Funded PhD opportunities at Derby – Investigating the Experiences of Young People with Special Educational Needs who have Applied for but been Refused an Education, Health and Care Plan

The University of Derby is offering a range of fees-only bursaries for PhDs.

I am involved in supervising a proposed project on Investigating the Experiences of Young People with Special Educational Needs who have Applied for but been Refused an Education, Health and Care Plan.

project will look at the implementation of Education, Health and Care Plans for young people with special educational needs and disabilities. In particular this research will investigate the extent to which young people, who fall just short of the inclusion criteria for an EHC plan, are experiencing these outcomes.

It is imagined as a grounded, qualitative study that investigates, in rich detail, the experiences and trajectories of this group. It will also attempt to explain these experiences with reference to policy and provision. The study will focus on the age group 14-19 and its core questions are:

  • What is the experience of young people who have applied for but been refused an EHC Plan in the areas of education, health, social care and transition into adulthood?
  • To what extent does universal provision modelled around a ‘graduated response’ meet their needs and deliver positive outcomes?
  • How is policy implicated in the experiences of individuals provided for through ‘SEN Support without an EHC Plan’?

The supervisory team will comprise of and Dr Deborah Robinson who has expertise in the area of SEN provision and reform (Director of Study) and Professor Tristram Hooley who has expertise in the areas of career guidance and transition planning (second supervisor).

I’d be happy to speak to anyone who is interested in applying for this position.

Further details are available at


PhD bursaries available at iCeGS


iCeGS is currently recruiting PhD students. We have two types of bursaries available (fully-funded and fees only).

We have a fully funded PhD available on the following project

The University is also advertising 40 fees only bursaries for students who are able to take up a full-time PhD on this basis. We would welcome applications for these funded PhD projects on any relevant topic.

Please see the iCeGS website for more information on doctoral programmes within the centre.

PhD opportunity: Gypsy/traveller experiences of career guidance

I just saw an advert for what looks like a very interesting funded PhD at the University of the West of Scotland.

‘But what comes next?’ Gypsy/Traveller experiences of careers guidance services in Scottish and English High Schools

Surely someone who looks at this blog must be interested in going for this!

In January 2014 results from the 2011 census indicated that of the 60,000 people who formally identified themselves as being of Roma/Gypsy/Traveller ethnicity in the UK, over 60% had no formal qualifications (ONS, 2014, Scottish Government, 2013). This is almost three times higher than the figure for the UK population as a whole, which is recorded as 23%. It has been widely recognised by statutory agencies and NGOs that this situation is not acceptable or sustainable in terms of both furthering the rights of the child and broader social inclusion strategies. This project aims to fill a fundamental gap in knowledge: despite many years of research and government reports examining the situation of Roma, Gypsy and Traveller educational attendance and attainment, there has been almost no systematic research examining the potential impact that effective careers guidance can have on raising the aspirations of Roma, Gypsy and Traveller children who are engaged in formal secondary education.

The key research questions for this project are:
1. To what extent do careers services in secondary schools currently work and engage with Roma, Gypsy and Traveller children?
2. What are some of the key issues and topics arising for staff in working with Roma, Gypsy and Traveller pupils?
3. What are some of the key issues and topics arising for Roma, Gypsy and Traveller pupils in working with careers guidance staff within secondary school settings?
4. In what way could current services be adapted and/or improved to maximise Roma, Gypsy and Traveller engagement with careers services?
5. What are some of the main policy recommendations arising from this study and how can they help improve current practice?

The geography of the fieldwork will cover the west of Scotland and the north of England and will be conducted in targeted High Schools. The student will work with Roma, Gypsy and Traveller pupils as well as careers guidance staff in schools. The study will be both qualitative and quantitative, gathering data via a survey of careers guidance staff as well as in-depth, semi-structured interviews and focus groups with both staff and pupils. A minimum of 20 interviews will be conducted with staff (10 in the West of Scotland and 10 in the North of England) and a minimum of 40 interviews with Roma, Gypsy and Traveller pupils (20 in the west of Scotland and 20 in the North of England).

What is the best piece of careers advice you???ve ever been given?


Time for a parlour game!

I’d like everyone to play along with this one. Just answer the questions

What is the best piece of careers advice you’ve ever been given?

And of course tell us why!

I can imagine that for some people this might be a sensitive subject and so I’m happy if people want to email me their answer to so that I can anonymise and post up here. Everyone else can just add their answer as a comment.

To get us started I’ll share mine.

