Population Health Sciences

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Awards available PhD, MD, DSc, MSc by research
Programme length PhD: Three to four years full-time; six years part-time
MD: Two to five years part-time
MSc: One year full-time; two years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Open to international students Yes
Start date Not fixed

Programme overview

The School of Social and Community Medicine is a highly regarded centre for research and teaching in population health sciences. Staff in the school are leaders in their fields and have extensive national and international research collaborations, with several providing health policy advice for government organisations and international bodies.

Our staff are multi-disciplinary and include statisticians, epidemiologists, geneticists, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, health economists, public health physicians, medical ethicists, computational biologists, neuroscientists, and various community-based physicians and nurses. We are keen to attract graduates from all these disciplines to carry out postgraduate research. The school has approximately 80 postgraduate research students. In the 2013 Postgraduate Research Experience Survey, 94 per cent of our students were satisfied with their postgraduate experience. Ratings for quality of supervision, resources, research culture, progress assessment, research skills training and professional development all exceeded sector averages.

A selection of fully funded PhD opportunities are available within the school. We have a Wellcome Trust four-year PhD programme in Molecular, Genetic and Lifecourse Epidemiology. The MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit provides four-year PhD opportunities on a range of cross-disciplinary projects integrating molecular and other data to investigate the causal effects of potentially modifiable exposures on health-related outcomes.

Other funded studentships are available for projects in any research area within the school. Students who have already secured funding are encouraged to discuss research topics with potential supervisors before applying. Please visit the school website to see current opportunities.

Fees for 2017/18

Full-time fees


Part-time fees


Fees quoted are provisional, per annum and subject to annual increase.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2017/18

Funded opportunities are advertised on the school website as they become available. Some funding opportunities are restricted to UK or EU citizens. Funding for overseas postgraduate students is limited.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree (or equivalent) or a relevant Master's degree, or evidence of prior learning/achievement.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Application method Online application form and interview
English language requirements Profile A
Further information about English language requirements
Admissions statement Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Research groups

Child and Adolescent Health

The Centre for Child and Adolescent Health is a joint initiative between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England (UWE) which aims to promote the academic study of child health through inter-professional collaboration. Staff at the centre include senior academics and researchers from Bristol and UWE, and clinician-educators from North Bristol Trust and University Hospitals Bristol and Bath.

Our research is structured into themes:

  • Child Development and Disability
  • Children with Complex Health Needs
  • Child and Adolescent Injury

Children and young people's participation and international child health are cross-cutting themes.


The school's research programme includes lifecourse epidemiology (studying how exposures at different stages of the lifecourse interact to produce patterns of chronic disease) and clinical epidemiology (eg investigating the prognosis of HIV-infected patients starting antiretroviral therapy).

Major themes within epidemiology include:

  • Cancer (cancer screening, aetiology, diagnosis, prognosis)
  • Cardiovascular disease (aetiology, prevention and management)
  • Infectious disease modelling
  • Mental health and neurodegeneration
  • Nutrition and metabolic disorders (aetiology and prevention of poor nutrition at a population level.

Ethics in Medicine

At the Centre for Ethics in Medicine we examine ethics in medicine and bioscience, working together with colleagues from various disciplines (law, palliative medicine, psychiatry, primary care). The main areas of interest are:

  • Educating and supporting healthcare professionals (clinical ethics, research ethics, ethics education, professionalism)
  • Chronic illness, terminal illness and long-term care (end-of-life decision-making, older people, children and young people, psychiatry, health and social care policies)
  • Biotechnologies and biosciences (genetics, human enhancement, reproductive medicine, human tissue, surgical ethics)

Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology

This programme uses molecular (eg genomic, epigenomic, metabolomic) data from large cohort studies to investigate the molecular mechanisms of disease, to aid understanding of the relationships between life-course exposures and adult diseases, and to develop methods for disseminating and introducing these findings into practice. Major themes in the MRC Integrative Epidemiology Unit include:

  • Genome-wide association studies
  • Mendelian Randomisation
  • Epigenetics/epigenomics
  • Metabolomics
  • Copy number variation
  • Next-generation sequence analysis
  • Bioinformatics
  • Population genetics
  • Systems biology
  • Laboratory-based genetic epidemiology

Health Services and Public Health Research

We are a leading centre for methodological and applied research into the effectiveness, efficiency and acceptability of healthcare and health improvement.  We actively contribute to health service and public health practice and policy-making.

