Skip to main

PhD Programme

The Skills Development Scotland (SDS) collaborative PhD Programme is a partnership between SDS and the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS). It was established in 2013 to engage the Scottish academic community to support policy-relevant skills research.

Our PhD researchers examine key questions in skills policy, skills delivery, and career information, advice and guidance. The programme produces innovative research aligned to the evolving skills agenda in Scotland. It also helps to develop a new group of expert researchers with an in-depth understanding of the unique Scottish skills landscape.

SDS is positioned as a jewel in the crown for our collaborative PhD programmes.

Prof Mhairi MacKenzie

Depute Director at the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science

SDS identifies important skills-related topics and works with SGSSS to invite PhD proposals from academic supervisors. SGSSS and SDS then select the most suitable proposals received.

Successful PhD proposals are co-funded by SDS and the ESRC. SDS works closely with the host university, academic supervisors and the student to support successful completion of the PhD. Each PhD student has an SDS PhD Sponsor who links the student into SDS and the wider skills community.

The SDS Sponsor also has an important role in promoting the PhD research to relevant SDS teams, ensuring that key findings from the research are embedded in the policy and practice of SDS.

Our students are each supported by their academic supervisor and an SDS sponsor.

For more information please check out the PhD Programme Brochure 2023/2024.

The SDS collaborative PhD Programme has a number of benefits for SDS and its stakeholders:

  • Investment in high quality skills research, providing a robust and rigorous approach to tackling key skills policy questions and underpinning our approach as an intelligence-led organisation
  • Increased awareness of the value of academic research within the skills policy community, bringing theory, policy and practice closer together
  • New opportunities for doctoral candidates to develop their knowledge and understanding within a policy and delivery context
  • Develops the supply of high-quality academic researchers with a deep knowledge of the Scottish skills system and landscape
  • New opportunities for PhD students to develop their skills and expertise within a workplace setting through PhD internships

Grace Barrett Economic and social outcomes of work-based learning across economic sectors: The case of Foundation Apprenticeships in Scotland

Aleksander Bielinski How artificial intelligence can be used to enhance the provision of labour market intelligence

Shayla Bletsoe Virtual models of working and the implications for Careers, Information and Guidance

Maria Cecil Gendered information landscapes and their impact on routes into and through apprenticeships

Roisin Dooley-Nealis Intrapreneurship: Its forms and enabling factors

Karen Gilmore The potential impact of graduate apprenticeships on intergenerational social mobility in Scotland.

Hannah Glover Where to next? Post-school transitions and career decisions among young people in Scotland – insights from the Growing Up in Scotland study

Kaja Horn Transformative skills in the energy just transition: Mixed-methods pathways for upskilling, reskilling, and engaging new entrants in Scotland

Stephen Hughes Work-based learning (WBL) in the digital age

Anya Kaufman Creating sustainable communities through the development of skills

Daniela Latina Models of collaborative working in employability

Martina Lippi Neurodiverse youth identities in career transition: Between the physical and the virtual world of work

Louise MacAulay Exploring labour market inequalities experienced by unpaid carers and people with disabilities

John Marshall Work-based learning environments (WBLE) for fostering industry-relevant skills and optimal economic performance.

Marina Milosheva Career information literacy and decision-making behaviours of young people

Cara Nethery Labour market outcomes for ethnic minority people in Scotland: Do school subject choices and university choice matter?

Paul Quigley How do employers engage with apprenticeships in Scotland?

Elle Scott Toward a strategy for improving labour market outcomes for care experienced young people: an ecological multi-agency partnership with SDS, Dumfries & Galloway Local Authority & South of Scotland Enterprise

Gaile Suisyte Supporting the key influencers in young people’s career development

Katherine Stephen Meta-skills maturity for future workplaces

Fanni Tamasi Technology adoption and skills development in Scottish manufacturing SMEs

Marianne Wilson Natural language interfaces to support career decision-making of young people

For updates on our internship opportunities, please visit the SGSSS website 

Previous internships opportunites have examined: 

  • Long Term Outcomes of Modern Apprenticeships: OECD framework 
  • Employability Fund: successful transitions and partnership  
  • Social media and job searches
  • Linking administrative data for measuring impact   
  • Inequalities in the labour market 
  • Measuring the wider impacts of work-based learning 

More details 

The SGSSS-SDS Internship Competition gives current SGSSS students (all students registered for a PhD degree in Scotland, however funded) the opportunity to apply to undertake an internship. 

Please note that these internships present opportunities to work outside the topic area of a student’s PhD to develop a range of transferable skills, enhance employability and provide the experience of working within a public sector organisation. 

How to apply 

Applicants should submit an online application form, available on the SGSSS website which includes space for a statement of support from your principal supervisor, along with a two-page CV. 

Although you can apply for more than one, candidates can only undertake one internship. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their applications and areas of interest with the relevant SDS contact for the project in advance of submitting their application. 

For further information, please contact Emma Hollywood or Vicki Kincaid.

Our SDS PhD students have a range of opportunities to disseminate and discuss their research throughout their PhD journey.

The student seminar series offers the opportunity students to present their research to SDS colleagues and other PhD students and gives the student valuable feedback on their PhD as it develops.

The Three Minute Thesis competition challenges PhD students to explain the complexity and relevance of their research to a non-specialist audience in a concise and engaging way.

The Annual Networking Event showcases our PhD students research and helps to disseminate the research to a much larger audience of SDS colleagues, external Stakeholders and senior academics.

Our thematic impact events create opportunities to learn and contribute to new insights on a variety of topics from SDS students and their sponsors.