PhD opportunities

At Staffordshire University we are committed to providing PhD research opportunities to people who share our passion for creating viable solutions to real-world issues.

We are pleased to invite applications for 15 PhD studentships at Staffordshire University commencing in September 2017. These studentships are available across several of our academic schools.

The Studentships will run for 3 years and include:

  • A fee waiver equivalent to the home/EU rate
  • A Tax-free stipend of £14,553 p.a. for three years, subject to satisfactory progress.

In addition to PhD studies successful applicants will also deliver up to six hours per week of light teaching or teaching related support.

A summary of the project, the application criteria and the contact details of the Principal supervisors are listed below. For queries about a specific project, please contact the named supervisor.

To apply please send a covering letter and CV to the Graduate School ( by 4th August 2017. In your covering letter please explain why you are interested in the specific project and what you will bring to it, your suggested focus and why you are confident that you will be able to complete the PhD successfully (this is in place of a Research Proposal). Applications that do not state which specific project they relate to will not be considered.



PhD Studentship: Evaluating the potential of public policy to jointly promote firms’ exporting and innovation

School: Business, Leadership and Economics

Supervisor: Professor Geoffrey Pugh (


Exporting and innovation are core features of industrial policy strategies propounded by the World Bank, the European Union and, most recently, by the UK Government. There are large but separate literatures on the determinants of exporting and innovation by firms as well as substantial literatures evaluating the effectiveness of public policies designed to promote, respectively, exports and innovation by firms. There is a much smaller literature on the “policy mix”, whereby combinations of support programmes may be more effective than the sum of their separate contributions. The knowledge gap to be addressed by this project is the potential of public policy to promote exporting and innovation as a policy mix. Both large firms and SMEs will be considered.

Accordingly, the PhD researcher will investigate:

  • The theoretical case for considering exporting and innovation as a “policy mix”;
  • The separate and combined effects of exporting and different types of innovation on firm performance;
  • The separate and combined effects of public policy support for exporting and innovation;
  • Implications for policy and institutional design, to assess whether support programmes for exporting and innovation are better designed and delivered separately or jointly, and effective for both large firms and SMEs.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Professor Geoffrey Pugh (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area.


PhD Studentship: Income inequality in transition economies of Central and Eastern Europe

School: Business, Leadership and Economics

Supervisor: Dr Mehtap Hisarciklilar (


The transition from central planning to a market system in Central and Eastern Europe has brought new dynamics to these countries and affected all aspects of their social and economic conditions. One of the major consequences of transition has been the widening income inequalities, well recognised as a major issue in contemporary economics.

This PhD research will be examining income distribution and income inequality in transition economies, which, despite their importance, have not been explored in depth in the literature. The research will provide a comparative analysis of income inequality and its sources focussing on some of the following aspects:

  • The dynamics of income distribution
  • Institutional factors (rule of law, corruption, etc.)
  • Internal conflicts
  • Foreign direct investment and international trade
  • Migration and remittances
  • Gender and ethnicity
  • Inequalities within and/or across industries and regions

The research will be using econometric techniques to estimate models at micro and/or macro levels. The relevant data may be obtained from various sources including, but not limited to, the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Eurostat and national statistical offices.

This research does not only carry great importance from a social point of view but it will also inform policy makers in creating an economy that benefits all.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Mehtap Hisarciklilar (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area.


PhD Studentship: Transnational firearm trafficking: Developing a Real-Time Intervention Model

School: Business, Leadership and Economics

Supervisor: Professor David Williamson (


This project will develop recommendations that facilitate the provision and use of real-time intelligence and real-time policy-making, to deter and prevent escalated progression of organised crime networks. Key objectives of the research are:

  1. Identify the prospective sources of real-time intelligence to detect organised arms networks and trafficking.
  2. Identify and rank current facilitators and barriers to reporting trafficking and to delivering real-time policy-making.
  3. Provide national and international agencies with an improved, evidence-based community prevention and enforcement framework.

