Postgraduate research funding

Postgraduate research funding

The following funded projects are currently accepting applications. Please refer to each project's adverts for full details and application processes.

AHRC Collaborative Studentship - A socio-political and technical history of the Sports Wheelchair

AHRC Collaborative Studentship - A socio-political and technical history of the Sports Wheelchair

Information on the University/Department

This is a collaborative PhD and the student will be supervised through both the Centre for Disability in the University of Glasgow’s School of Social and Political Sciences Research and the National Paralympic Heritage Trust.  The Centre for Disability research is a world leading research unit with a thriving research culture and a large number of postgraduate students.  They will be part of the University of Glasgow's College of Social Science Graduate School and will be able to take advantage of all the training and educational support provided through the College. The National Paralympic Heritage Trust was established in July 2015 to gather, protect and share British Paralympic Heritage and is a new and exciting contributor to the country’s sport heritage landscape. Their aim is to educate people regarding Britain’s founding role in the Paralympic movement and in doing so help them to understand the benefits of sport whatever your ability, become more aware of access requirements and, above all, change attitudes to disability in a positive manner.

The studentship will be jointly supervised by Professor Nick Watson at the University of Glasgow and Dr Vicky Hope Ward of the National Paralympic Heritage Trust

The studentship is intended to support the work and development of the sporting heritage community in the UK.

Project details

Little is currently known about the history of wheelchairs in general or the role of disabled people in their development.  For millions of disabled people around the world the wheelchair has been one of the most important and significant technological innovations of the 20th Century.  This research will look at the development of one particular chair, the sport wheelchair and their influence on the evolution of wheelchairs and on disability politics, as the innovations developed for sport chairs transferred from the courts and tracks to become incorporated into the design, manufacture and use of everyday wheelchairs.

Previous work which has explored the development of wheelchair from either medicine or engineering portray wheelchair development in terms of scientific and technological progress and in doing this has tended to obscure the complex social and technical interactions which have underpinned their development.  The sports wheelchair emerged through the actions of wheelchair users and wheelchair athletes as they sought to improve their performance on the courts and the track.  The innovations and developments they sought to implement often ran counter to the wishes of wheelchair manufacturers, health care professionals and those who controlled wheelchair sports.  The emergence of the sport wheelchair marks a significant moment not just in the history of sport and disability but also in the history of disability and disability politics.  It is this intersection that this project aims to uncover.

In reconstructing the of the development of the sport wheelchair the project will bring together the history of science and technology, the history of Paralympic sport and the history of disability politics and activism.  It will, in particular, look at the role of disabled athletes in this story and their agency and actions both in developing new innovations and incorporating new technologies into the wheelchair and in challenging those who sought to resist this development.  What will make this account so powerful is that it is a success story for a group who have historically been excluded from design processes.

The project will draw on archival and documentary sources and on oral histories.  In reconstructing the history the student will interview wheelchair users, wheelchair athletes, wheelchair designers, representatives from wheelchair manufacturers, medical and health professionals and government officials and civil servants. These oral histories will be supplemented by an extensive search of archival resources of a range of relevant publications including publications by disability groups such as; Magic Carpet (the journal of the Invalid Tricycle Association, ITA), Paraplegia News (the journal of the Paralysed Veteran's of America, PVA) Sports'n’Spokes (a journal also published by the PVA focusing on wheelchair sports). They will also review technical-scientific publications, such as Paraplegia, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and the British Journal of Biomedical Science.  Other archives will include the UK's Public Records Office and the National Register of Archives and the National Archives in the US


We encourage applications from students with the following qualifications and experience:


  • A first class, Upper Second (or equivalent) undergraduate degree, preferably in a relevant subject
  • Applicants should also have a Masters-level degree that satisfies AHRC eligibility requirements for advanced research training, or equivalent professional/occupational experience.
  • We may accept relevant work experience in lieu of a Masters. 

To be eligible for a full award a student must have a relevant connection with the United Kingdom. A relevant connection may be established if the following criteria is met:

  • The candidate has been ordinarily resident in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for 3 years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences)
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

To be eligible for a fees only award:

  • Students from EU countries other than the UK are generally eligible for a fees-only award. To be eligible for a fees-only award, a student must be ordinarily resident in a member state of the EU; in the same way as UK students must be ordinarily resident in the UK.

To be eligible you will also need to be accepted onto the relevant PhD programme via University of Glasgow Admissions.

Award details

The scholarship is available as a +3.5 PhD programme. The additional 6 months supported by the funding will enable the student to undertake new development opportunities as part of their PhD programme.  

The programme will commence in October 2019. It includes

  • a stipend at the RCUK rate (2019/20 rate £15,009 Full-Time)
  • fees at the standard Home/EU rate
  • students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant, usually up to a maximum of £750 per year

The studentship can be held on a Full-Time or Part-Time basis. 

Application process

All applicants should complete and collate the following documentation, and then attach to a single email and send to with the subject line 'AHRC Collaborative Studentship - A socio-political and technical history of the Sports Wheelchair'

  • College of Social Sciences funding application cover sheet
  • Academic transcript(s): Final and current degree transcripts including grades and degree certificates (and an official translation, if needed) - scanned copy in colour of the original document/s
  • Degree Certificate(s) and an official translation, if needed - scanned copy in colour of the original document/s 
  • References: 2 references on headed paper (academic and/or professional) - one must be academic, the other can be academic or professional. If required, these can be sent from your referees directly to, with your full name and the studentship title to which you are applying as the subject
  • Curiculum Vitae (CV)
  • A 2 page statement outling why you are interested in this collaborative doctoral award and what you would bring to this project.

The statement should be a single document with the file named as follows *Yourname_Watson_SSPS_AHRCCollaborative_Date*

Applicants lodge their application via email:

Closing Date: 30 May 2019

Selection process

Applications will be assessed by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 20 June 2019.

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within the School of Social & Political Sciences.  Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

Key contact/s:

For other information please contact Professor Nick Watson (