What this unique PhD programme offers you

Four-year programme: An initial foundation year allows students to gain real experience and insight into health data research.

Research that makes a difference: The three-year doctoral research projects undertaken by our students are designed to make a genuine contribution to advancing health and care.

Hosted by leading universities: Our host universities are among the very best in health data research.

Nurturing each student: Our programme aims to identify the particular abilities and interests of each student, and gear their PhD experience to effectively develop them.

Leadership Programme: Students benefit from a bespoke expert-led programme to develop the skills they need to understand, collaborate and influence others.

Generous funding: Students have their tuition fees (UK Home rate), college fees (where applicable), research expenses and travel costs paid and receive an enhanced, tax-free stipend with increases every year. (Y1 outside London: £23,955, Y1 in London: £25,954)

Building networks and experience: We actively support students in building networks and contacts in academia, the NHS and industry as well as taking internships and other opportunities to gain real-world experience. This includes a post-PhD bursary to support your next career step.

Team spirit: Strong relationships are built between our entire cohort of students through joint activities that build a genuine team spirit.

Personal support: Each student has their own Director of Studies who is an additional point of contact during their time with us. All students are also further supported by the PhD team.


 

“The PhD programme has enabled me to gain first-hand experience in modern health data science approaches. It’s a truly unrivalled opportunity.”  Steven Wambua

 


Who is the PhD programme for?

We recruit enthusiastic, talented students who want to use data-driven research to develop and shape the UK’s response to the most complex health challenges of our times.

Applicants must have (or be on track to obtain):

  • A first class or 2:1 undergraduate degree in statistics, mathematics, computer / data science, physics or an allied subject  or
  • Another undergraduate degree subject and outcome but can demonstrate their suitability for this programme through additional qualifications or research experience.

Active or currently registered health care professionals are not eligible and should consider the Wellcome PhD Fellowships for Health Professionals.

Applicants also need to meet the following criteria:

  • Successful admission to the specified degree programme at one of our partner universities. Students will be expected to meet the admissions requirements of that department and university but do not need to hold the offer at the point of application.
  • Two satisfactory academic or relevant references.
  • Proof of a legal right to study in the UK or ability to satisfy the current requirements of UK Visa and Immigration.

Training is in-person, hybrid and virtual throughout the first year.

We are committed to a diverse and inclusive research culture. We welcome those who are returning from the workplace, international candidates and everyone underrepresented in STEM and academia. For further details see our FAQs.

We cannot accept applicants who are looking for a part-time PhD or those who are aiming to study whilst continuing to be employed elsewhere.

We aim to accommodate specific needs and personal circumstances. Please make us aware of individual circumstances when applying or contact us directly at phd@hdruk.ac.uk. Please note our applicant privacy notice.

If you have questions or require adjustments to the application process, please contact us below via email or telephone (+44 (0)770 847 8846).

Contact us

  • There are no nationality restrictions and international students are able to apply. However, applicants are advised the award only covers fees at the UK/Home level. International students will be required to secure an additional scholarship from our partner universities (after receiving a offer from us at interview) to cover the difference between Home and Overseas fees. This will limit the university choices available:

    (Please be aware that these are usually highly competitive and will need to be applied for separately in your application to the university post-offer. A successful application to the PhD programme does not guarantee a fee waiver or scholarship. We do not accept applications from candidates who are self-funding.)

    University Programme Subject specialties International fee awards Comments
    Queen’s University Belfast None specified Cancer epidemiology, public health, health economics, bioinformatics and computational biology None  
    University of Birmingham PhD Computer Science Medical imaging, causal reasoning, model-based learning, network models in biology None  
    University of Birmingham PhD Cancer and Genomic Studies Bioinformatics, genomics, electronic health records None  
    University of Cambridge PhD Public Health Public health, molecular epidemiology, biostatistics, computational biology and bioinformatics None  
    UCL PhD Statistical Science Bayesian statistical modelling, health economics Available One international fee award available for 2024 entry with the Department of Statistical Science. Student must remain with the department for the duration of their studies.
    UCL PhD Institute of Health Informatics None
    University of Edinburgh PhD MRC Human Genetics Unit Medical imaging, computational biology and bioinformatics, health informatics, genetic epidemiology, public health None
    University of Manchester PhD HDR UK Health Data Science Clinical prediction models, text mining, medical image analysis, statistical epidemiology and wearable biosensors Available One international fee scholarship is available for 2024 entry.
    University of Oxford DPhil HDR UK Health Data Science Medical imaging, epidemiology, infectious diseases, computational biology and bioinformatics, public health, genetics None

    These are only initial programmes of study for Year 1. Students may transfer to a new university programme from Year 2 after research projects have been confirmed.

Is this the PhD future for you?

Watch our Applicant Open Day hosted by our current students to find out more about the programme and whether it’s for you.

Applications are currently: Closed

There are up to five studentships are available for 2024 entry, based at our partner universities. Applications are currently being evaluated through the Turing Flexigrant system.

