The final blog post of the PhD!

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Five years ago, back in 2015, I applied for a PhD studentship at Edinburgh Napier University. Not long after the closing date for applications for the post, I received an email from Professor Hazel Hall inviting me to an interview. I had not thought that I would get the studentship, but less than thirty minutes after my interview in Edinburgh, I got a phone call from Hazel to offer me the post (whilst in the back of a taxi!) and this phone call officially kick-started my PhD move to Edinburgh (which formally started later that year).

Today I am posting the very final PhD blog post. This is because my PhD is now officially complete. As of today, July 9th 2020, the Chancellor of my University has (technically speaking, according to the dates on our certificates) conferred all awards and I have been officially awarded my PhD.

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Usually this happens during Graduation when the Chancellor gives his speech. However, with everything going on, our awards are conferred today (on the University results day) and some online celebrations will follow in the coming days, which I believe will include the Chancellor’s speech. To see the celebrations, it is best to keep an eye on the Edinburgh Napier University Official Twitter page where any media related celebrations will be published in due course. My certificate will follow soon when it can be printed, and it is hoped that my thesis will be made available online in September, but this of course depends on how things go.

Given the current Covid-19 situation, the summer graduation ceremonies were of course cancelled, and now the autumn ones in 2020 have been too. This means that I have not yet been able to celebrate my achievement with friends and family, and it will probably be some time before I am able to do so. By the time I am able to celebrate, my blog will no longer exist as I will not be renewing my website in September. By then my online presence will be significantly reduced. I will only be keeping my Twitter, LinkedIn and Researchgate profiles as the remaining academic media profiles have all now been deleted. You’ll still be able to find my presentation slides on my SlideShare account.IMG_2638

I am very pleased with my achievements over the last five years and today marks to biggest. I am thankful to all of the academic people who have offered support over the past five years, especially Professor Hazel Hall, Dr Laura Muir and Professor Robert Raeside – I could not have done this without you.

It has been one hell of a (nearly) five year journey including…

… visits to four non-UK countries/cities (Zadar in Croatia, Turku in Finland, Krakow in Poland, Vancouver in Canada);

… visits to many Scottish cities;

… visits to many English cities;

data collection from organisations in three countries (Scotland, England, Finland);

four publications (two PhD related and two non-PhD related);

two news articles published about me and my work;

twelve conference presentations;

seven poster presentations;

four invited talks (including this one, this one and this one);

one ‘best paper’ award;

one ‘best oral presentation’ award;

two second place awards for posters;

five successful funding applications;

… participation in lots of CSI Research Centre meetings (this one was my final one);

… experience in teaching of Project Management for Information Systems and Information Technology Service Management;

… experience as an internal Student Rep for Napier, external Student Rep for SGSSS, conference paper reviewer, conference organiser, Copy Editor for Information Research and organiser of various training and development events;

… working on a three month internship at the Scottish Government on the impact of mobile working technology in for healthcare practitioners;

… enough skills developed to last me a lifetime;

… successful application for a really good job, which appears to be a common theme amongst the graduates in our research group;

… being part of a PhD team where my Director of Studies has a very impressive reputation for being one of the most well-respected PhD supervisors in Scotland as well as a top teacher, who has a hell of a good reputation for the successful completion of her PhD students not only in their academic studies, but also helping to develop them as well rounded researchers so they can enter the job market prepared for the careers they choose – all evidenced here, here, here, here, here and here (including six students on the funding path I was on).

… and being part of a wonderful academic family!IMG_2641

This wonderful academic family sent a boat load of congratulatory messages this morning on the day which was supposed to by my graduation. It is very heart-warming to know that even though I cannot properly celebrate with everyone yet, the members of the research group still get together to make sure that great things are celebrated in our very own way.

🙂

With very best wishes!

Dr Lyndsey Middleton

My research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of a +3 PhD collaborative studentship award. It was supported through a partnership between Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences – Doctoral Training Centre (SGSSS-DTC) and Skills Development Scotland.

So what is post-PhD life looking like?

