Leverhulme Trust Biopsychosocial Doctoral Scholarship Programme

DSPI students doctoral

Moving Beyond Inequality 

The University of Oxford will be offering 15 doctoral scholarships from 2021-2023, thanks to a £1.35m grant from the Leverhulme Trust. As a successful applicant, you would complete multi-disciplinary research on the impact of poverty and social inequalities in early childhood. 

This ground-breaking programme of doctoral scholarships, spanning the social and biological sciences, aims to reduce the impact of these disadvantages on children’s life chances.

Directed by Professor Jane Barlow, this is Oxford’s first doctoral programme that brings together expertise from diverse disciplines, with the explicit goal of reducing the impact of social inequality in early childhood through the application of biological science. 

Social inequalities and poverty have proved to be highly intractable and continue to be significant predictors of poor outcomes for children. It is now recognised that the social adversity associated with such poverty is ‘biologically embedded’ in children during ‘sensitive developmental periods’ and thus the origins of long-term social inequality lie in developmental and biological disruptions occurring during the early years of life.

Early social interventions aimed at improving the life-chances of these young children have made a significant contribution to reducing the impact of poverty on children globally. However, the overall benefit of these programmes is still limited. Emerging research suggests that this may be due to biological characteristics. These can influence the capacity of individual children to benefit from early interventions (known as ‘differential susceptibility’). The research also suggests that social interventions need to begin to address the early biological disruptions, now recognised to be a significant part of the problem. 

We seek applications from high calibre individuals who have an interest in building on recent scientific advances, applying knowledge developed between the biological and social sciences. The aim is to use a multiple level of analysis perspective to reduce social inequalities in early childhood. 

This exciting new programme of scholarships will expose you to expertise and cutting edge mixed-methods research. You will work across the fields of psychology, sociology, neuroscience, endocrinology, genetics and ethics. The scholarships aim to produce a new generation of scientists who have the necessary skills to be future research leaders in this important field. 

Four lead departments are affiliated with the programme: Social Policy and Intervention, Sociology, Psychiatry and Experimental Psychology. 

You will complete a training programme tailored to your individual skills and project requirements, and attend activities offered to the full Leverhulme cohort. You will be formally admitted by the department linked to your primary supervisor and will have access to a diverse range of seminars, workshops and advanced training opportunities. 

The programme will be led by internationally renowned academics based in the four lead departments. Projects are offered by a range of supervisors across relevant subject areas. 

Programme Director: Professor Jane Barlow; Social Policy and Intervention Co-director: Professor Melinda Mills; Sociology Co-director: Dr Lucy Bowes, Experimental Psychology Co-director: Professor Gaia Scerif

You will be awarded a 4-year scholarship covering tuition fees and a maintenance stipend at UK research council rates (£15,609 in 2021-22). You will also have access to research and training support funds. 

While the Leverhulme Trust offers scholarships at ‘home’ fee levels only, where sufficiently strong overseas candidates apply, the University will consider offering them an award covering overseas fees. 

These projects are advertised on a full-time basis. Applicants who are unable to study full-time may also apply. However, any offer to study part-time will be conditional on the University first receiving permission from the Leverhulme Trust. 

You need to apply to the DPhil in Social Intervention and Policy Evaluation - Leverhulme Biopsychosocial Doctoral Scholarship Programme via the link on the University Open Studentships page. This is solely for application purposes. Successful Leverhulme candidates will be registered on the DPhil programme based in their supervisor’s department. You should ensure you meet the eligibility requirements for this programme. 

Candidates must complete a University application form and submit a research proposal, a CV, transcripts from previous study, written work (two essays, a maximum of 2,500 words each) and details of three referees. When asked to enter a scholarship code, please enter 'LeverhulmeDSPI'.  

We would advise you to plan to submit your complete application well in advance of the deadline (see below), ideally two or three weeks earlier. It is your responsibility to ensure that your referees submit their references by the deadline. You will need to pay an application fee of £75.  

The application form, all supporting materials required for the programme (including references) and payment must be submitted by the studentship deadline. To access the application form and application guide please visit our website at www.graduate.ox.ac.uk/applyonline. We will also arrange College affiliation if you are successful. 

The directors and supervisors will select a shortlist of candidates for interview, from which the successful Leverhulme scholars will be selected. 

Application Deadline: The funding deadline for the Leverhulme Trust Biopsychosocial Doctoral Scholarship Programme was 12pm midday UK time on Friday 27 May 2022. The programme has now closed for applications for entry in 2022-23. 

Contact: Dr Ben Chrisinger: benjamin.chrisinger@spi.ox.ac.uk 

Social Policy and Intervention Academic Office: admissions@spi.ox.ac.uk