Course Overview

The PhD in Child and Youth Research is a four-year full-time or six-year part-time interdisciplinary structured PhD programme. Anchored within the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic studies and delivered in partnership with the Health Promotion Research Centre in the College of Medicine, Nursing, & Health Sciences, this structured PhD programme aims to create a learning community of child and youth scholars within a high-quality research environment.

The programme is aligned with the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies strategic objectives, which designates Childhood, Youth and Family as a signature research area. The programme provides an opportunity for graduates to undertake postgraduate research informed by a broad range of disciplinary areas, including (but not limited to): Applied Social Sciences, Children Studies, Education, English, Drama and Theatre Studies, Geography, Health Promotion, Psychology, Politics and Sociology. The Programme will support doctoral researchers to conduct high quality policy and practice-relevant research within their disciplinary area(s) of interest and to develop knowledge and skills in key theoretical and methodological approaches relevant to child and youth research.

All students complete a major dissertation (c.80,000 words, 330ects) alongside a range of taught modules (30ects). The taught modules, which are delivered across year one and two, provide programme participants with the opportunity to widen their disciplinary knowledge and skill base to inform the development of their thesis work. 

Programme aims

The programme aims are:

  • To develop programme participants’ knowledge and skills in key disciplinary and inter-disciplinary theoretical and methodological areas relating to children and youth;
  • To prepare programme participants to conduct high quality policy and practice-relevant research with children and youth;
  • To provide graduates with the set of transferable work-skills to facilitate their successful entry into a full range of employment settings.

Course Outline:

Course and module offerings and details may be subject to change.

Students will undertake a PhD induction module in year one. Other core modules for all students are as follows:

  • Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Children and Youth (Year One)
  • Research Ethics and Pragmatics (Year One)
  • Contemporary Issues Affecting Children and Young People (Year Two)

Two additional option modules will be selected in consultation with the student’s supervisor as part of the students Personal Development Plan and should be designed to enhance the student’s capacity to undertake and successfully complete their research project.

A list of the available option modules can be accessed here and includes:

  • Advanced discipline-specific modules.
  • Generic transferrable and professional skills modules specifically designed for postgraduate research students.


Programmes Available


  • Structured PhD (Child and Youth Research), full-time 
  • Structured PhD (Child and Youth Research), part-time 

Applications are made online via the University of Galway Postgraduate Applications System


Applications must include the following documentation:

  • A personal statement (600 words)
  • A curriculum vitae
  • Two letters of reference from academic referees
  • A research proposal (1,000 words).

Candidates are encouraged to consult with a potential supervisor before applying.

The admission of applicants to the programme will take into account the qualifications and preparedness of the applicant, the availability of qualified and accessible supervisors, and the alignment of the research proposal with CASSCS research priorities.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.


Learning Outcomes

Entry Requirements

Applicants will be expected to have an upper Second Class Honours degree at level 9, 2:1 grade, (or equivalent international qualification) in a discipline relevant to the research project they are proposing. If applicants do not have a degree of that kind, they must have demonstrated high ability by some other means (e.g., through publications or achievement in a higher degree). Where applicants do not meet the formal academic requirements they can apply for entry through the University’s Recognition for Prior Learning Policy. Garda vetting is generally required for students participating in this programme.

Who’s Suited to This Course

Graduates will be prepared for sustainable careers across various pathways, inclusive of research careers in statutory, non-governmental and private sector organisations, in academia, and in civil and public service roles. Graduates from the part-time pathway can expect impact in accelerated career progression in their organisation and / or lateral moves into research / evaluation and related functions.



Current research projects

Title: Is School Avoidance a specific phenomenon distinct from other forms of School

Attendance Problems? A Mixed Methods Investigation into the systemic factors related to

school avoidance.

PhD candidate: Jane Sharpe

Supervisor: Dr. Caroline Heary, School of Psychology


Title: Wicklow Democratic School: a "real Utopia"?

PhD Candidate: Dorothée Potter-Daniau

Supervisors: Dr. Cormac Forkan, Discipline of Applied Social Science and Dr Cliona

Murray, Discipline of Education.


Title: Implementation of physical education programmes in early years settings: a policy and

practice analysis.

PhD candidate: Christiane Schulte

Supervisors: Dr. Caroline Heary, School of Psychology and Professor Colette Kelly,

Discipline of Health Promotion.


Title: An investigation of first time Irish Parents’ knowledge, beliefs and understanding of their infants and toddlers social and emotional health development in the first three years of life.

PhD candidate: Catherine Maguire

Supervisor: Dr. Caroline Heary, School of Psychology


Title: What is it about the one parent family structure that influences educational outcomes for children?

PhD Candidate: Caroline Fahy

Supervisors: Professor John Canavan and Professor Michelle Millar, UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, School of Political Science and Sociology.

