Funded PhD opportunities

Understanding the effects of educational attainment, household and neighbourhood context on the onset and recovery of poor adolescent mental health

  • Application end date: 22nd January 2018
  • Funding Availability: Funded PhD project (UK students only)
  • Department: Department of Psychology
  • PhD Supervisor: Dr Darren Van Laar, Professor Liz Twigg, Professor Graham Moon


ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership (SCDTP) funded. Project code: PSYC4230118

Project in brief 

This project will research how individual, social and educational attainment factors interconnect with school, neighbourhood and household contexts in creating risk for poor adolescent mental health. The work will also focus on how such contexts might influence recovery.  Panel research data will be extracted from the secure access version of Understanding Society which is linked to individual data from the Pupil Level Annual National School Census (PLASC).  Applications are welcomed from individuals with a strong undergraduate or Masters’ social science degree.  Applicants must have an interest in the quantitative modelling of large datasets and be able to situate results within a health policy framework.

This project uses ESRC datasets within a longitudinal framework to:

1. Determine how the intersection of individual characteristics with school, neighbourhood and household contexts influences the risk of onset of poor mental health in young people.

2.  Determine the important individual and contextual factors that lead to recovery from poor mental health.  

3. Assess how important are factors associated with school environments for adolescent mental health relative to individual, household and neighbourhood factors.  

Supervisor profiles

Dr Darren Van Laar, Reader in Applied Psychology - Dr Darren Van Laar Profile

Professor Liz Twigg, Professor of Human Geography - Professor Liz Twigg Profile

Professor Graham Moon, Professor of Spatial Analysis in Human Geography - Professor Graham Moon Profile

Admissions criteria

You’ll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (depending upon chosen course, minimum second class or equivalent) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject. Exceptionally, equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will be considered. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0. 

For all funding, students must have qualifications of the standard of a good honours degree at first or upper second-class level, from a UK academic higher education institution. Degree qualifications gained from outside the UK, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience that is equivalent to a relevant UK degree, may be accepted.

Before you apply, please make sure you meet the candidate specification.

Candidates do not need to submit a project proposal, however are required to submit a 500 word personal statement to include: 

  • Details of how your skills and interests match the project
  • Background and previous experience
  • Research interests

If you need to discuss this project and your application further then please contact a member of the supervision team as listed below, in advance of the deadline dates:

Dr Darren Van Laar -

Professor Liz Twigg –

Professor Graham Moon –

Specific candidate requirements 

Foundation in quantitative methods, especially regression modelling and an interest in place effects on health. Ability to embrace the complex modelling of large datasets.

There are two stages to the application process 

(1) The first application form you need to complete is for your chosen programme of study at the University of Portsmouth. 

Apply to the University of Portsmouth through our standard online application form and follow the instructions given under the ’Research Degrees’ heading on the following webpages before you submit your SCDTP application: 

When applying to the University of Portsmouth, you will need to enter project code - PSYC4230118

The closing date for University of Portsmouth applications is 22 January 2018, 11.59 pm. 

(2) The second application form which requires completion is the South Coast DTP Funding Application Form. There are two versions of this form which can be downloaded. In accordance with the SCDTP guidance, please ensure you use the correct form (in this case the ’South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form’). 

The ’South Coast DTP Project Specific Application Form’, and more information on the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership can be found at: 

You will then need to submit your funding application to the SCDTP by 31 January 2018, 11.59 pm. 

For more detailed information about the project, please see the university webpage: 


Informal enquiries are encouraged and can be made to Dr Darren Van Laar at or 023 9284 6306, Professor Liz Twigg at or 023 9284 2466, or Professor Graham Moon at or 023 8059 3822.

For administrative and admissions enquiries please contact

How to Apply

You can apply online at  You are required to create an account which gives you the flexibility to save the form, log out and return to it at any time convenient to you.

A link to the online application form and comprehensive guidance notes can be found at

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