PhD Programme

The SPHeRE PhD Programme provides a comprehensive set of capacity building and training activities to scholars. These activities are organised around expert-led, independent, and peer-led learning processes. These core approaches to teaching and learning underpin the different stages of the PhD journey.

These stages are divided into yearly terms where you complete the programme on a full-time basis; people completing on a part-time basis will have longer periods between stages.

Please review the “Routes to Completion of the SPHeRE PhD Programme”  document which outlines the PhD journey before you apply to the SPHeRE Programme. This guide will be particularly useful for people considering applying as a part-time scholar, as it sets out among other things the anticipated workload involved.


SPHeRE PhD Journey (full-time)

3 core strands of teaching & learning

*Expert led

Taught modules
PhD Supervision

Independent learning

Core thesis work
Academic milestones

Peer-learning events

Year 1

*6 core modules

*2 compulsory training workshops2

*1 supervisory meeting per month (approx.)

*8 week national placement

– Thesis presentation day

– Submission of thesis proposal


On-going peer-learning events

Year 2

*Compulsory and advanced training workshops

*1 supervisory meeting per month (approx.)

*2 week international placement (year 2 or 3)

– Thesis progress report

– Submission of research-related journal article

On-going peer-learning events

Year 3

*Compulsory and advanced training workshops

*1 supervisory meeting per month (approx.)

*2 week international placement (year 2 or 3)

– Thesis completion plan

– Submission of research-related policy brief

On-going peer-learning events

Year 4

*Compulsory & advanced training workshops

*1 supervisory meeting per month (approx.)

*No placements


– Thesis progress update report

– Submission of thesis & viva at host institution

On-going peer-learning events

Expert-led learning

Expert-led learning includes six taught modules delivered in the first year. The modules aim to advance scholar knowledge and skills in a range of disciplines and research methods for population health and health service research.

Structured learning continues across the different progression stages through the provision of a comprehensive programme of workshops. The SPHeRE workshop programme supports scholars in developing advanced research methods skills; building a deeper understanding of the healthcare context; and developing a range of professional skills, including career development.

Independent learning

Independent learning is central to the core PhD research undertaken by scholars. Independent learning is supported through mentoring by supervisory teams, as well as through a structured set of assessment and progress reporting relevant to each stage. An Academic Panel of senior and experienced researchers from different colleges and universities review and provide feedback on progress across these stages.

Scholars on the PhD programme also engage with host supervisors during national and international placements, as well as engage with people in the wider SPHeRE Network through seminars and conferences.

Peer-led learning

Peer-led learning takes place across the lifetime of the PhD Programme through a variety of activities including in-class dialogue, workshop interaction, specific peer-learning events, research seminars, peer coaching, and peer mentoring.

Programme Alumni provide a valuable and valued contribution to SPHeRE, contributing in various ways to the expert-led, independent, and peer-led learning processes. This includes contributions to workshops, supervision, as well as through an Alumni-Scholar Coaching Panel.

On Completion

On completion of the PhD Programme, scholars will have acquired specialist knowledge and expertise on the design of population health and health services research, and will be able to demonstrate their contribution to population health and health services knowledge and practice. You will also be part of a growing national network connecting research, policy and practice in population health and health services.

Apply for PhD Programme