… After four hard years slog I went into my PhD viva having given very little thought to the outcome. I certainly hadn’t given any thought to the official regulations that surrounded PhD vivas and consequently didn’t really know what the possible outcomes were. Consequently when I was informed that I had another year’s work to do I assumed that I had failed the thing and that my personal and intellectual inadequacies were now a matter of public record.

One long lost weekend later I crawled back into the office and sat flicking through the fragments of my broken dreams (AKA my thesis). A postdoc in the office above me happened by at the right time and I unburdened my tail of woe to him.

“Yes, that happened to me as well.” He said. “It’s awful isn’t it. First I blamed myself, then I blamed my supervisor, then I blamed my examiner and then I condemned the whole system. But, eventually I realised that I just had some more work to do, and I got on with it.”
This was like a bolt of lightning to me as it jolted me out of my self-pity and communicated two key messages.

  1. There is no point dwelling on the past, particularly if you are searching for reasons why the present shouldn’t be as it is. Life isn’t fair – get used to it. It is only by focusing on the future that life and career can move on.
  2. Purposeful decisions and practical hard work move you from a bad situation to a good one.

This piece of advice was the best piece of advice that I’ve ever had because it was wise, because it came from experience, but probably most of all, because it was timely. I needed to hear it at that point in my life, I needed a ladder out of my crisis and the postdocs comments provided me with that. From then on I got focused, got cracking and got realistic about my thesis. What ended up in the public record was my thesis itself which although of extremely limited interest to the world at large is not actively a record of my intellectual inadequacy.

Would I have done this without this piece of advice? Maybe? Probably? In all likelihood someone else would have provided the advice I needed a few days or weeks later, but it is also possible that without some advice and encouragement I would have thrown in the towel and headed off to do something different. Would that have been a bad thing? Who knows….

So that’s my story. Let’s hear yours.

PhD Studentship available on Internationalisation of British Higher Education and Social Media

Clare Madge (who is the person that I can credit with turning me on to online research methods) has just secured a funded PhD studentship entitled “Internationalisation of British Higher Education and Social Media: Academic Identities, Transnational Socialisation, and Engaged Pedagogic Practice”. This looks like a fascinating project and will be a brilliant opportunity for the right person. Clare is a brilliant supervisor and will be great to work with on this.

To find out more visit the University of Leicester website. ???

Blogging about PhDs: An interview with Sarah-Louise Quinnell

I bumped into Sarah-Louise as part of the online preparations for #dr11. She runs a very good blog called PhD2Published for new PhD graduates. I thought that it was probably time to interview her. So here we go… 

AiCD: Who are you?
My name is Dr Sarah-Louise Quinnell, I gained my PhD from the Geography Department at King’s College London in 2010 and my research interests lie in two very distinct and diverse areas, specifically international environmental politics and development practice and planning and geographies of cyber-space, particularly using social media applications for research and researcher development. 

AiCD: Tell us a little bit about PhD2Published?
PhD2Published is an online resource designed to provide advice / guidance and information to newly qualified / early-career researchers looking to navigate their way through the sometimes confusing world of academic publishing. 

AiCD: You took over PhD2Published from someone else. How did that happen?
By chance really, I was asking for viva advice and approached phd2published on twitter and then got an email from Charlotte who gave me very useful advice and told me about the site and as she says chased me relentlessly to take part and i began working on the site in January 2011. I come from a different academic discipline to Charlotte and i am approaching the issue of publishing in a different way so i am using the site to provide advice, to learn things for myself and to provide a record of my journey through the world of academic publishing.


AiCD: What technology do you use for your blogs/website?
I have a personal blog as well as managing Phd2Published i also contribute to – I like the wordpress environment, while i have programming skills i dont wan’t to spend ages coding before i can upload something so i find this environment works best for me. I will be moving my site to a self-hosted format soon and am currently developing a site to support my social media project that will be part of PhD2Published.


AiCD: Why did you start blogging?
I started as part of my PhD research. I couldnt go on conventional overseas fieldwork for a number of reasons so i had to look at alternative approaches for conducting my research i.e. collecting data and communicating with my research participants. So in tandom with a web-developer i created my own digital / virtual research environment. 

AiCD: How often do you update your blog?
My personal one has been a slow burner post PhD but am now trying to get material up there at least twice a week depending on what i am doing. For PhD2Published it vaires but normally between 2-3 different pieces of content a week and for the thesiswhisperer i post normally once a week. 



