PhD Studentship: Addressing Smokeless Tobacco in South Asia (PhD2018ASTRA)

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 jointly supervised by Professor Kamran Siddiqi, Dr Mona Kanaan and Dr Noreen Mdege.

Project details

The purpose of this studentship is to study the distribution and determinants of oral potentially malignant disorders (OPMDs) in a cohort of smokeless tobacco users in South Asia. A secondary objective is to study the effect of smokeless tobacco (ST) cessation on the natural history of OPMDs. The student will recruit ST users in one of three South Asian countries – Bangladesh, India and Pakistan - to study associations between their demographic, socioeconomic, and behavioural factors and OPMDs. The student will evaluate change (regression, persistence, progression) of OPMDs in ST users, with the effect of tobacco behaviour change on regression / change of oral leukoplakia analysed as the primary end point. The natural history of OPMDs is not fully understood, as there remains uncertainty about which lesions will progress. The student will employ survival analysis (where possible: for competing risks) to estimate absolute and relative risks (and predictors thereof) for different types of cancers and pre-cancerous conditions over cohort observational period. The student will develop a training pack for community health workers on oral health assessment with an oral mucosa “mouth map” and in addition will assess the feasibility of taking photographic images of the OPMDs via a digital intra-oral camera. The student will receive additional support from Professor David Conway (University of Glasgow) in developing the training pack and clinical / photographic assessment.

The studentship would suit candidates qualified in epidemiology, dentistry, head and neck surgery or public health with strong interest in preventing oral cancers in South Asia. The student can have a background in oral or cancer epidemiology and/or quantitative health sciences. They do not necessarily need prior training in smokeless tobacco or oral cancer research, but will need sufficient ability to learn how to conduct and interpret relevant quantitative analysis. This studentship provides a unique opportunity to help shape a major global health research programme conducting high profile research on smokeless tobacco in South Asia. The successful candidate would have the opportunity to spend time at the World Health Organization Knowledge Hub on Smokeless Tobacco in Delhi, India.


This studentship is part of a NIHR Global Health Research Group called ASTRA (Addressing Smokeless Tobacco and building Research capacity in south Asia). ASTRA is a world-class interdisciplinary group aiming to reduce the substantial burden of disease from smokeless tobacco. The smokeless forms of tobacco products are responsible for more than half a million deaths/year; yet remain neglected in policy and research. ASTRA focus on Bangladesh, India and Pakistan where 85% of the world’s 300 million ST users live and use the most lethal ST forms. ASTRA will use MRC frameworks on natural experiments and complex interventions to guide the development and evaluation of interventions, and to assess policies. ASTRA builds on the University of York’s strategy to address global health challenges, its recent successes in securing substantive grants in tobacco control, mental health, urban health and respiratory diseases, its strong ties with WHO and stakeholders in South Asia and responds to their identified priorities. ASTRA’s impact will be through knowledge translation and growth by building research capacity, future bids, institutional investments, and involving more partners in South Asia.


This studentship is open to all applicants on a full time-basis (3 years) and provides (i) a tax-free stipend at the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018-2019); (ii) modest research costs; and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate. If a successful candidate is not eligible to pay Home/EU fees, they will need to fund the difference in tuition fees between the prevailing Home/EU and Overseas fees.

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 or biomedical sciences subject. 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 Kamran Siddiqi 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 should be received no later than Thursday 26th April 2018 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 online application process.

Please read the ‘How to apply’ tab before submitting your application. To apply you will need to provide a current CV, your research proposal and a sample of your written work. When completing the electronic form, applicants will need to state that they are applying for the advertised scholarship and include ref: PhD2018ASTRA 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. The date for interviews will be 18th May 2018.

Informal enquiries

For informal enquiries please contact Professor Kamran Siddiqi (

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.

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