Improving outcomes for vulnerable young people through trauma-informed interventions to support agency for learning

ESRC Grand Union Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) collaborative doctoral studentship at the Department of Education, University of Oxford with Villiers Park Educational Trust


The ESRC Grand Union DTP is awarding a collaborative doctoral studentship based in the Rees Centre within the Department of Education.  It is being offered in conjunction with Villiers Park Educational Trust – a national charity specialising in improving educational outcomes for disadvantaged young people.

The main aim of this innovative doctoral project is to co-devise and co-evaluate a new educational enhancement programme for young people with a history of childhood trauma, with a particular focus on those who are – or have been – in the care system.  Children in care have educational outcomes that are significantly below the national average.  The reasons for this are complex and multidimensional, but one element is that traumatic experiences such as abuse or neglect can exercise a profound and lasting impact on engagement with schooling.

The student will work closely with professional staff at Villiers Park.  Their initial role will be to collate current understanding about the neurobiological and psychosocial effects of trauma and use this to inform the evolution of the programme by the educational developers at Villiers Park.  Once piloting begins, the student will move on to exploring the experiences of the young people and adults involved in the programme as part of an action research approach within the realist evaluation tradition.

The student will be supervised by Dr Neil Harrison and Dr James Robson, as well as receiving support and guidance from Dr Julian Crockford (incoming Chief Programmes Officer at Villiers Park).  They will need to be in a position to spend up to two months per year working physically alongside Villiers Park staff and undertaking fieldwork – the relevant locations are yet to be finalised, but are likely to be Cambridge, Plymouth and Tyneside.  An understanding of childhood trauma, the English education system and/or children’s social care is essential.  Applications from those who spent time in care as children would be particularly welcome.

The DPhil studentship will be funded by the ESRC Grand Union DTP for three years from October 2020. The student will be based in the Rees Centre within the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.

Information about ESRC Studentships at Oxford and Eligibility can be found on the Grand Union DTP website. This studentship is open to candidates who meet ESRC residency requirements.  


How to apply
To apply for the studentship you must submit an application to study for a DPhil in Education at the University of Oxford by midday 28 February 2020. Details about applying can be found at: A short project outline already exists and your application should develop this into a more fully-formed research proposal, particularly with respect to the existing literature on childhood trauma and the methodological approaches and challenges. 

In addition you must complete a Grand Union DTP Application Form  and upload it, together with your graduate application form. Please upload the GUDTP Application Form to the graduate application in the 'Supporting Documents' section using the oversize document upload option. 

The admissions process is in two parts: the applicant will be assessed as part of the applicant pool for the Department of Education; the selected candidate will then be assessed as part of the applicant pool for the ESRC Grand Union DTP funding.

Queries about the studentship should be addressed to: