Postgraduate research 

Social & Public Health Science PhD/MD

crowded city street

Our aim is to better understand and improve human health and wellbeing via the study of social, behavioural, economic, cultural and environmental influences on health and the application of social science theories and methodologies.

  • PhD: 3 years full-time; 5 years part-time;
  • MD (Doctor of Medicine): 2 years full-time; 4 years part-time;


Social science and health is located in the School of Health and Wellbeing and includes:

MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit

The overarching aim of this Unit is to improve human health and wellbeing via the study of social, behavioural, economic, cultural and environmental influences on health. It comprises a large group of social science-led researchers, focusing on social determinants of health, health inequalities and health improvement. More specific objectives include:

  • studying 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
  • discovering mechanisms which can modify these processes and have the potential to improve public health in a complex and changing world
  • developing and evaluating interventions which harness these mechanisms to improve public health and reduce social inequalities in health
  • influencing policy and practice by communicating the results and implications of research to a range of audiences

 The Unit’s work is organised as five programmes:

Social Science and Health researchers working in the College of Social Sciences

Our overarching aim is to provide a stimulating, participative, environment for research to inform policies and practices that will promote social justice, improve population health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities in these.

We bring a particular commitment to:  

  • the application of social science theory and method to world class research
  • the promotion of social justice
  • a reduction in inequalities
  • working with government, local authorities and third sector organisations and wider civic society to deliver change, particularly for disabled people, people of low social economic status (SES) and those who are otherwise disadvantaged

Study options

The MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit advertises a small number of MRC-funded studentships annually. These are funded for 3 years for those who already have a Masters degree, or equivalent training, in an appropriate scientific discipline. For those wishing to undertake an appropriate Masters degree in the first year, studentships are funded for 4 years.

Social Science and Health researchers working in the College of Social Sciences support PhD students funded through a variety of sources including the ESRC, Scottish Government, the Commonwealth Fund, the Glasgow Centre for Population Health and the Lord Kelvin/Adam Smith Foundation.

All social science and health researchers welcome applications from candidates who have arranged their own funding and/or to work with candidates on applications for competitively funded studentships.

Our supervisors include those with social science backgrounds (a wide range, including sociology, psychology, social anthropology and geography) and statistical expertise.  Our research employs both quantitative and qualitative approaches as well as systematic reviews; great value is placed on the development and application of novel methods to address research questions of contemporary relevance to health and wellbeing from a social science perspective. We provide diverse training opportunities for all aspects of research and for transferable academic and generic skills.

Prospective studentsare encouraged to get in touch with individual academics to find out about opportunities in their areas of research and supervision. 

Broad themes within the social and public health sciences unit’s research programmes include:

  • development and evaluation of complex interventions
  • transferability of interventions
  • complex systems science
  • health inequalities and linked data analysis
  • natural experiments from observational data
  • enhancing cohort, survey and routine data sources
  • families
  • peers and social networks
  • intimate and sexual relationships
  • communities
  • educational settings
  • professional sports club settings
  • secure institutional settings
  • workplaces
  • measuring and understanding impacts of regeneration/transformation on health and wellbeing
  • contextual influences on children and young people
  • improving health in neighbourhoods and communities
  • understanding emerging health debates
  • understanding policy and using evidence
  • evaluating healthy public policies

Themes addressed by social science and health researchers working in the College of Social Sciences include:

  • changing Public Policy and Public Policy for Change
  • history of Public Health and Medicine
  • improving Health and Wellbeing: Programmes for Change
  • experiences of Health and Disability

Postgraduate students within the Social & Public Health Sciences Unit and in the Social Sciences in Health Group have the opportunity to acquire a wide set of transferable skills and leave with excellent career prospects.

They are recognised and treated as full members of the Unit/Group, expected to attend seminars, team meetings, etc., and required to contribute to unit/group-wide activities in the same way as all staff. There are also opportunities for secondment to policy and practice organisations. Our postgraduate students are thus able to learn about a wide range of disciplines and topics beyond those specific to their PhD. 

The Social & Public Health Sciences Unit also provides unique opportunities to gain experience of different aspects of social and public health science beyond that offered in typical university environments. These include working with the unit’s in-house population health research facility, gaining first-hand experience in large-scale field work and the necessary regulatory, ethics and data compliance processes of study data collection.

In the Social Science in Health Group there are opportunities to work as graduate teaching assistants or on occasional additional research for other teams. These give wide-ranging opportunities for transferable skill development. 

After completing their studies, many students find employment as university researchers, others in NGOs, independent research organisations or local or national government organisations.

Entry requirements

Awarded or expected First-class or high Upper Second-class BSc degree.

English language requirements

For applicants whose first language is not English, the University sets a minimum English Language proficiency level.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS) Academic module (not General Training)

  • 6.5 with no subtests under 6.0
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements using a single test
  • IELTS One Skill Retake accepted.

Common equivalent English language qualifications accepted for entry to this programme:

TOEFL (ibt, my best or athome)

  • 79; with Reading 13; Listening 12; Speaking 18;Writing 21
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements , this includes TOEFL mybest.

