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Students Graduation Day

Doctoral Studies

We welcome applications for doctoral study at any time from suitably qualified candidates, check initial eligibility with the University Research Office. Specific doctoral projects of particular interest to us and open to all applicants currently are also available as listed.

Higher Education Research Group

Academic boredom among students in higher education: a mixed-methods exploration of characteristics, contributors and consequences.

As a largely negative and disabling achievement-related emotion, academic boredom contributes adversely towards student engagement, learning and overall performance at university. However, the formal study of academic boredom in higher education remains a relatively underdeveloped field and one surprisingly neglected in the UK. Adopting contemporary perspectives rooted in Control-Value Theory, this study will explore the characteristics, contributors and consequences of academic boredom across a range of disciplinary backgrounds in one or more higher education institutions. The overall design will most likely incorporate a mixed-methods approach to data collection and analysis and would suit a candidate with a strong background in both qualitative and quantitative research methods (e.g. from education or psychology). The completed work will make an original contribution to the knowledge and understanding of where, when and how academic boredom arises at university and what can be done by way of mitigation.

For further information, contact Professor John G Sharp


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 3052

A need to fit in? The challenges of young bilingual learners in educational contexts.

This project involves innovative research that explores how young bilingual learners negotiate monolingual practices within an educational context. With the possibility that emergent bilingual learners may not be able to fully access the learning and teaching currently being delivered in monolingual classrooms, the proposed research aims to examine how these young learners overcome language-based issues during their early school experiences. Within the scope of this enquiry, sociocultural theorising may offer a nuanced lens through which to deconstruct as yet unrecognised challenges, while also identifying new pedagogical practices which might impact positively upon future policy and practice.

For further information, contact Dr Caroline Bligh


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 3584

Professional Practice and Learning

The role of initial teacher education in addressing educational disadvantage

Addressing the educational needs of pupils from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds is a priority in education in England. The charity Teach First sets out to use initial teacher education (ITE) as a means to overcome educational disadvantage. More generally, all ITE students are expected to understand how a range of factors can affect pupils’ educational progress and how to adapt teaching and learning accordingly. This project will ask the questions:

  • What do ITE students learn about educational disadvantage?
  • Where do they learn it?
  • How do they learn it?

The project will use a range of qualitative approaches to investigate ITE students’ learning, including interviews, learning logs and field observations. Understanding ITE students’ learning about the nature of educational disadvantage, and how to respond to it, will enable us to facilitate and enhance this aspect of learning more effectively and, therefore, maximise the potential of ITE to address educational disadvantage.

For further information, contact Professor Carey Philpott


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 3261

Children's foodscapes in the age of austerity

The global financial crisis has fundamentally altered children’s dietary habits as governments reassess the services, support and interventions they provide to support children’s healthy eating. This has generated new alliances between public, private and third-sector organisations, opened up spaces for new groups to emerge as service providers, created new ways of working and generated different forms of expertise. Nevertheless, families who depend on state services are left increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition and food insecurity. This study will investigate how austerity measures have shaped children’s everyday food practices and assesses the theoretical implications of shifting modes of responsibility between families and the state for child feeding. It will map this landscape of provision and identify organisations and individuals emerging as significant actors in children’s nutritional need.

For further information, contact Dr Jo Pike


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 3025

Online professional learning communities as sites for learning for teacher development

The aim of this applied research project is to investigate the use of social media in initial teacher education. It seeks to explore what constitutes effective use of social media in supporting the development of new teachers across all sectors, including primary, secondary and lifelong learning. It will provide an opportunity to explore issues of teacher agency, participation and online professional learning communities as sites for learning. This opportunity will be particularly appropriate for candidates from a range of educational or technological backgrounds, including experienced teacher educators with an interest in sociocultural perspectives on learning and development and educational technology.

For further information, contact Dr Alison Iredale


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 1786

Exemplary teachers of students in poverty in Leeds

In Leeds, child poverty and its effects on student learning are major issues for schools. At the same time, schools are seen as key to helping tackle child poverty, as noted in a report from the chief executive to the executive board of Leeds City Council:

"In line with our ambitions as a child-friendly city, we will put children at the heart of our growth strategy. We must ensure our young people are well equipped with the right skills, ambition, mind-set and resilience to succeed in further and higher education and in the modern workplace."

The efforts to address these complexities are worthy of further contextually sensitive investigation, and this project takes as its focus what exemplary teachers are doing, and what they might do, in a sample of schools across the city of Leeds to address the persistent challenges facing classrooms. This is guided by a practical question worth asking: how can we identify exemplary teachers and support them as they seek to encourage children and young people to engage educationally and become socially mobile?

For further information, contact Professor Lori Beckett


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 6510

Children, Young People and Families

Addressing a narrative of poverty and poor outcomes for children in the English school system

Ofsted Annual Reports show that Yorkshire and Humber is significantly below other English regions in children’s attainment linked to poverty. Contemporary research conducted within schools in Yorkshire and Humber suggests that school leaders, driven by the Government’s emphasis on ‘traditional educational values’ and approaches, are looking beyond the confines of the classroom to engage with a range of services in an educational context. These schools, while recognising teaching and learning are key activities, are shifting from a fixation upon technical classroom processes to understanding broader conceptualisations of childhood which involve engaging with families and communities. The aim of this project is to gain insight and understandings of why schools are shifting towards a very broad conceptualisation of education, despite successive governments’ emphasis upon education in its narrower sense (Fielding and Moss, 2011). The methodology will involve both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Analysis of data available will be complemented by face-to-face engagement with a range of participants, including head teachers, local authority managers, front-line teachers, school support staff and community-based organisations.

For further information, contact Dr Doug Martin


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 4692

Looked-after children and subjective well-being

The concept of well-being has gained increasing political currency as governments seek to establish alternative ways to measure national progress. Of particular interest has been the well-being of children, largely because of the association with outcomes in adulthood. This has resulted in a proliferation of indicators of childhood well-being. However, such measures prove problematic in relation to looked-after children, and the paucity of research related to this population is an important omission given their educational, behavioural and psychological challenges. This study will contribute to the understanding of looked-after children's subjective well-being (SWB) by conceptualising SWB from the perspective of looked-after children; exploring similarities and differences in well-being between looked-after children and their non-care peers; exploring stability and change in looked-after children’s SWB, including factors that cause variation and the kinds of resources children mobilise to enhance their well-being; and developing a research instrument for measuring the SWB of looked-after children.

For further information, contact Dr Gary Walker


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 6511

Migrant parents’ engagement in the education of their children in England

According to a Council of the European Union report from 2011, the average drop-out rate from schools in Europe is twice as high for migrant students in comparison to native students. One strategy that has been shown to reduce early school leavers among migrant youth is promoting trusting relations between schools and parents. The project will study the level and quality of migrant parents’ engagement in the education of their children in England. More specifically, it will investigate:

  • Migrant parents’ attitudes towards schools and their views about the quality of educational experience, both academically and socially, offered by schools.
  • Migrant parents’ participation in school life and in decision making in the schools their children attend.
  • Migrant parents’ aspirations and expectations from their children’s education.

For further information, contact Dr Michalis Kakos


Phone: +44 (0)113 812 3628