a woman wears a virtual reality headset in space

Heritage-based virtual reality for well-being in space

Eligibility: UK/International (including EU) graduates with the required entry requirements 

Funding details: Bursary plus tuition fees (UK/International (including EU at international rates from Sept 21)

Duration: Full-Time – 3-3.5 years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2023

Interview date: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2023

For further details contact: Professor Sylvester Arnab


This PhD project is part of the Cotutelle arrangement between Coventry University, UK and Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia.

The successful applicant will spend the 1st year at Coventry University and the following year at Deakin University and then the final 1.5 years at Coventry University

The supervision team will be drawn from the two Universities.

Project details

As we expand into the solar system to explore, live, and work, it is imperative to research and design multifunctional well-being solutions to reduce various health risks and help crew members on the long-duration missions in low Earth orbit (LEO), to the Moon and Mars adjust and acclimatise to their new environment. See The Five Hazards of Humans Spaceflight by NASA for more details (https://www.nasa.gov/hrp/hazards).


This PhD project aims to investigate how meaningful game-like (cultural) heritage-based virtual reality (VR) experiences can support the well-being of people living and working in ICE (isolated, confined, and extreme) environments, such as astronauts.

The premise is that the cultural and heritage aspect can help promote relatability and emotional connection. In his book The Value of Museums: Enhancing Societal Well-Being (2021) John H. Falk defines meaningful experiences as those that are valuable to users and as such can create lasting memories and has the potential to affect long-term personal, intellectual, social, and physical well-being.

The research includes investigating and co-creating how the proposed content in VR will be investigated and co-created with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) users including transmigrants and those in ICE conditions as reference to the future spacefarers.

Expected outcomes:

The project’s outcomes will include:

  • A collection of cultural and heritage-based VR experiences and environments for engaging those associated with ICE.
  • A new understanding on how cultural experiences impact wellbeing through interactive immersive medium.

The research results will provide a fundamental understanding of the cultural and heritage content to be potentially integrated into a system for measuring, monitoring and regulating affective stress. The work within this research will link to another PhD research that is focusing on measures, artificial intelligence (AI), and wearable sensors.

Such meaningful experiences could be adapted for use in hospitals, asylums, retirement villages, prisons and other isolated living and working environments such as in Antarctica, oil rigs, mines, and remote areas. By this, the study is aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, i.e., 3 – Good Health and Well-being.


To achieve the proposed goals, the following methods will be used:

  • Literature review in the area of museum and heritage studies (including digital heritage and virtual museums), game studies, human-computer interaction (VR), and space medicine (psychology);
  • Qualitative data collection from experts in the above areas;
  • Qualitative and quantitative data collection from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) participants including transmigrants;
  • Iterative design and development of a case study: a VR working prototype;
  • Empirical studies on the intervention/pilot

The research is transdisciplinary, focusing on participatory, technical, and empirical research. This research will require a candidate to have a good experience in developing virtual environments (games, gamification, and/or VR using Unity or Unreal).


Full tuition fees, stipend (£18,622 p/a), and additional allowances.


The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities. 

Entry Requirements

Applicants must meet the admission and scholarship criteria for both Coventry University and Deakin University for entry to the cotutelle programme.  

This includes;  

  • Applicants should have graduated within the top 15% of their undergraduate cohort. This might include a high 2:1 in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 70% mark (80% for Australian graduates) in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 70% overall module average (80% for Australian graduates). 
  • A Masters degree in a relevant subject area, with overall mark at minimum Merit level. In addition, the mark for the Masters dissertation (or equivalent) must be a minimum of 80%. Please note that where a candidate has 70-79% and can provide evidence of research experience to meet equivalency to the minimum first-class honours equivalent (80%+) additional evidence can be submitted and may include independently peer-reviewed publications, research-related awards or prizes and/or professional reports. 
  • Language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component).  
  • The potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within a prescribed period of study.  

For an overview of each University’s entry requirements please visit:  



Please note that it is essential that applicants confirm that they are able to physically locate to both Coventry University (UK) and Deakin University (Australia).

Additional specifications
  • Experience in VR/Game design and development (Unity/Unreal)

How to apply

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus an up to 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. To find out more about the project, please contact Professor Sylvester Arnab.

All candidates must apply to both Universities.

Apply to Coventry University Apply to Deakin University
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