Funded PhD with The Cunningham Trust

Funded PhD on the development of ultrasound evaluation of swallowing in a clinical context with Cunningham Trust

We are excited to announce a three-year PhD studentship funded by Cunningham Trust ( for a speech and language therapist to commence a research career, working on the development of UltraSound Evaluation of Swallowing (USES) in the clinical context.

Ultrasound evaluation of swallowing has received increasing attention in the research and clinical community of speech and language therapy, as it is less invasive, more cost-effective, and more portable than the currently available assessment.  At Queen Margaret University, we lead the development of methodological research in USES and have projects focusing on developing new instrumentations and methods, evaluated using new normal and clinical datasets. In addition, the cross-disciplinary research on the application of machine learning supports the development of the automatic tracking of the related anatomical structure and quantitative measurements of various biomarkers. Details of our projects and our team can be found on the Swallow Vision website (

Applicants are invited to explore the application of USES in specific clinical settings.  This may include:

  • USES as a screening tool for improving the outcome of swallowing screening. While water swallow test is currently the most common clinical screening tool,  it has moderate sensitivity and specificity, which is unsatisfactory given the potential impact of incorrect diagnosis (ranging from risk of aspiration to being kept on nil by mouth unnecessarily).
  • USES for monitoring swallowing function in individuals with progressive neurological conditions.  The accessibility of USES will mean that there is the possibility of regular monitoring, leading to early diagnosis and timely management
  • Developing USES as biofeedback in swallowing therapy. The potential of using ultrasound as a feedback tool in swallowing therapy is a less explored area, though some early studies showed the potential in healthy participants.

For an informal discussion about this bursary application, please contact Dr Joan Ma, Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy at

General Information

Applicants are limited to Speech and Language Therapists only. 

Closing Date for applications: 10 March 2023

Start Date: September 2023

Financial Support

  • full waiver of tuition fees.
  • an annual stipend of £17,668 lasting 3 years for full-time study.

Academic and Clinical Support

  • Monthly supervision with the supervisory team
  • Access to all doctoral programme training, including three doctoral study festivals per year
  •  Researcher Enhancement and Development (READ) programme
  • Students can apply to QMU for research project travel or other educational scholarships annually through the Training and Development Fund
  • Access to the QMU library and the virtual learning environment


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.
  • Two supportive references (at least one academic reference)


In addition, please note that this bursary is limited to UK and ROI applicants only.  International applications will not be considered.

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.

You can apply to this opportunity online using the Admissions Portal (accessed via the 'Apply Now' button at the bottom of this section). 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 relating to the Cunningham Trust bursary.

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. If you are currently undertaking a Masters or Honours Degree and therefore, don't yet have your transcript or certificate for this course, these can be provided at a later date following the submission of 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 a maximum of 1000 words long;
  • summarise what the research is about;
  • 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 within the last five years.

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.


Two academic 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 applications is 10 March 2023.

Apply Now



For an informal discussion about this bursary application, please contact Dr Joan Ma, Senior Lecturer in Speech and Language Therapy at

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.