Our Centre for Public Health includes the UKCRC DECIPHer Centre and we are partners in the NIHR School for Public Health Research. We also host the NIHR Health Protection Unit in Evaluation of Interventions. Our major strengths include the design and conduct of randomised controlled trials led by the MRC CMRC ConDuCT trials methodology hub, the Bristol Centre for Surgical Research and the Bristol Randomised Trials Collaboration. We have vibrant research groups in systematic reviews and evidence synthesis, qualitative methods, biostatistics, health economics and outcomes research.

Primary Care

The Centre for Academic Primary Care (CAPC) is one of the eight leading centres for primary care research in England that form the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (NSPCR). We conduct high-quality research of practical benefit to patient care and NHS decision-making. 

CAPC has an important role in developing research capacity in primary care through hosting studentships and fellowships funded by the NIHR and other funders.


The Centre for Academic Mental Health brings together researchers working on mental health, addiction and suicide research within the school. Our research investigates a wide range of biological, psychological and social factors and how they might influence the causation and course of psychiatric disorders.

Our strengths include:

  • Epidemiology, especially longitudinal studies to investigate depression, anxiety, suicide, addiction, psychosis and autism spectrum disorders
  • Randomised controlled trials, particularly the treatment of depression and anxiety in primary care
  • Systematic reviews and meta-analyses, especially interventions for common mental disorders

In addition, we have interests in the biological basis of psychiatric disorder.


The majority of our final-year research students express a wish to continue in the field of research. Since 2000, ten PhD students have progressed to professor and ten to lecturer or senior lecturer. Among recent PhD graduates, 88 per cent now work in the academic sector, with the remainder working in the health and private sectors. In addition to excellent research training, we our students develop a range of transferable skills to ensure they have the best possible opportunities whatever their chosen career.

Staff profiles

Professor Tony Ades, (Professor), Methods for evidence synthesis in epidemiology and decision modelling.

Dr Suzanne Audrey, (Senior Research Fellow), Adolescent health; health inequalities; process evaluation; qualitative research methods.

Dr Kerry Avery, (Research Fellow), Developing dietary interventions for prostate cancer; systematic reviews and investigations of dietary change.

Professor Yoav Ben-Shlomo, (Professor), Deprivation and health; epidemiology of neurological disease; equity and access to healthcare; lifecourse and adult disease; the health of carers.

Dr Lucy Biddle, (Senior Lecturer), Bereavement; help-seeking behaviour and health services utilisation; qualitative research methods; sociology applied to health and healthcare; suicide; young adults' mental health.

Dr Pete Blair, (Reader), Infant care practices; medical statistics; sleep; study design and methodology ; sudden death in childhood; weight gain.

Professor Jane Blazeby, (Professor), Clinical decision-making in multi-disciplinary teams and developing systems to improve informed consent for surgery; patient-reported outcomes research with a particular focus on randomised trials in oncology and surgery.

Dr Sara Brookes, (Senior Lecturer), Methodology of randomised controlled trials and the individualisation of treatments; methods of subgroup analyses and their interpretation; n-of-1 or single patients trials.

Dr Ellen Brooks Pollock, (Lecturer), Infectious disease dynamics, parameter inference, tuberculosis, mathematical epidemiology.

Professor Paul Burton, (Professor of Infrastructural Epidemiology), Biostatistics; epidemiology; infrastructure.

Dr Deborah Caldwell, (Lecturer), Complex interventions; maternal and obstetric health; mental health; network meta-analysis; systematic review methods.

Professor Rona Campbell, (Professor), Adolescent health promotion and protection; compliance with therapy; developing methods for synthesising qualitative research; evaluation of complex interventions to improve public health; patient decision-making about end-of-life treatment and care; smoking prevention and cessation; use of quantitative and qualitative methods in public health and health services research.

Dr Claire Haworth, (Reader), Behavioural genetics; gene-environment interplay; genetics and intervention; mental health and wellbeing.

Professor Joanna Coast, (Professor), Capability approaches in health economics decision making and priority setting in health and care economics of end of life care economics of antimicrobial resistance qualitative research in health economics.

Dr Helen Cramer, (Research Fellow), Complementary and alternative health; depression and anxiety; gendered services; management of cardiovascular disease; qualitative and ethnographic methods.