The application process

Details required:

  • Contact details
  • Details and transcripts of university qualification(s)
  • Any relevant job history
  • Answers to personal-statement type questions
  • Contact details for two referees
  • Applicants can indicate preferences for universities, and provide relevant information for their choice such as caring responsibilities or personal circumstances
  • There is no need to apply to universities, submit a research proposal, provide IELTS scores or contact supervisors at this stage

Submitted applications will first be checked for eligibility and then will undergo a first stage review. This will involve triage by the 2024 recruitment panel and then reviewed by academics and PhD students from our partner universities in December 2023. Successful applicants will be invited to an interview in January 2024.

After receiving an offer, applications will be invited to relevant partner universities.

Selection criteria

Applicants should demonstrate that they meet the following criteria:

Criterion First Stage (Shortlisting) Second Stage (Interview)
Experience in mathematical or statistical sciences Y Y
Experience of computer science or programming skills Y Y
Clear motivation to develop and apply their quantitative skills in a health data science setting Y Y
Emerging communication and leadership skills and aspiration to develop these across a broad audience  Y Y
Awareness of the mission of Health Data Research UK and the ethical and societal considerations around conducting research with health data  Y Y
Scientific comprehension skills* Y
Scientific reasoning and modelling skills* Y

*These criteria will be assessed at interview via a pre-interview exercise.

HDR UK reserves the right to reject applicants who do not meet the criteria at any stage. Regretfully, we can only provide feedback for candidates who reach interview.

Programme Structure

The four-year programme is divided in two. There is an initial Foundation Year followed by a three-year research project. The first year combines the best in university-based training with HDR UK-led national activities. And we support students to produce game-changing research plans and their projects are backed by substantial research funding.

Foundation year

  • 3-5 day immersion events allow students to gain insight into the work of HDR UK, and our academic, clinical and industry partners. Courses may be residential (expenses provided) with up to a week away from their home university or online. Students undertake an intensive deep dive into an important area of health data science. Immersion topics include risk prediction, oncology, clinical trials, epidemiology and bioinformatics. Past immersion weeks have been hosted by the Universities of Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford and University College London and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

    The immersion events encourage students to work together and stimulate new interactions:

    Research areas

    PhD research projects can be linked to The Institute’s:

    Team working

    Students operate as a national cohort and work collaboratively with others, overcoming traditional institutional silos. Students are registered with a partner university but can draw on academic expertise from across the HDR UK network and are supported to formulate research activities that bring together experts from across the UK.

  • Students have access to graduate-level courses and research project rotation in their university to introduce them to different areas of health data science and enable them to develop a bespoke research project under the guidance of our expert university leads.

  • Regular workshops and short courses introduce students to the work of HDR UK experts across our hubs, themes and priority areas and to external organisations. Past contributors have included NHSX, IQVIA and AstraZeneca.

    Immersion and workshop events allow students to better understand the wider health and social care landscape and accelerate their potential to become sector leaders. They also enable students to develop more ambitious PhD research projects by stimulating collaboration with external academics, industry-based organisations, or by using national data infrastructure.

  • Training is provided by academic, industry and NHS experts to promote personal and professional development in leadership capability, cross-sector collaborative skills and inter-disciplinary working. In particular, HDR UK is committed to working with public and patients to build increased trust in health data research as well as designing solutions focused on improving patient outcomes and experience. Students will develop communication and collaborative skills to help put them at the forefront of this mission.

Years 2-4

  • At the end of the Foundation Year students design a bespoke three-year research project and a multi-disciplinary supervision team based on their training experiences.

    Research proposals will be rigorously reviewed by expert academics and public-patient representatives to ensure they are of the highest standards in terms of ambition, scientific methodology and impact on patient outcomes.

    The research will be carried out at their home university and could be linked to HDR UK research prioritiesresearch hubs or partnerships.

  • During years 2-4 of the programme students benefit from our expert-led Leadership Programme to help develop the skills they need to understand, collaborate and influence others in order to deliver significant advances in health and care.

    This includes short immersions plus  longer practical real-world projects with businesses and other organisations at the cutting edge of everything from medical devices, to life sciences, to vaccines. Students also learn about leadership theory and attend specially-convened seminars from senior figures in relevant areas of healthcare.

    Networks and experience: Students will be actively supported in building networks and contacts in academia, the NHS and industry as well as taking internships and other opportunities to gain real-world experience.

    Team working: Students operate as a national cohort, building strong relationships through
    joint activities and overcoming traditional institutional silos.

    Workshops: Regular workshops and short courses introduce the work of HDR UK experts and to
    external organisations.

    Immersion events: These allow students to better understand the wider health and social care
    landscape and accelerate students’ potential to become a sector leader. They also enable them
    to develop an ambitious PhD research project.

    Researcher development: Training is provided by academic, industry and NHS experts to
    promote personal and professional development in cross-sector collaborative skills,
    communication and inter-disciplinary working.


    “Our Leadership Programme will give PhD students the chance to develop the practical skills they need to bring people together to use health data science to deliver much-needed innovations and advances in health and care,” Professor Peter Bannister


    Our partners

    Programme partners include NHS Digital, AstraZeneca, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and University Hospitals Birmingham.

    More broadly it will work with winners of the NHSX AI Innovation Award, which funds and supports promising artificial intelligence technologies in health and care. There will also be opportunities with businesses on the DTI listed top 100 digital health innovators which are using big data for healthcare innovation.

Our wider team consists of leading experts in disciplines including theoretical physics, computer science, mathematics and statistics, applied mathematics and biochemistry.