ETAH7eXXsAAkoBZI am sitting here on a beautifully sunny Sunday afternoon inside and I am typing instead of enjoying the sun. Of course you all know by now that this because of the current Covid-19 situation which means we are restricted in when/where we can go outside. However I do have the benefit of a sunshine hit balcony that I can sit on when the weather is lovely like today. Before I go and enjoy the sun, I thought I would are some thoughts of the current situation, my situation and what my post-PhD life looks like.

As you know, I passed my PhD viva in December 2019 and since then, my minor corrections have been accepted. Before the UK went into lockdown I was able to formally submit my hard-bound copy of my thesis (in the picture you can see) so that this can be added to the library collection and as an online copy in due course. I will find out in May whether the Research Degrees Committee accept the recommendations of my examiners (i.e. that I have passed my PhD) and the formal awarding of my PhD certificate will then follow. Since submitting my final PhD, I have been continuing to work as a government statistician and enjoying what I do, so nothing has really changed there. It has been rather strange focusing all of my attention on one thing that is not my PhD, and then being able to rest at the weekend. In this respect, I have been getting my social life back (as much as I can at the moment).

In a previous blog post, I also mentioned some post-PhD writing that I was intending to do. To provide an update on this is important because it tells the world that my PhD has not immediately stopped upon completion. Instead, my work has started expanding in the academic and non-academic domain. I have now formalised my Policy Briefing Paper that I was writing for SDS. This was a requirement for my funding as it helps SDS see the output of my research and then do some work on how they can apply the findings to practice. However, my work with SDS has officially come to an end now and I will only be following this up should there be any questions on my work.

Secondly, my work on my post-submission journal articles is ongoing. I have been able to (very slowly) write a draft of my main journal article draft for submission and this has focused on the development of the innovative work behaviour framework created from my PhD. The second article will focus more on the contribution of information literacy and information behaviours to innovative work behaviour development, and this is a draft in progress right now. My writing of the second article is a priority for when I have some down time on a weekend and feel comfortable in getting some work done.

It is also probably not a surprise that another consequence of the Covid-19 outbreak is that my graduation ceremony has officially been cancelled. It was scheduled to take place on July 1st this year so instead of being awarded my PhD whilst walking on stage, I will be awarded my PhD as I ‘graduate’ in absentia. This means that I will not be able to celebrate with my friends and family at my formal ceremony in July, but the hope is that this can then take place in the autumn graduation ceremony celebrations later this year. Instead, in accordance with university regulations, the Chancellor will formally and legally confer the awards in absentia so that our certificates can then be produced. At this point, I will have officially been awarded my PhD, but I am a little gutted to be honest… I had only just bought my graduation dress at the beginning of March not knowing that I would not be needing to wear it on July 1st, and that it will now sit in my wardrobe for a few more months.

I don’t think anyone expected the Covid-19 situation to be so world-wide and severe, and that life would be turned upside down, but it has. Students should not expect to be able to operate perfectly during these unusual times and should also try and focus on their own health and wellbeing too. I am finding that I can focus for only short lengths of time in one go, so that’s what I am doing (obviously this is not on my PhD but you get the drift). And I would advise PhD students to just do what you can. There is absolutely no expectation that you will be able to work for a full 8 hour working day at home, and you should not expect yourself to be able to do this either. Instead, doing work at a time that suits you is probably a good approach right now, and making sure you have plenty of breaks in between. One thing I would advise is to make a list of priority tasks that need doing, and then split these up into smaller parts. In that way, you can assess the progress made, no matter how small or large the progress steps are and know that you are making some progress. I also understand that some PhD students have absolutely no energy or will to work right now, and this could be due to worry with funding, impact on data collection, completion dates and everything associated with the above. This is also fine. At times like this taking a break is often welcomed and potentially what you need. My only piece of advice is to make sure you communicate with those who supervise you and let them know what’s going on. I would hope that supervisors and those in a role of support would welcome the update and they will be able to help to cheer you on and talk through your concerns when you don’t feel like you can work.

JOURNEY SGSSS

Lyndsey Middleton

Introducing *Dr* Lyndsey Middleton!

IMG_2049I am pleased to report that as of late yesterday afternoon, I was notified that both of my PhD thesis examiners had approved my thesis corrections and I will formally be awarded my PhD in our July 2020 graduation. Although I technically should not call myself Dr until I am awarded my PhD at the graduation ceremony, this comes as a huge relief and the most welcome email after what I can only call a pretty awful afternoon. It also means that I have now also completed the SGSSS-SDS Collaborative PhD Programme which will be finalised once our Research Degrees Committee sign-off the decision of my examiners in May (and then the university can make my thesis public).

I now have several things that I am working on to bring a final end to my PhD and all related work. Firstly, I have updated all of my social media outlets to reflect my (nearly) new title. To me this is an important step as it involves removing my student status from most of my profiles and replacing it with my Assistant Statistician role (keeping the PhD as an educational qualification of course).

IMG_2048Secondly, I have plans in place with my PhD supervisors to write two journal articles for submission: one on the main innovation framework I developed as part of my PhD research and one on the influence of information literacy on innovative work behaviour development. I already have my first paper planned out and we are hoping that this can be submitted for journal review before I graduate as a final achievement before the very end (i.e. when I am formally awarded my PhD).

Thirdly, I have some unfinished work with Skills Development Scotland. I have drafted up a policy briefing paper but have figured that the main issue with writing this before the thesis is approved/made open access is that the SDS staff are unable to see the finished thing (the thesis, not the paper!). This means that some of the context to the policy paper is missing and questions have arose from my policy paper draft that have actually been answered in my thesis write up itself. As a consequence, we have decided to postpone the finalisation of the policy paper until SDS have time to read the relevant sections of my thesis once it is publicly available. Only then can we have a proper discussion of the work needed to bring the policy paper drafting to an end and formalise that very final draft.

In addition to this policy briefing paper, I have also provided Skills Development Scotland with a draft copy of my innovation framework. The reason for doing so this early was so that SDS colleagues can seek feedback from policy colleagues as to the applicability of the framework in their own work. I am unable to change the actual output of my PhD as this is the framework I have developed from my practical work, but SDS may very well wish to undertake some additional work to explore the use or implementation of my framework in practise as part of their own future developments.

After this, who knows what will happen to my PhD research and related research work…

**Fully-funded PhD studentship opportunity** Natural language interfaces to support career decision-making of young people

doctoral studentThe school of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University currently have a vacancy for a fully-funded PhD student to start in October 2020.

The scholarship is part of the same funding scheme as mine and is a Skills Development Scotland Collaborative award, offered through the ESRC-funded Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS).

The research is entitled ‘natural language interfaces to support career decision-making of young people’ and the PhD centres on the development of a dialogue system utilising existing data held by Skills Development Scotland, for young people to engage ‘in conversation’ about their career interests, aspirations, and strengths. The system to be developed is anticipated to take the form of an interactive avatar with identifiable human characteristics. As a previous careers adviser, I know that this is a hot topic and something we need to invest in!

The successful student will be supervised by staff from two research groups in the School of Computing plus a supervisor from the School of Applied Sciences:

  1. Professor Hazel Hall, Director of the Centre for Social Informatics;
  2. Dr Dimtra Gkatzia based in the Nature-inspired Intelligent Systems group;
  3. Dr Pete Robertson from the Social Sciences Research Group in the School of Applied Sciences

I have been supervised and supported by two out of the three of these staff members and can personally recommend the great supervisory team myself!

As a student who has very nearly completed my PhD on this funding stream, I know the fab experience that students have throughout their years of study. For example, apart from being supervised by very experienced and knowledgeable staff (see above), the School of Computing has a very strong track record of supervising SDS collaborative studentships, with two completions to date (in 2018 and 2019) and three on-going studentships.

This knowledge is also extended from the appointed sponsor each SDS student will be given to provide advice and guidance throughout the study. This is imperative to ensure that the research fits with the needs of SDS but also so that you, as the student, are able to understand how SDS and other professionals/practitioners will befit from the outputs of your work. For me, this understanding has been vital in the last two years of my research, especially post-thesis submission when I have been able to work with SDS and present my work to key stakeholders at networking events before writing a final policy briefing on the key findings and applications of my research. This is something not offered by all studentships!

In addition, students will have various opportunities to present their research at conferences, both locally and internationally. My international conference participation took me to more local places such as Aberdeen and Sheffield, and more further afield such as Zadar (Croatia), Krakow (Poland), Vancouver and Finland (not a conference as such but I got t present my work in a local university during my visit) – all of which I presented my work in paper or poster form. I have also been able to network with other students and learn more about my own domain of research and academic life by attending the doctoral workshops offered by most of the conferences.

