Exploring the impact of compassion-based initiatives in higher education

Project summary

The objective of this PhD is to continue material development and impact assessment of a new compassion-based initiative that has been developed for use with undergraduate students.

The PhD programme of research will broadly meet two aims:

Dr Caroline Harvey has been leading on the curriculum development of Compassion in Higher Education, having introduced the Micro Skills of Compassionate Communication to undergraduate students during the last three years.

Encouraging students to develop a more compassionate approach towards themselves and their peers has the potential to enhance feelings of inclusivity and group functioning, improve communication skills and result in increased feelings of wellbeing. This research will develop understanding of the most effective ways in which compassionate skills can be developed in the higher education student population and associated curriculums. It will expand on existing research in this area by refining/enhancing the current materials developed by Dr Harvey and Dr Frances Maratos with the potential to develop/design further materials; and to assess potential roll-out of this approach to a wider interdisciplinary audience.

Awareness of this research area is growing and several universities have expressed an interest in using the materials developed by Dr Harvey and Dr Maratos. The PhD is one of several PhD projects within the Compassion in Education (CIE) Research Group, which is headed by Dr Maratos, and has the potential for wide impact, with interest in the current higher education work received from several UK universities and overseas.

This PhD will support the expansion of learning resources that will be disseminated internationally and the potentially candidate will join a vibrant PhD community. For more information, please see Harvey, et al., (2020) and Maratos et al., (2019).

Research group

Compassion in Education (CIE) Research Group

Entry requirements

Applicants will need either a first-class or upper-second-class honours degree accredited by the British Psychological Society in Psychology or a related subject area.

International students may also need to meet our English language requirements. Find out more about our entry requirements for international students

Project specific requirements must align with the University’s standard requirements.

How to apply

Please contact Dr Caroline Harvey (c.harvey@derby.ac.uk) in the first instance for more information on how to apply.

The University has four starting points each year for MPhil/PhD programmes (September, January, March and June). Applications should be made at least three months before you would want to start your programme. Please note that, if you require a visa, additional time will be required. 


Self-funded by student. There is a range of options that may be available to you to help you fund your PhD.


Dr Caroline Harvey
Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Caroline teaches a range of undergraduate and postgraduate modules on our Psychology programmes. She supervises PhD students and is an active researcher. Caroline's research is focused on two broad areas and she leads on research concerning compassion in higher education and also works as part of a team that are interested in the links between nature and wellbeing.

Academic Frances Maratos, smiling.
Professor of Psychology and Affective Science

Frances Maratos’ research informs applied emotion regulation, compassion and wellbeing interventions worldwide. She is widely published and has excellent grant capture. Frances is the exiting Chair of the College of HPSC Research Committee. Her Professorial appointment reflects not only her international research profile but also her longstanding commitment to the University.