The SPHeRE Programme (Structured Population and Health-service Research Education) is the extension and expansion of an existing well-established and successful HRB structured PhD Scholars Programme in Health Services Research which commenced in 2007.

The HRB Scholars Programme commenced in October 2007 and was run by a consortium comprising three Irish HEIs – the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Cork (UCC). The original programme has had seven intakes of scholars to date. At the commencement of the programme, it was envisaged that six full-time HRB scholars would be recruited per annum for four years. However, from the outset, there has been considerable interest in the programme from individuals – often at a more senior professional and career level – who wish to pursue the programme on a part-time basis.

As a result, each intake of scholars has consisted of a mix of full- and part-time scholars, and contains, on average, ten classmates. Programme-funded scholars are accepted through a competitive process as full-time HRB funded scholars and receive financial support for four years of fees, a stipend, and external training and conference attendance. The remaining scholars are either ‘self-funded’ or ‘alternative-funded’.

The new SPHeRE Programme, is expanding to incorporate population health research topics and to encompass Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Ireland beyond the three founding institutions. This new programme will provide education and training for five cohorts of PhD scholars commencing annually (2013-2017). In each cohort, six scholars will be full-time and fully HRB-funded scholars and an anticipated further six scholars will be funded from an alternate source (e.g., a medical charity) or self-funded.