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Measuring and modelling the impact of social learning on engagement with mathematics and statistics support services

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 - between three and three and a half years fixed term

Application deadline: 27 May 2023

Interview dates: Will be confirmed to shortlisted candidates

Start date: September 2023

To find out more about the project, please contact Dr Mark Hodds.


Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably qualified graduates for a fully funded PhD studentship as part of the university’s Trailblazer PhD program. The PhD will focus on investigating the role of social factors when engaging with Mathematics and Statistics Support (MSS) services and developing a model or framework of engagement based on these factors. The aim is for this model to inform the practice and policy of MSS services across the UK and beyond, helping with important reporting commitments that all MSS services are required to do.

Project details

Previous research has shown that MSS services play a vital role in improving performance and retention rates (e.g., O’Sullivan et al., 2014; Dowling and Nolan, 2006), confidence and reducing anxiety in both subjects (e.g., Marshall, Wilson, and Mann, 2017), and emotional well-being (e.g., Lawson, 2008). A community of learning can develop, and although there have been qualitative studies on social learning in mathematics and statistics support centres (e.g., Solomon et al, 2010), there has been no attempt to measure the impact of this social learning on engagement with MSS. Measuring impact is now an important factor for reporting to university management and the Office for Students.

Furthermore, the pandemic has meant much of our teaching and learning now takes place online. It is unclear however if the social aspect of MSS can be replicated online and what impact that has on engagement. This PhD will aim to address these issues, creating a model and/or framework of engagement based on issues surrounding social learning. It will also build upon two existing PhDs that have investigated increasing engagement of underrepresented groups of students and what are good practices in mathematics and statistics support in the “new normal”.

The successful candidate will be part of a thriving research community in the Research Centre for Global Learning.


Full tuition fees, bursary 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. 

Alongside this, the candidate will be expected to engage with the services of the sigma Mathematics and Statistics Support Centre, take full advantage of the development and training opportunities offered by the sigma National Network of Mathematics and Statistics Support practitioners, and attend/present at the yearly CETL-MSOR international conference. 

Candidate specification

  • A bachelor’s (honours) degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum classification of 2:1 and a minimum mark of 60% in the project element (or equivalent), or an equivalent award from an overseas institution.
  • the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
  • An adequate proficiency in English must be demonstrated by applicants whose first language is not English. The general requirement is a minimum overall IELTS Academic score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the four sections, or the TOEFL iBT test with a minimum overall score of 95 with a minimum of 21 in each of the four sections.

For further details please visit:  https://www.coventry.ac.uk/research/research-opportunities/research-students/making-an-application/research-entry-criteria/

How to apply

It is highly recommended that candidates have an informal discussion with the Director of Studies, Dr Mark Hodds: mark.hodds2@coventry.ac.uk, about the project before submitting an application.

Details of all available research opportunities at Coventry University can be found via


All applications require full supporting documentation, and a covering letter – plus an up-to 2000-word supporting statement is required showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project. 

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