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Suicidal behaviour in Autism Spectrum Conditions: A Test of the Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide

Eligibility: UK/EU

Award Details: Bursary plus tuition fees

Duration: Full time - 3 years 6 months fixed term. (Maximum study period to completion is 4 years) or Part-Time – 5- 6 years (maximum study period to completion is 6 years)

Application deadline: May 2nd (5pm)

For informal enquiries about this studentship, please contact Dr. Sarah Cassidy.

Congratulations on taking your first steps toward a Research Degree at Coventry University. As an ambitious and innovative University, we’re investing an initial £100m into our new research strategy, ‘Excellence with Impact’. Through original approaches from world-leading experts, we’re aiming for our research to make a tangible difference to the way we live. As a research student you are an integral part of Coventry’s lively and diverse research community and contribute to our reputation for excellence. With our exceptional facilities and superb support mechanisms you are afforded every opportunity for academic success.

The Project

Research from our group has shown that adults with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC) are at significantly increased risk of suicidal ideation (66%) than individuals from the general population (17%) (Cassidy et al. 2014). However, there is little understanding of why this may be the case, in order to inform new suicide prevention strategies for this group. This PhD studentship will build off recent findings from our group exploring how the Interpersonal Psychological Theory of Suicide (IPTS) interacts with autism and autistic traits in predicting suicidal behaviour. Initial findings indicate that self-reported autistic traits in the general population increase risk of experiencing the proximal risk factors for suicidal behaviour (perceived burdensomeness and belongingness), in a student sample (Pelton and Cassidy, Under Review). The student will undertake a series of empirical studies testing the predictions of the IPTS in those with clinical diagnosis of ASC. Results will inform development of new suicide prevention strategies for those with ASC.

About the Centre/Department

The Centre for Research in Psychology, Behaviour and Achievement focuses on the development and evaluation of theoretically-rooted, evidence-based psychological interventions across a range of areas: children's literacy and developmental disorders, violence and interpersonal aggression, identity and resilience in communities and organisations, cognition, neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. Related to this aim is the need to develop theoretical models that map the environmental and personal factors that impact successful intervention. We work in partnership with key stakeholders to identify key challenges, develop resources, evaluate initiatives and theoretical models, and to create sustainable approaches to impact.

Successful Applicants

Successful Applicants will have:

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in Psychology with a minimum 60% mark in the Project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
  • In the event of a first degree classification of less than 2:1, a Masters Degree in Psychology will be considered as an equivalent. The Masters must have been attained with overall minimum marks at merit level (60%). In addition, the dissertation or equivalent element in the Masters must also have been attained with a minimum mark at merit level (60%).
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a three-year period of study
  • A minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)


  • knowledge and/or experience in the subject
  • excellent knowledge of Psychology, and at least one of the following areas: autism, developmental conditions, atypical cognition, mental health, suicide, self-harm.

Eligibility & Application procedure

Application Procedure:

Application information can be found in our how to apply section. Before completing the application please contact Dr. Sarah Cassidy for an initial informal discussion about the opportunity.


All UK/EU/International students are eligible to apply that meet the academic requirements, the eligibility criteria can be found making an application page.