University of Exeter funding: QUEX PhD Studentship

Mental health and cognitive impacts of cannabis use across the life course. PhD Psychology, PhD Studentship (Funded by QUEX) Ref: 3900

About the award


Lead Supervisor: Professor Celia Morgan, Professor of Psychopharmacology, University of Exeter

Second Supervisor: Professor Leanne Hides, Lives Lived Well Professor, University of Queensland

Join a world-leading, cross-continental research team

The University of Exeter and the University of Queensland are seeking exceptional students to join a world-leading, cross-continental research team tackling major challenges facing the world’s population in global sustainability and wellbeing as part of the QUEX Institute. The joint PhD programme provides a fantastic opportunity for the most talented doctoral students to work closely with world-class research groups and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions, with a lead supervisor within each university. This prestigious programme provides full tuition fees, stipend, travel funds and research training support grants to the successful applicants.  The studentship provides funding for up to 42 months (3.5 years).

Eight generous, fully-funded studentships are available for the best applicants, four offered by the University of Exeter and four by the University of Queensland. This select group will spend at least one year at each University and will graduate with a joint degree from the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland.

Find out more about the PhD studentships

Successful applicants will have a strong academic background and track record to undertake research projects based in one of the three themes of:  Healthy Living, Global Environmental Futures and Digital Worlds and Disruptive Technologies.

The closing date for applications is midnight on 31 August 2020 (BST), with interviews taking place week commencing 12 October 2020.  The start date is expected to be April 2021.

Please note that of the eight Exeter led projects advertised, we expect that up to four studentships will be awarded to Exeter based students.

Project Description

Cannabis use is rising worldwide due to changes in the legalisation in recreational and medical use. The growing value of the cannabis market means that tremendous pressures are being placed on policy makers by industry, and on consumers by increasing cannabis availability and potency. This is all in a landscape where there is an absence of clear understanding of what dictates vulnerability to its harmful effects and which are the best approaches to treating the estimated 10% of people for whom cannabis use becomes problematic.  Under the healthy living theme of the QUEX partnership this project will aim to understanding individual differences in risk of mental health and cognitive deficits associated with cannabis use, and how this differs for adolescents and older adults. It will examine individual differences in response to treatment for cannabis use disorder and barriers to accessing treatment and also explore how changes in legal status might affect mental health outcomes from smoking cannabis. 

The QUEX partnership affords the unique benefits of working both in U.K. and Australia, two countries with differing policies on cannabis use. This studentship will capitalise on three large existing datasets held by the lead supervisors to investigate 1) how age affects risk of negative outcomes particularly concentrating on two crucial periods in the life course - adolescence and older age - the latter of whom who have the fastest rising cannabis use worldwide; 2) how individual differences affect treatment for cannabis use disorder and barriers to accessing treatment; and 3) how changes in legal policy affect mental health consequences of using cannabis. Data from the Headspace Centres for adolescents in Australia will form the basis for investigating treatments of cannabis use amongst adolescents. 

Prof Morgan at University of Exeter has been collecting data on adolescent cannabis use over a number of years as part of a number of undergraduate and postgraduate student projects, in collaboration with researchers in Canada (UBC) and Israel (University of Tel Aviv). Prof Morgan is also using the PROTECT dataset of ~20,000 older adults hosted at the medical school at UoE to investigate the impacts of cannabis use in this age group. Prof Hides at UQ has been collecting data on cannabis use in ~5000 young people, with 748 enrolled into an RCT with follow up data at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months. Prof Hides also works together with Lives Lived Well, the largest support service for substance use problems across Queensland and New South Wales, and is collecting outcome data for all service users who enter treatment with LLW.  

Entry requirements

Applicants should be highly motivated and have, or expect to obtain, either a first or upper-second class BA or BSc (or equivalent) in a relevant discipline.

If English is not your first language you will need to meet the English language requirements and provide proof of proficiency. Click here for more information and a list of acceptable alternative tests.

How to apply

You will be asked to submit some personal details and upload a full CV, supporting statement, academic transcripts and two academic references. Your supporting statement should outline your academic interests, prior research experience and reasons for wishing to undertake this project, with particular reference to the collaborative nature of the partnership with the University of Queensland, and how this will enhance your training and research.

Applicants who are chosen for interview will be notified week commencing 5 October 2020, and must be available for interview week commencing 12 October 2020.

Please quote reference 3900 on your application and in any correspondence about this studentship.


Application deadline:31st August 2020
Value:Full tuition fees, stipend of £15,000 p.a, travel funds of up to £15,000, and RTSG of £15,000 are available over the 3.5 year studentship
Duration of award:per year
Contact: PGR Admissions Office