PhD opportunity with Scottish Graduate School of Social Science

8 January 2019

What we do together: Associational life, volunteering and the benefits for well-being and health for younger and older volunteers

SCUThis studentship is funded by the ESRC through the Scottish Graduate School of the Social Sciences.

  • Institution: University of Strathclyde
  • Pathway: Social Work and Social Policy
  • Mode of study: Full time / Part time
  • Application deadline: 15th April 2019

Project details

This studentship aims to advance understanding of the catalysts of associational life and the role of volunteering as a facilitator of this. It will be supervised jointly by Dr Daniela Sime and Prof Bernard Harris at the University of Strathclyde and Matthew Linning, Volunteer Scotland.

While the benefits of volunteering for individuals, including their well-being and mental health, are well documented, we know less about the relationship between individuals’ associational life and volunteering. It has been argued that the decline of neighbourhood-based opportunities for associational activities, such as sports clubs, faith groups and other types of cultural and voluntary organisation, and the decrease in levels of political trust are all detrimental to the health of civic society. Drawing on a qualitative design, which will include case studies with volunteers and non-volunteers across a range of settings in Scotland, including urban and rural areas, this project aims to contribute new knowledge in relation to the benefits of associational life for individuals and communities. The study will draw on existing theories of social capital and weak ties to examine the link between opportunities for associational life, social capital and individual and community health and wellbeing.

The specific research questions the study aims to answer are:

  • What are the facilitating factors of associational life?
  • How do attitudes to engagement in groups and voluntary work differ between generations and across urban and rural areas?
  • What are the views of young and older people on how conditions for associational life have changed over time and more recently, as a result of austerity measures, for example?
  • What lessons are there for enhanced associational life and what is the role, if any, of volunteering in this?
  • What is the role of institutions in the civil society, including voluntary, public and private bodies, to support associational practices at community level?

Given the collaborative nature of the research, supervised jointly with Volunteer Scotland, the studentship will have a significant emphasis on policy and practice relevant activities. Findings from the research will be disseminated through papers at academic and practitioner conferences and user-friendly guides  for practitioners to support volunteering and associational life and for volunteers, on the benefits of associational life. The student will take part in at least one academic conference a year, in addition to the practitioner-focused events. The student will have access to facilities and training in both organisations and will be expected to spend time in both settings, including the Stirling-based office of Volunteer Scotland.

About the institution

The student will be based in the School of Social Work & Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, UK. The School is well recognized in Scotland and internationally for its research in social work and social policy, especially in the areas of Children & Young People, Citizenship and communities, Health and Wellbeing, Criminal & Social Justice. More information about the School is available here

The student will also be part of a vibrant postgraduate community of over 300 students across six Schools, many international, who have a dedicated work space in our Graduate School. The Graduate School provides support with research training, organizes regular events for students and runs a mentoring scheme for new students. More information on the Graduate School is available here.


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:  For 1+3 funding (Masters and PhD)

  • A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component
  • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of volunteering research and social capital theories
  • Have a good grounding in social research methodologies

 For +3 funding (PhD only)

  • As above, and additionally, a Masters degree with social research methods component

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here.

Award details

The scholarship is available as a +3 or a 1+3 programme depending on prior research training.  This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process.  The programme will commence in October 2019. It includes

  • an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate (2018/19 rate £14,777 full-time)
  • fees at the standard Home rate
  • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year
  • Volunteer Scotland will also cover up to £200/year in travel costs to their offices in Stirling

If the student is required to complete a Masters degree, they will register on the MSc in Social Policy (Research Methods)- details of the programme are available here

How to apply

  1. Applicants register on GradHub and fill out EO data (this is a requirement of the application process)
  2. Applicants complete and upload the prescribed list of required documentation to include:
    • Application form
    • Academic transcripts
    • Names and contact details of two academic referees
    • CV
    • Sample of academic writing (e.g. essay, dissertation chapter)
    • A statement up to 1,500 words, detailing how you would approach the research – this should be uploaded in a standalone document with a naming convention as follows *your name/Sime/Strathclyde/CollaborativeVS/date
  3. Applicants submit application through GradHub.

Supervisor/Contact details

Apply now

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