Student Research Experience Placements

Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) in collaboration with the Educational Engagement team are offering 7 students the chance to take part in a supervised research experience placement (REP) throughout the summer of 2021.

REPs offer students at the University the opportunity to work as professional colleagues in partnership with staff, through carrying out independent research. These projects will support the delivery of the Access and Student Success Strategy 2025 with an emphasis on exploring aspects of the student experience through the lens of under-represented groups including, but not limited to Black and minority ethnic,  mature, care leaver, Access to Leeds and Plus Programme students.

About the placement

Each student researcher will work with a supervisor and possibly a wider research team. LITE will provide support and guidance in pedagogic research and act as a community for the successful student researchers on the programme.

Starting after all teaching, exams and assessments are over, projects will be delivered over a minimum of 6 weeks, but the 210 hours could be carried out part time. The salary for the role is £17,682 per annum, pro rata (Grade 3, £9.72 /hr).

Who should apply

Any University of Leeds student, registered on a UG or PGT programme 2020/21, who is interested in researching these areas should apply. Some research experience would be advantageous, but only that which you have gained during the course of your studies is expected. Candidates who can bring personal perspectives from currently under-represented groups at the University ( including, but not limited to Black and minority ethnic, mature, care leaver, Access to Leeds and Plus Programme students) are particularly welcome for their contribution to delivering the Access and Student Success Strategy.

We are keen to hear from people who might not usually take these opportunities, and are offering anyone who is interested the chance to discuss the application process with the LITE research support team prior to applying.

We particularly encourage applicants who can bring personal experience of studying at HE as a student from an under-represented group and/or have demonstrable understanding and awareness of the student success agenda and the challenges faced by under-represented groups.

How to apply

  1. Read the project details below and select the one you are interested in.
  2. If you want to discuss your application or any aspect of the placement contact the LITE team (
  3. Complete your statement of suitability outlining why you would like the placement and by providing examples of how you meet the essential criteria.
  4. Submit your application using the online form (see ‘Apply Here’ below)

Sorry, applications are now closed and we cannot accept any late submissions.

Both written and video applications are being accepted, so if you find it easier to explain your strengths and suitability verbally, then please consider sending us a video telling us about yourself.

The Careers Centre can also offer support in helping you with your application.


Project Details

1. Impact of pre-university learning for UG Psychology students from minority groups

The impact of learning and teaching in pre HE and progression to UG Psychology and Healthcare for minority groups.

Project Supervisor: Ed Sutherland, School of Psychology

Project Overview: This research project placement links with the University’s strategy on access to education for all, and will investigate issues around underrepresented groups, with particular emphasis on males in the subjects of Psychology and Healthcare, in line with the Access and Student Success Strategy. The project will involve scoping to identify the extent of the problem, is it Leeds specific, or sector wide for example. There will be collaboration with academic staff as well as support from the library and IT as required. Ultimately, you will make recommendations to both Psychology and Healthcare based on initial findings.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to:

  • develop skills in team working (with academic and library staff)
  • develop research skills through identifying relevant research and synthesis thereof
  • develop communication skills through presenting findings to relevant stakeholders

Project Activity: examine in detail the current data from Leeds in Psychology and Healthcare to identify the extent of the issue of under representation, as well as approaching other Universities for relevant data; work with academics to investigate existing research into this issue and proposed solutions, and whether such solutions are workable at Leeds; review findings to make suitable recommendations to admissions and widening participation staff in both Schools.

Essential Criteria:

  1. Enthusiasm and drive to initiate change
  2. Attention to detail
  3. Some basic data handling skills (descriptive statistics)
  4. Good literature searching skills
  5. Good communication skills

2. Effective strategies for teaching maths online to enhance student success

Project Supervisor: Rob Sturman, School of Mathematics

Project Overview: Dramatic changes to student education and teaching delivery have been compelled over the last twelve months. In the context of mathematics degrees, a crucial aspect of these changes is recognising the different pedagogical (teaching) opportunities arising from synchronous and asynchronous online activities. Teaching mathematics typically involves lucid and patient explanations of concepts and techniques, followed by copious clear examples. Learning mathematics, on the other hand, requires time to absorb material, and conscientious practice at solving problems. It is clear that pre-recorded material (an example of asynchronous online activity) forms one vital link between the two strands: clear explanations prepared in precisely the manner the lecturer intends can be accessed repeatedly by students and build up understanding.

