PhD bursary in design and intimacy in a care residence

PhD bursary in design and intimacy in a care residence

Published Deadline Location
16 Jun 1 Jul Genk

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The PhD position is linked to the project "Longing For: A design-led exploration of intimacy and sexual expression within the context of residential care for individuals of advanced age with high support needs".

Job description

This PhD position is a joint doctorate between the Associated Faculty of Arts (KU Leuven/LUCA School of Arts) and the University of Edinburgh.

At the Associated Faculty of Arts (KU Leuven/LUCA School of Arts) your doctorate in the arts will be embedded in the research unit Inter-Actions (LUCA School of Arts). Inter-Actions brings together a series of research clusters on (among other things) sustainable design, meaningful play and care, empathy and well-being. The research work at Inter-Actions mainly focuses on research and creation where the relationship between the maker (designer, animator, filmmaker, ...), the created artefact (film, photographic work, graphical object...) and the 'audience' (the user, the viewer, ...) is questioned. This bursary is part of the cluster Care, Empathy & Wellbeing. This cluster combines research and (critical) design practice in design and care, empathy and wellbeing. This includes a strong research focus on (participatory) design for people with dementia, but equally with people with autism, intellectual disabilities, etc. The research and design work is both on a 'product' level and on a systemic level (how can design help to question and change the care system), combining reflective practice at the intersection of poetic, social and agonistic design. More information about the research in design and dementia can be found via

At the University of Edinburgh, you will join an interdisciplinary team of researchers from across Schools in our College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, working in tandem through our Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) Academy. You will work directly with supervisors in our School of Design (Edinburgh College of Art) and our School of Health & Social Sciences, both of whom contribute to the ACRC and will help facilitate your integration to the Academy as a visiting PhD student. The ACRC Academy for Leadership and Training in Advanced Care is developing the next generation of leaders in the field of Advanced Care, who are both excellent in their core disciplines and skilled in working widely across disciplines and sectors. The core PhD programme is thematic, structured, and enterprise oriented; we envisage that you will be contributing to the core research theme entitled “New Models of Care”, working at the intersections of health, well-being and design. More information about the ACRC can be found at


‘Longing for’ seeks to support the debate on the often-neglected subject of intimacy and sexual expression among individuals of advanced age who live in residential care, many of whom have high support needs such as dementia as well as other age-related physical or mental ailments. The candidate will employ design-led approaches to elicit insights through action among communities of carers and those for whom they care (participatory design or co-design). This research will result in tools or service approaches that facilitate interaction and communication between all participating parties and allow for a response to the unique intimacy and sexual expression based needs within formal residential care.

As the researcher-designer, you will create and reflect on objects (from small prototypes to toolkits to finished artefacts) and methods that will help facilitate the discussion on sexuality and intimacy and support the integration of these reflective tools in care practice. For this, you will use frameworks and methods from participatory design and social design. Naturally, you will work as a designer-researcher, but in close cooperation with the care domain.

In this position, you will therefore:

  • start a PhD trajectory and successfully complete a doctorate in the arts
  • successfully carry out the ‘Longing for’-project in collaboration with the KU Leuven/LUCA school of Arts, University of Edinburgh and all care partners involved.
  • collaborate on the development of the Care, Empathy and Wellbeing cluster at LUCA School of Arts
  • build a network around your research
  • take on a limited role in education (max. 120 hrs/year)
  • disseminate your research and design results at relevant conferences/exhibitions and in publications


KU Leuven



For the position you must:

  • Have a relevant Master's degree in design-related discipline (graphic, product, industrial, interaction, etc.)
  • Be capable of carrying out design-oriented research methods
  • Be able to work independently, but also be a team player (although the research will be done independently, you will be part of a larger research team at LUCA School of Arts and the University of Edinburgh)
  • Be good at organizing and planning
  • Be able to document your process well through various forms of media 
  • Possess a good command of presentation skills 
  • Have a reflective and inquisitive attitude
  • Have an interest in or existing experience in participatory and/or social design.
  • Have an excellent command of English, but also a strong willingness to learn Dutch or already have Dutch proficiency 
  • Specifically for the academic nature of this position and the fact that it is a shared PhD across two universities, the proficiency in English is required. However, due to the collaboration with carers and residents, many of whom do not speak or understand English, building or already possessing a proficiency in Dutch will be expected. 

A potential candidate must have passed one of the following English language tests (BEFORE the start of the position). Students who have yet to take the test are encouraged to apply as qualification must be achieved by the start date.

The following English language qualifications at the grades specified* are accepted:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. The TOEFL MyBest Score is not accepted.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

(*Revised 1 October, 2021 to correct errors stated in the requirements. Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Conditions of employment

Fixed-term contract: 1 year, extendable to a total of 4 years.


The appointment is for the duration of 1 year, extendable to a total of 4 years after positive interim evaluations. The place of employment will be LUCA School of Arts, Campus C-Mine which is located in Genk, Belgium. You will also work in various local care environments of people of advanced age as well as the possibility to engage with other campuses of LUCA. As part of the collaboration, regular research stays (totalling 12 months across the four years) will also take place during year 2 and 3 at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. 

The full-tuition, academic scholarship includes:

  • Each candidate is exempt from paying tuition fees for a maximum of 4 years. 
  • A yearly bench fee of 3720 Euros, which can be used to cover the cost of traveling from your home base in Belgium to Edinburgh as well as attending conferences and participation in doctoral consortia. 
  • A four year KU Leuven stipend


In your doctoral studies, you will be supervised by supervisors Dr. Niels Hendriks and Dr. Andrea Wilkinson (LUCA) and Dr. Arno Verhoeven & Dr. Heather Wilkinson (University of Edinburgh).

Additional external experts will be selected to form a doctoral commission but will be appointed at a later date.

Candidates are expected to start on 1st of October 2022.


  • PhD; Research, development, innovation; Technical and laboratory; Education
  • Engineering; Language and culture
  • University graduate
  • AT314113


C-Mine 5, 3600, Genk

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