PhD studentship: Social prescribing of horticulture therapy for higher functioning autistic adults

MPhil/PhD Studentship available full-time or part-time

Project title: Is social prescribing of horticulture therapy feasible, acceptable and associated with positive outcomes for higher functioning autistic adults, and what lessons can be drawn from this about the theory and practice of engaging marginalised groups in health services?

Reference Number: 19-20-002

Start date: 01 October 2019


Director of Studies: Dr Kerryn Husk, NIHR PenCLAHRC, University of Plymouth

2nd Supervisor:  Dr Richard Sharpe (, Public Health, Cornwall Council

3rd Supervisor: Dr Nick Axford, NIHR PenCLAHRC, University of Plymouth

4th Supervisor: Professor Sheena Asthana, University of Plymouth

The University of Plymouth’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and NIHR PenCLAHRC is seeking a motivated PhD candidate with outstanding abilities who is excited about working with services delivering health interventions, collecting and analysing mixed-methods data, and communicating results to diverse groups.

Our programme of work around social prescribing seeks to generate robust evidence about what works, for whom, and in what ways in linking individuals from primary care (often their GP) to social interventions have the potential to improve health and wellbeing. We are partnering with Cornwall Council’s Public Health Team and the national charity Autistica for this PhD studentship, in which we plan to assess whether the social prescribing of horticulture therapy is feasible, acceptable and associated with positive outcomes for higher functioning autistic adults. Methods to investigate this will be developed with the successful student and supervisory team, however we anticipate approaches to include the synthesis of existing literature and other data, patient pathway analyses and mixed-method data collection to assess outcomes and the ways in which these outcomes are thought to be accrued.

Previous experience of health services research, especially complex interventions or working with marginalised groups would be advantageous. Interest and knowledge of social prescribing, nature-based interventions or working with people with autism would be an additional benefit. You will join NIHR PenCLAHRC and the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Plymouth. Research training, supervision and mentorship will be provided as well as support from advisors in the wider CLAHRC team, including experts in evidence synthesis and complex interventions research methods. For further information please contact Dr Kerryn Husk or Dr Nick Axford

Funding notes: The studentship is supported for three years and includes full home/EU tuition fees, plus a stipend of an estimated £15,009 per annum (based on 19/20 stipend amounts). Applicants normally required to cover overseas fees will have to cover the difference between the home/EU and the overseas tuition fee rates (£12,285 for the 19/20 academic year). If you are selected you will be required to provide financial assurances. 

This vacancy will involve working with children and/or vulnerable adults and any appointment will be subject a Disclosure and Barring Service check.

To apply: Follow the link and click ‘Apply’. Please mark the application for the attention of Amber Strong. Please note: You do not need to submit a project proposal with your application. If you have any questions on the admissions process contact  

The closing date for applications is 12 midnight on Sunday 16 June 2019Shortlisted candidates will be invited to attend interview on the 09 July.  Applicants who have not received an offer of a place by 30 June should consider their application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.