Scholarships & funding opportunities

PhD Politics Project: Focus on child friendly justice systems; funded by the Inspiring Children’s Futures Doctoral Research Centre

The Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures Doctoral Research Centre (DRC) is focussing unwaveringly on ‘Achieving the Well-being of Children in the COVID-19 Recovery Decade’. Driven by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, this DRC aims to generate new knowledge, and apply this effectively in policy, professional practice environments, and the settings in which children live their lives.

  • Number of scholarships 1
  • Opens 22 November 2021
  • Deadline 25 April 2022
  • Help with Tuition fees, Living costs
  • Duration Three years


Prospective applicants should:

  • hold a strong undergraduate degree in a relevant discipline at 2:1 (or equivalent) or better
  • hold a Masters’ degree (or equivalent) in a broadly relevant discipline
  • demonstrate an interest in, and knowledge of, a global outlook and a real world impact for children
  • demonstrate the ability to undertake independent research
  • have an interest in acquiring and/or further developing skills in translation of research into policy
  • additionally, candidates who are not native English speakers will be required to provide evidence for their English skills (such as by IELTS or similar tests approved by UKVI, or a degree completed in an English speaking country)

Project Details

The following Principles underpin the DRC’s Work Programme:

  • founded in the global frameworks of:
    • the UN Agenda 2030 and the SDGs, and notably SDG 16
    • the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
    • the Justice for Children, Justice for All Ten Challenges
  • grounded in a sound theoretical and conceptual framework; based on data and evidence; and providing real world applied insights and value
  • informed by, and contributing to, global experience and knowledge
  • contributing to the effective implementation of programmes to advance the well-being of children
  • embracing participatory and partnership elements

The DRC will hold several key attributes:

  • the DRC draws together world-class scholars to study across disciplines, on complex problems that require the insights from multiple perspectives
  • it is multi-disciplinary, with doctoral students working together on common questions as a mutually supportive and joint cluster of PhDs
  • it explicitly advances the University vision to promote cross-University collective scholarship, by building on the immense potential for joint engagement and for the joint analysis of the critical societal challenges
  • DRC Doctoral students engage in the global challenge questions of how best to realise SDG 16, and in particular children’s well-being, around the world
  • they also draw together those across the campus who are working to achieve children’s well-being from multiple perspectives, learning from each other and sparking innovations and ideas
  • the research themes are drawn together to form a complementary and coherent set of studentships’ research questions; that is, the overall Research Programme explicitly reflects the highly integrated and dependent nature of the children’s well-being, economic and governance perspectives, and the criticality of bringing these perspectives together in a coherent focussed manner
  • supervision is collectively undertaken, with both a systematic supervision of each individual, as well as a less formal supervision of the cluster as a whole, drawing on a broader set of experts from both the academic and practitioner worlds. These include academic experts and individuals with experience of real-world policy and implementation

For more detail on the overall Research Programme and how this studentship fit into the bigger programme of work, please see Inspiring Children's Futures Centre for Doctoral Training.

Project on government policy implementation for children’s wellbeing

This #ICFDRC studentship is aligned with our partner, the OECD. The Key Focus of the Doctoral Studentship in Politics, in the School of Government and Public Policy Sound public governance is essential to ensure that policies foster prosperity, equality and well-being for all. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many governance gaps and challenges in addressing needs and rights of those in already disadvantaged or in vulnerable positions, including children. The complexity of convergent crises, for example the pandemic, the climate emergency, brings added challenges and stressors on government.

Child adversity encompasses a range of individual and environmental factors having a profound effect on well-being outcomes. The strategies and measures implemented to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 are having a significant impact on children’s current well-being outcomes and future opportunities and trajectories. School closures, social distancing, and confinement have increased learning gaps and the risk of poor
nutrition among children and young people. They have worsened children’s exposure to the impacts of poor housing quality, domestic violence and abuse, and raised their anxiety and stress, while at the same time reducing their access to vital family and care services. The scale of unmet social and economic, legal and justice needs reinforce the vulnerability of children, placing them outside the effective protection systems
and make them particularly susceptible to experience poor well-being outcomes. For instance, the lack of sufficiently effective and coordinated support and treatment from state institutions (e.g. health, police, social, justice) to child victims of violence often leads to a breach of their human rights. It can affect various areas of children’s existence – personal safety and security, psychological well-being, health, economic situation, access to education among others.

This is also a time of convergent crises, with the climate emergency and environmental issues posing increasing risks to all, and which are having a disproportionate impact on the children and their families who are already facing adversities. This has the potential for even greater generational impact.

