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Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship - Evaluating great ape cognitive and behavioural wellbeing (2023)

Donnerstag, 19 Januar 2023 18:03 Study

This studentship covers Home or International level PhD tuition fees, a stipend (currently £17,668 pa) plus some research and training costs.

What you get

A stipend for 3 years (rising in line with UKRI studentship rates, currently £17,668 p.a.) to cover living costs.

  • Home fees or International fees and research/training costs (including field work costs) are also covered for 3 years.
  • You will also be expected to take up Doctoral Tutoring during your 6 semesters (3 years) of funding. This work is paid at Grade 5.1 (currently £13.88 per hour), and covers contact time, preparation and marking. You will be expected to work approximately 165 hours per year, dependent on modules selected and availability. 

Type of award

Postgraduate Research

PhD project

The Comparative Cognition Group (PI: Professor Gillian Forrester) is seeking a PhD candidate to help a multidisciplinary team to monitor gorilla and chimpanzee wellbeing across a range of captive and wild settings. Methodological approaches are non-invasive and unobtrusive, including behavioural video observation and coding, cognitive evaluation, keeper reports, thermal imaging, heart rate variability and pupillometry via video capture.

In collaboration with our zoo, wild animal park, sanctuary and release-reintroduction partners, we aim to develop a battery of measures that allow us to longitudinally track individuals’ wellbeing. We hope that this process will help us to identify individuals who may be good candidates for wild release and also inform about potential groupings and pairings of apes in captivity and pre-release. Moreover, we aim to develop enrichment interventions that focus on improving quality of life in captivity and aid transitions back into the wild where appropriate.

The PhD will work alongside our multi-institutional team and international conservation collaborators. The candidate may be required to travel and obtain relevant vaccinations for fieldwork. Experience in the field and/or working in remote locations is desirable. The candidate must be collaborative and flexible and possess the ability to navigate competing priorities and agendas from different partners. Experience is essential at working in complex situations involving multiple stakeholders. A driving licence is desirable (for movement around field sites) and good command of spoken French is required.

Key words: great apes, behaviour, wellbeing, fieldwork, conservation, Africa, release, re-introduction.

Doctoral Tutor role

You will also be expected to take up Doctoral Tutoring during your 6 semesters (3 years) of funding. This work is paid at Grade 5.1 (currently £13.88 per hour), and covers contact time, preparation and marking. You will be expected to work approximately 165 hours per year, dependent on modules selected and availability.

Doctoral Tutors will be encouraged to study for a formal teaching accreditation (Associate of the Higher Education Academy), including enrolling on a ‘starting to teach’ module in the first term. Candidates who demonstrate interest in and suitability for the Doctoral Tutor role will be preferred.   


  • This award will pay fees at the Home or International rate (as required by the applicant's fee status). International students must move to Sussex for the duration of the PhD and will not be permitted to register as Distance Learners. The studentship does not include additional funding towards the costs of visas or travel to the UK for international students.
  • Candidates must have, or expect to obtain, a First or a high Upper Second Class Honours undergraduate degree, or equivalent qualification, and/or a  Merit (an average of 60% overall) in a Master’s degree in Psychology or other relevant discipline.
  • The University of Sussex believes that the diversity of its staff and student community is fundamental to creative thinking, pedagogic innovation, intellectual challenge, and the interdisciplinary approach to research and learning. We celebrate and promote diversity, equality and inclusion amongst our staff and students. As such, we welcome applications from all, regardless of personal characteristics or background. 

Number of scholarships available



23 January 2023 23:59

How to apply

  • In the 'Supervisor suggested by applicant' section of your application, put 'Gillian Forrester'.
  • In the 'Proposed source of funding' section of your application, please put 'Psychology Doctoral Research Studentship - Forrester'. 

Candidates should provide: 

  • A research proposal that outlines your knowledge of the research area, hypotheses that could be addressed in your PhD, and an outline of potential methods. The research proposal should be approximately 1,000 to 1,500 words in length and not exceed 3 pages, including references. It should be set at a minimum of 10 font type with margins a minimum of 1cm. Applicants are encouraged to contact the supervisor for more information about the project before writing their proposal.
  • Current degree transcript(s) with full details of performance on all completed courses. 
  • Two academic references.
  • An up-to-date CV.
  • A document summarising any teaching experience you have and illustrating your suitability for a Doctoral Tutor role.  

Contact us

For queries with respect to the application process:  

To discuss the details of your research interests further, please contact Prof Gillian Forrester 


Deadline: Monday 23 January 2023  (23:59 GMT)

Interviews (on Zoom): February 2023

More Information

Please see


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