Dr Esther Crawley, (Reader), CFS/ME in children.

Dr Leon Danon, (Lecturer), Collective behaviour in human populations, social networks and the transmission of infectious disease data collection, analysis, and mathematical modelling.

Professor George Davey Smith, (Professor), Genetic epidemiology; lifecourse influences on chronic disease in adulthood; Mendelian randomisation.

Dr Oliver Davis, (Reader), Behavioural genetics; data visualisation; genetic and environmental data science; statistical genetics of complex traits.

Dr Frank de Vocht, (Senior Lecturer), Epidemiology and public health research related to alcohol use. Environmental and occupational epidemiology, especially in relation to radiation and health.

Dr Zuzana Deans, (Teaching Fellow), Ethics of genetics and reproductive technologies; methodology in applied ethics; normative/philosophical ethics; pharmacy practice ethics; research ethics.

Dr Sofia Dias, (Research Fellow), Bayesian evidence synthesis and meta-analysis in decision modelling; infertility; network meta-analysis (mixed treatment comparisons) and evidence consistency.

Professor Jenny Donovan, (Professor), Combining qualitative and quantitative methods; concepts of health and illness; employing qualitative research methods in HSR and particularly challenging randomised controlled trials; perceptions and experiences of health and health care; social sciences applied to health and health services research (HSR); treatment of prostate cancer.

Dr Hannah Elliott, (Postdoctoral Research Fellow), The role of DNA methylation in type 2 diabetes and insulin sensitivity

Dr Pauline Emmett, (Senior Research Fellow), Nutritional epidemiology.

Professor Alan Emond, (Professor), Adolescent risk-taking; child development; growth faltering.

Dr Jonathan Evans, (Consultant Senior Lecturer), Emotional processing, social cognition and mental health; epidemiology; interventions to improve maternal depression and mother-child interactions; maternal mental health and child development (particular focus on antenatal depression); suicide and self-harm epidemiology and psychological antecedents.

Professor Gene Feder, (Professor), Domestic violence; primary care management of cardiovascular disease.

Professor Peter Fleming, (Professor), Infant physiology; safeguarding; sleep disorders.

Dr Abigail Fraser, (Senior Research Fellow), Cardiovascular disease; lifecourse epidemiology of diabetes; nonalcoholic fatty liver disease; women' s reproductive health.

Dr Tom Gaunt, (Reader), Bioinformatic analyses of human genetic, epigenetic and metabolomic data; molecular genetics and molecular epidemiology of cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

Professor David Gunnell, (Professor), Early life origins of psychiatric disorder; epidemiology and prevention of suicide, self-harm and psychiatric disorders; suicide and self-harm by pesticide self-poisoning in developing countries.

Professor Alastair Hay, (Professor), Diagnosis, prognosis and treatment of infections, infectious diseases and bacterial resistance to antibiotics in primary care.

Dr Ali Heawood, (Senior Research Fellow), Complementary and alternative medicine; patients' and health professionals' perspectives; qualitative research methods; risk perception and communication.

Professor John Henderson, (Professor), Epidemiology of respiratory conditions.

Dr Jon Heron, (Senior Research Fellow), Substance use, gambling and addiction research.

Professor Matthew Hickman, (Professor), Epidemiology and prevention of public health problems associated with injecting and problem drug use; indirect estimation methods; public health surveillance and epidemiology; use of infectious disease modelling.

Professor Julian Higgins, (Professor), Assessing and adjusting for bias in primary studies; meta-analysis methods including Bayesian approaches, network meta-analysis and analysing individual participant data; meta-epidemiological studies; systematic review methods.

Dr Sandra Hollinghurst, (Senior Lecturer), Economic evaluation; economics of primary care.

Professor William Hollingworth, (Professor), Patterns of and reasons for clinicians' adoption of emerging technologies and abandonment of obsolete technologies; the diagnostic and therapeutic impact of medical imaging and its effect on patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness; the impact of illness and injury on the financial solvency of patients and their families.

Dr Jeremy Horwood, (Research Fellow), Acceptability of clinical interventions; chronic illness; illness perceptions; pain management; users' experience of health services.

