The development of thinking skills in university students and the impact on workplace success


   Department of Psychology

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  Dr Nina Attridge, Dr Julie Udell  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Applications are invited for a fully-funded three-year PhD to commence in October 2024.

The PhD will be based in the Department of Psychology (Faculty of Science & Health) and will be supervised by Dr Nina Attridge and Dr Julie Udell.

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24). Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 per year towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.

Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.  

The work on this project could involve:

  • Reviewing the psychology literature on critical thinking, problem-solving and logical reasoning to identify the most appropriate measures
  • Longitudinal quantitative studies to investigate the links between education and the development of critical thinking, problem-solving and logical reasoning
  • A qualitative study to explore employers’ perspectives on the role of these thinking skills in the workplace, and how they assess for them in job applicants
  • Presenting findings at international conferences and in journal articles

Project description

Studying for a university degree should allow students to develop transferrable thinking skills, such as critical thinking, reasoning and problem-solving, alongside their subject-specific skills and knowledge. Such skills are valuable for future work and everyday life. However, the extent to which these skills are developed has been understudied. Previous research shows that studying mathematics post-16 develops abstract logical reasoning skills (Attridge & Inglis, 2013, 2016), and the current project will extend this research to investigate a wider range of academic and applied subjects, such as computer science, English and medicine, and a wider range of thinking skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving.   

The student on this project will conduct longitudinal and cross-sectional research studies with undergraduate students and recent graduates to examine which transferrable thinking skills are developed by which degree programmes, what the causal mechanisms of this development are, and how these skills are used in the workplace. They will also interview graduate employers to understand their perspective of the role of critical thinking in the workplace, and how they assess for this in job applicants. The project will involve building links with graduate employers, conducting qualitative and quantitative research studies, presenting work at conferences, and publishing the research in journals. 

The outcomes of this project will have the potential to feed into future curriculum and policy development both nationally and internationally. 

This project would suit applicants with an interest in psychology, education and/or employability.

General admissions criteria

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate

subject. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.

Specific candidate requirements

The successful candidate should be intellectually curious, have a good understanding of research methods, a strong interest in cognitive, developmental and/or educational psychology, and be experienced with or willing to learn experimental programming software such as Gorilla. 

How to Apply

If you have any project-specific questions please contact Dr Nina Attridge ([Email Address Removed]), quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please use our online application form. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code PSYC8480124 when applying. Please note that email applications are not accepted.


Education (11) Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

Candidates applying for this project may be eligible to compete for one of a small number of bursaries available. Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£18,622 for 2023/24).Bursary recipients will also receive a contribution of £1,500 per year towards consumables, conference, project or training costs.
Costs for student visa and immigration health surcharge are not covered by this bursary. For further guidance and advice visit our international and EU students ‘Visa FAQs’ page.

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