Being a PhD student at the Unit

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Our dynamic and interactive research environment is ideal for anyone looking to work with, and learn from, colleagues from a range of disciplines, including sociology, anthropology, epidemiology, public health medicine, nutrition and mathematics. We are part of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing, which received an Athena SWAN Gold Award in 2018 in recognition of its commitment to tackling gender inequality.

There are lots of things to think about before applying for a PhD studentship, from eligibility to finances. This page is designed to answer some of the most commonly asked questions, and to help you decide whether our studentships offer the right opportunity for you.

Am I eligible for full funding?

We advertise a list of potential studentship topics each year. Candidates are encouraged to identify a topic from this list, or to propose their own topic. Topics proposed by candidates should be relevant to the focus of one or more of our research programmes. We generally appoint around 4 fully-funded MRC PhD studentships a year. Our research staff also supervise students with other sources of funding, including the MRC Doctoral Training Programme and Lord Kelvin Adam Smith scholarships, as well as those who are self-funded.

MRC full funding (for university fees and a stipend of £15,009 per annum for academic year 2019-20) is available for UK national and UK resident applicants. Partial funding (covering university fees only) is available for other European Economic Area (EEA) applicants. Non-EEA applicants are not eligible for MRC funding. MRC PhDs are funded for three years, but individuals without a relevant Masters degree will be awarded a 1+3 year studentship. To find out more about funding and eligibility, please visit the UKRI MRC website

What is the application process like?

Applications should be made through Postgraduate Admissions by 24th February 2020. Please ensure you apply to MVLS - MRC/CSO PhD Studentship.

The full set of supporting documents noted below are required to be uploaded at the point of application:

  • CV/Resume
  • Degree certificate (if you have graduated prior to 1 July 2015)
  • Passport
  • Two A4 page research proposal (This should have been discussed with the Programme Leader/supervisor prior to submission).
  • Reference 1 (a full reference should be submitted from an academic who has a knowledge of your academic ability from your most recent study/programme) Reference 2 (a full reference should be submitted from an academic who has a knowledge of your academic ability)
  • Transcripts

Once you have submitted your application, please email to confirm. General enquiries regarding the application process can also be directed to this email address.


Interviews normally consist of a prepared exercise, followed by a question and answer session. The primary aim of the interview is for you to give our panel further information about your interests, motivations and your research proposal, but also to give you the opportunity to ask questions and get to know our team. In the interview, you should:

  • Be ready to talk about your research proposal
  • Be able to demonstrate your personal attributes and skills that make you a good candidate for a studentship – if possible use a range of examples (not just academic)
  • Be able to communicate your previous academic interests and achievements and explain why these are relevant to the advertised PhD
  • Use any opportunity to show your strengths but also be able to show how you are able to overcome weaknesses
  • Ask your own questions.

Why choose MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit?

As a PhD student at our unit, you will:

  • Work in a unit where the majority of staff are focused on research and postgraduate training, alongside almost 130 researchers, clinical fellows, administrative and technical staff, postgraduate research students and visiting fellows
  • Receive a stipend of £15,009 per annum from 1st October 2019 (tax and National Insurance free)
  • Receive a thorough training in both generic research skills and transferable skills, as well as subject-specific training
  • Work in a Unit with a strong commitment to student wellbeing and pastoral support, via two postgraduate student convenors who not only conduct more formal progress meetings, input into training and, if necessary, assist with admin and formalities, but are also available to discuss any more personal issues that are impacting on a student's life or academic progress
  • Be encouraged to attend all unit events, meetings and activities
  • Be registered as a student in either the College of Social Sciences or the College of Medicine, Veterinary and Life Sciences.
  • Be part of the University’s Institute of Health and Wellbeing
  • Work in a unit that receives joint core funding from the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Scottish Chief Scientist’s Office (CSO).

Get in touch

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about PhD studentships – don’t hesitate to get in touch by email or phone 0141 343 7500.

Hear from our current PhD students

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