Summary

The majority of UK university students will have a positive experience at university, both academically and in terms of the wider university experience 1. That said, unwanted sexual experiences (USE) including sexual harassment, attempted rape and rape are prevalent within wider society and much like many social issues, universities are affected by these same problems.

The pervasiveness of unwanted sexual experiences (USE) among university students has been well documented in the United States2; less is known or understood with regards to such experiences among students studying at UK universities 3.  Research which has addressed USE among universities students continue to demonstrate the links between such experiences and significant adverse outcomes including various forms of psychological distress (e.g. post traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety) 4.

Whilst empirical evidence relating to the nature, rate and frequency of USE as well as insight into the impacts of such experiences is sparse within the UK context, university policies and programs to prevent and respond to unwanted sexual incidents within university settings are beginning to emerge 1.  Such policies and programs run the risk of being tokenistic without clear research evidence on the prevalence and risk correlates of victimization and perpetration, as well as insight into university student’s perceptions and understanding of the issue. Additionally, recent social and student activist movements across the globe have highlighted more so than ever issues associated with USE including the importance of understanding sexual consent 5.  Such an understanding is important for both males and females regardless or sexual orientation.

This PhD will address the current evidence gap by implementing a mixed methods study which will include

i) completion of a high quality systematic review of the literature

ii) design and implementation of a large scale online survey measuring rates of university students USE, known mental health correlates and knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about USE and sexual consent and

iii) design and implementation of focus groups with university students in order to capture a more contextual understanding of university students knowledge, attitudes and beliefs about USE and sexual consent.

It is envisaged that the current project will also include an advisory board comprised of key stakeholders, including university, statutory voluntary sector representatives from across Northern Ireland tasked with responding to incidents of USE in order to ensure that the research is relevant, useful, and impactful.

1.Universities, U. K. (2016). Changing the culture: Report of the Universities UK Taskforce examining violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students. London: UUK.

2.Fisher, B.S., Daigle, L.E., & Cullen, F.T. (2010). Unsafe in the ivory tower: The sexual victimization of college women. Sage: Los Angeles.

3.National Union of Students (2010). Hidden marks: A study of women students’ experiences of harassment, stalking, violence and sexual assault. National Union of Students:  London, England. Retrieved August 7, 2018 from http://www.nus.org.uk/Global/NUS_hidden_marks_report_2nd_edition_web.pdf

4.Campbell, R., Dworkin, E., & Cabral, G. (2009). An ecological model of the impact of sexual assault on women’s mental health. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 10, 225-246. doi: 10.1177/1524838009334456

5.Heldman, C., Ackerman, A. R., & Breckenridge-Jackson, I. (2018). The New Campus Anti-Rape Movement: Internet Activism and Social Justice. Lexington Books.


Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • Masters at 65%
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal

Funding

    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Vice Chancellors Research Studentship (VCRS)

    Full award (full-time PhD fees + DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £15,000 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Bursary (VCRB)

    Part award (full-time PhD fees + 50% DfE level of maintenance grant + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees and provide the recipient with £7,500 maintenance grant per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Vice-Chancellor’s Research Fees Bursary (VCRFB)

    Fees only award (PhD fees + RTSG for 3 years).

    This scholarship will cover full-time PhD tuition fees for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to: www.ulster.ac.uk/doctoralcollege/postgraduate-research/fees-and-funding/financing-your-studies

Institute of Mental Health


Other information


The Doctoral College at Ulster University


Reviews

Profile picture of Michelle Clements Clements

Completing the MRes provided me with a lot of different skills, particularly in research methods and lab skills.

Michelle Clements Clements - MRes - Life and Health Sciences

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Profile picture of Nargis Khan

My name is Nargis Khan and I am originally from Pakistan. I first came to Ulster University to study psychology at the undergraduate level and later joined a doctoral course which I have now successfully completed. I had a fantastic time studying in Ulster at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level. Throughout my PhD, I was well catered for in terms of resources with access to well-stocked libraries full of friendly and helpful staff, funding to travel to conferences, the availability of various courses (e.g., statistics) and above all a supportive and stimulating environment which fostered my academic development. The seminars organised during the term time allowed me to present my work and hear about the research of others across a range of areas. I particularly appreciated the teaching opportunities available to me during my PhD. My supervisors were supportive and generous with their time. Other members of staff in the Psychology department also took a genuine interest in the

Nargis Khan - PhD in Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience