Funded PhD with SGSAH ARCS - In the eye of the beholder: New perspectives on Scottish nature through exploring visual representations, value, and connection.

Qualification: PhD
Location: Edinburgh
Funding for: Home and International applicants


We know that nature is understood in many different ways, and is deeply entangled with human biographies, stories and ideas across all ages. Our understanding of nature emerges through both direct sensory experience and through visual representations – and while previous research suggests that direct experiences in nature are shown to nurture our connection to the natural world (framed as a positive subjective relationship), the indirect ways in which connection is nurtured has been less studied. This PhD project seeks to explore the potential tensions and possibilities between direct experience and visual representation, within a Scottish context, and how visual representations of Scottish nature (in a variety of media, including websites, logos, campaigns and artistic representations) impact on how we value and how we connect with the natural world.

The Project:

The PhD student will work in partnership with NatureScot and stakeholders to

to explore how different visual representations of nature can enhance cognitive, affective, and behavioural affinity with the natural world, also known as nature connection, and alter the perceived value of nature in a variety of audiences in Scotland today. This will include questions around how Scottish nature in represented in contemporary media, how it is accessed, represented and understood by individuals and groups and work towards creating an understanding of how particular representations or forms of media elicit different emotional responses.

This is a collaborative PhD, in collaboration with NatureScot, Scotland's Nature Agency, and is jointly funded by the Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, QMU and The University of Edinburgh.

The Person – Prior experience and key attributes:

The successful candidate will have a 1st/ 2.1 Honours Undergraduate degree, and/or a Masters degree in a relevant discipline (e.g. Art History or Theory, Media or Culture Studies, Psychology) and/or equivalent research experience.   

What sorts of knowledge and skills are we looking for in an applicant?   

  • An interest in the ways in which nature is represented in a variety of media, and the impact these representations have.
  • Ability to build relationships and communicate effectively with communities and liaise with key stakeholders.
  • Some research skills in qualitative or quantitative research and a willingness to learn and apply skills from both approaches. 
  • Dynamism and enthusiasm to drive ideas forward, set goals and work to deadlines.  

Your proposal should detail relevant interdisciplinary literature you might draw upon as well as outlining your proposed research design for the research aims outlined above.


Application deadline: 7th June 2024

Expected interview date: 18th June 2024

PhD start date: 23 September 2024

Who can apply?

Applicants should meet the standard entry criteria for the QMU PhD Programme as follows

  • A degree in an appropriate subject, or have a qualification or experience accepted as equivalent.
  • A Bachelors degree with an excellent or very good classification (first or upper second class honours in the UK (or international equivalent) or a good Masters degree.
  • A strong research proposal (1000 words max) detailing their, background, initial research design as well as any future skills they can bring to the project.
  • International students must also evidence competence in written and spoken English by submitting a valid IELTS certificate (valid for 2 years from date of test) with an average score of 6.5 (with no element scoring below 6.0); or evidence of successful completion of a Masters degree in the UK; or evidence of successful completion of a non-UK Masters degree taught and assessed in English.
  • Two supportive references (at least one academic reference)

How to apply

An overview of the PhD course is provided via the PhD course page. Guidance on applying for the PhD is provided here.

Applicants can apply for this funded place through our Admissions portal (Accessed via the 'Apply Now' button at the bottom of this section). Applicants should then select ‘Graduate School’ through the course search, and then select "PhD Centre for Applied Social Sciences (ARCS Funded)"

The application process includes completion of an application form and submission of supporting documentation, including a research proposal.

The online application form allows you to save your progress, and you will be able to complete your PhD application in multiple stages, if required.

Following submission of your completed application, you will receive a QMU applicant ID number. Please quote this in any correspondence you have with QMU.

Application form

Please pay close attention to the spelling of your email address within the online form, as this is how we will contact you about your application.

Please ensure you select the appropriate course to indicate you are applying for the studentship.

Supporting information and documents

As part of your application, you will need to write a personal statement that sets out your experience, suitability for doctoral study, and motivation for applying to study on the QMU PhD programme.

As part of your application, you will need to provide:

  • your PhD research proposal;
  • copies of your degree certificate(s) and transcript(s);
  • confirmation of your English language ability (if required); and
  • copies of two letters of reference.

You will be able to upload these supporting documents as part of the application process. This is an important part of the admissions process, and without seeing supporting documents tutors will not have enough information to make a decision on your application. 

PhD Research Proposal

All applicants to the QMU PhD programme must provide a proposal for research that has academic merit and is capable of generating new knowledge. We will use your research proposal to check how well you understand the research process

Your PhD research proposal should:

  • be around 1000 words long;
  • summarise what the research is about;
  • summarise your background and the skills you will bring to the project;
  • set out why the research is important, making reference to current literature;
  • identify provisional research questions; and
  • suggest how the research questions can be investigated.

Please note that the research proposal must be written in your own words and should NOT include text that has been copied from books or articles. This is considered plagiarism and will lead to the automatic rejection of your application. In some cases, academic reviewers may submit research proposals to Turnitin in order to verify the legitimacy of the proposed research.

Qualifications (certificates and transcripts)

Please upload copies of your degree certificates and transcripts for any undergraduate or Masters degrees that you have completed or are about to complete.

Evidencing English language ability

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an IELTS certificate or have completed a degree which was delivered and assessed in English.

Only valid IELTS certificates are accepted as evidence of English language capability.  You need a score of 6.5 (with no less than 6.0 in each element).  IELTS certificates are valid for two years after the test date.

If you completed a degree, at a non-UK institution, that was delivered and assessed in English, then you will need to provide a formal letter from the institution, on headed paper, stating that your degree was delivered and assessed in English. 

If your documents are in any language other than English then they will need to be accompanied by a formal certified translation into English, by either the awarding institution or a sworn translator.

References Two references are required.

Referees must provide your reference in the form of a formal letter on headed paper. The reference must be dated and signed (and ideally stamped). Please note that we may contact your referee to verify the reference letter prior to it being accepted.

Referee contact details should include a professional email account. Please do not provide personal email addresses for referees (such as Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo), as these will not be accepted.  


The deadline for applying to this funded position is the 7 June 2024. Click the button below to apply.


Apply Now



Please contact Dr Alexia Barrable for questions specifically related to this project.


Please contact if you have any queries about the application process.


Please contact if you have any queries about studying for a PhD at QMU.


For enquiries relating to Masters Research Degrees please contact admissions.

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