From February 2017, information about the work of the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow is available and updated on the University of Glasgow website.

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MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

2015/16 PhD Research Studentships

Deadline: 8th May 2015

Applications are being sought for four PhD studentships in the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit (SPHSU), University of Glasgow. The Unit’s aim is to improve human health and wellbeing by the study of social, behavioural, economic, cultural and environmental influences on health. We have five objectives:

  • to study the multiple interacting processes through which biological, social, behavioural, economic, cultural and environmental factors influence physical and mental health and health behaviours over the lifecourse;
  • to discover mechanisms which can modify these processes and have the potential to improve public health in a complex and changing world;
  • to develop translational interventions which harness these mechanisms to improve public health and reduce social inequalities in health;
  • to evaluate interventions and policies in terms of their ability to improve public health and reduce social inequalities in health;
  • to influence policy and practice by persuasively communicating the results and implications of research to policy, professional and public audiences.

The Unit has recently completed its quinquennial review, in which our mission and configuration of research programmes was refreshed. Prospective candidates should propose a topic linked to one or more of the six new research programmes. A list of supervisor-proposed topics (some of which include an indicative list of disciplines that might be a suitable match) and information on each of the new programmes are available below. We welcome applications for the specific proposed topics and also welcome topics proposed by the candidate, provided that they fit with the Unit’s mission and research programmes and that we can identify suitable supervisors. Any one candidate may propose a maximum of two possible topics. Applications are welcome from candidates from any discipline relevant to the Unit’s interdisciplinary social science-led research.

The studentships will commence in September 2015 and will cover tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant and an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). The maintenance grant for full-time students in 2014/15 was £13,863 pa and is expected to be £14,057 in 2015/16. Advanced quantitative methods topics will attract an enhanced stipend. Candidates with significant postgraduate research experience may also be eligible for enhanced stipends.


UK and EU students who meet Research Council UK (RCUK) residency requirements. Please consult the RCUK Conditions of Research Council Training grants. Studentships may be 1+3 or +3 and are available for full or part time study. A +3 studentship provides funding for three years only, and assumes that the applicant will already have had research training from an appropriate Master’s degree. Applicants for 1+3 and +3 must have an undergraduate degree at class 2:1 or above.

How to Apply

Applicants must complete and submit the following documentation by the deadline of 12.00pm, 8th May 2015. Note that the deadline is absolute and applications received after this specified time and date will not be accepted.

A cover letter, CV and two page A4 research proposal. Candidates should contact the Programme Leader of the programme in which the proposed topic is listed, or where the candidate-proposed topic best fits. The topics are listed below, with links to programme descriptions and programme leader contacts. Please make initial contact by email.

Academic references – all admissions require two references to be submitted in support. Please ensure that your chosen referees are aware of the application deadline, as we will be using these to help evaluate your application.

Evidence of your qualifications (e.g. Scanned degree certificate) must be submitted with the online admissions application by the funding deadline. We will be using these to verify your academic qualifications.

Applications should be submitted via email to Susan Wilkie ( by the closing deadline.

If you have any queries about the application process, contact Susan Wilkie ( or Megan Hemming ( Tel: 0141 353 7500.

The Unit receives core funding from the UK Medical Research Council and the Chief Scientist Office at the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates. It is a University Unit within the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow and is part of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing.

PhD Research Topics

For more information and support in developing a 2-page proposal, please contact the relevant programme lead, either to discuss a listed topic or to discuss a candidate-proposed topic that may be relevant to the programme. For more information about each of the new research programmes, you can follow the links below. Any applicant who has a specific topic area that fits with the Unit’s mission, but for which they are not sure which programme leader(s) to contact, should send a brief outline of their proposed topic to Professor Laurence Moore, Unit Director ( who will advise on how to proceed further.

Complexity in Health Improvement

How context affects the transferability of programmes to reduce harsh parenting, especially between high and low income countries. (sociology, social anthropology, public health)

The context-specificity of therapeutic communities for drug recovery. (sociology, social anthropology, public health)

Developing lifestyle interventions for adults with serious mental illness.

Realist randomised trials: oxymoron or gold standard method for mixed-methods evaluation?*

Minimising bias and maximising efficiency and external validity in pragmatic trials of complex interventions.*

Measuring and Analysing Socioeconomic Inequalities in Health

Dynamics and influences of e-cigarette and tobacco use over time in national health survey data. (statistics, epidemiology or mixed methods)

Education policies and health over the life-course. (epidemiology, statistics or quantitative social science)

Social mobility and its role in health inequalities over time and between nations. 

Cognitive epidemiology in the West of Scotland Twenty-07 cohort.

Small area health monitoring: use of ancillary information. (statistics)

Social Relationships and Health Improvement

How people's own upbringing influences their subsequent parenting practices: a mixed method study of vulnerable mothers and/or their partners; to complement the THRIVE trial.

Fatherhood and fathers'/male partners' engagement with early parenting interventions targeted at vulnerable families; to complement the THRIVE trial.

Developing interventions to change behaviours which contribute to obesity among young, pregnant women and their families from deprived areas.

Developing methods for data linkage with routinely collected sexual health data in Scotland.

The influence of online communities, particularly those using social media, in promoting and potentially preventing health risk behaviours.

Understanding how social routines and social networks influence people’s health behaviours.

Understanding and Improving Health within Settings and Organisations

Engaging young offenders in novel community-based initiatives in professional sports settings.

What `throughcare' is acceptable and effective for supporting male prisoners preceding and following incarceration?

How well do gender-sensitised healthy living interventions for men delivered in UK professional sports settings translate for delivery in other countries? Comparing cultures of masculinity and sport.

What factors faciliate a smoother transition to secondary school for young people? To complement the SEED trial.

How do primary schools and families interact to influence pupils' social and emotional wellbeing? To complement the SEED trial.

Gender-sensitised health and/or well-being interventions in secondary schools.

Neighbourhoods and Communities

Understanding neighbourhoods as complex systems.

Informing Healthy Public Policy

Public and/or professional understandings of emerging public health issues or policy debates, such as tobacco, alcohol, obesity, antibiotic use and anti-microbial resistance, personalised medicine or other topical health issues.

Interest representation in national and international public health policy, including public health advocacy and commercial sector engagement.

Understanding the communication of public health issues through traditional media and new media.

The presentation, use and role of scientific evidence in public health policymaking.

Novel approaches to evaluating the health impact of social policies.*

Understanding public health policy-making in the UK: comparative approaches.

Using synthetic control methods to evaluate the impact of public service improvements.

*Possibility of joint funding and co-location with the What Works Scotland and/or the Glasgow Q-step centres.