Dealing with Socially Distanced Death on the Frontline


Funded PhD


3 years (full-time) 5 years (part-time)

Application deadline:

Midnight 31 January 2022

About this project

Applications are invited for undertaking research for a PhD research project entitled ‘Dealing with Socially Distanced Death on the Frontline’. This project seeks to identify and understand the impacts on and responses of, health and social care workers dealing with death under social distancing.

The lead PhD project supervisor will be Professor Liz Walker, Professor of Health and Social Work Research in the Department of Psychological Health, Well-Being and Social Work at the University of Hull.

Within the scope of this project the successful applicant will explore the short and longer-term personal and professional psycho-socio-emotional impacts of 'death at a distance' during the COVID-19 pandemic on health and social care staff professionally and personally with regard to at least two important aspects:

Firstly, themselves and their colleagues, including the impact of exposure to personal health risk;

secondly, their patients and families where peri-death rituals for grieving, support for the dying and their families are restricted by changed systems and processes of communication – including how the frequency of and restrictions around death exacerbated the distress where the deceased was a colleague.

It will also explore what support, if any, workers in health and social care accessed, and how it helped health and social care staff to process their experiences during various waves of the pandemic and mitigate its impacts.

With respect to research methods, these will be developed by the successful doctoral candidate in partnership with their supervisors, but it is envisaged that a qualitative approach will be used. Please include your suggestions as part of your application.

As this is an interdisciplinary cluster, the successful candidate will be a member of the Department of Psychological Health, Wellbeing and Social Work, and the Institute for Clinical and Applied Health Research with an additional supervisor from the Hull York Medical School. They will also have a base in the cluster's home Department of Geography, Geology and Environment.

For informal enquiries, please contact Prof Liz Walker.

About the 'Living with Death – Learning from COVID’  research cluster 

Since spring 2020 the UK has experienced unprecedented waves of premature deaths with the COVID-19 pandemic. Dying has been taking place under circumstances far from ‘normal’. Modes of remembrance associated with a ‘good death’ have been impeded by public health measures. More than 17 months of infection control restrictions and limited funeral arrangements are associated with many emergent – but largely un-researched – socio-economic consequences including for mental health and well-being (e.g. complicated grief, post-traumatic stress) for health, social care and death professionals, bereaved relatives, friends and co-workers.

This multi-disciplinary research cluster programme with five PhD projects will investigate, identify, understand and suggest mitigations for the unintended medium-longer term consequences of socially distanced death. In collaborating across social sciences, health and humanities the cluster will engage with and evaluate approaches (e.g. funeral practices, story telling) to alleviating the intense suffering, grief and bereavement of COVID-19.

The ‘Living with Death – Learning from COVID’ research cluster is led by PI Dr Elsbeth Robson, Reader in Human Geography.

Click here to watch a recording of our recent webinar about this funded postgraduate research opportunity.  You'll hear from programme leaders, supervisors, and students and listen to queries from other applicants in the Q&A.

Other PhDs in this cluster


Place, Death and Inequalities

Digital Dimensions of COVID-19 Death Across Communities

Language in Corona Times

Memorialising Pandemics

Watch: find out more about postgraduate study at the University of Hull

Watch the video


The successful applicant will receive a fee waiver and a maintenance grant/stipend for three years (full time) or five years (part-time), which covers the research period of the PhD. The fee waiver for 21/22 is £4,500 (Home fee) and the maintenance grant is £15,609. This rises each year in line with the UKRI’s recommended stipend allowance.

Submission of thesis

Submission of your final thesis is expected within three years and three months from the start of your PhD scholarship for full time and within five years and six months if studying part-time.

If you need to move into a fourth year (full time) or sixth year (part-time) to complete your thesis, please note that you will not receive a tuition fee waiver or maintenance grant during this period.

Entry requirements

Minimum first class or 2:1 undergraduate degree in Social Work, Sociology, Anthropology or related health subject. If unsure please get in touch. A Masters in Social Work, Sociology, Anthropology, Death Studies or related subject and/ or relevant experience would be an advantage.

We welcome and encourage applications from under-represented groups in academia including candidates who are female and/or from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

For more details on our entry requirements please visit the postgraduate admissions webpage.

This scholarship is available for full-time and part-time study.

Research training

As a PhD student here at the University of Hull you will undertake the Postgraduate Training Scheme alongside your main degree, to help you develop the research skills and knowledge you’ll need in your future career. You will gain a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma in Research Training in addition to your PhD.

International applicants

This opportunity comes with a home fee waiver only.

How to apply

You will need to supply a personal statement when applying for this scholarship position. Find out more about writing a personal statement. Please also ensure you include the following information:

  1. What motivates you to pursue PhD study
  2. Why you are interested in this project
  3. How your skill set matches the requirements for your choice of project and/or any additional training you will need
  4. The wider significance of research in this area and potential future research directions for the project.

Apply now

Apply for this scholarship: Full time | Part-time 

Closing date: Midnight on Monday 31 January 2022.