PhD Studentship to Build and Evaluate Stigma Protection Intervention for Caregivers of Children with Autism

Are you passionate about mental health and autism research?

Salary: Full Studentship of £14,296 per annum (jointly funded by the University of Bedfordshire and Autistica)

Fixed term: 3 years. Initially for 2 years for MPhil with a further year for completion of PhD

Start date: 17th October 2016


The University of Bedfordshire are pleased to offer a full-time PhD studentship in the subject area described below. This exciting new studentship has been made available through the collaboration of the Institute for Health Research and the UK charity, Autistica. The scholarship is offered in the Institute for Health Research and will cover tuition fees, bursary per annum as well as research and conference attendance expenses.

The institution

The University of Bedfordshire’s vision is ‘to create a vibrant multi-cultural learning community enabling people to transform their lives by participating in excellent, innovative education, scholarship and research’.

The Institute for Health Research (IHR) is a centre of excellence in research. Currently, our staff and research students come from more than 15 countries to create a strong global research community with interests in public health, health inequalities, maternal and child health, health informatics, epidemiology, chronic and infectious diseases, primary care, biostatistics, mental health and health services research.

IHR capitalises on local, national and international opportunities for collaborative interdisciplinary cross-boundary research and innovation in health. A major goal of the IHR research programme is to understand the factors which determine health and health behaviour and aspects of local contexts, health systems and political economies that influence the successful implementation of proven health interventions and technologies.

The emphasis in the IHR is on multidisciplinary working and integration to create synergy and use researcher strengths to maximum effect. The IHR has strong collaborative links in the UK and also in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and America. The IHR hosts an MSc in public health and offers extensive postgraduate research training to its approximately 50 doctoral students.

Our PhD School is a lively community comprising of a wealth of interests mainly in applied health research but also in global public health, epidemiology, nursing, midwifery, psychology and related disciplines.

Our aim is to provide a liberal and dynamic environment for PhD students from around the world to explore their interests and evolve into becoming the next leaders in health research.

The IHR is also part of the East of England NHS Research Design Service (RDS), which receives core funding from the NHS National Institute for Health Research. To find out more visit:

The candidate

The successful candidate will have experience in the health and/or social care sector and a very good academic record. The studentship holder will be key in developing and maintaining local networks with an emphasis on harnessing the collaboration between partner organisations. It is expected that the successful applicant will help develop new collaborations and foster knowledge exchange between the University and the health sector, thus ensuring the research has resonance and applicability beyond the immediate project.

You will be joining an international research centre of excellence with a strong postgraduate presence and culture.

Area of research

The stigma attached to autism has a powerful impact on the psychological wellbeing of those whose lives are influenced by autism, including family caregivers. When mental health is compromised there can be significant consequences including caregivers’ ability to effectively provide care for their child. Therefore, the main aim of the PhD studentship is to produce and investigate the feasibility of a group-based randomised controlled intervention for family caregivers of young children on the autism spectrum which specifically attempts to improve psychological well-being by protecting caregivers against stigma’s harmful effects. A stigma protection intervention for caregivers of autism has never been conducted before. The study also aims to increase social awareness of these issues through a series of dissemination activities.

In consultation with the Director of Studies, Dr Chris Papadopoulos, the successful candidate and the experienced supervisory team will be responsible for developing the final project outline to ensure that it draws on the student’s interests, background and research expertise.


The bursary will commence on the 1st October 2016, initially for two years for the MPhil stage with a further year for PhD completion, subject to satisfactory progress. The studentship is for three years and is available for UK and EU candidates meeting the Research Council criterion of having been resident in the UK for the previous three years. Students not from the UK or EU will have to fund the difference between the UK/EU fee level and the full international student fee. Please consult the University website to determine what these fees would be and note that the presently advertised fee is likely to rise on annual basis.

The studentship will include tuition fees, a stipend of £14,296, research support and travel.

Entry criteria

  • A good first degree (2:1 or higher) in a health-related studies or cognate discipline (Masters level degree in a subject related to the project is desirable).
  • Applicants for whom English is not their first language are required to demonstrate their ability in English, typically B2 level English qualification such as IELTS 7.0.

How to apply

For an application pack or any application queries please email quoting the appropriate reference number. Applicants need to submit a 1,000 word proposal (excluding references) setting out how they would approach the proposed subject area as a PhD study. In addition to a CV all applicants will need to send a cover letter with supporting information on their experience and skills and how these relate to the advertised PhD.

Interviews will take place on June 23rd 2016.

For informal discussions or non-application related queries, please contact Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Director of Studies, Institute for Health Research via email or call 07719 021766.

Further information regarding research study at the University of Bedfordshire can be found at