Heriot-Watt University School of Social Sciences full-time PhD Scholarship 2023

Level: Postgraduate research

Entry date: 01 May 2023

Closing date: 1st February 2023 

BSL and International Sign versions of this advert can be found at 

The School of Social Sciences is offering a full-time PhD scholarship for a deaf student to start in May 2023. The studentship includes PhD tuition fees and an annual stipend currently set at £17,668 for the academic year 2022-23. The duration of the studentship is four years. The School of Social Sciences also offers a research support allowance of £750 per year over the registered period of study.  In addition, full-time scholarship holders are normally offered an opportunity to undertake a modest amount of paid teaching support each academic year.

The successful candidate will be a member of our SIGNS@HWU research group, which is part of the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland, and which includes a thriving, world-leading community of deaf scholars undertaking research on a range of issues relating to deaf culture, communities and communication.  The student will be expected to engage in specialist training through our PGCert in research methods, and will have access to a wide range of additional training and other activities supported by the School, and through the University’s Research Futures Academy.

About the project 

As a consequence of the Heriot-Watt University 1821 Appeal to encourage wider participation in the university of students from diverse backgrounds, the university successfully fundraised money for the Deaf BSL Project from various donors. One of the outcomes is to fund a PhD studentship and a Postdoctoral Research Associate position for two deaf people to conduct research on deaf people’s interactions through and with technologies, with one area of focus on the experiences of deaf students.

Given the fast-moving technological sector (including uses of artificial intelligence), the purpose of this project is to identify and explore diverse deaf people’s experiences of navigating society through and with technologies. Examples of technologies include digital devices (e.g. tablets, computers, smartphones and smart watches) with multiple functions such as video-calling and note apps, and AI-driven technologies like speech recognition applications, sign language avatars, VR applications, smart glasses. It also includes the use of assistive technologies such as hearing aids, braille devices and social robots. The project will explore the nexus between technologies and agency in deaf individuals and how this intersects with multimodal communication in the everyday lives of deaf people with diverse bodies and communicative repertoires: deaf signers and non-signers, deafblind people, deafdisabled people, and neurodivergent deaf people.

Using a community-participatory approach, which is inductive and collaborative, and creative, adaptive methods, a postdoctoral researcher and a PhD student will conduct related projects to explore the deaf participants and their interlocutors’ interactions through and with technologies. The project researchers will undertake multi-sited, linguistic ethnography to examine communicative phenomena across various settings (institutional and non-institutional), such as shops, restaurants, healthcare, education or work. One of the key areas of focus will be on deaf further and higher education students’ experiences of navigating their studies through and with technologies, and how technologies can enhance their learning and student life experience.

We are interested in the following questions:

  • What technologies do deaf people use in everyday life to engage in face-to-face communication?
  • What role do technologies play in human-machine interactions involving deaf people? What are deaf people’s perceptions of the role of AI in their everyday interactions?
  • What technologies do deaf people opt to use in various institutional and non-institutional spaces?
  • In what situations do deaf people opt to use technologies for the purposes of interpreter-mediated interaction? 

Supervisors: Prof. Jemina Napier, Dr Annelies Kusters and Dr Maartje De Meulder. 

For informal enquiries, please contact Prof. Jemina Napier ( or Dr Annelies Kusters (

Entry Criteria and Application

Applicants must be deaf and should have an undergraduate degree in a relevant field with a minimum classification of 2:1. A Master’s is desirable but not essential.  Fluency in British Sign Language is desirable but not essential. In addition, candidates for whom English is a second language should meet the University’s minimum English-language requirements. If you have not already studied a degree programme that was taught and examined in the medium of English, the minimum overall IELTS score is expected to be no lower than 6.0 in Reading and Writing. If applicants have any concerns about the language requirements, please feel free to contact the academics named above.

Please note that possession of the minimum qualifications does not guarantee shortlisting for interview.

Applicants should submit their application via

Please ensure that, when prompted by the system, you select ‘PhD Languages’ as the programme for which you are applying, and that in the relevant field on the application form you indicate that you are seeking to fund your PhD through the ‘SoSS BSL PhD scholarship’.  Please ensure that you include Prof Jemina Napier’s name as the potential supervisor of the project.

Applicants should supply:

  1. A full Curriculum Vitae.
  2. Copies of full academic transcripts from all previous academic degree courses and copies of degree certificates for degrees already awarded. If you are currently pursuing a degree course please provide all available marks to date.  If your degree is from a non-UK institution, please provide evidence of the UK equivalency of your qualification.
  3. A brief covering letter outlining why you want to study for a PhD at Heriot-Watt University, and what makes you an excellent candidate.

Interviews will take place in February/March 2023, and will be conducted via video conferencing (e.g. Zoom or similar). Interview support for those with disabilities will be available where required (e.g. a BSL interpreter).

If you have any general queries about the applications process, please contact

At Heriot-Watt University we understand that being diverse makes us better which is why we support a culture of respect and equal opportunity, and value diversity at the heart of what we do. We want to increase the diversity of our workplace to underpin a dynamic and creative environment and welcome applications from underrepresented groups. Heriot-Watt is committed to giving access and opportunities to student carers, and received the Going Higher for Student Carers Recognition Award from Carers Trust Scotland in 2020.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Google Europe Students with Disabilities Scholarship 2023

Keele University AHRC-Funded PhD Studentship 2023