These will be delivered through:

  1. Evaluation and analysis of existing and available sources of both formal and informal literature and data for firearm trafficking.
  2. Categorisation of the social, ethical, legal and political drivers and barriers for reporting and eliminating firearm trafficking.
  3. Production of a structural framework for a future community-level path analysis to explore and potentially predict the factors having a significant role on the reporting and prevention of trafficking at national and international level.
  4. Identification of global institutional requirements to enable real-time policy-making to operate such that it allows the rapid deployment of security and law enforcement resources to prevent and reduce the potential for organised crime escalation.
  5. Production of a toolkit for national and international agencies.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Professor David Williamson (

Applicant Criteria

It is essential that candidates have previously studied and/or conducted research in the area of transnational organised crime. Ideally such study/research would be at Masters level and desirably in the field of firearm trafficking. It is also desirable that applicants can demonstrate during the application process their awareness of governance frameworks and community interventions implemented in the investigation of organised crime. The successful candidate will be expected to use available literature from around the world, therefore candidates must be fluent in English and should indicate whether they can fluently read, write and/or speak any other languages.



PhD Studentship: Valued landscapes facing rapid environmental change: developing tools for visual quality assessment

School: Creative Arts and Engineering

Supervisor: Dr Ruth Swetnam (



The appearance of our valued landscapes is under threat from climate change, the spread of invasive species and land-use pressures. People from all walks of life are passionate about the landscapes that they love; but what is it about a particular view seen at a particular time by an individual that is valued? Are some aspects common across cultures? Can we quantify this? How will we know if our landscapes are suffering decline in their visual appeal, if we have no means to measure it? Digital tools to assess landscape quality include Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and form one part of the management toolkit needed to monitor these processes. Recent work in Geography at Staffordshire University has developed a Visual Quality Index (VQI) which quantifies landscape quality using GIS (Swetnam et al., 2017). The VQI has been successfully applied to 300 Welsh sites and field testing in Iceland in 2016 has indicated its potential portability. Further research using other landscape types is now required to i) assess the impact of data scale and quality and ii) evaluate the impact of cultural and social preference on the value we place on the visual quality of our open spaces.

This PhD

This is an interdisciplinary PhD project which will build upon this ongoing research, by exploring one or more of the following research topics:

Appropriate spatial and temporal scales to undertake visual landscape assessment.

How do we tailor work appropriately to different environmental settings?

An evaluation of the impact of seasonal changes on visual quality ratings.

What information is most important to people?

Are there any commonalities between culture and place?

How can such rich, contextual information be quantified so that it can be incorporated meaningfully into larger scale surveys?

Cross-cultural comparisons of visual landscape assessment in a globalising world. Do we all value the same things in landscapes and how does this vary with nationality and socio-cultural context?

The exact focus of the PhD will be determined in consultation with the candidate, depending on their interests and skills. Due to the spatial nature of these questions, this PhD will be heavily dependent on GIS for data analysis, storage and presentation. Candidates must therefore, be able to demonstrate a real enthusiasm for such technology, a competence in its use and a willingness to develop high-level skills. Potential study sites include the UK or Iceland, but other landscapes and locations are welcomed and encouraged.

Keywords: landscape quality; visual aesthetics; GIS; seasons; culture

Informal enquiries are welcomed:  please contact Ruth or Fiona:

Applicant Criteria

The following personal and professional attributes are required:

Degree in Geography or related discipline (e.g. Environmental Science, GeoScience)

An MSc / MA or equivalent post-graduate experience

Demonstrable experience with GIS, (ArcGIS preferred)

Good English writing skills – publication of research results will be expected and encouraged

A willingness to engage with social science research techniques (online surveys for example)

Fieldwork experience – some landscape data collection will be required

A wide-ranging interest in landscapes, landscape change and people


PhD Studentship: Manufacturing large scale Organic Photovoltaic Solar Cells

School: Creative Arts and Engineering

Supervisor: Professor Torfeh Sadat-Shafai (


This project runs on the success of our previous projects on polymeric solar cell. Whilst we have had significant success in developing high efficient solar cell at laboratory scale, it is our intention to develop fabrication techniques to enable large scale manufacturing of these photovoltaic devices. The current state of the art for manufacturing of large scale polymeric solar cell is based on roll to roll fabrications with power conversion efficiency around 4-5%. To maintain lower cost of manufacturing and enhancing power conversion efficiencies to around 10%, a systematic approach based on Nano-structuring and appropriate fabrication techniques is required.   Proposed project is based on the integration of techniques developed in nanostructuring of the active material with novel approach for fabrications of Organic Photovoltaic Solar Cells.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Professor Torfeh Sadat-Shafai (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area.


