Studentship opportunity

Collaborative Art and Transformation: an exploration of the National Galleries of Scotland outreach programme for disadvantaged young people

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

University of Stirling
Mode of study

Full time / Part time

Application deadline
Friday 15 March 2019

Project details

Contemporary art interventions with disadvantaged young people have attained a degree of policy orthodoxy in the UK, reflected in key UK and Scottish policies (Curriculum for Excellence, Creative Learning Strategy 2013, the draft Cultural Strategy Consultation document 2018). Such interventions, are justified by instrumental outcomes, including broadening access to the arts, building self-confidence, well-being, attainment, civic engagement and social inclusion, and intersect with duties to consult young people under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989). However, few studies have followed participants over time to establish broader and longer-term effects, how these interventions work and the degree of participation involved. Nor have studies examined participants’ perceptions of the potentially conflicting therapeutic and artistic aims of such projects or of the relevance of contemporary art to their everyday lives. The complexities, affects and effects of collaboration on such projects on others (artists, institutions and third sector/statutory agencies), with different purposes and constraints, are also under-explored, as is the potential relevance of such programmes to the development of contemporary art.

Employing mixed methods (observation, interview and documentary analysis), this project will combine expertise in the sociology of childhood and youth, education and the arts with the practice-based outreach context of the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) to explore the impacts of its outreach programmes on the lives of young people, the practices of galleries and the practices of contemporary art. The project will contribute to NGS Outreach’s response (structural and methodological) to the Scottish Cultural Strategy (of harnessing creative cultural approaches to address social needs) while reflecting NGS’ commitment to participatory values. Related academic publications, conference presentations and knowledge-exchange events will situate NGS as an international centre of reflective practice in the area.

About the institution

At the University of Stirling, we believe that great ideas and ground-breaking research can transform our society and help redefine economic, social and cultural conditions across Scotland, the UK and internationally. Research is a critical aspect of our learning and teaching. As a postgraduate research student, you will be offered insights into that research and have opportunities to make key research contributions of your own. You will be joining Stirling’s thriving postgraduate research community, the Stirling Graduate School, with access to resources and networking opportunities across the university and beyond. The studentship will be hosted in the Faculty of Social Sciences, home to internationally- recognised research in: sociology, social policy and criminology; education; social work; housing; and dementia.  Research in the Faculty covers theoretical and applied work in a range of fields including: child welfare and protection; youth studies; housing policy; social justice; professional education; social survey analysis; sustainable communities; dementia-friendly design; teacher agency and curriculum development.


Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:
  • A good first degree (at least 2:1 or predicted), preferably with a social science component;
  • Have a good grounding in social science research methods (for the +3 award)
  • Demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of, one or more of the following: sociology of childhood, youth studies, contemporary art (especially the theoretical and critical context of socially engaged art practice), museum studies, gallery–based participatory outreach projects
  • Be able to work flexibly in response to the research design (e.g. ‘out-of-hours’ scheduling)
  • Be able to travel to Stirling, Edinburgh and research sites as necessary
The following would also be desirable:
  • Experience of working with young people in out-of-school settings

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 (2019/20 rate £15,009 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

Other information

In addition to the resources available through the University of Stirling, the successful applicant will also be able to take advantage of various resources through the National Galleries of Scotland.  In particular, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, where much of their research will be based, will provide access to working spaces, practical resources and the expertise of the Outreach section of the NGS Education Department. The supervision team is led by Dr. Sarah Wilson of the Faculty of Social Sciences (FoSS) at the University of Stirling, alongside Dr. Maureen K. Michael (FoSS) and Robin Baillie, Senior Outreach Officer at the National Galleries of Scotland.

How to apply

Applicants should follow the process below to apply:

  1. Applicants register on GradHub ( and fill out the Equal Opportunities questionnaire at this point (this is a requirement of the application process)
  2. Applicants complete, upload and finally submit the prescribed list of required documentation to GradHub (using the button below). This documentation includes their:
  • Application form
  • Academic transcripts
  • References
  • CV

Selection process

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by March 25th 2019. Interviews will take place on April 10th 2019. All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the University of Stirling. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Supervisor/Contact details

Dr. Sarah Wilson