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Department Funding Opportunities: 

PhD Studentship

Supporting health and wellbeing among older prisoners through physical activity using experience-based co-design. 

Durham University and Spectrum Health CIC are delighted to invite applications to undertake a full time, 3-year fully funded PhD with a focus on supporting health and wellbeing among older prisoners through physical activity.

We are interested in high calibre applicants who may bring academic and/or practical experience in different areas including, but not limited to, social scientific study of sport, physical activity and health, prison research, public health, and participatory methods.

Subject to eligibility and confirmation of contracts, the scholarship covers UK tuition fees and a grant towards living expenses of £17,688 per annum for three years.

This scholarship is open to UK/Home students only.


The Project

The number of people in prisons age over 50 is increasing. This scenario brings significant challenges, not least relating to how best older prisoners’ health and wellbeing can be supported within a prison environment. Facilitating and promoting regular bodily movement plays a vital role in this.  

We currently know very little from the perspective of prisoners over the age of 50 about their relationship with movement (or physical activity); how its perceived, experienced, and the role they believe it plays in their own understandings of health and wellbeing. Evidence-based guidance on what is needed to create an active prison environment that is inclusive of older adults is also lacking. This research will provide the necessary insights to help address this.

The aim of the project is to support the health and wellbeing of older prisoners by developing in-depth knowledge of how to improve their opportunities for, and experiences of physical activity. By working with older prisoners and prison staff across the North East using an experience-based co-design approach, the research will respond to current knowledge gaps, producing recommended actions for implementation.


Supervision and Support

The selected PhD student will benefit from supervision by a distinctive, inter-disciplinary supervisory team, consisting of Professor Cassandra Phoenix and Dr Katie Di- Sebastiano (Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences) and Dr Kate O’Brien (Department of Sociology). Our research partner Spectrum Health will support the project in an advisory capacity.

The selected student will have developmental opportunities to engage in wider research communities across the Departments of Sport and Exercise Sciences and Sociology, along with the Institute of Medical Humanities via the Discovery Platform for Medical Humanities Moving Bodies Lab (led by Professor Cassandra Phoenix).


Person Specification

  • Masters degree in an relevant subject area, or practical experience in prison based research with a focus on physical activity / sport.
  • Capacity to attain national security clearance.
  • Capacity to undertake data collection within prisons.
  • Strong interpersonal skills, and preferably experience of working with partnership organisations, practitioners, and community groups in different contexts.


How to apply

Applications should be made via the Durham University online application system: quoting program code B6A101

Please state on your application under the section on Finance and Funding which scholarship you are applying for – please state ‘Laureus Studentship - Wt601338’.

Selection will be based on application documents and interview.


The following application documents should be submitted:

  • A research proposal, which is no longer than 2,000 words in length (excluding bibliography). This proposal should demonstrate how the PhD research is aligned with personal qualities and expertise that the applicant would bring to the project and how this may be informed by relevant theoretical and empirical literature, identify potential methodological approaches and challenges.
  • Current Curriculum Vitae/Resumé (no more than 2 pages).
  • Two letters of reference, at least one able to comment on academic expertise.
  • Transcripts of previous degrees.


Enquiries regarding the studentship should be made to Professor Cassandra Phoenix:


Enquiries regarding the application process should be forwarded to


Closing Date: 20th June 2023

Interview Date: Shortlisted applicants will be contacted with details of the interview.




University Funding Opportunities

The following scholarships are either funded by Durham University through partnerships with external organisations, or through generous donations from alumni and friends of Durham. The following opportunities are avaliable to apply for when submitting an application to Sport and Exercise Sciences. 

Scholar-Athlete Performance Scholarships

We have a great track record of supporting elite scholar-athletes to complete both our Masters by Research and PhD programmes.
Athletes racing

Postgraduate Student Support Scholarships

For our Masters by Research pathway, applicants may wish to explore our student support scholarship, offering up to £2000.
Two students talking on campus

North East and Northern Ireland Doctoral Training Partnership

We are part of The North East and Northern Ireland Doctoral Training Partnership (NINEDTP).

Further Scholarship Opportunities

More information about a wide range of funders for postgraduate study please visit the postgraduate scholarship page.