PhD Studentship: Novel, cross-disciplinary approaches to the investigation of landscapes of mass violence

School: Creative Arts and Engineering

Supervisor: Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls (


Proposals are invited for a PhD-level study that seeks to develop and apply novel, cross-disciplinary approaches to the investigation of 20th and 21st century conflict or genocide. Studies should focus specifically on the landscapes and materiality of mass violence. Applicants with expertise in archaeology, historical research, memory studies, heritage management, geography, forensic investigation and digital technologies are encouraged to apply, given that the successful applicant will work alongside specialists from the interdisciplinary team from the Centre of Archaeology.  The Centre of Archaeology team have pioneered a number of novel approaches aimed at locating and characterising sites of mass violence, specifically with regards the investigation of Holocaust-era crimes and historic missing persons cases. Applicants should link their proposed project to either the “iC-ACCESS” ( or “Recording Cultural Genocide and Killing Sites” ( projects currently hosted by the Centre of Archaeology at Staffordshire University. Applicants may choose to focus on the case studies, geographic regions or historical periods examined as part of these projects, although this is not essential. However, the proposed PhD thesis must explore at least one the research themes on which the Centre of Archaeology’s projects focus. These include (but are not limited to): Holocaust archaeology, ethical approaches to the search and recovery of human remains, conflicted aspects of the landscapes of 20th/21st century violence, the history of forensic investigation at sites of mass violence, cultural genocide in the 20th and 21st centuries, the evolution of genocide and comparative genocide studies. Applicants are encouraged to visit to learn more about the Centre of Archaeology and to contact the Principal Supervisor, Dr Caroline Sturdy Colls (, to discuss suitable topics before submitting an application.

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area.



PhD Studentship: Artificial Immune System based Cloud Computing for enhanced intelligent cybersecurity Countermeasures

School: Computing and Digital Technologies

Supervisor: Dr Elhadj Benkhelifa (


In cloud computing, the robustness of the infrastructure and service and the overall survivability is enhanced, mainly, by creating redundancy for backup in times of fault, failure or attack. Biological systems are inherently much more complex, yet highly reliable. The strengths inherent in biological systems reside in the ability of autonomous entities to make local decisions, continuously coordinate and share information, while maintaining a global form of order. Furthermore, the challenges of attaining survivability have also been successfully addressed by nature, and effectively demonstrated in attributes of collaborative communities. This success in natural systems could provide inspiration for unconventional methods to solve unique problems in the computing continuum, generally, and in Cloud computing, more specifically. This PhD project, will draw parallels between capabilities in nature such as those demonstrated by the Immune System in biological systems and capabilities in security systems in cloud environments. The Artificial Immune System will add another layer of protection to the cloud environment.  This is a highly multidisciplinary research area including, Cloud Computing, Cyber-security, biology, Immune systems, Artificial Intelligence.


The scope of this project fits within the Cloud Computing and Applications Research Lab, which focus partly on nature-inspired solutions to enhance cloud security. The successful candidate will join a fast growing research group with internationally established reputation in this field.  Research in this area is very niche and has high potential, as a result of this studentship; the successful candidate is expected to deliver world leading publications and contributions in the project.


Informal enquiries can be directed to Dr Elhadj Benkhelifa on 01785353279 or email


Applicant Criteria

The Ideal candidate should have a Masters in relevant disciplines of the project, though exceptional candidates without a Masters but with 1st class degree, or with relevant industrial or research experience, will also be considered.




PhD Studentship: Investigation into New Methods for the Quantification and Minimisation of Microfibers from Water Environments

School: Law, Policing and Forensics

Supervisor: Dr Claire Gwinett (


Microplastics, including microbeads and microfibers (typically defined as <5 mm), are currently a major concern for the environment as it has been proven that no place on earth has avoided this form of pollution, even remote marine environments.  These microfibres are known to cause impacts to marine ecosystems, where the large surface area-to-volume ratio of microplastics, means they concentrate persistent organic pollutants. The analysis of microplastics, specifically microfibers, is currently dominated by techniques such as Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy which is time consuming and difficult for samples of this size.  In addition to this, the quantification techniques utilised are basic (primarily number of microfibers in a given weight/ volume of sediment/water) and do not truly represent the potential contamination. Many aspects of forensic fibres work lends itself readily to the improvement of the analysis of microfibers for environmental purposes.   The source of many microfibers in water environments is believed to be from clothing through the action of washing with currently few solutions of how to minimise this. This PhD will investigate two key areas;

