Research Scholarships

Data Science, Health & Wellbeing: ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership PhD Collaborative Studentship with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board-ABMU & UK Multiple Sclerosis Society

Closing date: 1 February 2019

Key Information

ESRC Wales DTP logo ABMU logo ‌

MS Society logo  MS Register logo

This scholarship is funded by the ESRC Wales Doctoral Training Partnership, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board and UK Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Swansea University, supported by the ESRC Doctoral Training Partnership for Wales (Wales DTP), invites applications for funded PhD study, available to start in October 2019. The following collaborative studentship is available in the Data Science, Health & Wellbeing pathway of the Wales DTP:

‘A study of the impact of the socio-economic, educational and demographic characteristics of people with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) on their healthcare interactions and clinical decisions’ (working title) in collaboration with Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMU) and the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society. 

Project description:

Good quality healthcare requires an understanding of how the factors that shape peoples’ identities impact their healthcare and their interactions with healthcare professionals. The current project aims to study the impact of socioeconomic, educational and demographic characteristics on health interaction and clinical decisions of people with MS. Several authors have argued that clinical decisions are influenced by factors such as patients’ socioeconomic status, age or gender, but evidence to substantiate such claims is scarce and largely based on simulated scenarios, not real patient records. Such understanding is especially relevant within MS which affects around 100,000 people in the UK. Due to the non-specific nature of early onsets and symptoms there is a potential for increased risk of problems associated with late diagnosis or inadequate treatment.

This project will make use of the vibrant world-leading research environment of the data sciences and health informatics at Swansea University Medical School. It will use rich self-reported and clinical datasets in the MS Register, along with SAIL’s world-leading databank of de-identified individual healthcare records to address this gap. The study will focus on the following questions:

  1. Do patients’ socioeconomic, educational and demographic factors impact decision-making (diagnosis, referral and treatment) and healthcare journeys of people with MS? If so how?
  2. Is it possible to identify strategies that can be used to improve the care provided to people living with MS? Can that information be used to help doctors, other healthcare professionals and individuals to make better decisions?

The study will adopt a mixed-methods (embedded) study design with a quantitative focus within the following phases:

  1. Exploratory phase:
    1. Focus groups with the local support group to identify the hypothesis, confirm variables to study and identify any potential data linkages necessary (between data in the MS registry and SAIL)
    2. Consultation with MS Society and the MS Research Network
    3. Consultations with ABMU Neurology professionals 
    4. Definition of main data analysis protocol
    5. Main Analysis phase: Based on above protocol self-reported and clinical datasets in the MS Register, including relevant free text available, along with SAIL’s Patient Episode Database for Wales (PEDW), Emergency Department Dataset (EDDS), the Primary Care GP Dataset (PCGP) will be investigated.
    6. Explanatory phase:
      1. Focus groups with the local support group to discuss results
      2. Consultation with MS Society, MS Research Network and ABMU
      3. Data interpretation, discussion and conclusions. Outputs and dissemination strategy design phase: Co-creating workshop(s) with representatives of all the research partners.

We welcome applications for both full and part-time study, and studentships are available as either ‘1+3’ (i.e. one full time year of research training Masters followed by three years of full-time doctoral study, or the part-time equivalent), or ‘+3’ (i.e. three years of full-time doctoral study or its part-time equivalent), depending on the needs of the applicant. Swansea University values diversity and equality at all levels and encourages applications from all sections of the community.

Research is at the core of Swansea University’s vision. We aim to foster research excellence across a broad range of subject areas, with internationally leading research staff informing all our teaching. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions, showed that Swansea is now a top 30 research university, soaring up the leagues table to 26th in the UK from 52nd position in 2008. 


This studentship is a ‘collaborative’ award. Applicants should take careful consideration of the working title and description of the project, and may wish to contact the named supervisor and / or the Swansea pathway contact for a discussion prior to applying. They are: 


Residential eligibility:

Full awards (fees plus maintenance stipend) are open to UK Nationals and EU students who can satisfy UK residency requirements. You must:

• be ordinarily resident in the UK, meaning there are no restrictions on how long you can stay, and

• have been 'ordinarily resident' in the UK for at least three years prior to the start of the studentship grant. This means you must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences), and

• not have been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK nationals and EU nationals who were ordinarily resident in the EU immediately before the period of full-time education).

Due to funding restrictions, these scholarships are not open to international candidates.

Academic eligibility:

ESRC studentships are highly competitive. Candidates should have an excellent background in the social sciences, holding a 1st or upper 2nd class degree; applications from those also holding a relevant research training Master's degree (or an equivalent background in research training) will be considered for a ‘+3’ award.


Full-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold either a full-time job, or a permanent part-time job, during the period of their award. Part-time ESRC studentship award holders cannot hold a full-time job.


The studentship provides the full cost of UK/EU tuition fees and an annual stipend. There will be additional funds available for research expenses.

Studentship awards commence in October 2019 and will cover your tuition fees as well as a maintenance grant (currently £14,777 per annum for 2018/19 for full-time students, updated each year) and includes access to an additional Research Training Support Grant (RTSG). There are other opportunities and benefits available to studentship holders, including an overseas fieldwork allowance (if applicable), internship opportunities, oversea institutional visits and other small grants.

A ‘1+3’ studentship provides funding for four years (or part-time equivalent), completing a research training Masters in the 1st year, followed by 3 years research funding for a PhD. A ‘+3’ studentship provides funding for the three years PhD research study only (or part-time equivalent).

How to Apply

The application must contain the following documents and be submitted to

  1. Covering letter: Please address to Dr. Kerina Jones. The covering letter must set out your reasons and motivation for applying to study at Swansea University, and the chosen pathway; your understanding, and expectations of doctoral study; your academic interests generally, and particularly how these relate to the description of the project supplied. The covering letter should be no more than two pages. Please specify whether you wish to apply on a ‘+3’ or ‘1+3’ basis. Remember also to specify that your application concerns ESRC Wales DTP collaborative studentships and include in your application the title of the project to which you are applying.
  2. Academic / professional qualifications: Please provide copies of certificates and transcripts. Where appropriate, this should also include proof of English Language Competency (7.0 IELTS minimum).
  3. References: All applications require two academic references to be submitted in support. Candidates must approach referees themselves, and submit the references with their application.
  4. Curriculum Vitae: It should be no longer than two pages.
  5. Research Proposal: For collaborative studentships, the proposal should build directly on the outline description that has been supplied. The proposal should be up to a maximum of 1000 words, not including bibliographic references. We suggest that you use the following five headings in your research proposal: 
    • Your reflections on the title, aims and purpose of the research;
    • An overview of some key research literature relevant to the study;
    • Your proposals for developing the design and methods of the study;
    • A description of potential outcomes of the project for understanding, knowledge, policy and practice (as appropriate to the topic);
    • Bibliographic references.

Please note that incomplete applications or applications received after the specified time will not be accepted. 

The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday 1 February 2019.

Short-listed applicants will be invited to interview; interviews are expected to take place in March 2019. After interview, a final shortlist of applicants will be put forward to a Panel convened by the ESRC Wales DTP Management Group at which final decisions with regard to studentship awards will be made. In most cases, successful applicants can expect to hear by mid-April 2019.

Informal enquiries about this studentship are welcome, and should be directed to Dr. Kerina Jones (