PhD studentship: Linguistic performance in objective structured clinical examinations: A comparative study of performance and re University of Southampton Medical Education United Kingdom

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



Medical Education

Location:  Southampton General Hospital

Closing Date:  Tuesday 04 June 2019

Reference:  1133519RA


Lead Institute / Faculty: Medicine


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 Government1, 2, Medical Schools Council3 and the General Medical Council4.  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.


Work in linguistics indicates that language background can act as an obstacle to educational attainment5. More recently, experimental work has shown that accent and dialect can also act as barrier to professional attainment where naïve listeners showed implicit bias against expert medical testimony delivered in Korean accented American English compared to General American accented English6. Current research is focussing on how this phenomena can create barriers in professional attainment within a legal setting for young lawyers at the early stages of their careers7.


This project seeks to build on this work and investigate whether there is evidence of linguistic prejudice and if this could impact on the achievements of medical students from underrepresented backgrounds compared to their peers from more traditional backgrounds. The study aims to investigate linguistic performance and attitudes towards these nonstandard linguistic varieties in the context of objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs).  WP and traditional entry students from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton will be recorded in their OSCEs to assess language use and also the responses and reactions from interlocutors: both simulated patients and clinicians.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.  




    Milburn A, Shephard G, Attwood T, Carrie AM, Cleal P, Gregg P, Johnston D, Guy C, Hamilton D, Williams C. State of the Nation 2015: Social mobility and child poverty in Great Britain. Social Mobility & Child Poverty (SMCP) Commission; 2015.


    Milburn A, Shephard G. State of the Nation 2016: Social Mobility in Great Britain. Social Mobility & Child Poverty (SMCP) Commission; 2016.


    Selecting for Excellence Executive Group. Selecting for Excellence Final Report: Medical Schools Council, 2014.


    General Medical Council. The state of medical education and practice in the UK, 2011.


    Williams F. Some research notes on dialect attitudes. In Roger W. Shuy and Ralph W. Fasold, Language Attitudes: Current Trends and Prospects. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 1973; 113-28.


    Pantos A, & Perkins A. Measuring Implicit and Explicit Attitudes Toward Foreign Accented Speech, Journal of Language and Social Psychology 2012; 32:1, 3-20.


    Watt D, Sharma D & Levon E. Accent bias and fair access in Britain: Economic and Social Research Council Grant Award, 2017-20, £588,803


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:


Please contact:  Prof Sally Curtis 


Within the Faculty of Medicine the candidate will join the Department of Medical Education. In this department, experienced staff from a wide range of specialisms work in partnership with internal and external stakeholders to develop an engaging, student-centred learning and research environment. Staff foster a learning culture that empowers individuals and encourages innovation and we are continually exploring opportunities in education and research.



Within the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, the candidate will join The Centre for Linguistics, Language Education and Acquisition Research (CLLEAR). CLLEAR is a dynamic centre which connects and supports an active body of Linguistics staff and students and offers a range of research related activity:


    Invited talks and research seminars;


    Reading and research groups;


    Advanced linguistics training


Person Specification: See below


The successful candidate is likely to have the following qualifications:


    A 1stor 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


Interview date:  24th June 2019

Email details to a friend

Further details:


    Job Description and Person Specification


If you apply for this position please say you saw it on Educaloxy


All Jobs


Harvard University Academic Positions

Kuwait University Current Faculty Openings

Osaka University Academic Opportunities

Purdue University Job Postings for Faculty Positions

Texas Tech University Faculty Openings

Tsinghua University Job Postings

University of Cambridge Job Openings

University of Geneva Faculty Opportunities

University of New South Wales Job Openings

University of Nottingham Research Positions

University of Oslo Academic Jobs

University of Saskatchewan Faculty Positions

University of Southampton Research Vacancies

University of Tokyo Current Academic Vacancies

University of Toronto Open Faculty Positions