New PhD scholarship on ‘total pain’ in palliative care – apply now

Published on: Author: Naomi Richards Leave a comment

A new fully-funded PhD scholarship on the philosophical underpinnings of palliative care is now open for applications. The deadline for applications is 13th May 2018.

The PhD candidate will join the Glasgow End of Life Studies group, which works to develop and promote interdisciplinary approaches to end of life issues.

This PhD will provide a scoping review of current understanding of ‘total pain’ amongst palliative care practitioners and end of life policy-makers in the UK, Canada and Australia.

In the coming decades, global rates of dying will rise to unprecedented levels, and palliative care is increasingly promoted as the best way to facilitate a good death. A defining feature of palliative care is the concept of ‘total pain’. The concept is a legacy of Dame Cicely Saunders, the originator of the modern hospice movement, who first used the term in 1964 to identify the intertwined physical, psychological, social and spiritual dimensions of pain. As a radical departure from previous understandings of pain as purely physical, total pain provided a new interdisciplinary language that revolutionised medical understandings of suffering, as evidenced by its adoption within other specialties, such as psychiatry.

Since Saunders’s pioneering work, total pain has remained a central defining feature of palliative care, and end of life care policies make reference to the concept either specifically or through associated terms. Yet in spite of its centrality to practice and policy, there has been virtually no in-depth examination of the concept, how it has evolved, or how it is understood and addressed in different clinical and cultural contexts. This knowledge gap is particularly troubling as research indicates growing discordance between the ideals of palliative care and the reality of providing care within increasingly complex heath care systems. It is also possible that this knowledge gap is furthering the growing disconnection between clinicians, policy-makers and the general public in terms of expectations about what palliative care can realistically achieve in seeking to address embodied suffering.

The PhD will use a historical cross-cultural approach, focusing on the UK, Canada and Australia as countries with highly developed palliative care specialties and national end of life care strategies, and where our research group has existing contacts.

The ideal candidate will have an undergraduate and/or master’s degree in a social science discipline and have an interest or experience in: 1) palliative and end of life care and 2) clinical practice.

The PhD will be Lead Supervised by Dr Naomi Richards, in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and Co-Supervised by Dr Marian Krawczyk, also in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Dr Jennifer Corns, from the School of Humanities.


  • Home/EU and International applicants are eligible to apply
  • First or Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) or a Master’s qualification or equivalent are required

The Award

The scholarship is open to +3 (3 years PhD only) commencing in October 2018 and will provide:

  •  a stipend at the RCUK rate (2018-19 rate is £14,777 Full-Time / £8,866.20 Part-Time)
  • 100 % tuition fee waiver
  • access to the Research Training Support Grant

How to Apply

All applicants should complete and collate the following documentation then attach to a single email and send to with the subject line ‘CoSS Scholarship – Examining Total Pain in Palliative Care Practice and Policy application’ by 13 May 2018

1. Academic Transcript(s) and Degree Certificate(s)
Final or current degree transcripts including grades and degree certificates (and official translations, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original documents.

2. References
Two references on headed paper (academic and/or professional).
At least one reference must be academic, the other can be academic or professional. Your references should be on official headed paper. These should also be signed by the referee.

If your referees would prefer to provide confidential references direct to the University then we can also accept the reference by email, from the referee’s official university or business email account to clearly labelling the reference e.g. “<applicant name> CoSS Scholarship Reference”

3. Copy of CV

4. Applicant Statement
A 1-2 page document outlining your skills and experience and your proposed contribution to the research project.

For further information or details about the project, please contact Dr Naomi Richards (

Selection Process

Applications will be assessed by the Project Team and shortlisted applicants may be invited to an interview.

For further details, please go to the advert on the University of Glasgow webpage here


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