Pearsons PTE Academic

  • 59 with minimum 59 in all subtests
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements using a single test.

Cambridge Proficiency in English (CPE) and Cambridge Advanced English (CAE)

  • 176 overall, no subtest less than 169
  • Tests must have been taken within 2 years 5 months of start date. Applicants must meet the overall and subtest requirements using a single test.

Oxford English Test

  • Oxford ELLT 7
  • R&L: OIDI level no less than 6 with Reading: 21-24 Listening: 15-17
  • W&S: OIDI level no less than 6

Trinity College Tests

Integrated Skills in English II & III & IV: ISEII Distinction with Distinction in all sub-tests.

University of Glasgow Pre-sessional courses

Tests are accepted for 2 years following date of successful completion.

Alternatives to English Language qualification

  • Degree from majority-English speaking country (as defined by the UKVI including Canada if taught in English)
    • students must have studied for a minimum of 2 years at Undergraduate level, or 9 months at Master's level, and must have complete their degree in that majority-English speaking country and within the last 6 years
  • Undergraduate 2+2 degree from majority-English speaking country (as defined by the UKVI including Canada if taught in English)
    • students must have completed their final two years study in that majority-English speaking country and within the last 6 years

For international students, the Home Office has confirmed that the University can choose to use these tests to make its own assessment of English language ability for visa applications to degree level programmes. The University is also able to accept UKVI approved Secure English Language Tests (SELT) but we do not require a specific UKVI SELT for degree level programmes. We therefore still accept any of the English tests listed for admission to this programme.

Pre-sessional courses

The University of Glasgow accepts evidence of the required language level from the English for Academic Study Unit Pre-sessional courses. We also consider other BALEAP accredited pre-sessional courses:

Fees and funding



  • UK: £4,786
  • International & EU: £25,290

Prices are based on the annual fee for full-time study. Fees for part-time study are half the full-time fee.

Irish nationals who are living in the Common Travel Area of the UK, EU nationals with settled or pre-settled status, and Internationals with Indefinite Leave to remain status can also qualify for home fee status.

Alumni discount

We offer a 20% discount to our alumni on all Postgraduate Research and full Postgraduate Taught Masters programmes. This includes University of Glasgow graduates and those who have completed Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School with us. The discount is applied at registration for students who are not in receipt of another discount or scholarship funded by the University. No additional application is required.

Possible additional fees

  • Re-submission by a research student £540
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,355
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £350
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £790

Depending on the nature of the research project, some students will be expected to pay a bench fee (also known as research support costs) to cover additional costs. The exact amount will be provided in the offer letter.



The College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences Graduate School provides a vibrant, supportive and stimulating environment for all our postgraduate students. We aim to provide excellent support for our postgraduates through dedicated postgraduate convenors, highly trained supervisors and pastoral support for each student.
Our overarching aim is to provide a research training environment that includes:

  • provision of excellent facilities and cutting edge techniques
  • training in essential research and generic skills
  • excellence in supervision and mentoring
  • interactive discussion groups and seminars
  • an atmosphere that fosters critical cultural policy and research analysis
  • synergy between research groups and areas
  • extensive multidisciplinary and collaborative research
  • extensive external collaborations both within and beyond the UK 
  • a robust generic skills programme including opportunities in social and commercial training

The breadth of academic disciplines within the Social & Public Health Sciences Unit ensures excellent support for research students.  It has dedicated IT and database maintenance and support staff and an information scientist. The in-house Research Support Unit co-ordinates and delivers large-scale community based studies and, increasingly, supports community based trials and evaluations.

Students in Social Sciences and Health have access to the full range of support provided by the School of Social and Political Sciences, with excellent IT and library support. Students are encouraged to take part in the annual School of Health and Wellbeing postgraduate student conferences and to contribute to the student-led blog IHAWKES.

How to apply

Identify potential supervisors

All Postgraduate Research Students are allocated a supervisor who will act as the main source of academic support and research mentoring. You may want to identify a potential supervisor and contact them to discuss your research proposal before you apply. Please note, even if you have spoken to an academic staff member about your proposal you still need to submit an online application form.

You can find relevant academic staff members with our staff research interests search.

Gather your documents

Before applying please make sure you gather the following supporting documentation:

  1. Final or current degree transcripts including grades (and an official translation, if needed) – scanned copy in colour of the original document.
  2. Degree certificates (and an official translation, if needed): scanned copy in colour of the original document.
  3. Two references on headed paper and signed by the referee. One must be academic, the other can be academic or professional. References may be uploaded as part of the application form or you may enter your referees contact details on the application form. We will then email your referee and notify you when we receive the reference.  We can also accept confidential references direct to, from the referee’s university or business email account.
  4. Research proposal, CV, samples of written work as per requirements for each subject area.
Apply now

Contact us

Before you apply

PhD/MSc/MD: email

iPhD: email

After you have submitted your application

PhD/MSc/MD/iPhD: contact our Admissions team

Any references may be submitted by email to: