Postgraduate research opportunities 

Social Science & Health PhD

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.


Social science and health is located in the Institute 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.  Its 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 six 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.  Webring 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; and 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.

Fees and funding



  • £4,407 UK/EU
  • £18,370 outside EU

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

Additional fees for all students:

  • Re-submission by a research student £525
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,315
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £340
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £765

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.

Alumni discount

A 10% discount is available to University of Glasgow alumni. This includes graduates and those who have completed a Junior Year Abroad, Exchange programme or International Summer School at the University of Glasgow. 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.

Funding for EU students

The UK government has confirmed that EU nationals will remain eligible to apply for Research Council PhD studentships at UK institutions for 2019/20 to help cover costs for the duration of their study. The Scottish Government has confirmed that fees for EU students commencing their studies in 2019/20 and 2020/21 will be at the same level as those for UK students.

2019/20 fees

  • £4,327 UK/EU
  • £17,620 outside EU

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

Additional fees for all students:

  • Re-submission by a research student £500
  • Submission for a higher degree by published work £1,250
  • Submission of thesis after deadline lapsed £320
  • Submission by staff in receipt of staff scholarship £730

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 annual IHW 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 (academic and/or professional).
  4. Research proposal, CV, samples of written work as per requirements for each subject area.

Submitting References

To complete your application we will need two references (one must be academic the other can be academic or professional).

There are two options for you to submit references as part of your application.  You can upload a document as part of your application or you can enter in your referee’s contact details and we will contact them to request a reference.

Option 1 – Uploading as part of the application form

Your references should be on official headed paper. These should also be signed by the referee. You can then upload these via theOnline Application form with the rest your documents to complete the application process.

Please be aware that documents must not exceed 5MB in size and therefore you may have to upload your documents separately. The online system allow you to upload supporting documents only in PDF format. For a free PDF writer go to

Option 2 - Entering contact details as part of the application form

If you enter your referees contact details including email on the application form we will email them requesting they submit a reference once you have submitted the application form.  When the referee responds and sends a reference you will be sent an email to confirm the university has received this.

After submitting your application form

Use our Applicant Self Service uploading documents function to submit a new reference. We can also accept confidential references direct to, from the referee’s university or business email account.  

Apply now

I've applied. What next?

If you have any other trouble accessing Applicant Self-Service, please see Application Troubleshooting/FAQs.

If you are requested to upload further documents

Log into the Applicant Self Service and scroll down to the Admissions Section. The screenshot below indicates the section on the page, and the specific area you should go to, highlighted in red:

Applicant self service

Documents must be uploaded in .jpg, .jpeg or .pdf format and must not exceed 5MB in size.  There is a maximum 10MB upload size for all documents with the application.


Once a decision has been made regarding your application the Research Admissions Office will contact you by email.

If you are made an unconditional offer

You can accept your offer through the Applicant-Self-Service by clicking on the ‘Accept/Decline link’ for your chosen programme under the ‘Admissions Section’ at the bottom of the Applicant Self Service screen.  You can access the Applicant Self Service by using the link, username and password you used to apply and selecting the “Self Service” button below your application.

Please make sure you accept your unconditional offer within 4 weeks of receiving your offer. If you are an international student your CAS will not be issued until you have accepted an unconditional offer.

If you are made a conditional offer

If you accept a conditional offer then the offer status on Applicant-Self-Service will change to ‘incomplete’ to indicate that the application is incomplete until such time as all the conditions are met.

Your offer letter will list all the conditions that apply to your offer and you can upload the required document(s) through Applicant Self Service. If you have met the conditions satisfactorily, you will automatically be sent an unconditional offer.

If your application is unsuccessful

If your application is unsuccessful then we will send you an email to inform you of this which will outline the reason why we have been unable to offer you a place on this particular programme. Please note that your application status will be updated to 'Cancelled' on Applicant Self Service if the offer is rejected.

Deferring your offer

If you want to defer your start date, please contact us directly at We need authorisation from your supervisor before we confirm your request to defer. Once we have this we will contact you by email to confirm.

How to register

After you have accepted an unconditional offer you will receive an email nearer to the start of your studies to tell you how to register online using the University's MyCampus website, the University’s student information system. That email will provide you with your personal login details and the website address. Please ensure that your email address is kept up to date as all correspondence is sent via email. You can update your email address through the Applicant Self Service Portal under the Personal Information section.

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