Midlands4Cities Collaborative Doctoral Award

Midlands4Cities Collaborative Doctoral Award (CDA) Opportunity: Pathways to Wellbeing: exploring the social and spatial role of museums in supporting mental wellbeing

Application deadline: 14th January 2020 noon (including receipt of references). You need to first have applied for a place of study before submitting your final application.

Interviews will take place in mid February at the University of Leicester.

Start date: 28th September 2020

The School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, in partnership with the Holburne Museum, Bath, invites applications for a Collaborative Doctoral Award to conduct research leading to a PhD on the theme: Pathways to Wellbeing: exploring the social and spatial role of museums in supporting creativity.

This CDA studentship will examine the unique aspects of the museum experience and creative museum-based activities in order to understand how museums can support mental wellbeing and mental health. The research will be based on the Holburne Museum’s Pathways to Wellbeing programme as the main case study. Pathways to Wellbeing provides creative and learning experiences for people who have experienced mental health issues, social isolation and homelessness.

The focus of the CDA is to consider the specific characteristics of museums and creativity in a museum context, and how they relate to mental wellbeing.

The CDA will also examine how programmes such as Pathways to Wellbeing can be scaled up into a sustainable social prescribing model, and how these programmes can lead to wider organisational change. Key questions that underpin this studentship include: 

1) What are the affective, spatial and socio-material dimensions of museums and creative museum-based activities that support mental wellbeing?

2) How do such programmes change the perceptions of the role of the museum in terms of a) participants and b) museum staff and volunteers?

3) How can museums better integrate with their local Clinical Commissioning Groups and Mental Health Trusts to build more sustainable models of care?

The PhD will be supervised by Dr Nuala Morse, School of Museum Studies, Louise Campion, Holburne Museum and Professor Suzanne Macleod, School of Museum Studies.

The Holburne is one of the UK’s best-loved independent art gallery and museum, with collections that include Old Master paintings and a range of decorative arts including Renaissance bronzes, ceramics and silver. The Pathways to Wellbeing programme (2016-2022) is led by Louise Campion at the Holburne and delivered in partnership with Bath Preservation Trust, American Museum & Gardens and The Edge at the University of Bath.

Methodology and data collection

The study is underpinned by a qualitative approach. This approach will deepen previous quasi-experimental and quantitative studies to examine the felt qualities of museum spaces and the effects of the whole museum experience.

Data collection will take place in year 2 (2021-22) over a ten-month period from May 2021.

It is expected that the methods developed for this project will include:

  • an in-depth ethnography of the Pathways to Wellbeing programme
  • in-depth, semi-structured interviews with participants and other approaches to capturing participant experiences of the programme.
  • interviews with staff and volunteers and with health commissioners

The data collection will be conducted on site at the Holburne Museum and two museum partner sites in Bath.  The collaborative context of the CDA ensures the student will be supported on site working alongside the Museum supervisor Louise Campion who coordinates the Pathways programme, enabling elements of research action and reflective practice.

The research collaboration will directly support the Holburne’s ambition to become a centre for excellence for creative health and wellbeing. A collaborative output will be agreed during the research period that will enable the findings to be communicated across both the museum sector and the mental health sector. There will also be opportunities for the PhD student to contribute to a large-scale symposium to share the learning and project outcomes at the Holburne Museum at the end of the funded project (2022). Where appropriate, opportunities will be explored for the student to support exhibitions related to work produced by Pathways participants. 

Further enquiries

For informal enquiries about the project, please contact Dr Nuala Morse, Nuala.morse@leicester.ac.uk; 0116 252 3975

How to apply

To apply you must submit both of the following:

a)    University of Leicester PhD application  - deadline 6th January 2020

We would recommend you try, where possible, to submit your PhD application to Leicester before Christmas or at the very latest by 6th January 2020. (The PhD application is: University of Leicester application form, and all degree certificates and transcripts of marks). This will allow you time to submit your M4C funding application (Step 2) in good time for your referees to submit their references before the 14th January noon deadline.

And   b) Midlands4Cities funding application – deadline 14th January 2020

For detailed information about the application process see:


What you should include in your application

a) For the University of Leicester School of Museum Studies application, please complete an online University of Leicester PhD application form.  The statement should outline:

  • academic qualifications and/or relevant professional experience and expertise
  • your motivation to pursue this Collaborative Doctoral Partnership
  • a provisional outline of a research topic within the thematic parameters given above. The outline should set out indicative aims and objectives, how you would approach the research questions, scholarly context, methods and sources.

Application and reference forms are available at: https://www2.le.ac.uk/research-degrees/phd/museum-studies

Under the funding section select Studentship and in the drop-down list select AHRC Midlands4Cities.

In the References section, do not include your referee's email address. Instead, in the tab provided use pgradmissions@le.ac.uk as the email for both referees. References are requested as part of the AHRC M4C application only.

b) For the M4C application, please complete the online form on the M4C website.

For more details about the M4C application, please refer to the M4C website and please read the M4C guidance notes. The guidance notes contain specific information for CDA applicants. Your application should include:

  • how your research develops in the overall context of the collaborative project and how the methods and critical approaches help address the research questions of the collaborative project.
  • an outline of how your preparation and previous experience will contribute to the successful delivery of the proposed project
  • a discussion of how the collaborative nature of the project will benefit your study and how it relates to your career aims.  

Candidates must also arrange for two academic references to be submitted to M4C by the deadline. (for further information on referees please email ms-pgr@leicester.ac.uk)


Full-time studentships (4 years)

  • Payment of approved fees (as set and agreed by UK Research and Innovation), currently £4,327 p.a. for 2019/20.
  • Maintenance grant (or stipend) for the student, currently £15,009 p.a. for 2019 entry.
  • Research Development Fund (RDF) and Engagement Fund (EF) which support UK/overseas fieldwork/archive visits, attendance at conferences and skills training.

Part-time studentships

  • Payment of approved pro-rata part-time fees.
  • A pro-rata maintenance grant at 50% (stipend).
  • Research Development Fund (RDF) and Engagement Fund (EF) which support UK/overseas fieldwork/archive visits, attendance at conferences and skills training.

EU fees-only studentships

Where institutional funds allow, M4C may be able to offer a fully-funded studentship to EU applicants. This is not guaranteed but we hope to be able to offer stipends whenever possible.

Eligibility and entry requirements

Please refer to https://le.ac.uk/study/research-degrees/funded-opportunities/m4c-open-doctoral-award.

Further Information

For more information about the project: https://www.midlands4cities.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/Pathways-to-Wellbeing-UoL.pdf.

For more information about the Holburne Museum and the Pathways to Wellbeing programme, see https://www.holburne.org/pathways-to-wellbeing/

For more information on the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, see here - https://le.ac.uk/museum-studies