  1. To investigate possible removal/minimisation techniques for microfibers from washing machines
  2. To improve the quantification techniques of microfibers in terms of time efficiency, contamination prevention, screening capabilities (in order to identify further classifications beyond polymer type) and surface area analysis, building upon past research.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Claire Gwinett (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area. Individuals with appropriate analytical and problem solving skills and experience in either fibres analysis (environmental or forensic analysis), image processing or engineering solutions will be considered.


PhD Studentship: Developing forensic strategies to address consent issues in sexual assaults

School: Law, Policing and Forensics

Supervisor: Dr Graham Williams (


In a rape investigation, there are three main defences – it never happened, it happened but someone else did it, or it was consensual. Forensic science can easily address the first two defences, but not the third. The prevailing attitude when it comes to the consent defence is that forensic science cannot be conducted. However, consent is a complex area of law, and as such, there are elements of consent that forensic science should be able to address. I.e. in terms of withdrawn consent, a more robust body fluid identification should be able to help. Or in terms of lack of consent between previously consenting partners, then a stain age prediction assay should be of use.

Therefore the purpose of this project is to explore the issues of consent and by engaging with the police, obtaining data relating to consent scenarios and identify the most common type of absence of consent. Once established, a raft of strategies will be developed that could potentially negate common defences. This could well be a multi-disciplinary strategy, but will focus predominantly on the forensic biology discipline.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Graham Williams (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area.



PhD Studentship: Natural environments and health

School: Life Sciences and Education

Supervisor: Dr Chris Gidlow (


Increasing epidemiological evidence links natural environment exposure with better human health. There is also mounting data from experimental research that has tried to characterise how people respond to different types of environment, to try to understand how such natural environment-health effects arise. Methodological challenges make this a fertile area for research.

Building on our work as part of the European FP7-funded PHENOTYPE project (, we will be joining a group of leading researchers in the natural environment-health area to replicate a seminal experiment exploring the psychological and physiological effects of natural environment exposure. Using this international, collaborative project as one of their studies, the successful candidate would then develop their PhD to build on this and related work within our group. We would welcome a discussion of ideas for additional studies with candidates at interview.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Chris Gidlow (

Applicant Criteria

This is an exciting opportunity for an excellent researcher with a relevant background and interests. We welcome applications from individuals with relevant degrees, particularly higher degrees (e.g., environmental psychology, psychology, physiology), with strength in quantitative research methods. Experience in psychophysiological data collection; specifically, with a focus on stress related measures would be advantageous, although appropriate training will be given where appropriate.


PhD Studentship: Assessment of modular stability footwear for Children

School: Life Sciences and Education

Supervisor: Professor Nachi Chockalingam (


There is a paucity of research on the effects of children’s stability footwear on gait. Commercially available stability footwear come in a variety of designs. However, the common element is that they terminate above the ankle, they have extended medial and lateral stiffeners and a stiffened sole unit.  This type of footwear is commonly prescribed to children for a variety of pathologies including flat feet, toe walking, ataxic gait, gross motor developmental delay, instability, painful ankles, contracted gastrocnemius. As it stands, there is no clear consensus on when this type of footwear should be prescribed and for which conditions. There is no available research which demonstrates the effects of children’s footwear on normal or pathological gait.  The primary aim of the proposed research is to determine the kinematic and kinetic effects of stability footwear when compared to high street footwear on gait. This will help to examine the potential effects of stability footwear on children with pathologies. The project also aims to examine the current procedures for paediatric footwear prescription and ways to improve it.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Professor Nachi Chockalingam (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area. We expect the potential candidate to have some experience with paediatric foot conditions and/or footwear biomechanics. Applications from candidates with either engineering/science or clinical background are welcomed.