Current funded research opportunity

Work Placement

Related Student Organisations

Career Opportunities

Find a Supervisor / PhD Project

If you are still looking for a potential supervisor or PhD project or would like to identify the key research interests of our academic staff and researchers, you can use our online portal to help in that search

Research Areas

The move to an interdisciplinary Structured PhD in Child and Youth Research is supported by Schools, Disciplines and Research Centres that have an expertise in child and youth related research within University of Galway.

Schools, Disciplines and Research Centres Supporting the Programme


School of Education

The School of Education, with the Discipline of Education and the Discipline of Children’s Studies has a particular expertise in child and adolescent health, health inequalities, child and youth rights, violence and injury preventions, inclusive education, universal design for learning, culture and creativity, and global citizenship education.


Lead Contact: Professor Michal Molcho


School of Psychology

The School has an international reputation in research on child and youth health and wellbeing. Work is underway on a range of contemporary issues relevant to the lives of children, young people and families. These include youth mental health, sexual health, cyberbullying (bullying, cyberbullying and social media use), supporting children and young people during key transitional periods and the development of healthcare services and interventions tailored to the needs of young people.

Lead Contact: Dr. Caroline Heary


School of Political Science and Sociology

The School has a well-established reputation for research on the sociology of children, youth and families. Wider research interests include a focus on power, conflict and ideologies; gender, empowerment and globalisation; and governance and sustainable development. It brings together an international, cross-disciplinary group of leading researchers and specialists in these various fields. 

Lead Contact: Dr. Danielle Kennan


Discipline of Drama and Theatre Studies, School of English and Creative Arts

Staff within this Discipline have an expertise in theatre for young audiences, drama in education, youth and social circus, theatre in education, applied theatre, early years performance. Members of staff contribute to talks and serve on the Board of Directors of Baboró International Arts Festival for Children with many productions and workshops taking place annually at the O’Donoghue Centre for Drama, Theatre and Performance at University of Galway. Members of staff have led international research projects (Erasmus + and Creative Europe funded) and published in the areas named.


Lead Contact: Dr. Ian Walsh


Discipline of Geography, School of Geography and Archaeology

Children and young people’s geographies critically examines the places and spaces of young lives. These spaces and places span a range of socio-spatial environments including home, school, play and consumption - to name a few.  Children and young people’s geographies also considers the linkages between material and affect in the emergence of childhood socio-spatial interactions and identity formation. Within geography at the University of Galway, there is particular expertise in relation to children’s geographies of education, childhood experiences of migrant integration, the experiences of young people with the climate crisis and climate activism, and the development of creative and co-productive research design and methodologies. Taken collectively, such perspectives go beyond traditional conceptualisations of children and young people as passive ‘adults in waiting’ to explore active understandings of what it means to be a child or young person across a variety of scales (global, national, local) and within a myriad of contexts.


Lead Contact: Dr. Kathy Reilly


Health Promotion

The discipline of Health Promotion is aligned to the Health Promotion Research Centre (HPRC), a World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Health Promotion Research.  Colleagues have expertise in health, health behaviours and the social context of childhood and adolescence. Work is underway on a range of topics including nutrition, food environments, sexual health, risk behaviours and health inequalities. Centre colleagues are skilled in participatory research methods with children. The HPRC also leads the WHO Health Behaviour in School Going Children (HBSC) study in Ireland, which is a cross-national study conducted in 51 countries.  


Lead Contact: Professor Colette Kelly


UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre

The UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, within the School of Political Science and Sociology and the Discipline of Applied Social Science, is committed to improving the lives of children, young people and families through research, education and service development.  Our core research focus is the wellbeing and rights of children, young people and their families. We are recognised international leaders in the field of Family Support, incorporating research on prevention and early intervention and parenting support. Framed within the operation of the prestigious UNESCO Chair on Children, Youth and Civic Engagement, our focus on youth incorporates a body of work inclusive of mentoring, empathy and youth participation and civic engagement.

Lead Contact: Professor John Canavan

Researcher Profiles

See and the staff pages on the School of Psychology website for information on staff research interests.


Course Fees

Fees: EU

€5,750 p.a. (€5,890 including levy) 2024/25

Fees: Non EU

€14,500 p.a. (€14,640 including levy) 2024/25

Extra Information

EU Part time: Year 1 €4,250 p.a. (€4,390 including levy) 2024/25

All students, irrespective of funding, must pay the student levy of €140.

Contact Us

Programme Directors: 

  • Professor John Canavan, UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre at the School of Political Science and Sociology


  • Dr Caroline Heary, School of Psychology


  • Dr Danielle Kennan, UNESCO Child & Family Research Centre at the School of Political Science and Sociology


What Our Students Say

Dr. Lisa Ann

Dr. Lisa Ann Kennedy |   Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland

Taking part in the Structured PhD in Child and Youth Research was an invaluable experience. The course afforded me the opportunity to meet a range of world-class experts, to partake in workshops headed by leaders in the field of youth research, and to connect with other early-career researchers with similar interests. I found the dedicated core staff to be approachable and helpful. Being part of this course was challenging, rewarding and enriching. I gained a range of specific and transferable skills which has led to me embarking on an exciting career path that I had not considered prior to commencing the course.