PhD Scholarship - High-intensity interval exercise interventions in educational settings

The University of Queensland (UQ) and the University of Exeter are seeking an exceptional student for this PhD Scholarship: High-intensity interval exercise interventions in educational settings as part of the QUEX Institute. This joint PhD scholarship provides a fantastic opportunity for a talented doctoral student to work closely with a world class research group and benefit from the combined expertise and facilities offered at the two institutions. The successful applicant will have the chance to study in Australia and the UK, and will graduate with a joint degree from The University of Queensland and the University of Exeter.

In addition to this project, a further six UQ-based projects are available, along with seven Exeter-based projects.


Project details

High-intensity interval exercise interventions in educational settings

Project team Project description Preferred academic background


Dr Michalis Stylianou

Dr Jacki Walker


Dr Alan Barker

Dr Lisa Price


Despite only ~ 20% of children and adolescents meeting the physical activity guidelines and the identification of educational settings as ideal sites for physical activity promotion, contemporary systematic reviews show that traditional school-based interventions are unsuccessful.Accordingly, novel approaches in educational settings are needed to promote physical activity in children and adolescents and promote health and wellbeing.

Given recent data suggesting that health benefits (e.g. cardiometabolic health and fitness outcomes) are driven by vigorous intensity physical activity, nterventions targeting vigorous intensity physical activity have been identified as a novel approach to promoting health in youth. Specifically, there have been calls in recent physical activity guidelines in the UK and USA to focus on the role of high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE) training as a method to increase vigorous intensity physical activity, to promote health and wellbeing in children and adolescents. Relevant reviews support the utility of HIIE to reduce cardiometabolic risk and augment cardiorespiratory fitness in children and adolescents. However, the majority of HIIE research has been conducted in laboratories and relevant research in authentic educational settings such as schools, a unique and opportune location to target health behaviour modification in children and adolescents, is limited. Further, several shortcomings have been identified in school-based HIIE research.

Building on the recommendationsof the narrative review by Bond et al. and a systematic review by Stylianou, Barker, Walker, et al. [in progress], this project will address the following aims:

  1. Investigate the acceptability, feasibility, and process of delivery of HIIE interventions in educational settings.
  2. Investigate the effect of HIIE interventions in educational settings on: (a) markers of cardiometabolic health, (b) cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, (c) physical activity levels, (d) psychological factors relating to exercise participation (e.g. enjoyment) and wellbeing (e.g. self-esteem, anxiety), and (e) cognitive and academic outcomes.
  3. To examine the contribution of nutrition as a confounding factor or exploratory variable in HIIE interventions.
  4. To examine whether intervention outcomes are altered by participant characteristics (e.g. age, sex, body weight status), delivery setting (e.g. in class, before/after school), and intervention characteristics (e.g. modality, frequency, intensity, duration).

The uniqueness of this PhD lies in addressing the above novel aims, adopting a co-construction approach by involving stakeholders (e.g. students, teachers) in the design of HIIE interventions, and undertaking a comprehensive process evaluation.

A bachelor’s degree with first class honours or a coursework master’s degree and an overall GPA (grade point average) equivalent to 5.65 on the 7-point UQ scale, which includes a relevant research component.

The successful applicant for this project will enrol through The University of Queensland's School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences.

Questions about this project should be directed to Dr Michalis Stylianou


These scholarships include a living stipend of AUD $27,596 (2019) tax free, indexed annually, tuition fees and Overseas Student Health Cover (where applicable). A travel grant of AUD $8,500 per annum, and a training grant of AUD $3,000 are also available over the program.

How to apply

These scholarships attract a large number of applications and are therefore highly competitive. The are several steps involved in the application process, and these are outlined below. Please note this process is for the UQ-based projects. The Exeter-based projects have a different process.

  1. Expression of Interest: To be considered for this program, you must complete an Expression of Interest via the link below.
  2. Shortlisting: The project team will review all Expressions of Interest received. They may contact you at this stage to request more information or to have an informal discussion about your suitability for the project.
  3. Interview: The project team will nominate the two most suitable applicants for each project (or only one if they prefer), and these applicants will be invited to attend a formal interview. As there are seven UQ-based projects, a maximum of 14 applicants will be interviewed.
  4. Invitation to apply: The applicants who were interviewed will be ranked. The top five ranked interviewees will be invited to submit a full application, providing they have applied for five different projects. If two applicants have expressed interest in the same project, the lower ranked applicant of the two will not proceed, and the applicant with the next highest ranking for a different project will be invited to apply instead.
  5. Assessment of application: If you are invited to submit a full application, this is the point at which you will be assessed for eligibility to enter the PhD program. To avoid delays at this point, you should familiarise yourself with the program requirements including evidence of relevant research experience and English language proficiency prior to submitting an Expression of Interest.
  6. Commencement: Successful applicants will commence at The University of Queensland in Research Quarter 1 (January, 2020).

Expressions of interest are open until 20 May, 2019.

Submit an expression of interest

Questions? Contact the Graduate School.