We are also very blessed in the School of Computing to have some funding available to help doctoral students to travel and take part in these conferences and also attend various training and development opportunities offered both in and outside of Scotland. The training and development focuses on many aspects of developing as a researcher, so no matter which area you feel you would like to improve, there is always training and developmet activities offered to help. For me, I used to hate presenting my work and delivering those nerve-wracking talks. However, this is something I have been able to work on over the past four years and I don’t think twice about saying ‘yes’ if now asked to talk to others about my own work.

You can find more about the specific requirements of the PhD studentship on the blog post from Professor Hazel Hall (https://hazelhall.org/2020/02/04/fully-funded-phd-studentship-opportunity-natural-language-interfaces-to-support-career-decision-making-of-young-people/and also on the SGSSS Grad Hub where you will apply (https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/studentship/natural-language-interfaces/.). The key dates for the studentship application are as follows:

  • Applications for this studentship should be submitted to GradHub by Friday 28th February 2020 at midday
  • Interviews are scheduled at Edinburgh Napier University’s Merchiston campus for the afternoon of Friday 6th March
  • The start date for successful candidates is Thursday 1st October 2020

Full details of eligibility criteria and the application process (through GradHub) can be found on the Current studentship opportunities page of the SGSSS web site.

For further information about this studentship, please contact Dr Professor Hazel Hall (h.hall@napier.ac.uk) or Dr Dimitra Gkatzia (d.gkatzia@napier.ac.uk).

 

Viva passed! :-)

IMG_1610I am pleased to say that earlier this week I passed my PhD viva, subject to minor corrections. This means that I will be awarded my PhD in our summer graduation ceremony as long as my corrections get approved by my examiners.

I have not blogged for a while, but this is because I took some time out before starting my viva preparation to give myself a break. When I returned to PhD land, I was confused on how to prepare so I started reading the whole thesis again (all 360 pages of it), making notes on my decisions along the way. This took a fair few weeks (or Saturdays) as I only had good time to work on this for one day per week.

In the weeks following this, I then looking into come viva questions, including those in the Viva cards in my picture. I borrowed these from our Research and Innovation department and returned these on the viva day, but they were ideal to help me prepare for what I might be asked.IMG_1611

As part of the process I also had a mock viva with two Napier staff from another school. I am thankful for the time Dr Pete Robertson and Dr Gavin Maclean took to read my work and question me. They helped me to point out some areas that I needed to work on further and fortunately for me these areas were a focus of my real viva.

In the days leading up my viva I was quite poorly. I got this wonderful cold/flu/sickens thing that was going about and this flawed me for a week. I was concerned that the lack of viva preparation done in this time would impact on my performance but I was clearly mistaken given the outcome.

On the actual day of my viva I was quite nervous. I sat in my supervisor’s office wondering what was to come. However as soon as I stepped into the meeting room with my examiners, my nerves disappeared before I had even sat down. For me this is very normal, and I tend to worry about what is to come and then focus all of that worry into performing as well as I can.

My examiners were Dr Alison Pickard (my external examiner form Northumbria University) and Dr Gemma Webster (my internal examiner from our school). The questions were focused primarily on the definitions of the concept in my work, my philosophical approach and the main contribution to knowledge of my work. I had prepared responses to all of these questions in advance so the conversation was flowed fairly well and I do not think I struggled to answer these at all. I also had my Director of Studies in the room too. Her role was to sit (out of my view) and take notes on the fdca1058-6c15-4270-a59c-8a0474f11283discussions so that we could reflect on these once I receive my corrections. I am grateful to Hazel for being there through the process so did not wind myself up in a mess.

I was quite surprised at the length of my viva, very shot at one hour and fifteen minutes. Within this time, my examiners asked all of the questions that the wanted to and I provided all information they needed to come to a result of my exam, and I was also provided with the opportunity to add any further remarks too. It did not take them very long to make the decision of my viva together and I was soon called back to the meeting room to find out this result.

I am overjoyed with the results of passing my PhD viva with minor corrections. This means that I will be Dr Lyndsey Middleton in the not so distant future!

