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. Students will complete multi-disciplinary research on the impact of poverty and social inequalities in early childhood.
The ground-breaking programme of doctoral scholarships, spanning the social and biological sciences, will aim 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 thereby that 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 young children exposed to such adversity 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.