postgraduate research

graduate opportunities

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are you looking for a postgraduate research opportunity?

we offer a wide variety of studentships and other research opportunities throughout the year. as a research student, you'll work with at least one academic supervisor and be given research training to help you gain skills in research methodology. please check the information on each studentship carefully before applying.

sociology and economics studentships

we currently have three research opportunities in the areas of sociology and economics. these projects, detailed below, are studentships linked with the esrc research centre on micro-social change (misoc), which is hosted at our institute for social and economic reseach at our colchester campus. learn more about this esrc research centre here.

young people’s social skills

project title

young people’s social skills

supervisors

professor sonia bhalotra and dr birgitta rabe

project overview

studies have documented that social and emotional skills are increasingly important in the workplace and attract higher wages. socio-emotional skills such as personality traits, goals, character, motivations, and preferences are successful in predicting educational attainment, labour market success, health, and criminality. there is a debate in the literature on how best to measure social skills, including using performance on tasks, self-reported questionnaires, and observed behaviours (kautz et al., 2014). several papers have shown that measuring socio-emotional (non-cognitive) skills by behaviours observed in the adolescent years is a promising approach that is free of reference bias. these behaviours can include risky and reckless behaviours such as stealing from a store, purposefully damaging property or skipping class as well as positive behaviours such as taking part in extra-curricular activities (kautz et al., 2014; heckman et al., 2014).

we are advertising a phd studentship to recruit a student to build on existing research by investigating how social skills are produced, how they relate to observed outcomes and how they mediate other behaviours and outcomes. throughout, the focus will be on behavioural measures of social skills. a central data source will be the uk longitudinal household survey (ukhls) which contains a youth panel administered to 10-15 year olds. it contains longitudinal individual data on measures of self-esteem and anxiety (the strength and difficulties questionnaire), bullying, truancy, smoking and alcohol use and other risky behaviours, vandalism, happiness (mental health) and social media use for a representative sample of adolescents and young adults. the data are linked to administrative school records including individual-level test results and school-level characteristics. linking siblings in the data and comparing outcomes for siblings within the same family allows the researcher to control for unobserved differences between families.

one suggested avenue of enquiry for this studentship is to investigate the socio-economic status (ses) gradient in the gender gap in education. one of the most dramatic changes in the landscape of education in the uk has been that girls have overtaken boys. today, girls are out-performing boys in school, are 35% more likely to go to university, and do better once they get there. but an important, under-studied fact is that the gender (i.e. the underperformance of boys) gap in educational attainment is larger, and perhaps increasing, among families of low socioeconomic status. recent research using us data suggests that an important reason that boys perform less well than girls in low socio-economic status (ses) households is that they have more behavioural problems. they trace this to being more closely linked to family circumstances (absent fathers, less educated mothers) than to the quality of schools and neighbourhoods (autor et al. 2017). the phd will describe the attainment gradient and its variation with age, and investigate behaviours that may play a causal role.

another possible line of research includes using the richness of the ukhls data to explore the predictive power of various types of behaviours for outcomes including exam results, labour market success, health and family formation. further, the phd may investigate how social and cognitive skills interact with each other and inputs from schools and parents to produce outcomes in the labour market.

references

Autor, David, David Figlio, Jeffrey Roth and Melanie Wasserman (2017): Family disadvantage and the gender gap in behavioral and educational outcomes [R&R AEJ: Applied]

kautz et al. (2014), fostering and measuring skills: improving cognitive and non-cognitive skills to promote lifetime success, national bureau of economic research working paper series no. 20749

heckman, j. j., s. h. moon, and r. pinto (2014).  the effects of early intervention on abilities and social outcomes: evidence from the carolina abecedarian study. unpublished manuscript, university of chicago.

details of the studentship

this studentship is offered as either a 1+3 (masters plus three-year phd) or a +3 award (phd only) in economics, based in the institute for social and economic research (iser), for both international and home/eu students.

