Moray House School of Education and Sport

Health Promotion (Physical Activity) MSc by Research student

Application Deadline: 20 August 2019. Eligible to UK/EU and International students. Covers MSc by Research tuition fees.

Applications are invited for a funded (fees-only UK/EU rate) Masters by Research (MScR Sport) studentship at the University of Edinburgh and Oriam, Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre. This is a unique opportunity to join the Health Promotion Team at Oriam and contribute to their service delivery whilst undertaking a complementary 1 year Masters by research in the area of physical activity supervised by staff at the University of Edinburgh. Graduates with at least a 2:1 BSc (Hons) in health, exercise, physical activity or related discipline, and with gym instructor awards (Level 2 and 3) are invited to apply.

Project Details and Aims

The successful applicant would be based between Oriam: Scotland’s Sports Performance Centre and the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, Institute of Sport, PE and Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. 

You would report to the Health Promotion Manager, Oriam and the MScR supervisors at University of Edinburgh. 

You would be expected to work: Full time; 35 hours/week (including 14 hours/week service delivery)

This studentship would cover the MSc Research (Sport) UK/EU rate of tuition fees paid to The University of Edinburgh.

Oriam and the Health Promotion team

The Health Promotion team at Oriam are responsible for the development of initiatives designed to improve the health and wellbeing of staff and students at Heriot-Watt University.  They also deliver a series of referral programmes designed to support students who would like to be more active but struggle to achieve this as a result of physical or mental health issues. 

The successful applicant will work with the team to help ensure these core initiatives are evidence-based. The candidate should be committed to understanding the processes involved in improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and have the ability to find innovative ways to encourage this.  We are looking for a candidate who is outgoing, self-motivated and happy to work within the broader team at Oriam to help deliver the goal of improving staff and student wellbeing.

Key service delivery responsibilities

  • Assisting with the development of a series of tools aimed at promoting and supporting active travel. 
  • Design and implement a series of health promotion events through the year including charity runs and NHS health promotion campaigns.
  • Continue the development of the Daily Mile initiative at the Edinburgh campus.
  • Develop activities around the campus that are designed to engage staff and students when off-campus.
  • Work with students who have been referred to Oriam for advice and support on using physical activity to enhance their personal wellbeing.   

Alongside the service delivery, the successful applicant will undertake a complementary MSc Research (Sport) project at the University of Edinburgh focusing on understanding the barriers and facilitators to staff use of the Oriam’s sport and exercise facilities.

Research Project Overview

Physical activity has established physical and mental health benefits (Lee et al., 2012); however low levels of physical activity persist (Guthold, Stevens, Riley, & Bull, 2018).  The workplace has been identified as a key setting where adults could be physically active (WHO, 2018), and promoting physical activity within the workplace may be a viable way to encourage participation and improve health.   Contemporary perspectives recognise that physical activity is influenced by multiple factors and the Behaviour Change Wheel (Michie, van Stralen, & West, 2011) highlights that behaviour is likely to be influenced by the interactive influence of an individual’s Capability, Opportunity and Motivation (COM-B model).

Oriam is a state-of-the-art sport and physical activity facility located on the Riccarton Campus of Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh. This facility is on the ‘door-step’ of the 2085 staff (885 academic; 1200 professional services) (Heriot-Watt University, 2017) who work at this institution. However, the number of staff who choose to use this facility is not as originally projected. 

To date, there has been limited research that has considered University staff usage of on-site physical activity facilities that can be used to inform promotion.  Therefore, the purpose of this project is to draw on the Behaviour Change Wheel to understand the reasons why different staff sectors do or do not use this facility, with the ultimate aim of informing practice to increase usage amongst staff members. 

Supervisors and Research Environment

The supervisory team brings an excellent mix of experience and skills to support the project. First supervisor Dr Ailsa Niven (Ailsa Niven) is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health, and BPS Chartered and HPC Registered Sport and Exercise Psychologist with expertise in the psychology of physical activity. Second supervisor Dr Samantha Fawkner is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Activity for Health, with a focus on physical activity and health in Education. The University of Edinburgh offers world-class research infrastructure, training and facilities. The student will join the Graduate School of Education and Sport and be based within the Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC), which currently has 19 core members including 5 PhD students, and contributes to the MSc Physical Activity for Health and BMedSci Physical Activity for Health.  The student will have access to regular seminars, writing groups and social events. The student will also be supported to access appropriate in-house or external training through the Graduate School of Education and Sport and the Institute for Academic Development.


The studentship will commence on 1 October 2019. At the University of Edinburgh, to study at postgraduate level you must normally hold a degree in an appropriate subject, with an excellent or very good classification (equivalent to first or upper second class honours in the UK), plus meet the entry requirements for the specific postgraduate research programme as articulated on the Degree Finder:

Degree Finder: MSc by Research 

Through the application process and interview, the applicant should demonstrate the following:  


  • Undergraduate degree in health or physical activity-related discipline, 2:1 or 1st class.
  • Level 2 gym or group exercise qualification.
  • Level 3 personal training qualification.


  • Experience of delivering and or taking part in health and wellbeing initiatives is essential. 
  • Experience of working on the gym floor or in a group exercise environment is desirable.
  • Experience of undertaking applied research projects and managing a large data set is desirable.

Personal Skills

  • Conscientious and committed with an attention for detail.
  • Excellent communication skills in the written and spoken word.
  • Excellent information technology skills.
  • Ability to work independently as directed whilst contributing proactively to the department.
  • Honesty and openness and an approachable and caring demeanour.
  • Commitment to professional development.


The scholarship application deadline is Tuesday 20 August 2019

The application process has two components. Firstly, please email your CV and cover letter to:,, and

Secondly, as part of this application you must also apply for an MSc by Research at the Moray House School of Education and Sport using the link on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder:

Degree Finder: MSc by Research 

The application form to the University of Edinburgh should include a brief research proposal (2-3 pages +references) to justify the need for a research project to evaluate uptake of University workplace physical activity programmes. The proposal should be written in an academic style citing appropriate evidence and should include:

  1. an overview of the relationship between physical and health;
  2. a justification for the role of the workplace in promoting physical activity;
  3. consideration of the evidence of University provision for promoting physical activity to University staff;
  4. proposed approach to the research.

PLEASE MARK CLEARLY ON THE APPLICATION: 'For the attention of Dr Ailsa Niven'.


Interviews for the MSc by Research Education and Sport scholarship are anticipated to take place in the week beginning September 2019 (by Skype or face to face (TBC).


Project supervisor(s) are Dr Ailsa Niven and Dr Samantha Fawkner.

Informal enquiries relating to this project can be made to Dr Ailsa Niven,

Related Links

Postgraduate Research Degrees