AiCD: OK, that is a lot of writing. Wouldn’t you be better off just concentrating on writing academic articles?
A lot of the work i do in advance, especially for PhD2Published. Am currently working on a paper and a grant proposal as we speak as well as job hunting. I find they dont take a lot of time so i can have a blog day once a week. Because i blogged and wrote online during my PhD it has become a habit to post different things online regularly. I believe it acts like a mini peer-review in some cases and is extremely useful. For example i recently contributed a summary of my work to the twitter #phdchat community and that piece generated a lot of helpful commentary. I think the way academics present themselves and their research out-puts is changing and while the journal article and the authored book will always remain supreme the blog is gaining ground as an essential research communication platform and i think you can get just as much out of blogging as you can from other, more traditional outputs.

AiCD: What sort of things do you write about?

The personal one is about ‘life and times of an aspiring academic’ so it acts a bit like a journal where i can keep a record of things I am doing as well as writing my views on a range of subjects relating to my interests, particularly education, social media, ballroom dancing and sheep. PhD2Published is focused on academic publishing. I am currently working toward my first journal article so content is very much skewed toward that angle at the moment. For the thesiswhisperer i write about issues relating to supervision. 

AiCD: How do you decide which blog to post something on?

Well, if its about publishing it goe son PhD2Published, if its about supervisision its for the thesis whisperer if it falls into the any other business or none of the above categories it is mine 

AiCD: Who do you think reads it?

I always wonder about personal ones, the extent to which they are read by more than people you know so am not sure but PhD2Published and the thesis whisperer have very large audiences mainly of PhD students and early career academics. 

AiCD: What is it about you that makes you think that people should listen to what you have to say

With the thesis whisperer i write about PhD supervision, and well, my experience was interesting shall we say so i feel i can contribute to that. I am not afraid of controversial topics such as a post i wrote on how to divorce your supervisior which was very popular and helped a lot of people out. For PhD2Published rather than saying i am a publishing expert i say I am an early career researcher so lets do this together, i would think that if i dont know something to do with publishing other people wont either. I think blogging is either about being an expert and providing advice or being brave and saying i dont have a clue and asking questions.

AiCD: Does anyone come to PhD2Published expecting you to be an expert? Some people might feel that they would only listen to you if you were either a publisher or a world leading professor.

I doubt it, i present myself clearly as someone in the same position as those using the site to find information. We can show that the advice given on the site works because Charlotte has secured her first book contract. We also work with published academics and publishing houses who provide us with content, particularly their experiences and top tips so they get questions and musings from me as well as expert opinion as well. Many of the recent expert posts have come from my asking a question and then looking for someone to respond. I take time out to email academics and publishing houses to get their advice as well. 

AiCD: What have been the best things about blogging?

I’ve met some wonderful people through blogging and a number of opportunities have become available because people have read my work online which gives me good exposure at this point in my career

AiCD: What are the downsides?

Criticism, you open yourself up to being criticised by anybody and everybody if they so wish and sometimes its quite harsh and personal for no reason at all and that can be hard to take. 

AiCD: How do you make your living? Does blogging pay?
I am currently doing some teaching / training at my former university while looking for a full-time job post PhD along with preparing publications and grant applications and being glad i have supportive parents. Whilst i have gained a number of opportunities through blogging none of them have been paid. It would be wonderful if through blogging i could gain paid employment or consultancy however, i think the nature of blogging is more about the sharing of information within a like-minded community so i value the exposure i have recieved just as much as i would financial gain. Obviously if somebody was interested in paying me for my writing then i would be most agreeable!

AiCD: What blogs do you read?

lots, i tend to find new ones all the time but i probably dont read them all regularly it will depend on what i am doing. A lot of the time i am directed to new and interesting material through twitter

AiCD: OK then, suggest some people we should be following on Twitter.

Well, thats hard as i enjoy tweets from all that i follow / follow me but  well @phd2published obviously, @thesiswhisperer, @readywriting, @GdnHigherEd, @linkhigher, @floating_sheep, @lambwatch, @PostDocsForum, @Eurodoc, @prospects, @wonkhe, @haggismaths, @postgradtoolbox, @ProfBrianCox, @charlottefrost and my inspiration since the age of 11 @the_karenhardy.

Research Assistant/PhD Vacancy at iCeGS

We’ve just advertised what I think is a very exciting opportunity at iCeGS. I hope that one of the readers of this blog might be interested in applying.


The International Centre for Guidance Studies (iCeGS) at the University of Derby seeks to recruit a Research Assistant to undertake research alongside the Centre???s existing researchers into the areas of career and career guidance. While the postholder will be expected to undertake research across the range of the Centre???s activities they will be supported to develop expertise in the use of technology in the field of career guidance.


The postholder would also be expected to enrol for a PhD at the University of Derby focusing on the relationship between technology and career guidance.