Dr Laura Howe, (Senior Research Fellow), Childhood growth; childhood obesity (risk factors, consequences and inequalities); lifecourse epidemiology of obesity and cardiovascular disease; socioeconomic inequalities.

Professor Richard Huxtable, (Professor), Clinical ethics; end of life; healthcare law; paediatric ethics; surgical ethics.

Dr Jenny Ingram, (Senior Research Fellow), Breastfeeding; health service evaluation.

Dr Mona Jeffreys, (Senior Lecturer), Breast cancer; breast density; cancer epidemiology; cancer screening; HPV vaccination; inequality in cancer outcomes by deprivation and ethnicity; measuring equality in access to healthcare.

Dr Carol Joinson, (Senior Lecturer), Developmental psychology and adolescent depression.

Dr Jonathan Ives, (Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Ethics and Law), Bioethics: Clinical Ethics Ethics of Fathers, Families and Healthcare Methodology in Bioethics Empirical Bioethics Research Ethics

Dr David Kessler, (Reader), Common mental disorders in primary care.

Dr Judi Kidger, (Research Fellow), Early parenthood; mixed methods research; peer education; school-based health interventions; sexual health; young people' s health behaviour; young people' s mental health.

Dr Ruth Kipping, (Research Fellow), Obesity; public health research; school-based health interventions; young people’s health behaviour.

Dr Helen Lambert, (Reader), Issues of evidence in medicine and anthropology; medical anthropology in, and of, public health; medical pluralism; public understandings of biomedicine and heredity; sexual health and HIV prevention; South Asia.

Dr Athene Lane, (Reader), Epidemiology of prostate, cancer especially dietary factors; gastroenterology and " Helicobacter pylori" , questionnaire design and implementation; methodology and conduct of randomized controlled trials; prostate cancer health services research.

Professor Debbie Lawlor, (Professor), Cardiovascular disease; diabetes; lifecourse and genetic epidemiology of insulin resistance; women' s reproductive health.

Dr Sarah Lewis, (Senior Lecturer), Genetic epidemiology, in particular identifying genetic associations within multi-factorial diseases, and using genes as an epidemiological tool to elucidate mechanisms of complex diseases.

Dr Fiona MacKichan, (Lecturer), Ageing and health and wellbeing in older age; chronic pain; lay/professional interface; patient perspectives (especially over time), illness behaviour; qualitative and multi/mixed method approaches.

Professor John Macleod, (Professor), Data linkage and the use of population data repositories in epidemiology and health services research; epidemiology of problem drug use; lifecourse epidemiology and the epidemiology of health inequalities; psychological influences on physical health; the evaluation of primary care interventions, particularly in the areas of sexual health, problem drug use and melioration of cardiovascular risk.

Dr Alice Malpass, (Research Fellow), Mindful-based cognitive therapy for patients with respiratory illness and anxiety; patient-clinician decision making; psychological interventions for women experiencing domestic violence; qualitative methods including meta-ethnography.

Dr Elsa Marques, (Research Fellow in Health Economics), Performing economic evaluation alongside randomised controlled trials for healthcare interventions.

Professor Richard Martin, (Professor), Aetiological epidemiology with particular interest in aetiology of cancer and cardiovascular disease; early nutritional influences on later health; pharmacoepidemiology; prostate cancer screening.

Professor Margaret May, (Professor), Methods for longitudinal data analysis of cohort studies; prognostic modelling and validation methods, particularly applied to HIV, cardiovascular disease and kidney failure; statistical methods for epidemiology and health services research.

Mr Angus McNair, (Clinical Lecturer)

Dr Chris Metcalfe, (Reader), The development of approaches to the evaluation of statistical methods in practical contexts; the development of statistical methods and experimental design in cancer epidemiology, health services research, and psychotherapy research; the development of statistical methods for outcome measures based upon recurrent events.

Dr Nicola Mills, (Research Fellow), Integrating qualitative research within RCTs to improve trial design and conduct.

Professor Richard Morris, (Professor), Epidemiology of cardiovascular disease, excess winter mortality, clinical trials of complex interventions, analysis of primary care databases, statistical methods for health and health care research

Professor Madeleine Murtagh, (Professor of Social Studies), Social scientist of population/public health.

Dr Sian Noble, (Senior Lecturer), Health economics; methodology of economic evaluations alongside randomised controlled trials with particular interest in trials relating to cancer.

