Project code



School of Architecture

Start dates

October, February and April

Application deadline

Applications accepted all year round

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project.

The PhD will be based in the School of Architecture and will be supervised by Dr Tarek Teba and Dr Tara Woodyer (School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences).

The work on this project will:

  • Analyse impacts the “English Heritage at Play” project has had on visitor engagement and interpretation, their interaction with EH staff, and their overall experience
  • Explore participatory playful interaction strategies that can be added to the current repertoire to move the “English Heritage at Play” pilot project forward and further enhance visitors' experience
  • Analyse the impact of these additional participatory playful interaction strategies on visitors' engagement and interpretation, their interaction with EH staff, and their overall experience
  • Develop a framework/guideline for the implementation of participatory playful interaction strategies across a range of in-situ historic sites, which leads to preserving and disseminating the tangible and intangible heritage values in new interactive ways/forms

Museums activities are designed to enhance visitors’ engagement and interpretive abilities. Incorporating these activities into in-situ historic context constitutes a real challenge to maintain visitors’ engagement and to guarantee a family-friendly environment on the site. Through interactive interpretations, English Heritage seeks to enrich the engagement with, and meaning-making of, its historic sites and consequently improve the visits. By investigating the developing “English Heritage at Play” initiative, this PhD research will develop and analyse the impact of in-situ playful interaction strategies specific to English Heritage sites for enriching: (i) individual visitor engagement with and interpretation of the site; (ii) family interaction within the site; and (iii) staff engagement with visitors.

Research shows the need to actively support, facilitate and enhance the many kinds of meaning-making that might take place through engagement with heritage institutions (Silverman 2010). A recent AHRC concept generation workshop, ‘Unloved Collections’, highlighted play as a useful tool for encouraging active meaning-making behaviours with visitors, leading to rich participatory experiences within heritage settings. Whilst practitioners recognise that visits to heritage sites are a social experience, previous research on audience/visitors has placed too great emphasis on how knowledge is individually constructed. Attention has focused on the attitudes and interpretations of visitors at the expense of investigating how these attitudes and interpretations are formed (Coffee 2007). Furthermore, studies of family groups are under-represented within this literature, as witnessed in calls for greater understanding of intergenerational and sibling interaction, arising from data collection strategies that consider the whole family (Sterry & Beaumont 2006).

English Heritage (EH) is seeking to establish a family-friendly environment at its heritage sites through working towards implementing the “Kids in Museums Manifesto”. The “Kids in Museums Manifesto” highlights the importance of confidence, knowledge and a sense of ownership to the heritage experience. Hackett’s (2017) research powerfully demonstrates that playful interaction enhances children's confidence in museum sites, allowing them to establish their own meanings and sense of ownership. Translating these principles to an in-situ historic context brings challenges of balancing preservation with active visitor engagement.

Fees and funding

Visit the research subject area page for fees and funding information for this project.

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK students only).

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in a related area. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.


How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Tarek Teba ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, please follow the 'Apply now' link on the Architecture, Interiors and Urbanism PhD subject area page and select the link for the relevant intake. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV.  Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. 

When applying please quote project code ARCH4600424.