PhD Studentship - The Ethics and Economics of Equity in Health Policy

University of York – Department of Health Sciences

The Department of Health Sciences, University of York, is inviting applications for a funded PhD studentship, available on a full-time basis to start in October 2018. The successful candidate will be supervised by Professor Richard Cookson (Centre for Health Economics), Professor Tim Doran (Department of Health Sciences) and/or Stephen Holland, Department of Philosophy.

Project details

The purpose of this studentship is to conduct in-depth analyses of ethical issues relating to the Equity in Health Policy (EQUIPOL) research programme (see below). Drawing on key concepts of ethics and economics, the PhD thesis will help to develop, refine and interpret practical new methods of equity-informative economic evaluation and policy analysis that enable explicit quantification and articulation of trade-offs between equity objectives and other policy objectives. Issues to be addressed might include the selection and interpretation of equity metrics (e.g. inequality versus poverty versus stratification, absolute versus relative inequality, achievement versus shortfall inequality), how to distinguish "fair" versus "unfair" sources of health inequality (e.g. natural versus social causes, individuals versus groups, opportunity versus outcome), issues of perspective (e.g. lifetime versus current health, ex ante versus ex post), and issues raised by social mobility and inter-generational inequality including unborn generations. Economic evaluation models will be used to construct realistic fictional quantitative examples that illustrate key ethical issues.

The studentship would suit candidates registered in economics, health sciences or philosophy with strong interests in equity and the economic evaluation of health and/or social policies. The student can have a background in ethics, economics and/or quantitative health sciences. They do not necessarily need prior training in economics, but will need sufficient mathematical ability to learn how to interpret economic evaluation outputs and to modify input parameters to generate suitable illustrative examples. This studentship provides a unique opportunity to help shape a major international research programme conducting high profile research on equity in health policy. The successful candidate would be eligible to apply for a Wellcome Secondment Fellowship, spending 3-6 months at a host organisation such as the Parliamentary Office for Science & Technology or the World Health Organization.

EQUIPOL Programme

The EQUIPOL (Equity in Health Policy) programme is a major five-year research programme funded by the prestigious Wellcome Trust, and based in the Department of Health Sciences and the Centre for Health Economics at York, with collaborative links to eminent international researchers in the fields of economics, ethics and health policy. It aims to adapt existing approaches to policy analysis – in particular, natural experiment designs and economic evaluation – to produce new methods for measuring the equity impacts of health and social policy interventions, and to use these methods to assess the effectiveness of major public health and healthcare initiatives. This will provide decision makers with vital information about health equity impacts and trade-offs, enabling fairer health policy decisions and ultimately leading to better health across society.

The award

This studentship is open to UK/EU citizens on a full time-basis (3 years) and provides (i) a tax-free stipend at the Wellcome rate (£19,919 for 2017-2018); (ii) research costs; and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.  

Essential requirements

Applicants need to hold, or expect to gain, at least an upper second class honours (2:1) degree or equivalent in an appropriate social sciences subject (economics, philosophy or health-related).

Students whose first language is not English must have a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 in each component and an overall score of at least 7.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Professor Doran before applying (

Desirable requirements

A Masters in a relevant subject (see above) with a core element of research methodology is highly desirable. Applicants should also be analytically minded with a strong potential for creative independent thinking and have well-developed time management skills.

Process for application

Applications must be received no later than Thursday 29th March before 16:00h UTC. Applications will not be considered for the studentship after this date.

Applications should be made using the Department of Health Sciences on-line application process. Please read the 'How to apply' tab before submitting your application. To apply you will need to provide a current CV and a sample of your written work.

When completing the electronic form, applicants will need to state that they are applying for the advertised studentship and include ref: PhD2018EQUIPOL under the ‘How studies will be funded’ section, in order to be considered for the studentship. 

Shortlisting: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and successful applicants will be notified promptly.

Start date: October 2018.


Individuals with the strongest academic record, experience, and research proposal will be shortlisted and invited to interview. Interviews will be conducted face-to-face or via Skype or similar communication tools, if required.

Informal enquiries

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Tim Doran ( 

Department of Health Sciences

The Department of Health Sciences includes over 280 academics, teachers, researchers and support staff engaged in delivering research, professional development, education and training. Our core aim is excellence in research and teaching, while contributing to improving health and healthcare through the application of our research to policy and practice. We are a multidisciplinary department, involving clinicians from a range of health professions including medicine, nursing and midwifery alongside disciplines such as statistics, health economics, health services research, psychology, sociology and epidemiology. In the most recent assessment of research quality in the UK (the 2014 Research Excellence Framework), the Department was ranked equal first nationally for its research environment and all aspects of our research environment was judged to producing research of world-leading quality in terms of vitality and sustainability. 

Our research activity is organised around six core themes: mental health and addiction; trials and statistics; public health and society; cancer epidemiology; cardiovascular health; and health services and policy.

The successful candidate will join a vibrant community of over 200 postgraduate students in our Graduate School, including over 40 PhD students. Our PhD students are embedded in one of our research groups and have the flexibility to tailor their studies to pursue their own research interests, and a bespoke training programme is designed in conjunction with the supervisory team to support the development of essential subject-specific and transferable skills for their future careers.

Centre for Health Economics (CHE)

CHE is a leading UK centre for Health Economics. It has a team of over 60 economists who regularly advise governments and policy makers both in the UK and abroad. A programme of expert workshops attracts over 300 people a year from all over the world to be trained in the methods developed by CHE researchers. The work of CHE was recognised in 2007 when the Queen’s Anniversary Prize was awarded. For further details please visit their website at: 

The University

The University of York is one of the foremost Universities in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of leading UK Universities. It has an outstanding record of research, teaching, and training across a full range of disciplines. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, The University ranked 10th on the impact of our research and 14th overall. The University has a particular strength in health-related research.

The main campus is a 200-acre landscaped park, with colleges and academic buildings within walking distance of each other. Proximity to the historic city of York makes the University a popular choice and provides a pleasant working environment. Transport connections to York are fast and effective.

University of York Graduate Research School