  • it may be taken full-time or part-time
  • the studentship award covers your university of essex fees (home fees only), and provides you with a stipend of £18,285 per year
  • you will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the research training support grant
  • please note that, at the moment, international student fees are not included in this studentship and the difference between home and international fees will need to be covered by you. it is possible that international fees will be waived for this studentship for the next academic year, however, and this will be confirmed by mid-december.

eligibility criteria

residential criteria

ukri has recently announced that it is changing its residential eligibility rules. now, regardless of whether you are a "home" applicant or an "international" applicant, you can apply for a studentship.

to be classed as a home student, you must meet the following criteria:

  • be a uk national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter

if you do not meet the criteria above, you are classed as an international student.

academic eligibility

for masters and phd funding (1+3, or +4 award structures): qualifications or experience equal to a first (1) or upper second (2.1) class honours degree, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required.

for phd (+3) funding: qualifications or experience equal to a masters degree with distinction or merit, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required. your masters degree must be in a relevant discipline, and include significant research methods training.

how to apply

get in touch with the lead supervisors professor sonia bhalotra and dr birgitta rabe, who will advise you on the entry requirements and the application process for this studentship.

application deadlines

  • deadline to contact potential supervisor: 4 january 2021
  • deadline to apply for phd place: 18 january 2021
  • deadline for interview (if any): 15 february 2021
  • deadline to accept or decline offer: 1 march 2021

start date

you will be expected to start on or about 1 october 2021.

 

skill acquisition during higher education

project title

skill acquisition during higher education

supervisors

professor emilia del bono and dr angus holford

project overview

whether a university degree provides the skills required by a rapidly changing labour market is a very open question. technological advances are generating sweeping changes to traditional job tasks, with evidence of an increasing demand for, and increasing return to, a wide range of non-cognitive skills (deming 2017, edin et al. 2017). these concerns are not new, and for the past few years an important theme in the uk higher education sector has been the development of strategies to improve the ‘employability’ of graduates. this is perhaps best represented by efforts to encourage and recognize participation in extra-curricular activities, such as work placements, volunteering, or engagement in competitive sports. the rationale is that these activities may not only enhance students’ experience while at university but also empower them with a set of skills that employers increasingly value in the labour market, such as the ability to negotiate or to perform well in a team environment.

yet, we still know very little about what students think about the value of these activities in terms of employability and earnings and whether there is significant variation in these beliefs according to students’ family background and other individual characteristics. in a recent study, we exploit new data collected from a cohort of undergraduate students at a uk higher education institution (the boost2018 study) to show how expected returns to investment in extra-curricular activities inform students’ time allocation choices during undergraduate studies (delavande et al., 2020). interestingly, we also uncover important differences in these expected returns by ethnicity, with bame students perceiving lower returns to work experience and other types of extra-curricular activities as compared to their white british colleagues. it is however still unclear whether the differences we document are driven by the presence of labour market constraints, which may reduce access to certain types of activities for some groups of the population, or lack of information about the true return to these activities. indeed, with few exceptions (persico et al. 2004, lechner and downward 2017, saniter and siedler 2014), there is little proof that participation in extra-curricular activities while at university leads to improved employability upon graduation, or if the returns vary with  socio-economic background or ethnicity, for example. it is also unclear to what extent students have a good understanding of the type of employability skills mostly sought after by prospective employer, or whether they these beliefs are updated upon entering the labour market.

under the joint supervision of prof emilia del bono and dr angus holford the holder of this studentship will work on some of the above mentioned research questions.

the student will be encouraged to use data from the boost2018 study, a longitudinal study that follows a cohort of approximately 2,000 uk undergraduate students from their first term at university through to the completion of their degree in july 2018, and to a follow-up survey fielded in the spring of 2020, when most students were already on the labour market. the student will also be encouraged to expand the research questions and explore opportunities offered by other uk datasets already available for analysis, such as the destination of leavers from higher education, which contains information on internships and job placements. moreover, there will be the possibility to pursue administrative data linkages between different dataset, including the hesa student records, the ucas admission records, and the national pupil database. the work could also be extended to consider data from other countries which could offer evidence useful for an international comparison.

more information about the boost2018 study

the first 13 waves of boost2018 collected information on several aspects of student participation to university life, from lecture attendance to hours spent studying, working for pay and on a range of extra-curricular activities. during the third year, a specially designed module of the survey asked students to report their chance of employment, expected earnings, and career prospects conditional on hypothetical scenarios involving different combinations of academic and extra-curricular activities. then, using a list of nine skills that employers consider relevant in making hiring decisions (benchmarked on a recent survey administered to uk graduate employers, agr 2016), students were asked to rate themselves, rate their peers, and predict the proportion of employers tailoring their hiring strategies to those skills. a follow-up survey was fielded in the spring of 2020, when most students were already on the labour market, and similar questions about skills were asked so that it would be possible to analyse whether beliefs about the importance of these skills were updated. the dataset also collects information on a range of individual cognitive and non-cognitive skills, subjective expectations about university outcomes, and beliefs about own cognitive ability, so that the research questions can be expanded in different directions.

details of the studentship

this studentship is offered as either a 1+3 (masters plus three-year phd) or a +3 award (phd only) in economics, based in the institute for social and economic research (iser), for both international and home/eu students.

