Dr Benjamin Costello BA (Hons), MA, PhD, FRSA, FHEA, FInstLM

Dr Benjamin Costello

School of Psychology
Research Fellow

Ben is a qualitative researcher with a background in mental health, social policy, applied health research, and philosophy. He has worked across the University on research projects in mental health crisis care, female genital mutilation, twin pregnancy, advocacy, and applied ethics. His research is now primarily focused on the sexual exploitation and abuse of children via Internet technologies.

Pronouns: he/his/him


  • Fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management, 2020
  • PhD in Philosophy, University of Birmingham, 2019
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academic (HEA), 2019
  • Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (RSA), 2018
  • MA in Philosophy, University of Southampton, 2013
  • BA (Hons) in Philosophy, University of Southampton, 2012


Mental Health Policy Commission: Investing in a Resilient Generation
HEFi MicroCPD: The purpose of feedback and how to close the feedback loop

Ben obtained a First Class Honours degree and Master’s degree from the University of Southampton before moving to the University of Birmingham to undertake a PhD, which he completed in 2019. His doctoral thesis presented a novel framework of ethical decision-making by developing a model of moral sequencing to justify other-defence through early intervention to prevent harm to third-parties.

Ben was Advisor and Research Associate to the Mental Health Policy Commission (2016 to 2018) for whom he co-authored the Commission’s final report. After, he joined a corpus linguistics project as Research Fellow in the School of English, Drama, and American and Canadian Studies (2018 to 2019). At the same time, he joined the Health Services Management Centre as Research Fellow (2018 to 2019) on an NIHR funded project to investigate the contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care in England. Following this, Ben was appointed Research Fellow in the Institute of Applied Health Research (2019 to 2020) to lead on the qualitative analysis on an NIHR funded project (‘The FGM Sister Study’) to understand the preferences of FGM survivors, their male partners, and healthcare professionals for the timing of deinfibulation surgery. During 2020, Ben also worked as a Research Fellow on two other research studies for which he led on the qualitative data collection and analysis: assessing how to enable disabled people to have a voice in their care and to receive support during COVID-19; and developing a core outcome set for clinical trials in twin pregnancy.

Ben currently works as a Research Fellow in the School of Psychology on a collaborative project (funded by the Home Office) between the National Crime Agency, the University of Birmingham, the University of Bath, Aston University, and Imperial College London, looking at the design and development of tool-supported approaches to policing child sexual offences, specifically the development of decision-support for the prioritisation of those suspected of engaging in child sexual abuse.


Ben has undertaken a number of teaching roles at the University, including Teaching Associate in Philosophy (2014 to 2019), Academic Writing Tutor in the College of Arts and Law (2015 to 2020), and Academic Skills Advisor in the Academic Skills Centre (2017 to 2020). Ben teaches a number of training courses (Introduction to Learning and Teaching in Higher Education courses) for the Higher Education Futures Institute (HEFi).

Postgraduate supervision

Ben is interested in supervising students in the areas of qualitative research related to mental health, applied health research, and ethics (including applied/practical ethics). He currently supervises students on qualitative research projects.


Ben’s current research interests are: mental health, mental health crisis care, child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), female genital mutilation (FGM), advocacy, and applied ethics. He is engaged in research in each of these areas.

Other activities

Funded Research Projects

Ben is joint Principal Investigator on two projects funded by the University of Birmingham’s Education Enhancement Fund (EEF):

  • 'Employing corpus analysis and qualitative data analysis tools to better understand and act on free-text comments from student feedback: a mixed-methods study' (EEFP265) (with Dr Paul Thompson)
  • 'Improving belonging and inclusion for University of Birmingham BAME students: identifying barriers and inequalities using Experience-Based Co-Design to improve the education pathway' (EEFP253) (with Dr Sandhya Duggal)

Ben was a Co-Applicant on the following funded projects:

  • ‘Enabling disabled people to have a voice in their care and to receive support during COVID-19’. Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA) Urgency Fund (BIR 20/21 P0058)

Voluntary and Community Sector Involvement

  • Director and Vice-Chair of Bromsgrove and Redditch Network (BARN), a local Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) and Volunteer Centre
  • Director and Trustee of Redditch Nightstop, a homelessness prevention charity