PhD thesis submitted!

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Photo credit to Chris, my husband, who came with me to submit my thesis.

I am very pleased to say that my PhD thesis was officially submitted for examination today. I am happy that I managed to submit it in August rather than September so that I can take a little break before my viva preparation begins.

The final few days have been a challenge, with difficulties in printing and binding each copy. However, in the end I was rescued by a local business man who helped to get my thesis bound when I needed to.

I am utterly thankful to all of the people who have helped me along the way. My supervisors IMG_0873.JPEGhave been awesome, my colleagues and fellow PhD students have been a great support, and my family have been the best! I have lots of other people to thank and have formally done so in the thesis acknowledgements – I would not have been able to do this without you all.

Obviously I had to take lots of photos to document the process! 🙂

The run up to PhD submission!

DRAFT3.jpgI last blogged on June 19th to say that I had 6 out of 9 thesis chapters drafted to my second draft. I have progressed a lot since then.

In the last few weeks I have managed to redraft all nine chapters which I am very pleased about. The next step of my plan was to submit my thesis to my supervisors by July 12th. I decided that I wanted a fully formatted draft submitted as this will make my editing (and life) easier once my feedback comes back from my Director of Studies. Part of the reason behind this was also so that my Direct of Studies could see how my thesis looks as one document and make any recommendations if something does not look quite right.

As of today (July 10th 2019), I have one fully formatted thesis and this has been submitted to my Director of Studies. This draft included formatted references, acknowledgements and appendices so that this can be assessed as a whole.

DRAFT2My next steps (after a brief trip home next week) will be to edit my thesis to the final draft. Only once this is done can I begin the final checks (e.g. reference checks, formatting etc.) and then send this to my proof readers. This will take longer than normal given that I am still working full time whilst wrapping up my thesis (and so do my proof readers too). However, I am still aiming to submit the monster of a document by end of August/beginning of September at the very latest.

I am now going to go and have a very long nap! Goodbye for now.

Making PhD progress

IMG_0498On April 21st 2019 I officially finished my first full draft of my thesis. This draft was not to go to my supervisors, but for me to hack away at and chop down. My task was to get the 150,000 word document down to under 80,000 words (a challenge indeed).

As of 19th June 2019 (today), I have managed to do this to 6 out of 9 chapters (as well as take a lovely 2.5 week holiday to the USA, a welcome break). My word count is roughly 82,000 with three chapters to go.

Over the next couple of weeks, in-between work and Jury Service, I will be making my final edits to submit my second draft to my supervisors – hopefully by mid-July.

In the meantime, I will be a little quiet on here. You can probably tell that I am quite busy and my priorities are to focus on my PhD write up and job, and leave all of the other smaller things until later.

I will provide more PhD updates very soon, but in the meantime why don’t you take a look at the fabulous PhD studentships Edinburgh Napier University are advertising which would give you the opportunity to complete a PhD just like me.

The final write up stages of the PhD!

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PhD thesis chapters and feedback (just some of them)

Yesterday I hit a milestone in my PhD. I finished the draft of my discussion chapter. For me, this marks the end of the ‘difficult’ writing of my thesis as my tasks now involve the write up of my conclusion and introductions, then beginning the process of editing the whole thing down (this will technically be my full first draft, but not the full draft that will go to my supervisors). We have set a deadline for mid-July to have all of the initial editing done so that my supervisors can then take a look at my (technically second) full draft and give me feedback on the whole thing.

The past few weeks of writing have not been easy. I am juggling part time PhD write up with a full time job. This is not an easy feat given that the stage of writing that I am currently at is one of the toughest (i.e. I am brining everything together to make sense). Now the main overall output of my PhD is the development of a framework to explain how innovative work behaviour can be enhanced within organisations (i.e. including the factors that influence this relationship). Once I have this and my recommendations, my doctoral study will be complete (to me). My write-up, however, will not be. My discussions chapter is leading up to this framework development. I have been able to discuss the themes that have emerged from my qualitative and quantitative data analysis and explore these in terms of comparison with prior literature. However, one thing I have found hard is giving specific details of the contributions of my PhD (although I am able to talk about these quite well). I know that these contributions will be highlighted in my conclusions but I need these to be evident within my discussion so that I (and my examiners) know there has been a point to the last 3.5 years of work.

