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PhD Studentship - Developing public and patient involvement and engagement as a social practice

Funded PhD studentship available from NIHR-funded Health Determinants Research Collaboration, Aberdeen

Awarding Body
NIHR Health Determinants Research Collaboration, Aberdeen
3 year PhD Studentship
8 October 2023
Quantity of Awards
1 Studentship


Collaborating with Community Planning Aberdeen (CPA), this PhD will explore two important conceptual and ethical issues about Public Involvement and Engagement (PIE):

  • The drivers for the public to become involved in research projects (research and CPA improvement projects) with a focus on underrepresented groups.
  • How projects can be made more accessible and inclusive to underrepresented groups

This will be achieved by synthesising knowledge of good practice in community engagement and PIE within the context of research projects and community engagement activities within Aberdeen.

Within research, the benefit of PIE is generally accepted to be improving quality, validity, relevance, and impact, conceptualising PIE to achieving better outcomes. Furthermore, there are statutory obligations on local authorities to involve communities in the shaping of public services. However, there is a danger that inequalities will be perpetuated if PIE is not representative of the local population. PIE must be diverse and inclusive to enable research and local authorities to reach those that stand to benefit from it the most, and thus address issues of equity. Achieving a representative group of PIE participants can be difficult and PIE activities have come under criticism for including an unrepresentative subgroup (Lander et al., 2019). There is a need to try and address this imbalance and understand more about what is important to these groups and how PIE can be conceptualised to open dialogue between the public and professionals working in public services. It is also important to understand any unintended consequences or harms of PIE.(Russell et al., 2020)

In parallel, within research there is an emphasis on methodologies such as co-production or citizen science which intersect with PIE. This methodological landscape raises questions about the changing power dynamics between the public and professionals. These methodologies frequently advocate moving from tokenistic forms of PIE to more meaningful and genuine forms of power-sharing such as partnership, delegated power and ultimately citizen control of the agenda. However, we need to know more about how participation in PIE impacts upon the public and professionals, and how involvement activities impact upon the power imbalances between the researcher and the researched to design and develop more equitable PIE activities and increase civic engagement by the underrepresented. This PhD will contribute to the CPA aim of increasing PIE in improvement projects. The outputs will contribute to the development of PIE methodologies within CPA, its partner organisations, and the local universities while ensuring the outputs are also relevant to a wider geography. This PhD will involve methodologically specific training based on the study design and expertise. The student will also undergo modules required of RGU registered postgraduate research (PGR) students and other activities which support PGR students, such as seminars and journal club. Furthermore, PIE is a workstream within the AHDRC and this studentship will be an essential element to AHDRC fabric allowing us to be more systematic with our approach to inclusivity. The PhD Student will be able to contribute to the wider AHDRC Public Advisory Group to maximise their impact.

LANDER, J., LANGHOF, H. & DIERKS, M.-L. 2019. Involving patients and the public in medical and health care research studies: An exploratory survey on participant recruiting and representativeness from the perspective of study authors. PLOS ONE, 14, e0204187.

RUSSELL, J., FUDGE, N. & GREENHALGH, T. 2020. The impact of public involvement in health research: what are we measuring? Why are we measuring it? Should we stop measuring it? Research Involvement and Engagement, 6, 63.

The Award

Studentship funding awards made will provide full UK tuition fees and include provision of a tax-free annual stipend (set at current UKRI level for session 2023/24). Although the amounts have not yet been finalised by UKRI, in session 2022/23 these were a tuition fee of £4,596 and annual stipend of £17,668. The revised UKRI amounts for session 2023/24 will be offered to those applicants who are successful in being awarded a 3 year-fully funded studentship.

The maximum funded period for all awards is 36-months. All students will be registered for a further 12-months to a maximum completion period of 48-months. The assessment period fee for the final 12-months will also be covered by this studentship award, although it should be noted no stipend will be offered during this final year.

These awards cannot be held concurrently with any other source of funded scholarships and only available on the basis that no other funding is being provided.


Eligible Countries of Residence

All countries are eligible for this scholarship, funding or discount.

Eligible Courses

Course Level

  • Postgraduate Research
  • PhD

Mode of Attendance

  • On Campus
  • Online Learning

Mode of Study

  • Full Time

Subject Area

  • Communication, Media & Marketing
  • Health & Sport Science
  • Nursing, Midwifery & Paramedic Practice
  • Social Studies

Other Requirements

Academic Background

As a minimum requirement candidates must possess, or shortly expect to obtain (no later than August 2023), a minimum of a 2:1 honours degree at undergraduate level (or the international equivalent) but excluding any candidates who already possess a doctorate. The subject of the undergraduate and/or postgraduate master’s degree should be in a relevant academic discipline to the research project/proposal.

English Language Requirements

To meet the eligibility requirements for a studentship, applicants are required to provide evidence of their English language ability. For candidates applying from a country where English is not the officially recognised language, alternate evidence must be submitted which meets the minimum overall requirement of 6.5 and with each element of reading, writing, speaking and listening meeting a minimum of 6.0.

Read further guidance on the range of tests or evidence we accept and a list of countries which are officially recognised as English speaking:

Tuition Fee Status and Eligibility Criteria

Before submitting an expression of interest, you should consult the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) to obtain information on the categories and criteria to determine your eligibility for home fees or otherwise. Although the fee status eligibility criteria are established by the Scottish Government, UKCISA provide an interpretation of their regulations:

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

RGU seeks to attract the greatest diversity of expressions of interest, including from people from BAME minorities, women, LGBTQ+, neurodivergent, disabled, or people from socio-economically disadvantaged or care-experienced backgrounds.

Conditions of the PhD Studentship Award

Prior to submitting an application, candidates should ensure they meet the eligibility criteria detailed to ensure that the requirements for acceptance have been (or will be) achieved.

An application must be submitted by Sunday 8 October at 17:00 (GMT). Only successful applications that are subsequently made an offer will be given instructions to formally apply to the RGU admissions system.

Where candidates have been offered an award on a conditional basis, it is essential that they must evidence that all conditions and eligibility criteria have been met and in turn secured an unconditional offer before the start date of the PhD programme. It is important to note that any candidates who receive an offer of award, but do not achieve the requirements for an unconditional offer by the start date, will have the award withdrawn.

NIHR-Logo-400wThis PhD studentship will be within the Aberdeen Health Determinants Research Collaboration (AHDRC). The AHDRC is funded by the National Institute of Health and Care Research, led by Aberdeen City Council in partnership with NHS Grampian and the two local Universities.

The AHDRC’s overall aim is to develop a research active culture within Aberdeen City Council and Community Planning Aberdeen, directed toward understanding and addressing factors affecting health outcomes. AHDRC is committed to working with local communities affected by health outcome inequalities, and to find solutions to address these inequalities.

How to Apply

Applicants should send a CV, short personal statement and research proposal (maximum 4-pages) to Aileen Grant:

Our wide range of research projects are also available, start a conversation with a supervisor:

Process for Selection

Applications will be shortlisted and successful candidates at this stage invited to a panel interview in October 2023

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