Skip to main content
KBS_Icon_questionmark link-ico

Early-life predictors of primary school learning outcomes in children with complex special educational needs: A prospective longitudinal study of tuberous sclerosis complex

Start date

1st October 2023


1 LISS-DTP CASE PhD studentship, 1+3/+3, full-time/part-time, Department of Psychology, IoPPN


Tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC) is a lifelong rare neurogenetic condition characterised by a range of physical and behavioural difficulties, which require specialist multidisciplinary support. Cognitive and behavioural problems are of great concern to individuals and their families, and are major determinants of quality of life. While many children with TSC can attend school and participate in activities with some assistance, the manifestations of TSC will affect each child differently. Identifying predictors of learning outcomes will inform early intervention and educational practice to improve longer-term outcomes. One candidate mechanism is executive function (EF), a set of higher-order processes that underpin goal-directed activity and predict school readiness, academic skills, behavioural problems and quality of life.

This PhD aims to further our understanding of educational experiences and outcomes of children with TSC in primary school by working with a longitudinal cohort of TSC, the Early Development in Tuberous Sclerosis (EDiTS) Study (, and the Tuberous Sclerosis Association (TSA), the UK charity for families affected by TSC ( The student will first characterise associations between EF (measured using a specially designed touchscreen app and behavioural tasks), school readiness and neurodevelopmental conditions in the preschool years using existing data from the EDiTS Study, which has been following children with TSC from birth.

The second study will take a multi-methods approach to characterising primary school outcomes and experiences in TSC. Firstly, focus groups and interviews with children with TSC, their families and educational staff will identify specific strengths, difficulties, challenges and opportunities resulting in an online survey. Secondly, an online survey will be distributed to the EDiTS Study cohort and wider population informed by qualitative work and incorporating assessment of neurodevelopmental impairment, educational practice, and number/language development. Thirdly, online experimental measures of learning (maths and reading), cognitive ability and EF will be administered to the EDiTS Study cohort, alongside follow-up measures of clinical, demographic and neurodevelopmental characteristics.

The third study will identify early-life predictors of learning outcomes in TSC, by combining data from Study 1 and 2 in a longitudinal design.

The TSA will be involved in the full research pipeline to ensure maximal impact. During an internship with the TSA, the student will be supported to deliver accredited training modules to educational professionals, in providing support to families and learning different aspects of the charities’ functions. Accessible summaries of findings will be co-produced with members of the TSC community and disseminated through a dedicated education event.

This project offers a unique opportunity to combine interdisciplinary research while interacting with and participating in the work of a medical disorder-focused charity. Knowledge gained will extend to other populations of children with complex special educational needs and disabilities. Evidence-based research is needed to inform intervention and educational practices to provide the right educational opportunities for children with complex neurogenetic conditions, with far-reaching implications for educational, as well as clinical and public health policy.

Of note, this PhD funding can be offered either 3 years of funding for a student ready to start the PhD straight away, or as 4 years of funding for a student who would benefit from first completing the 1-year MSc Developmental Psychology and Psychopathology. 


Dr Charlotte Tye, KCL (co-supervisor) and Dr Jo Van Herwegen, UCL (co-supervisor)

Entry requirements

Applicants should have (or be expected to obtain) a Bachelors degree with 2:1 honours (or Overseas equivalent). A 2:2 degree may be considered only where applicants also offer a Masters with Merit.

Essential Criteria

Candidates for this position should meet the following essential criteria:

  • If applicants apply for the +3 (PhD only) route, they should have a good undergraduate degree (2:1 or first class) in Psychology, Neuroscience or relevant field and should expect to receive a Master’s degree (Merit or above) in Psychology or Neuroscience with relevant training in quantitative and qualitative research methods (the candidate needs to meet the ESRC Core training requirements).
  • If applicants apply for a 1+3 (MSc+PhD) route, they should have, or expect to receive, a good undergraduate degree (2:1 or first class) in Psychology, Neuroscience or relevant field.
  • We will consider candidates with good degrees from other disciplines if they have substantial related work experience.
  • Candidates should also have training and/or interest in typical and atypical development, developmental cognitive neuroscience and/or education
  • Those candidates applying for the +3 (PhD only) route should have knowledge of research ethics, experience in designing empirical studies and analysing and interpreting data.
  • Excellent communication skills and an ability to work independently and as part of a multidisciplinary team.

Desirable criteria

  • Experience working with children and families in research and/or professional settings, particularly those with additional needs
  • Familiarity with the relevant literature on early development, executive function, SEND, tuberous sclerosis complex/rare neurogenetic conditions
  • Experience of acquiring and analysing qualitative research data
  • Experience of longitudinal data analysis
  • Experience of cognitive task programming
    • DBS check completed, though note that the successful candidate will be asked to complete an Advanced DBS check upon commencing the post.

Award types and eligibility

  • UK and international students may apply (note, however, that the DTP can only fund a limited number of international students)
  • The Doctoral Studentship award will cover the full UKRI Home Tuition Fee and a stipend / maintenance allowance valued at £19,688 per annum (2022-23) for full-time doctoral programmes and £9,834.00 per annum for part-time programmes. Please note that stipends are tax-free.
  • Please see the LISS website for details of the international fee coverage.
  • The student will have regular opportunities to apply for additional funding to support the costs of research training and development.

To be treated as a Home student, candidates must meet one of the following criteria:

  • A UK national (meeting residency requirements)

  • Settled status

  • Pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements)

  • Indefinite leave to remain or enter

Further information

About the IoPPN (

Studying at the IoPPN (

MSc Developmental Psychology & Psychopathology at the IoPPN (

Research degrees at the IoPPN (l

LISS DTP Programme

LISS DTP – Link to Project

How to apply

Applicants must complete and submit an online admissions application, via the admissions portal by midnight (23:59 GMT) on Sunday 5th March 2023.

On the ‘Choosing a programme’ page, please select Psychology Academic Research MPhil/PhD (Full-time or Part-time).

In your application, you will be asked to include:

  • Academic Transcripts – where applicable, academic transcripts must be submitted with the online admissions application

  • An up-to-date CV

  • A personal statement describing your interests and why you wish to apply for this project. Please include this as an attachment rather than using the text box.

  • Academic References – all admissions applications require one supporting reference. If the applicant is relying on thier referees to submit a reference directly to the College after they have submitted thier admissions application, then the applicant must ensure that (1) their chosen referee is made aware of the funding deadline (i.e. 7 days from application deadline) and (2) that the reference needs to be sent from an institutional email address.

  • A copy of the LISS CASE application form. This can be found here: CASE Application Form

You should also complete the LISS-DTP equal opportunities monitoring form: LISS DTP Diversity Monitoring for CASE Candidates 2023 Entry (


In the Funding section, please tick box 5 and include the following reference: CT-IoPPN-LISS-23

Please note there is no need to complete the Research Proposal section in your application as the project has already been set.

You are welcome to email Dr Charlotte Tye ( for more information regarding the project and studentship.

If you have any queries regarding the application process, please contact the Education support team at

References must be received by the deadline for the applicant to be eligible.

Only shortlisted applicants will be contacted.

Closing date

5th March 2023 (23:59 GMT)


20th March 2023


Study at King’s

Sign up for further information

Receive email updates about our courses, events, fees and funding, studying in London, how to apply and more.

Sign up