Defining the Challenge to be Addressed by the Project

This particular complexity requires an effective and multi-disciplinary response from government. Putting children at the centre of systems is an essential ingredient to ensuring a resilient pandemic and climate recovery, and to mitigate long-lasting personal and societal consequences.

In many countries, silos-dominated government structures fail to engage effectively in horizontal coordination on child policies. Individual departments and agencies are often oriented towards particular and single aspects of child well-being under their mandate, losing sight of its bigger picture. Lack of overarching priorities and common agenda pose a great challenge to improving child well-being outcomes.

Ensuring an effective whole-of-government and indeed a whole-of-society response requires breaking down silos and embedding horizontal co-ordination and integration into policy design and implementation processes. At the strategic level, it considers sound mechanisms for implementation, oversight, and accountability; strong data on results for decision-making; and adequate funding. It also explores the different dimensions of child well-being, synergies, trade-offs and unintended consequences of policy actions. Institutionally, the whole-of-government approach calls for a clear distribution of roles and responsibilities across ministries and agencies at various governance levels with one ministry or a stand-alone agency taking responsibility for
coordinating the collective response and ensuring overall accountability.

Key to recovery will include strengthening governance practices and capacities to meet the challenges of the UN Sustainability Development Goals for children in the coming decade; building their decision-making processes in the face of this complexity and competing priorities; and ensuring that their recovery efforts also support the delivery of high-level and cross-cutting priorities for children.

Taking the Project Forward:

An interdisciplinary approach is required which encompasses the specialism of public policy and administration on the one hand, and a detailed knowledge of the complexities of ensuring children well-being, especially in the current times of pandemic and climate change. With the aim of finding effective modes of policy integration and administrative coordination to ensure an effective implementation of whole-of-government and whole-of-society approaches, this project will therefore include the following research questions:

  • How can a whole-of-government approach in promoting children well-being be pursued in a context of multiple centres of decision making occurring simultaneously across governments, markets, and civil society, across levels (i.e., global, national, provincial/state, and local) and policy domains?
  • What types of policy goals and instruments are a better fit to achieve a whole-of-government approach to children well-being? And what types of administrative coordination reform can facilitate horizontal integration and coordination? Can these two different types of reform be designed coherently together?
  • To what extent is the transformation of the (administrative) State a condition for ensuring the effectiveness of a whole-of-government approach in children well-being?
  • What are the wider benefits to other national objectives, of a whole-of-government approach to children’s well-being?
  • How might a whole-of-government approach delivery better outcomes, and how can we analyse the comparative value and net benefit of taking such an approach?
  • What are the drivers, incentives and barriers to administrative coordination reform, and policy integration and coordination, for promoting children well-being? How is such a reform then sustained and delivered consistently?
  • What is the role of international organisations in promoting and facilitating a whole-of-government and a whole-of-society approach? What are the conditions for transferring and translating best practice in whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach from other geographical context and policy sectors?
  • How is a child well-being whole-of-government approach integrated with a whole-of-society approach? And how can these approaches ensure an effective and multi-disciplinary service system for children?

In addressing these questions, this doctoral research project aims to engage with national and international policymakers by providing policy recommendations based on lessons and evidence drawn from the impact of administrative and policy reform on effective implementation. To do so, this project relies on the collaboration of the Institute for Inspiring Children’s Futures with the OECD Governance directorate, UN agencies with a mandate for children’s rights, international non-governmental children and family service delivery organisations, and international scholars specialised on policy integration and administrative coordination.

How to apply

For more detail on the overall Research Programme and how this studentship fit into the bigger programme of work, please see Inspiring Children's Futures Centre for Doctoral Training.

Please submit your application with the following documents as email attachments to Graduate School at, with subject line "ICF Doctoral Research Centre – PhD Government & Public Policy Scholarship", by 5pm on 25 April 2022:

  1. A proposal outlining the PhD project (max. three pages incl. references) based on the focused themes above
  2. An academic curriculum vitae
  3. Degree transcripts
  4. Two academic reference letters

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and shortlisted applicants will be notified by 5 May 2022.

Interviews will take place in the last week of May 2022, with the studentship starting 1 October 2022.

There is flexibility with this start date.

Success at interview is not necessarily acceptance of the research topic.

Research topics will be open for further discussion, to enable coherence across all studentships working together in this DCR.

Candidates who are successful at interview will then be asked to complete the University’s online application form and submit their degree certificates and English language qualification (if required).

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