PhD fellowships

The offer


PhD fellowships are an opportunity for an individual to carry out an extended supervised period of research and contribute to the development of the field of improvement studies.

We are seeking applications from universities who will recruit and select high-calibre students to undertake PhD student fellowships. Universities may appoint clinical and non-clinical candidates.

What we offer

The award ranges from £137,500 to £276,000 per doctoral fellowship, allowing for clinical salaries where appropriate and adjusting for the length of the fellowship (PhD or 1 + 3 model). It is expected, at a minimum, that a university will use the funding to pay for:

  • Relevant Masters / PhD fees (UK rates)
  • A stipend or salary for the PhD student
  • Research costs (e.g. conference attendance, items of small equipment, transcription costs, meeting costs, and expenses for service-user participants)
  • Dissemination and publication costs, including at least one open-access publication

We offer membership of THIS Space and access to a mentoring scheme at no cost to fellows.

What we don’t offer

We don’t provide funds for estates, directly allocated or indirect costs.

Selection criteria

Who can apply

Any UK university may apply to the scheme. Each application should propose a single project. Universities may submit as many applications as they wish, but in general not more than two awards will be made to any one university.

Funding is available for three years (PhD) or four years (Masters + PhD).

THIS Institute will not be involved in the direct selection of PhD fellows. Universities who are awarded funding will be responsible for recruitment.

The PhD fellowships are intended to be held full-time, but part-time applications may be considered by universities, for example, where applicants are undergoing clinical training or other circumstances apply. Those in clinical speciality training will be responsible for making their own arrangements with the relevant deanery or Local Education and Training Board, or equivalent, where appropriate.

We do not accept direct applications from individual students wishing to pursue a PhD. We cannot accept queries from individuals wishing to purse PhD studies at Cambridge.

What we’re looking for

The selection criteria includes:

University criteria

  • Centre of academic excellence with a strong record of research and career development for researchers
  • Extent to which the institution is undertaking multidisciplinary research that will inform the development of theory, methods and application relevant to improvement studies
  • Quality of environment, including facilities, collaborative networks, and ability to work productively with the NHS
  • Suitable training programmes to support the skills and expertise needed to successfully complete the PhD research
  • Approach to equality, diversity and inclusion at the host department/unit, particularly in relation to the selection and support of doctoral students

Project proposal criteria

  • Specified appropriately to be completed through a PhD study
  • Relevant to improving quality and/or safety in the NHS
  • Synergistic with ongoing research programmes in the university
  • Demonstrates appropriate study design and research methods
  • Describes an area in which the supervisor has content expertise
  • Feasible within a doctoral programme where the student might need to gain approvals and undergo training
  • Likely to make a valuable contribution to the field of improvement research

Application stages

How to apply

All applications must be submitted via our Fellowship Management System. All applications should be submitted by an administrative authority/finance office in the applying university.

Stages of applications

1. Before you apply

We encourage you to check that your application is eligible and competitive by reading the guidance for applicants.

2. Submit your application

All applications must be submitted online through the Fellowship Management System.

3. Review and shortlisting

Applications will be measured against the selection criteria included in the guidance for applicants. Shortlisted applications will be sent for external peer review.

4. Final decision

Successful universities will be responsible for the recruitment and selection of high-calibre students to undertake the PhDs. They will manage their research and development and administer course fees, stipends and other financial aspects of the award.


Frequently Asked Questions

Could my department apply for more than one fellowship?

Yes, but we will only award a maximum of two fellowships per university, not per department. Each applying department should complete a single application form per project.

If the project is multidisciplinary, which department should apply?

It does not matter which department applies if the application is multidisciplinary. We suggest that the most relevant department is chosen, or if in doubt, the one with the most time and resource to complete a high quality application. Please do provide details of the multidisciplinary nature of the proposed project within the application form to ensure the details are evident during the review process.

Could a supervisory team be based across different institutions?

Yes, We encourage this type of collaboration.

Are costs for the supervisors within the fellowship (e.g. 20% FTE) permitted?

No. Only direct costs relating to the PhD student can be included in the application.

What costs are covered for PhD students on NHS salary rates?

The PhD fellowship award covers salary costs for the student including on-costs (superannuation, NI).

What costs should go into an application if PhD candidates may or may not have clinical backgrounds?

If you are unsure of the type of candidate, you would probably be advised to project for the highest cost option.  After recruitment, we can then work with you to amend the salary costs of the award if, for instance, you end up not recruiting a clinician. It is also important to include in the application your rationale for recruitment, considering what kind of background is appropriate in terms of research skills and/or service experience (and for instance not restricting to medical staff only if occupational therapist, community nursing or other experience might be helpful in care of older people improvement topics) and what clinical over other research expertise would add. It would be good to see alternative options – cost up the needs of potential candidates and the rationale behind them.

Is it acceptable to apply for this fellowship with a specific candidate in mind?

We leave the recruitment of the candidates up to the host university and providing you are compliant with your own university’s recruitment procedures then this is permissible for you to apply with a PhD fellow in mind.

It is important to understand that we make awards based on suitability of the project and environment only, so we do not wish to be advised of any personal information about possible PhD candidates. Please don’t name them in the application.

Can we recruit an international candidate?

As above, we leave the recruitment of the candidates up to the host university and providing you are compliant with your own university’s recruitment procedures then this is permissible for you to recruit an international student. However, the award we offer will only cover fees based at UK rates and from our experience international fees will far exceed this rate so you may need to consider if your institution were able to subsidise the shortfall in their salary.

What models of part-time work is permitted under this scheme?

PhD fellowships are designed to be held full time but part-time will be considered at a minimum of 0.6 FTE where there are clinical or other commitments. (The maximum duration permitted in the application system is 36 months for PhD only and 48 months if the MSc option is included for year 1.

Apply for this fellowship

Log in to our Fellowship Management System. You can save your application and return to it at any time.

Start your application