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Studentship Opportunity Skills Development Scotland (Open to International Students)



Digital literacy, “the ability to find, evaluate and communicate information on digital platforms” (Wikipedia, 2022), is one of the key skills needed by all levels of workers in the 21st century economy. Growth sectors such as renewable energy, software development, finance and the health sectors make particularly strong demands on digital skills in addition to the traditional reading, writing and maths skills.


The research will investigate the level of digital literacy demanded by employers and the supply of skills among those entering the workforce. An analysis of job advertisements will be followed up with interviews with recruitment professionals in a sample of industries in Scotland. The researcher will also examine the digital literacy skills of apprentices and college leavers entering the workforce, starting with an examination of the digital skills elements of their qualifications.


The study will compare approaches to digital literacy in the workforce in Denmark, a country with a similar population to Scotland, but a more productive economy. Evidence of the effect of digital literacy skills will come from the comparative study and will look at school leaving qualifications, post-school qualifications, employer demands and skills development in the workplace (work-based learning and apprenticeships).


The research aims to address the following questions: What is the level of digital literacy of individuals entering the workforce? What are employers’ perceptions of digital literacy requirements? What are the gaps in digital literacy of entrants to the workforce? How does the support available to develop digital literacy skills impact on productivity?


The research will inform skills development policy in Scotland in collaboration with Skills Development Scotland. The comparative study will also identify examples of implementation that will contribute to improved prospects for those entering the workforce and enhance national productivity.

First Supervisor: Dr. David Haynes, Edinburgh Napier University


The scholarship is available as a +3 (3 year PhD) or a 1+3 (Masters year and 3 year PhD) studentship depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process, however you can access guidance here to help you decide on which to apply for. The programme will commence in October 2023. The full ESRC studentship package includes, as advised by ESRC:

  • An annual maintenance grant (stipend)

  • Fees at the standard institutional home rate

  • Students can also draw on a pooled Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)


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