Synchronous activity can take many different forms, and several different models have been tried during the last academic year. This project proposes to review teaching methods currently used in the School of Mathematics, and compare to the latest developments in the online pedagogy communities. As a specific example, computational mathematics lectures (usually lecture theatre-based, in which students are shown both mathematical and ideas and programming techniques, before working through coding examples by themselves in a computer lab, or at home) were replaced by online sessions in which students could, in principle, code-along in real-time. Code could be shared via the chat function, so programs could be inspected and executed without the time taken to type. Numerous questions arise from this: how many students do code-along? Does this help fundamental understanding? Do accessibility issues arise?

This is a specific example, but similar questions could be asked about any online mathematical activity, such as lectures, workshops, seminars, tutorials, example classes, supervisions… . This project could take any direction, depending on the mutual interests of intern and supervisor, to generate basic principles of online delivery which can be applied at Leeds, or in other university or school settings.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to develop a number of skills including knowledge of educational and pedagogic practice; innovative use of online platforms to support inclusive teaching practice; literature-based research methods; statistical analysis of performance and satisfaction data.

Project Activity: Literature review of relevant online mathematics pedagogy; Mapping of different teaching activities and strategies implemented in 2020/21 academic year; Analysis of student performance and satisfaction across different pedagogical practice; Specific analysis of inclusivity in online mathematics teaching (e.g., accessibility issues for students with disabilities; online communication for students whose first language is not English; online forums as forums for open and inclusive mathematical discussion).

Essential Criteria:

  1. Familiarity with Leeds Mathematics UG syllabus
  2. Confidence to discuss the project one-on-one and in groups
  3. Willingness to explore research material beyond current knowledge (e.g., pedagogic research)
  4. Technical familiarity with online platforms (e.g., zoom, teams, blackboard collaborate etc)
  5. (Ideally) some proficiency with Python and its user interfaces (e.g., Spyder, Jupyter notebooks, etc)

3. Effective online assessment methods for maths education and student success

Project Supervisor: Samantha Pugh (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Project Overview: This project will involve researching effective methods in assessment for mathematics and numerate subject areas, with a particular focus on digital assessment. We will look at both secondary school and undergraduate teaching and how assessment has been adapted to the move to online learning during the covid-19 pandemic. The project aims to make recommendations for both secondary and higher education in terms of assessment formats, content, and approach that will enhance learning, with a particular focus on students from groups that  are disadvantaged or under-represented in higher education. Long-term, the project’s impact will be to improve the access to, preparation for, and experience of, students from disadvantaged or under-represented groups in higher education. 

The project will provide the successful applicant with the opportunity:

  • to develop valuable research skills that will prove useful for future research work, such as your final year project
  • to gain a valuable insight into the development of teaching and learning
  • Develop communication skills by working with staff and students, and by sharing your findings with the team
  • to present the research findings at a conference in the future

Project Activity: A literature review of digital assessment for mathematics education; creating ‘good practice’ guides for teachers of mathematics (secondary and higher education); evaluating the effectiveness of different digital tools that are on the market for undertaking digital assessment. This will include identifying any gaps in the currently available tools.  

Essential Criteria:

  1. A keen interest in how students learn, which may include drawing on your own experiences.
  2. Studying a Mathematics-based degree or Education (Maths, Physics, Engineering) 
  3. Have A-level Mathematics or equivalent  [IB or Science/STEM foundation year]
  4. Experience of working as part of a team (this could be through your course or a job)
  5. Ability to write reports
  6. Experience of doing individual research (could include EPQ or a module with extended writing)

4. Reading lists, decolonisation and student success

Project Supervisor: Nina Wardleworth, School of Languages, Cultures and Societies

Project Overview: This research placement links to a wider project on the role that can be played by reading lists in promoting and facilitating the University of Leeds’ Decolonising Framework, part of the University’s Access and Student Success strategy. You will be carrying out an initial scoping exercise before the appointment of an academic fellow in 21/22. You will be working in collaboration with lecturers, librarians and IT colleagues from Leeds to do preparation work for a longer project and prepare initial recommendations for module leaders.

The successful applicant will have the opportunity to develop:

  • team working skills (with the project supervisor, librarians, IT colleagues, module leaders)
  • a range of research skills (both qualitative and quantitative)
  • data handling skills
  • report writing skills

Project Activity: You will sample reading lists across disciplines to assess the types of content that appear on reading lists (for example books, journal articles, data sources, AV material); You will work with colleagues in the Library and in IT to identify sources of data about authors whose works appear on reading lists; You will explore the types of data about authors that are available and you will investigate how these sources can be used to extract the relevant data; You will review your findings to give recommendations about the data sources and their use to inform future projects; You will use the work you have carried out to formulate guidance for tutors who are seeking to decolonise their reading list content.

