University of St Andrews

PhD Funding Opportunities

For a complete list of current funding opportunities please see the database maintained by the University’s Fees and Funding Team.

Enquiries from self-funding students are welcome. Information on tuition fees and other costs of studying at St Andrews can be found on the University’s Fees and Funding page.

Details of any funding opportunities that are especially suitable for Geography/Sustainable Development students will also be posted below as they arise.

Three-year fully-funded (+3) SGSS PhD studentship on small area demographic forecasting

Host institution: University of St Andrews

Collaborating institution: National Records of Scotland (NRS)

Dept./School/Faculty: Department of Geography and Sustainable Development

PhD Supervisor: Dr Alan Marshall,  Co-supervisor: Dr Nissa Finney, Co-supervisor Esta Clark (NRS)

Funding availability: Home/EU students

Application deadline: Friday, 1st July

Interviews: 12th July

Start date: September/October 2016

Potential PhD students holding a Masters in a quantitative social science discipline are warmly encouraged to apply for this exciting and prestigious three-year PhD studentship funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Social Sciences (SGSSS). The project will evaluate different methods of forecasting demographic change within small areas (sub-council areas) across Scotland. The studentship will be based at the University of St Andrews within the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development. The successful candidate will be integrated within the thriving Population and Health Research group. This is a collaborative PhD studentship and the National Records of Scotland will be closely involved.


This PhD will contribute to research on small area demographic forecasting in close collaboration with National Records for Scotland. ‘Small’ refers to sub-council areas in Scotland.  The research will apply and evaluate different methodologies for the development of small area demographic forecasts of population, distinguishing age and sex, across Scotland. The proposed programme of research will provide the first ever measurement of the accuracy of the different methods for generating small area forecasts in the UK with a principal focus on Scotland reflecting the interests of NRS as the collaborative partner. The central theme of the analysis will be to distinguish the inaccuracy in the forecasts that is associated with different types of areas from that which stems from the methodology used.

The aims of the PhD research project are to:

  1. Compile a library of the different methods used to generate small area forecasts with age and sex detail
  2. Thoroughly evaluate the accuracy of these different methods of forecasting and develop new forecast methods
  3. Recommend methods of demographic forecasting for particular area typologies
  4. Transfer the findings on the use and accuracy of demographic forecasts to NRS and other partner organisations


This project represents an excellent training opportunity as it addresses not only an important research gap in terms of knowledge on demographic forecasting at local geographies, but is situated with the wider contexts of providing an evidence base for planning and policy. The project will include placements with the partner organisation (National Records of Scotland) as well as contact with local authority researchers/planners who use or develop their own local demographic forecasts, giving the student an opportunity of conducting demographic research within and outside academia, with a wide variety of career options afterwards. The student will join a dynamic community of PhD students and will be a member of the Population and Health Research Group, benefitting from the stimulating intellectual environment that this provides through regular research seminars and encouragement and support of its members. Both the university and the SGSSS provide a range of training opportunities which the successful candidate will be able to access.

Research environment

This PhD research will be undertaken in the Department of Geography and Sustainable Development (DGSD) at the University of St Andrews. DGSD has a thriving postgraduate community, with over 40 research postgraduates at various stages in their research. The student will be part of the Population and Health research cluster of senior researchers and early career researchers. The PhD will be jointly supervised by Dr Alan Marshall and Dr Nissa Finney. Esta Clark (National Records of Scotland) will also be involved in project supervision.

Funding Notes: As a criteria of SGSSS funding, only UK/EU students are eligible to apply (see eligibility). The studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees and an annual tax-free stipend of approximately £13,000.  Funding will be for three years of full-time study, starting date ideally in September/October 2016. For more details see SGSSS studentships.

Application and candidate requirement: A Postgraduate Master’s degree in a social science discipline with significant quantitative and research training is a requirement. Typically, the research training element of this Masters will have included substantive research training in the areas of research design and data collection and analysis for both qualitative and quantitative methods, usually of no less than 60 credits in total plus a dissertation (see detailed guidance on eligibility). It is expected that applicants have obtained at least a 2.1 honours degree in a social science discipline (ideally with a strong quantitative focus). Evidence of quantitative training and experience in the use of Excel and statistical packages such as R, Stata, SPSS or similar will be prioritised.

You can apply using the University’s online application system (Postgraduate application page). Please note the following:

  1. You should note on the PhD application form that you are applying for the “PhD studentship on small area demographic forecasting”.
  2. On the application system you are asked to submit a statement of purpose.  This should be a maximum of two pages outlining why you find this topic of interest and why your skills are a good match for the project.

If you have any queries about the application process, please contact Helen Olaez.  The closing date for applications is Friday 1st July 2016.  Interviews will take place on 12th July.

Application Enquiries: For informal enquiries, please feel free to contact Dr Alan Marshall