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School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school


PhD Studentship on Can government-level interventions mitigate childhood adversity in South Africa?

1+3 (MSc and PhD) studentship

Applications for this studentship are now closed. The selection panel will meet in Spring 2020 and results will be communicated to candidates by email shortly thereafter.

Scholarship details

The School of Social and Political Science of the University of Edinburgh, invite applications for a funded PhD studentship, Can government level-interventions mitigate childhood adversity in South Africa?to begin in September 2020. This scholarship is available as a +3 (PhD only) or a 1+3 (MSc and PhD) programme, depending on prior research training.

Childhood adversity in the form of parental loss, imprisonment, mental health problems; or exposure to domestic violence or child abuse is associated with long-term negative health outcomes, especially mental health. Most research utilises a scale score cut-off of four or more childhood adversities to test associations, making it difficult to disentangle the contributions of specific adversities and their interactions to health outcomes. In addition, the vast majority of research stems from high income countries using cross-sectional samples. There is thus an urgent need to investigate childhood adversity and its associations with mental health outcomes in adulthood in low-and middle-income contexts where adversity is highest. More importantly, it is essential to find ways to mitigate the long-term effects of childhood adversity.

This PhD proposal uses data from a three-wave cohort study in South Africa for which waves 1 and 2 were collected from 1800 adolescents aged 10-17 in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Wave 3 is funded by the ERC and will take place during the duration of this PhD 2020-2022. The successful candidate will use advanced quantitative techniques to examine childhood adversity risk profiles, their links with mental health in adulthood, and the effects of government grants, free schooling, school feeding schemes and receipt of child welfare/protection services on mental health outcomes.

The student will join the community of quantitative social scientists in the School of Social and Political Science and have access to the training provided through the Q-Step Centre, AQMEN as well as the Department of Psychology. The student will complete postgraduate courses on statistical modelling, longitudinal data analysis, Latent Class Analysis and quasi-experimental methods.

This PhD is set within an ongoing study funded by the ERC and with multiple collaborators in South Africa and the UK. The PhD student will have the opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time in the fieldwork site in South Africa as part of the data collection team in order to learn how to conduct large-scale complex quantitative data collection, understand the context in which the data is collected and in which families live and to experience knowledge exchange and dissemination to local stakeholders.

Entry Requirements and Eligibility

Applicants must meet the following eligibility entry criteria:

  • A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component.
  • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of childhood adversity or mental health.
  • Have a good grounding in quantitative social science methods. Any prior knowledge of longitudinal data analysis would be desirable.
  • Demonstrate ability to work as part of a team.
  • Experience of communicating with people from diverse backgrounds is desirable.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here*:

Fees and Funding

The scholarship is available as a +3 (PhD only) or a 1+3 (MSc and PhD) programme depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process, and candidates will be advised to undertake either option depending on their prior training to date. The programme will commence in September 2020.

The award includes:

  • an annual stipend of £14,777
  • fees at the standard Home/EU rate
  • students may also be able to draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant from the Scottish Graduate School in Social Science, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year.

Application Process and Deadline

The closing date for this scholarship is Monday 30 March 2020 at 23:59 GMT.

  1. Register on GradHub and fill out EO data (this is a requirement of the application process)
  2. Complete and upload the prescribed list of required documentation to include:
  • Application form
  • Academic transcripts
  • Two References
  • CV (maximum of two pages)
  • One page cover letter explaining your interest in and suitability for this project- this should be uploaded in a standalone document with a naming convention as follows *name/supervisor/institution/competition/date*
  • Two writing samples of max 2000 words (this can be excerpts from a thesis, article or blog post)- these should be uploaded in one standalone document with a naming convention as follows *name/supervisor/institution/competition/date*

Submit application through GradHub


The selection panel will meet in Spring 2020 and results will be communicated to candidates by email shortly thereafter.

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Edinburgh.  Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

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