  • it may be taken full-time or part-time
  • the studentship award covers your university of essex fees (either home or international fees), and provides you with a stipend of £18,285 per year
  • you will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the research training support grant

eligibility criteria

residential criteria

ukri has recently announced that it is changing its residential eligibility rules. now, regardless of whether you are a "home" applicant or an "international" applicant, you can apply for a studentship.

to be classed as a home student, you must meet the following criteria:

  • be a uk national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter

if you do not meet the criteria above, you are classed as an international student.

academic eligibility

for masters and phd funding (1+3, or +4 award structures): qualifications or experience equal to a first (1) or upper second (2.1) class honours degree, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required.

for phd (+3) funding: qualifications or experience equal to a masters degree with distinction or merit, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required. your masters degree must be in a relevant discipline, and include significant research methods training.

how to apply

get in touch with the lead supervisors professor emilia del bono and dr angus holford, who will advise you on the entry requirements and the application process for this studentship.

application deadlines

  • deadline to contact potential supervisor: 4 january 2021
  • deadline to apply for phd place: 18 january 2021
  • deadline for interview (if any): 15 february 2021
  • deadline to accept or decline offer: 1 march 2021

start date

you will be expected to start on or about 1 october 2021.

 

local immigrant integration

project title

local immigrant integration

supervisor

dr renee reichl luthra

project overview

the consequences of immigration for british society has become a central point of political controversy and scholarly interest. as evidenced by the recent reviews and consultations commissioned by the government, there is a high level of concern about the perceived lack of social mixing, residential isolation, and counterproductive cultural practices of immigrants and their descendants, as well as more general ethnic disparities and inequalities. yet despite the fact that most quantitative research on this topic is conducted at the national level, much of the policy and practice of integration operates at the level of individual neighbourhoods, schools and communities.

we are advertising a phd studentship for research which aims to understand community level variation in immigrant integration by exploiting immigrant oversamples or boosts, and the new availability of administrative data sources, which enable quantitative analysis of immigrant integration at the subnational level. this doctoral researcher will study immigrant integration among the foreign-born and/or the second and subsequent generations, examining community as well as individual- and family-level determinants of integration. example pathways/questions might be the role of local and school characteristics on inter-ethnic friendship formation, developing a typology of localities based on the intergenerational transmission patterns within immigrant families, or examining how local variation in minority political representation influences the development of political interest and alignment among the foreign born and their children.

details of the studentship

this studentship is offered as either a 1+3 (masters plus three-year phd) or a +3 award (phd only) in economics, based in our institute for social and economics research (iser), for both international and home/eu students.

  • it may be taken full-time or part-time
  • the studentship award covers your university of essex fees (home fees only), and provides you with a stipend of £18,285 per year
  • you will also be able to apply for small amounts of additional funding via the research training support grant
  • please note that, at the moment, international student fees are not included in this studentship and the difference between home and international fees will need to be covered by you. it is possible that international fees will be waived for this studentship for the next academic year, however, and this will be confirmed by mid-december 2020.

eligibility criteria

residential criteria

ukri has recently announced that it is changing its residential eligibility rules. now, regardless of whether you are a "home" applicant or an "international" applicant, you can apply for a studentship.

to be classed as a home student, you must meet the following criteria:

  • be a uk national (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter

if you do not meet the criteria above, you are classed as an international student.

academic eligibility

for masters and phd funding (1+3, or +4 award structures): qualifications or experience equal to a first (1) or upper second (2.1) class honours degree, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required.

for phd (+3) funding: qualifications or experience equal to a masters degree with distinction or merit, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required. your masters degree must be in a relevant discipline, and include significant research methods training.

how to apply

get in touch with the lead supervisor dr renee reichl luthra, who will advise you on the entry requirement and the application process for this studentship.

application deadlines

  • deadline to contact potential supervisor: 4 january 2021
  • deadline to apply for phd place: 18 january 2021
  • deadline for interview (if any): 15 february 2021
  • deadline to accept or decline offer: 1 march 2021

start date

you will be expected to start on or about 1 october 2021.

Student completing her personal statement whilst applying to Essex
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