FindAPhD Weekly PhD Newsletter | JOIN NOW FindAPhD Weekly PhD Newsletter | JOIN NOW

The causes and effects of digital skills acquisition and development on employment and inequalities (Advert Reference: SF21/BL/MOS/SKOUM)

   Faculty of Business and Law

  Dr D Skoumpopoulou  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Digital skills are the cornerstone of the UK digital economy and one of the major causes of inequalities. Specifically, rapid technological development means that digital skills are no longer optional. However, it is estimated that 52% of the UK workforce lacks essential digital skills for work (Lloyds Bank 2020). Workers who do not possess sufficient digital skills are at risk of being left behind (Office for National Statistics 2019), deepening inequalities that run through the social fabric of the UK. The report published by The UK Industrial Strategy Council (2019) predicted that by 2030, unless actions will be taken, five million workers could become acutely under-skilled in basic digital. Hence, the current digital skill crisis presents a significant threat that could damage the UK productivity and competitiveness.

Key stakeholders are urging the government to ramp up digital skills to address inequalities and maintain the competitiveness of the workforce. However, despite substantial effort devoted by the government, practitioners, and scholars to advance digital skills and eradicate inequalities caused by the digital skills divide, the effectiveness of interventions is hampered by a lack of (i) a shared understanding of the different facets of digital skills for employment among key stakeholders, (ii) a coherent synthesis of the evidence concerning the impacts of digital skills acquisition and development on productivity, mobility, and equality (UK Parliament 2021; Skoumpopoulou et al 2020).

Besides there is a lack of understanding of the cause of inequality and how organisational culture, power and trust play an active towards these misalignments (Skoumpopoulou and Waring, 2017; Skoumpopoulou and Robson, 2019), given that digital skills are often needed within highly political environments where individuals, groups and other stakeholders have agendas that when afforded by the new opportunities can influence the nature of the development in ways which can affect many people (Skoumpopoulou et al 2018).  

Accordingly, this project is expected to answer four broad research questions (RQ):

·        RQ1. How do key stakeholders define and conceptualise digital skills? What are the conceptual gaps and misalignments?

·        RQ2. What is the current evidence of the impacts of digital skills on employment (e.g., job performance, mobility, and career progression opportunity)? 

·        RQ3. How does the digital skills divide aggravate inequalities among different socio-demographic segments (e.g., gender, age, ethnicity)?

·        RQ4. What are the main factors that can enable/facilitate organisations to deal with such inequalities and support their employees’ digital skill development?

The successful candidate will propose a theoretically sound and empirical rigorous research project using a mixed-methods approach (e.g., a systematic literature review, a meta-analysis, interviews, interpretive case studies) to offer an evidence-based conclusion regarding the effects of digital skills on employment and inequalities. The outcome of the project is expected to reconcile the evidence across a body of previous research and thus strengthening collaboration between practitioners and academics to tackle the digital skills crisis in the age of digitisation and datafication.

This project is supervised by Dr Dimitra Skoumpopoulou

Eligibility and How to Apply:

Please note eligibility requirement:

·       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.

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

Please note: Applications that do not include a research proposal of approximately 1,000 words (not a copy of the advert), or that do not include the advert reference (e.g. SF21/…) will not be considered.

Deadline for applications: Open

Start Date: March 2022 or October 2022

Northumbria University takes pride in, and values, the quality and diversity of our staff and students. We welcome applications from all members of the community.

Funding Notes

Please note this is a self-funded project and does not include tuition fees or stipend.


Bank L. (2020) Uk Consumer Digital Index 2020. Accessed 09/08/2021,
Council TUIS. (2019) Uk Skills Mismatch 2030 – Research Paper. The UK Industrial Strategy Council, The UK, Accessed 25 August, 2021,
Rice E, and Christie L. (2021) Developing Essential Digital Skills. UK Parliament POST. UK Parliament, 643,
Skoumpopoulou D., Kohont A. and Stalker B. (2020), Talent management in European companies: case analysis between Slovenia, Poland and UK, International Journal of HRD Practice, Policy & Research Special Issue: Global Entrepreneurial Talent Management Forthcoming.
Skoumpopoulou, D. and Robson, A. (2019), Systems change in UK HEIs: How do culture, management, users and systems align? Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 33(6), 1627-1645.
Skoumpopoulou, D., Wong, A., Ng, P. and Lo, M. F. (2018), Factors that affect the acceptance of new technologies in the workplace: a cross case analysis between two universities. International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology, 14 (3). pp. 209-222. ISSN 1814-0556.
Skoumpopoulou D. and Waring T. (2017), Cultural change through the implementation of an enterprise system: a UK university case study, Journal of Enterprise Information Management, 30(5), pp. 809-830.
Statistics OfN. (2019) Exploring the Uk’s Digital Divide. Office for National Statistics, The UK,

Email Now

PhD saved successfully
View saved PhDs