Summary

In addition to the essential criteria noted below, the Degree (or equivalent) qualification must be in Psychology or a closely related discipline. We will accept applications from candidates who are about to hold

* a minimum of and Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree in Psychology or closely related discipline (or overseas award deemed equivalent via UK NARIC) .

* An additional Desirable criteria that may be applied is holding, being about to hold a Master's level qualification in Psychology or a closely related discipline.

*You must provide official, final results of qualifications used to meet the academic requirements before the start of the studentship

The Alzheimer’s society (2014) reported that there were 835,000 people living with dementia in the UK. At present, informal care provided by family members is an integral feature of dementia care yet annual treatment costs are in excess of £26 billion (1). People with dementia can lose capacity to make healthcare decisions leaving family carers responsible for decision making and advocating their end-of-life (EoL) wishes (2). Family carers report that while the experience can be positive it can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation (2-3). Moreover, within a larger family circle, proxy decision-making can be difficult; leading to poor or difficult communication with services and impacting the overall quality of caregiving (4-5).

The relationship between family dynamics including; general family functioning, family discordance, and family relationships which may affect EoL decision making, is complex and poorly understood in dementia care (5-8). There is potential for exploring this issue through Advance Care Planning (ACP) where family dynamics may have considerable impact (9). ACP is a process of discussing and recording a person’s future healthcare and EoL wishes with those involved in their care and appointment of a surrogate (usually a family member) who will speak for them, should they become incapacitated (9). ACP is recommended as good practice for palliative patients – suggested benefits include improving their current quality-of-life and ensuring that their EoL care concurs with their preferences (10-11).

For family members, stress is significantly reduced as the burden of EoL decision-making is reduced which impacts positively on the grieving process (9-10).

This project will address the following questions:

i) How do family dynamics affect decision-making processes within families living with dementia;

ii) How might family dynamics influence care outcomes (e.g. ACP, medical decision making, physical and mental well-being) for people living with dementia and their carers;

iii) What type of family intervention might assist in decision-making and ACP for people living with dementia?

This PhD will address these questions using 4 main methods: i) A high quality, pre-registered systematic review of the literature to investigate family dynamics on dementia outcomes and its impact on EoL decision-making; ii) A Delphi study to seek expert views and evidence regarding family decision-making and the ACP process. Thus will approach key academics, health and social care professionals, people with dementia and family members, to gain consensus on how to best assist the ACP process; iii) Qualitative interviews with family groups (currently or previously involved with informal care) to explore prioritised aspects of the Delphi study; iv) Longitudinal (mixed methods) study to examine the relationship between family dynamics and EoL decision-making for people with dementia.

This project enhances existing strengths at Ulster combining researchers from the Institute for Mental Health Sciences and a collaborative, interdisciplinary partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, NI to expedite a co-supervised interdisciplinary PhD programme with impact embedded from the outset. The project will have an advisory board comprised of key stakeholders, including patient representatives ensuring that the research is relevant, impactful, and patient-centred.


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

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


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