PhD Studentship: Mechanical assessment of the plantar soft tissue as a prognostic tool for predicting diabetic foot ulcers

School: Life Sciences and Education

Supervisor: Dr Roozbeh Naemi (


Our previous work has established that the mechanical properties of the sole of the foot (such as the stiffness and thickness) are associated with foot ulceration in diabetic patients. Our further studies indicated that these mechanical properties can also be used to improve the accuracy of predicting diabetic foot ulceration.  Whilst the experiments within this study were conducted on a small cohort of patients in South India, the findings are significant and warrants further validation in a larger and a varied cohort. This will have a huge implication for predicting foot ulcers and reducing the burden of foot disease in diabetic patients around the world. The purpose of the proposed work is to conduct a structured study which will lead to a more robust and population-specific evidence on the effectiveness of these tests in predicting the diabetic foot ulceration risk and incidence. This will be a longitudinal study which aims to establish the value of mechanical assessment of the plantar soft tissue as a prognostic tool in a clinical environment.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Roozbeh Naemi (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area. We expect the potential candidate to have some experience with foot biomechanics and/ or clinical conditions relating to diabetic foot. Applications from candidates with either engineering/science or clinical background are welcomed


PhD Studentship: The role of social norms in reducing belief in conspiracy theories

School: Life Sciences and Education

Supervisor: Dr Daniel Jolley (


Belief in conspiracy theories is widespread in society.  Whilst belief in conspiracy theories may fulfil several basic needs such as control (e.g., Whitson, et al., 2015), they are potentially dangerous; exposure to conspiracy theories reduces people’s engagement in a variety of domains (e.g., Jolley & Douglas, 2014a,b).  Examining tools to address conspiracy theories is therefore timely.  Broadly speaking, this novel project will, therefore, build on existing research by exploring the relationship between social norms and conspiracy beliefs and develop interventions that will help combat the effects of conspiracy theories.  The project has three phases: (i) a systematic review, (ii) empirical studies understanding the psychological mechanisms underlying social norms and conspiracy beliefs, and (iii) the development of attitudinal and behaviour change interventions (e.g., improving vaccine uptake).

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Daniel Jolley (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area.


PhD Studentship: Novel applications of ultrasound imaging to enhance the clinical management of pathologies of the foot

School: Life Sciences and Education

Supervisor: Dr Panagiotis Chatzistergos (


This PhD project aims to develop a novel diagnostic tool that will combine weight-bearing ultrasound imaging with the biomechanical assessment of soft tissues to enhance the clinical care of the diabetic foot disease as well as of other foot related pathologies. The proposed system will enable the ultrasound imaging of the entire plantar surface of the foot with the patient in an upright position and also the assessment and mapping of the thickness and stiffness of the soft tissues of the sole of the foot. The applicability of this novel ultrasound device in everyday clinical practice will also be assessed and its reliability and accuracy will be tested for people with diabetes.

This PhD is part of a larger project funded by UK – India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI). Among others, this will enable the successful candidate to complete part of their work in India at an established institute for electrical/ electronic engineering (SASTRA university) and at a major diabetes hospital (AR hospitals).

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Panagiotis Chatzistergos (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants will normally be expected have a strong Masters degree in a relevant subject area. Applications from candidates with either engineering/science or clinical background are welcomed. Experience in biomechanics and computer modelling or image processing or the clinical management of the foot-at-risk will be considered as an advantage.


PhD Studentship: The role of social identity leadership in psychophysiological responses to stress

School: Life Sciences and Education

Supervisor: Dr Matthew Slater (


In challenge and threat theories (e.g., Jones, Meijen, McCarthy, & Sheffield, 2009) stressors either elicit a challenge state, which predicts superior performance and maintained health, or a threat state, which predicts inferior performance and decreased health. Recent work (e.g., Slater, Evans, & Turner, 2016) suggests that social support may be a vital resource driving challenge states, underpinned by social identification (i.e., feeling a sense of belonging to a group). In addition, leadership drives the social support and identification of groups and organisations (see Haslam, Reicher, & Platow, 2011), and research examining the role of leadership upon individuals’ cognitive appraisals and psychophysiological responses to stress is an important area for future researchers. The propensity for leaders to influence the challenge and threat states of their followers has far-reaching implications for sport performance and health.

The PhD studentship will use psychophysiological and objective performance and health markers to understand the relationships between social identity leadership, challenge and threat states, and performance and health, in sport.

Queries about the project can be directed to the principal supervisor, Dr Matthew Slater (

Applicant Criteria

Applicants should have a strong Masters degree in a subject area relevant to the project area (i.e., psychology, sport and exercise psychology, or sport science).




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