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Language Quality and Maternity

The University of East Anglia and the Shared Services Partnership group/The Language Shop ( invite applications for a Collaborative Doctoral Award as part of the Language Quality and Maternity project, from October 2019.

AHRC/CHASE Collaborative Doctoral Award PhD studentship in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, Norwich and The Language Shop, London on behalf of the Shared Services Partnership


Language Quality and Maternity

Qualification type: PhD
Location: Norwich, London
Funding for: UK Students / EU Students
Funding amount: AHRC stipend: for the academic year 2019-20, the stipend will be £15,559 non London (2 years) / £17,559 with London weighting (1 year). To include enhanced stipend to cover additional travel costs relating to the project.
Closes: Friday 3 May 2019, 12 noon

Language Quality and Maternity

The University of East Anglia and the Shared Services Partnership group/The Language Shop ( invite applications for a Collaborative Doctoral Award as part of the Language Quality and Maternity project, from October 2019.

This PhD research project will focus on communication across languages in maternity settings. What happens when healthcare providers and users don’t use the same language? How are new technologies being harnessed to help, and when do they hinder effective communication? The award-holder will have extensive skills training, close research supervision by public sector and academic partners, and unique access to the data and user experiences which are needed to answer these questions in real-world settings. We are keen to hear from suitably qualified applicants, ideally with relevant experience of either healthcare and/or the language industry, and fluency in at least one language other than English. The successful candidate is likely to be based in Norwich for two years and London for one year, with support available for additional costs of living in London. Further travel to conduct research will also be required.

The studentship

This CHASE Collaborative Doctoral Award focuses on the quality of translation/interpreting in UK maternity settings. Working with academic partners Prof. Joanna Drugan and Dr Sharon Black (UEA), and industry partners represented by Jaimin Patel (CEO of The Language Shop), the researcher will have access to high-level training in research skills, exceptional sector expertise and an archive of real-world data to deliver new understanding of how best to deliver language services in real-world maternity care.

When should a midwife use an ‘in person’ or ‘face-to-face’ (F2F) interpreter? When might a (much cheaper and more flexible) phone interpreter be sufficient? And when might it be worth investing in remote video interpreting, and associated training? These are hard questions, yet such decisions are being made every day, overwhelmingly by non-specialists.

This research is urgently needed. Our societies are increasingly multilingual, with hundreds of languages spoken in the UK, including many rare languages where there are few or no trained professional interpreters (of spoken/signed content) and translators (of text). Public sector organisations face a growing need to deliver services and engage with users across languages, in a context of dwindling budgets and emerging technologies. The related challenges are profound, including practical, financial, commercial and ethical. Yet frontline workers, such as doctors and midwives, typically have no training or expertise in cross-language communication and, under pressure to cut costs on ‘non-core’ services, may see emerging technologies such as Google Translate or remote video interpreting as an attractive apparent solution.

No study has as yet examined the combination of maternity settings, remote video interpreting, user experiences, and the impact for quality of service provision, nor are there any practical guidelines recommending when each technology might, and should never, be used, or advising on ethical concerns around data protection, patient consent and so on.

The proposed project represents a unique industry-academic partnership which offers the required access to users and real-world data to address this gap in knowledge. Main supervisor, Prof. Jo Drugan, wrote the first ‘real-world’ study of translation quality assessment (Bloomsbury, 2013), for which she surveyed over 200 service providers and end-users to devise an original model of professional quality assessment relating to translations. The proposed project offers a doctoral candidate the chance to test, extend and develop this quality assessment model in relation to spoken/signed language in a setting where effective, compassionate communication is essential, maternity care.

The second academic supervisor Dr Black is an expert in accessibility and interpreting. Industry supervisor, Jaimin Patel, acts as the representative partner of the umbrella Shared Services Partnership group (SSP), a forum for public sector clients and users of language services, particularly Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS Trusts, and local authorities. The Language Shop also brings to the project its archives of interpreting and translation quality monitoring data and exceptional up-to-date understanding of the sector and relevant technologies.

The successful candidate will work with a wide range of users and stakeholders to develop understanding about what works in the delivery of language services. The results of the collaboration will benefit multiple diverse parties from the users of maternity services, the NHS, linguists, and students to public sector service providers and policy-makers from a wide range of sectors.

The supervised learning environment will match tailored research skills training directly to the material of study, with careful attention to ethics as well as first-hand experience of a professional environment beyond academia.

We will design the placement with the student to allow him/her to spend one year based in London, and the rest of the time in Norwich, with a programme of shorter day-trips to London. This will mean the student has the option to spend one full academic year in accommodation at the University of East London, or in private sector accommodation if s/he prefers. The project will also involve travel to conduct the research, including a funded placement in the USA arranged in collaboration with the industry partners. However, this arrangement is indicative and the most appropriate arrangement will be agreed with the successful candidate on appointment. Additional funding will be provided to support the extra cost of living in London, and travel to conduct the research.

UEA’s Humanities Faculty is home to researchers in a number of fields relating to the Language Quality and Maternity project. During periods based at The Language Shop, the researcher will have the chance to engage with key staff, learning first-hand from their expertise in providing and assessing language services. The Language Shop will also offer a range of benefits in kind, including access to conduct field research, provision of office space and a computer, co-supervision by a highly experienced senior provider of language services and quality assessment, and up to £5,000 in extra funding to support the additional costs of London accommodation and research expenses.

The candidate

The ideal candidate for this studentship will have strong research potential as well as relevant experience of working in translation, interpreting and/or healthcare. This combination could be achieved in a range of ways, however, and we would wish to consider both those with directly relevant academic qualifications in translation and interpreting studies, and less traditional applicants who have a suitable combination of skills and experience.

Essential skills/attributes: Strong academic qualifications in languages, translation, interpreting or other subjects relevant for the research topic; outstanding spoken and written communication skills in English; excellent IT skills, preferably including strong experience in Excel as our data sets will require manipulation of information in this format.

Desirable skills/attributes: Experience and/or knowledge of maternity/healthcare settings; professional experience of translation/interpreting or related roles in the language service industry; experience and/or knowledge of relevant technologies, including telephone and remote video interpreting.

How to apply

Applications for this studentship must be made via the UEA application form here

Terms and conditions

The studentship is subject to UKRI eligibility criteria, and will cover home or EU fees and stipend at UKRI rates for a maximum of four years full-time, or eight years part-time study, subject to institutional regulations.

Informal enquiries

Informal enquiries about this collaborative project can be sent to Prof. Jo Drugan (

Full advert can be found here