Service to the Profession


  • Q Member of the Health Foundation
  • Member of the British Philosophical Association (BPA)
  • Member of the Royal Institute of Philosophy (RIP)
  • Member of the International Association for Youth Mental Health (IAYMH)


Recent publications


Jones, L, Danks, E, Costello, B, Jolly, K, Cross-Sudworth, F, Latthe, P, Fassam-Wright, M, Clarke, J, Byrne, A & Taylor, J 2021, 'Views of female genital mutilation survivors, men and healthcare professionals on timing of deinfibulation surgery and NHS service provision: qualitative FGM Sister Study', Health Technology Assessment. <https://www.journalslibrary.nihr.ac.uk/HTA/#/>

Newbigging, K, Rees, J, Ince, R, Mohan, J, Joseph, D, Ashman, M, Norden, B, Dare, C, Bourke, S & Costello, B 2020, 'The contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care in England: a mixed methods study', Health Services and Delivery Research, vol. 8, no. 29, 08290. https://doi.org/10.3310/hsdr08290

Jones, L, Danks, E, Clarke, J, Alidu, L, Costello, B, Jolly, K, Byrne, A, Fassam-Wright, M, Latthe, P & Taylor, J 2019, 'Exploring the views of female genital mutilation survivors, their male partners and healthcare professionals on the timing of deinfibulation surgery and NHS FGM care provision (the FGM Sister Study): protocol for a qualitative study', BMJ open. <https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/10/e034140.info>


Glaas, S, Costello, B & Thompson, P 2021, 'Facilitating a partnership learning community: a novel analytical protocol for understanding free-text feedback comments from students', AdvanceHE Assessment and Feedback Symposium 2021, 4/11/21 - 5/11/21.

Costello, B & Danks, E 2019, 'The FGM Sister Study: an overview', North West Central Social Care Conference, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 3/07/19.

Commissioned report

Newbigging, K, Rees, J, Ince, R, Mohan, J, Joseph, D, Ashman, M, Norden, B, Dare, C, Bourke, S & Costello, B 2020, Illustrated summary: The contribution of the voluntary sector to mental health crisis care: a mixed-methods study. University of Birmingham, Birmingham. <https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/documents/college-social-sciences/social-policy/publications/contribution-of-the-voluntary-sector-to-mental-health-crisis-care.pdf>

Burstow, P, Newbigging, K, Tew, J & Costello, B 2018, Investing in a resilient generation: keys to a mentally prosperous nation. University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK. <https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/Documents/research/policycommission/Investing-in-a-Resilient-Generation-report.pdf>

Other contribution

Jones, L, Costello, B, Danks, E & Cross-Sudworth, F 2020, Female genital mutilation (FGM): an increasingly important healthcare challenge in the UK. The Birmingham Brief, University of Birmingham. <https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/thebirminghambrief/items/2020/02/female-genital-mutilation-fgm-an-increasingly-important-healthcare-challenge-in-the-uk.aspx>

Costello, B & Burstow, P 2016, A New Paradigm for Mental Health. Birmingham Perspective, University of Birmingham. <https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/perspective/mental-health-awareness-day-2016.aspx>


Costello, B & Taylor, N 2019, 'Exploiting Technologies to Improve the Module Evaluation Questionnaire (MEQ) Feedback-Loop', HEFi Conference 2019, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 20/06/19 - 21/06/19.

Costello, B 2019, 'Moral Sequencing and Intervening to Prevent Harm', Research Poster Conference 2019, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 19/06/19.

Costello, B & Finan, L 2015, 'Advocating Active Learning: Developments in the College of Arts and Law Bank of Assessed Work', 12th Annual Teaching and Learning Conference, Birmingham, United Kingdom, 23/06/15.


Jones, L, Costello, B, Danks, E, Jolly, K, Cross-Sudworth, F, Byrne, A, Fassam-Wright, M, Latthe, P, Clarke, J, Abdi, A, Abdi, H, Abdi, H & Taylor, J 2022 'Preferences for deinfibulation (opening) surgery and female genital mutilation service provision: a UK qualitative study'. https://doi.org/10.22541/au.165365645.56035262/v1

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