People affected by burns

Online support for people affected by burn injuries. Closed to applications.


An opportunity to apply for a funded full-time PhD in the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, UWE Bristol.  The studentship will be funded by Vocational Training Charitable Trust (VTCT) Foundation

Ref: 2021-OCT-HAS03.

The expected start date of this studentship is 1 October 2020.

The closing date for applications is 6 July 2020. 

Studentship details

This is an exciting opportunity to conduct a funded full-time PhD. The successful candidate will benefit from the opportunities presented by being part of a thriving internationally known university research centre, the Centre for Appearance Research (CAR), focused on psychosocial aspects of appearance including those associated with burn injuries. CAR has a strong, vibrant postgraduate community, and links with relevant NHS services and support organisations. 

The supervisory team will include Professor Diana Harcourt (Professor of Appearance and Health Psychology and Director of CAR), Dr Catrin Griffiths and Dr Pippa Tollow, who all have experience and expertise in burns research. The PhD will also benefit from expertise provided by members of the Health Experiences Research Group (HERG) at Oxford University.


Over 250,000 people sustain a burn injury in the UK each year (National Burn Care Review 2001). A growing (but still small) body of research has explored the experience of living with a burn injury and highlighted the extensive and enduring impact it can have, including the challenges of adjusting to an altered appearance, responding to the reactions of other people, coping with pain and the burden of treatment. Psychological issues include anxiety, guilt, grief, and depressive symptoms (see Attoe & Pounds-Cornish, 2015; Brewin & Homer, 2018).  Many people manage these considerable challenges very well, but others could benefit from psychosocial interventions yet the provision of support and information for those affected is still limited and ad-hoc (Harcourt et al, 2018; Brewin & Homer, 2018).

Online information and support can offer significant benefits for patients (Bartlett & Coulson, 2009). Health websites that include patients’ experiences are particularly effective in engaging those who visit the site (Sillence et al 2007; Ziebland & Wyke, 2012). However, there is currently a lack of online resources providing patient experiences for others affected by burn injuries.  At the same time, there is a need for health professional training in order to raise their awareness of the issues faced by burns patients (Guest et al, 2018; Phillips & Rumsey, 2008). This PhD will provide online support for people affected by burns, and raise health professionals’ awareness and understanding of their experiences.

The precise details of the PhD will be finalised by the successful student, who will be supported to identify a unique focus to the research in order to make a novel contribution to research in this field, using appropriate methodology. However, it will include a qualitative study with people from across the UK who have been affected by burns, and family members, and use these interviews to inform the creation of a burn-specific module of the award-winning Healthtalkwebsite.

In addition to providing much needed evidence-informed resources for the benefit of the burns community, this PhD will also offer an excellent training opportunity to develop the specific research skills and expertise of an early career researcher looking to establish a career in psychosocial burns research.

For an informal discussion about the studentship, please email


The studentship is available from 1 October 2020 for a period of three years, subject to satisfactory progress and includes a tax exempt stipend, which is currently £15,285 per annum. 

In addition, full-time tuition fees will be covered for up to three years (Home/EU rates only). Overseas applicants will be required to cover the difference between Home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates in each year of study.


This will be a three-year full-time commitment. The project is ideal for a self-motivated and enthusiastic student with a good honours degree (2:1 or equivalent, or above) in psychology or other relevant field, and evidence of further study at Masters level or equivalent (eg MSc Health Psychology, MSc Psychological Research Methods). Knowledge and experience of the psychosocial impact of burns and changes to appearance, qualitative research methods, and researching sensitive issues will be very desirable, as will experience of conducting appearance-related research.

A recognised English language qualification is required.

How to apply

Please submit your application online. When prompted, use the reference number: Ref 2021-OCT-HAS03.

Supporting documentation: you will need to upload your research proposal, all your degree certificates and transcripts and your proof of English language proficiency as attachments to your application so please have these available when you complete the application form.

References: you will need to provide details of two referees as part of your application. At least one referee must be an academic referee from the institution that conferred your highest degree. Your referee will be asked for a reference at the time you submit your application, so please ensure that your nominated referees are willing and able to provide references within 14 days of your application being submitted. 

Closing date

The closing date for applications is 6 July 2020.

Further information

Interviews will take place on 16 July 2020. If you have not heard from us by 21 July 2020, we thank you for your application but on this occasion you have not been successful.

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