Essential Criteria:

  1. Enthusiasm and commitment to making a change
  2. Good attention to detail and analytical skills
  3. Comfortable working with data sets
  4. An interest in decolonisation
  5. Ability to communicate with different types of audiences/stakeholders

5. Exploring the colonial history of the University of Leeds

Project Supervisor: Iyiola Solanke, School of Law

Project overview: This project will explore the colonial history of the University. The findings of this very topical research will feed in to a number of areas of activity across the University including the development of decolonisation principles, the Equality and Inclusion Framework and the Access and Student Success Strategy.

The successful applicant will develop a range of skills required in carrying out archival research including identification of original documents (primary resources), categorisation of materials according to contents, summarising materials and distilling key arguments and methods and carrying out online research.

Project activity: Creation of a literature review and annotated bibliography; Identification of primary materials in Leeds and elsewhere; Production of a 5000 word summary of the materials found; Identification of research gaps and questions.

Essential criteria:

  1. An interest in history
  2. Demonstrable understanding of the decolonising agenda
  3. Ability to work effectively independently (& remotely)
  4. Ability to use initiative
  5. A good level of IT Skills

6. Faith and student success

Project Supervisor: Jacqueline Stevenson, Lifelong Learning Centre

Project Overview: There are relatively few studies exploring the experiences of university students who have a faith, religion or belief. This means we know little about the extent to which having a faith either helps enhance or works against students’ success, as well as what may inform this – for example relationships with other staff or students, or the ways in which institutional policies are applied. This project will explore how and where faith, religion or belief is recognised by the university, including in key policy documents, how any commitments to recognising faith, religion or belief are enacted in institutional practice, as well as how students experience this, including  relationships with staff and other students.

The successful applicant will be mentored to complete a short research project which will include enhancing their research skills, project managements skills and presentation skills.

Project activity: This project will involve an analysis of key university webpages and documents as well as interviews with staff and students, and result in a short report summarising key findings and recommendations.

Essential Criteria:

  1. Commitment to recognising faith, religion and belief (or no belief) as a protected characteristic.
  2. Insights into the experiences of students with a faith, religion and belief (or no belief).
  3. Good communication skills, with the ability to communicate well with both students and staff
  4. Ability to synthesise key information from reports, website pages and other documents
  5. Ability to communicate key findings using a range of approaches.

7. Widening participation in postgraduate study and research: a literature review

Project Supervisor: Luke Windsor, Dean of Doctoral College

Project Overview: This research placement links to a wider set of activities which aim to create and apply an evidence base to widen participation in postgraduate study and research. It will form a basis for original research to underpin University of Leeds actions to recruit and support under-represented UK taught postgraduates (PGT) and postgraduate researchers (PGR) as part of the Access and Student Success Strategy. The outcome will be a critical literature review of published research on approaches to widening access to postgraduate study and research based a range of characteristics such as ethnicity, participation, low income, and disability. It might focus extensively on different forms of contextual admissions but should not prejudge the effectiveness of different approaches a priori. Demographic data on access to University of Leeds and other HEIs will be used to focus the literature review on areas of concern (such as Black British participation in PGR), but the literature consulted and reviewed should be international in scope.

The successful applicant will develop their skills in:

  • searching for and reviewing educational research
  • writing reports with impact and clarity
  • communicating findings to a range of stakeholders
  • summarising findings in an executive summary
  • translating key findings in visual form for delivery in presentations
  • collaborative working

Project activity: Design of a search strategy for locating relevant publications on widening PGT and PGR access and success; Application of this search strategy to create a searchable list of relevant sources; Creation of an annotated bibliography of sources; (Co-authorship with the supervisor of) a written report (with executive summary) summarising the different approaches and assessing their relevance to the achievement of the postgraduate objectives set out in the Access and Student Success Strategy; Creation of a short slide deck to communicate the findings to stakeholders.

Essential Criteria: 

  1. Experience conducting online literature searches
  2. Ability to extract, evaluate and summarise qualitative and quantitative findings in existing research
  3. Report writing skills (critical essay writing)
  4. Training in use of search tools (academic/generic)
  5. Self-motivation and initiative