language revitalisation movement?

To generate a rich set of data for analysis, a critical ethnographic approach will be used. The PhD student will act as participant observer within Education Scotland to develop an understanding of the processes by which policy goals are implemented and translated into actions. They will conduct interviews and focus groups, report findings and formulate recommendations that form the basis of a toolkit for future interventions.

How to apply

To apply, please submit the following documents directly via email to  [Email Address Removed] by 11th(midday) June 2021

  • A cover letter (2 pages max) outlining reasons for your interest in this opportunity, your preparedness for this doctoral project and what you would bring to it, and initial thoughts on how you would approach the research.
  • A CV (2 pages max) with information on your academic qualifications and any work or other relevant experience.
  • Qualification certificates/transcripts
  • Two academic references 

Shortlisted candidates will be informed shortly after the closing date and invited to interview to be held via Zoom/Microsoft Teams.

As part of the shortlisting process, you may be asked via email to submit an example of recent academic writing (e.g., MA dissertation chapter or essay, or undergraduate dissertation where the applicant does not have an MA qualification). 

We welcome you to get in touch in advance for informal discussions.


This award is open to everyone who meets the eligible qualifications criteria, whether they are classed as a UK/Home or International student. Further information for international students is available.

Doctoral candidates must meet the following excellence criteria:         

  • Hold at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline;
  • Have completed or be on course to complete a Masters Degree or equivalent professional experience, in one of the following fields or broadly related areas: sociolinguistics, sociology of language, linguistic/social anthropology, human geography.
  • A broad grasp and awareness of current debates in minority language research 
  • A broad grasp and awareness of the sociolinguistics of Scots
  • Experience of, or demonstrable aptitude for, undertaking collaborative fieldwork and conducting interviews and focus groups within an anthropological/social scientific perspective  
  • Demonstrable ability to undertake a comprehensive review of relevant literature and of existing cultural outputs and practice
  • Demonstrable ability to synthesise and translate technical research into practicable terms  
  • A commitment to addressing linguistic and multilingual sustainability 

To be eligible for an award, the successful student will also need to be accepted onto the PhD programme via Admissions. If your first language is not English, you will also need to demonstrate English language proficiency (further information can be found on the Information Studies entry requirements).

If you have any questions, please email the Lead Supervisor, Prof Bernadette O’Rourke ([Email Address Removed])  

Funding Notes

Fully funded AHRC project, covering tuition fees and stipend (at UKRI rate). The project start date is 1 October 2021.
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