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PhD Opportunities

Qualification type: PhD
Location: London
Funding for: Home and EU applicants only
Funding amount: £20,000 stipend, plus fees at the Home/EU rate
Duration: 3 years full-time
Application: Deadline 09:00 on 23rd June
Programme start: September 2019

The Policy Institute at King's College London (King's) and the Department of Political Economy (DPE) are pleased to announce that we’re looking to appoint a full time doctoral student in public policy, in the area of social mobility and access to higher education, with a particular focus on student finance and financial support for students in higher education.

The Policy Institute at King’s College London works to solve society’s challenges with evidence and expertise. We combine the rigour of academia with the agility of a consultancy and the connectedness of a think tank. Our research draws on many disciplines and methods, making use of the skills, expertise and resources of not only the institute, but the university and its wider network too. The Policy Institute is also host to the King’s What Works Department, who conduct rigorous evaluations of interventions aimed at encouraging students from non-traditional backgrounds into university and maximising their success once they arrive, and the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes (TASO), the What Works Centre for Higher Education. DPE was founded on the principle that politics and economics are inextricably linked. Drawing from this, it is committed to producing world-leading research that engages with the key problems of our day in a policy-relevant, rigorous fashion.

The PhD student will be supervised by Dr Michael Sanders, Reader in Public Policy at the Policy Institute and Academic Lead for TASO, and Professor Peter John in DPE. Michael’s research focuses on social mobility and supporting the most vulnerable young people in society, mostly using randomised controlled trials. 

About the PhD

This PhD studentship will be offered on a full-time basis for 3 years. One studentship is currently available.

The successful candidate will have access to PhD training and development across King’s faculties, and from our network of collaborators, including other researchers, PhD students, events, networks and visiting fellows. We also envisage the student working closely with the Widening Participation department at King’s.

Research topics

We invite candidates who apply to conduct research on topics that involve the use of financial incentives in higher education, such as:

  • The effect of bursaries on higher education participation by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds
  • The effect of financial stipends on student success at university
  • Novel forms of financial incentive, or ways of structuring these incentives, to maximise participation and success at university by young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Who should apply?

All applicants must:

  • Qualify for tuition fees at the Home (UK) or EU rate
  • Possess, or be due to obtain, a Master's-level post-graduate qualification with a grade of Merit overall, and at least 65% on the Dissertation component
  • Satisfy any other criteria required by the Department of Political Economy for admission
  • Apply, and be deemed eligible for entry to the PhD in Public Policy in the Department of Political Economy, applying to study from September 2019. There is a possibility for part-time study in exceptional circumstances.

Applicants with a Master's qualification in any field will be considered, but applications would be particularly welcome from candidates with backgrounds in politics, behavioural science, sociology and/or psychology.

Experience of policy making or policy contexts is not necessary but may be an advantage, and a clear interest in and understanding of one or more policy areas would be a strength.

Students from a non-traditional background are particularly encouraged to apply.

How to apply

  1. Apply for entry onto the PhD in Public Policy in the Department of Political Economy by 23rd June 2019 using the King's online application system. Please indicate that you are applying for the King's studentship in Social Mobility in the funding section of your application.
  2. Submit your project proposal of up to 2,000 words plus references (guidance here) with your application, and also send a copy to In your proposal, it would be helpful to have the following sections: Introduction/rationale, theoretical contribution, methods/project plan, and timetable.
  3. Provide a personal statement outlining why you want this particular studentship (maximum 1,000 words).
  4. All materials must be submitted by 23rd June 2019.
  5. Panel interviews will be held in early July 2019.