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PhD Studentship: Linguistic performance in objective structured clinical examinations: A comparative study of performance and responses in standard entry and widening participation students

University of Southampton - Faculty of Medicine

Qualification Type: PhD
Location: Southampton
Funding for: UK Students, EU Students
Funding amount: This studentship includes UK/EU tuition fees, student stipend, plus additional financial support
Hours: Full Time
Placed On: 15th April 2019
Closes: 4th June 2019

Main Supervisor: Prof Sally Curtis 

Other members of the supervisory team: Dr Sarah Rule, Dr Sophie Holmes-Elliott 

Duration of the award: 3 years, full time 

Project description: 

Diversifying and enriching the medical profession by reducing social exclusivity and making it more representative of the population is an aim high on the agenda of the Government, Medical Schools Council and the General Medical Council. With the increasing number of widening participation (WP) courses available in UK Universities it is crucial that disadvantages faced by underrepresented groups studying medicine are addressed to achieve this aim. Appropriate support must be provided, enabling a positive student experience through maximising integration, progression and success.

WP medical students come from a diverse range of ethnic, regional and socioeconomic backgrounds; they bring with them a diverse range of linguistic varieties. Some are non-native Speakers of English, some Heritage speakers of English, and some use non-standard varieties of spoken English. One area of potential support that needs examining is around the use of language and reactions to it in consultations and oral examinations.

The current proposal seeks to investigate whether there is evidence for linguistic prejudice, and if this could impact on the achievements of medical students from underrepresented backgrounds as compared to their peers from more traditional backgrounds. This study aims to investigate linguistic performance and attitudes towards these nonstandard linguistic varieties in the context of objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs). The transcripts and recordings will be analysed within a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) framework in order to gain an understanding of the attitudes towards nonstandard language use, and whether student achievement is impacted in any way.

This insight could be used to better prepare students for this type of examination and raise awareness with clinicians 

Team & working environment

The supervisory team spans Medicine and Linguistics (within the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics).

Lead (Medicine): Professor Sally Curtis:

Co-supervisors (Linguistics): Dr Sarah Rule:; Dr Sophie Holmes-Elliott:

For inquiries, please contact:  Sally Curtis 

Person Specification: See below

The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:

  • A 1st or 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline and/or second degree with a related Masters

Funding information:
This full studentship is funded by the Leonard Thomas Fund and The University of Southampton. This studentship includes UK/EU tuition fees, student stipend, plus additional financial support for student professional development and training. The Leonard Thomas Fund supports a variety of activities that positively support undergraduate students studying medicine through a variety of activities including postgraduate research   

Administrative contact and how to apply:

Please complete the University's online application form, which you can find at

You should enter Sally Curtis as your proposed supervisor. To support your application provide an academic CV (including contact details of two referees), official academic transcripts and a personal statement (outlining your suitability for the studentship, what you hope to achieve from the PhD and your research experience to date). 

Informal enquiries relating to the project or candidate suitability should be directed to Sally Curtis 

Closing date: 4th June 2019

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