Deadline: 2016-01-25
Value of Scholarship: Bangor
Level Of Study: PhD

Fully funded 3 year PhD studentship in Applied Behaviour Analysis

PhD in Behaviour analytic contributions to the lives of people with dementia and learning disabilities: Ensuring a good quality of life.

Dr Rebecca Sharp and Professor Robert Jones

There is an urgent need for investigations into evidence-based approaches to ensuring quality of life of people with dementia and learning disabilities. It is estimated that 700,000 people in the UK have a learning disability, and that 1 in 5 of those over the age of 65 will also develop dementia (Alzheimer’s Society, 2015). Challenges faced by people with learning disabilities and dementia (and the services from which they receive support) include difficulties in diagnosis, co-occurring health concerns, overcoming communicative difficulties, and receiving adequate and specialised support. Currently, there is almost no evidence-based literature to guide implementation of strategies to ensure early diagnosis or design optimal service provision for people with dementia and learning disabilities. Furthermore, there is little research on how people with dementia and learning disabilities interact with their environment, and how behaviour change principles can be used effectively with this population.

Behaviour change approaches involve the direct observation of behaviour in real-life settings and the application of behavioural principles to improve quality of life of people with dementia. Behavioural gerontology is a rapidly growing field internationally. Behavioural approaches have been shown to be effective in addressing difficult behaviours, restoring lost behaviours, and teaching new skills to ameliorate the loss of other skills. This project will be at the cutting edge of behavioural gerontology in the UK, and its application to a specialised population (people with dementia and learning disability). The aims of the project are to: 1. determine the approach and effectiveness of current service provision; 2. explore methods to assess and measure the changes in behaviour and behavioural challenges in people with dementia and learning disabilities; 3. use evidence-based approaches of assessing and reducing dangerous or inappropriate behaviours; and, 4. develop and evaluate training for direct care staff to implement behavioural programmes. Intensive investigation involving small participant groups will demonstrate the effectiveness of methods, and is well-suited to working with people with dementia and learning disabilities as the variations across people’s progression through dementia can be followed easily and approaches tailored accordingly.

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Requirements: Applicants are expected to have a first or upper second-class degree in experimental psychology or neuroscience and a relevant Masters qualification. The applicant should be highly motivated and creative with strong written and oral communication skills.

Funding amount: The studentship covers the full cost of UK/EU  tuition fees, plus a maintenance stipend in line with RCUK (provisional £14,254* for full time award holders in 2016/17) per annum for 3 years and a research allowance of £750*

Further information: Informal enquiries may be directed to Dr Rebecca Sharp ( or Prof. Robert Jones (

Residency requirements: This studentship is open to UK/EU students only. Interested students from outside the EU should contact Dr Sharp or Prof. Jones to discuss other possible routes for funding.

General information: PhD students are expected to contribute to teaching in the department.

General enquiries: For administrative advice about how to apply and eligibility, please contact Everil McQuarrie: 

The online application form is available here:

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