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Some workings from my statistical analyses (for my findings chapters)

Since I started my new job in November, the changes to my PhD write up and lifestyle have been significant and you do not realise how much things have to change. For example, Saturday is now part of my working week. I work 6 out of 7 days so that I can get my working week done and my PhD written up. I have an amazing work team who are flexible in allowing me to work all of my hours across four days and take one week day per week as a PhD day. My husband and I now automatically plan things round my weekend PhD day and this is something we never thought we would do (as an early stage PhD student I would always refuse to work weeks as I never felt it was necessary after a full week of PhD work).

For me (and my PhD progression) this change has been vital to allow me to get my much needed writing done. I am utterly grateful that my employer has also allowed me to take some unpaid leave to give my PhD work an extra boost. This unpaid leave is short term (only a few days over the space of three months) but I am finding the time extra valuable for these final stages of my write up and I appreciate all of the things that my employer is helping me to do. Now it’s not at all a requirement that employers have to consider PhD student write up when hiring, but my employer did. This has been considered form day 1 of my role and it is something that I feel has been important to make sure that I manage my employment and PhD time during the week well (I truly appreciate efforts from all involved).

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That moment I had to start again…

One thing I am finding vital at this stage of my write-up is the support I am receiving (from everywhere). My colleagues at work ask how my PhD is coming along and this shows me that they have some interest in my work. My supervisors ask how my (non-PhD) work is coming along and how I am learning/developing in my role. I suppose this is just so they can make sure that I am not taking on too much but also so they know I am progressing with the writing I am supposed to do. My family and friends could not offer more support. My Nana and Granda ask how ‘my book is coming along’ because they have seen the end product from my sister’s PhD. My Mam, Dad and Sister provide endless FaceTime’s, calls, texts and visits so that I do not go insane. My husband has taken most of the household burden (cooking, cleaning etc) whilst he is working full time too. He keeps joking about his new found full-time working house-husband duties he has acquired whilst I move forward to the final stages of my PhD.

As I move into the very final stages of my PhD write up I reflect upon how far I have come in the last 3.5 years. I will be starting my introduction next week After publishing this blog post I wrote the introduction to my PhD so next week I will be moving onto writing the conclusion chapter. after and once that is all done After this, it is edit edit edit edit (supervisors feedback) edit dit edit edit until I have a ‘book’ that I am proud of.

JOURNEY SGSSS
My PhD journey (I am approximately half way up the final mountain)

Fully funded PhD studentship in work-based learning at Edinburgh Napier University!

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Are you interested in work-based learning environments and how they foster industry-relevant skill development and improve economic performance? If so, we have the perfect opportunity for you!

We are re-advertising a fully-funded PhD place within the Centre for Social Informatics at Edinburgh Napier University for an October 2019 start date. The closing date for applications is Tuesday 7th May 2019 with interviews to be held on Wednesday 5th June 2019. 

As part of the studentship you will develop new knowledge and practical methods for evaluating the impact of work-based learning (WBL) on industry performance. This addresses a need for outcome-based measures to assess long-term benefits of WBL.

You will adopt a mixed-methods approach to the empirical work. You will design, develop and shape the exact methods yourself but the aim is that the work will include a nation-wide survey that will be deployed to gather quantitative data on the current provision and perceived impact of WBL in industry. It is proposed that you will then sample 3-5 firms (of different sizes and sectors from the quantitative survey participants) and use qualitative methods such as direct observation, interviews and focus groups to explore these relationships further.

This opportunity is a Skills Development Scotland Collaborative award offered through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science (SGSSS) and is therefore funded through a collaborative partnership between the Economic and Social Research Council and Skills Development Scotland.

Interested in applying for this fantastic opportunity?

You can find the advert for the studentship on the SGSSS website here: https://www.sgsss.ac.uk/studentship/work-based-learning-environments-wble-for-fostering-industry-relevant-skills-and-optimal-economic-performance/

We are also advertising the studentship here too: https://www.findaphd.com/phds/project/work-based-learning-environments-for-fostering-industry-relevant-skills-and-optimal-economic-performance/?p95786