Dr Kate Northstone, (Senior Research Fellow), Nutritional epidemiology with a particular focus on examination of the diet as a whole using multivariate techniques.

Dr Amanda Owen-Smith, (Lecturer), Mental health; obesity; priority setting in healthcare; qualitative research methods.

Dr Sangeetha Paramasivan, (Research Associate), Qualitative health services research; recruitment to randomised controlled trials; South Asian women' s health.

Dr Lavinia Paternoster, (Research Fellow), Genetic epidemiology of complex traits.

Dr Rupert Payne, (Consultant Senior Lecturer), Rational and safe prescribing, therapeutics in primary care, polypharmacy, pharmacoepidemiology, routine data and CPRD

Dr Rebecca Pearson, (Research Epidemiologist.), Mental health.; N/A

Dr John Potokar, (Consultant Senior Lecturer), Academic Liaison Psychiatrist; Links between brain, mind and body including stress responses, immune and 5-HT function; mood and medical illness.

Professor Sarah Purdy, Dermatology in primary care; prediction of unplanned hospital admission; shoulder pain.

Dr Dheeraj Rai, (Consultant senior lecturer), The causes and consequences of autism spectrum disorders intellectual disability diagnostic and treatment issues in neurodevelopmental disorders

Dr Theresa Redaniel, (Research Fellow in Health Services Research and Epidemiology), Cancer survival and survival inequalities; cancer waiting times; early diagnosis of childhood cancer; suicide and self-harm.

Professor Caroline Relton, (Professor), Epigenetic epidemiology; methods to understand the causal role of epigenetic variation in development and disease; molecular epidemiology, including laboratory-based analyses ; the role of epigenetic variation in common complex disease.

Dr Matthew Ridd, (Consultant Senior Lecturer), Common mental health problems; continuity of patient care; diagnosis and management of skin problems commonly seen in primary care; patient-doctor communication and longitudinal relationships.

Dr Santi Rodriguez, (Senior Lecturer), Genetic epidemiology, population genetics and molecular genetics; study of the influence that genetic factors have on complex risk traits for common human diseases from an evolutionary, epidemiological and functional point of view.

Professor Chris Salisbury, (Professor), Comorbidity; core values of primary care (access, continuity, co-ordination, generalism); improving primary health care delivery; new models of primary care.

Dr Jelena Savovic, (Research Fellow), Evidence Synthesis, particularly in the sources of bias in randomised controlled trials and non-randomised studies and the effects of such biases on the results of meta-analyses.

Professor Debbie Sharp, (Professor), Complementary and alternative medicine; mental health in primary care; primary / secondary interface; research methodology; women' s health.

Professor Jonathan Sterne, (Professor, Head of School), Clinical epidemiology of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; epidemiology of asthma and allergy; statistical methods for causal inference; systematic reviews and meta-analysis.

Dr Sarah Sullivan, (Research Fellow in Health Services Research and Epidemiology), Social functioning in early psychosis and risk factors for and outcomes of psychotic experiences in healthy populations.

Dr Clare Thomas, (Research Associate), Health psychology and health behaviour change; qualitative methods; RCTs.

Professor Kate Tilling, (Professor), Childhood growth and its relation to later health; lifecourse epidemiology and methods; monitoring of biomarker change in prostate cancer, causal models, multilevel models.

Dr Nicholas Timpson, (Reader), Discovery and use of genomic variation associated with common disease phenotypes and lifecourse events/trajectories including type 2 diabetes, " metabolic syndrome" , obesity/adiposity, blood pressure, growth, height, inflammation; genetic epidemiology and biological anthropology; genome-wide association of complex traits and diseases; Mendelian randomisation.

Dr Katrina Turner, (Senior Lecturer), Childhood obesity; depression, including postnatal and antenatal; qualitative studies nested within RCTs; using qualitative research methods in health service research.

Professor Peter Vickerman, (Professor of Infectious Disease Modelling), Epidemiology and control of infectious diseases; mathematical modelling of infectious diseases.

Dr Julia Wade, (Research Associate), Qualitative methods applied to RCT recruitment and participation (investigating informed consent processes, experiences of trial participation and experiences of prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment).

Dr Nicky Welton, (Reader), Multi-parameter evidence synthesis for decision modelling; network meta-analysis; value of information methods for research prioritisation.

Dr Nicola Wiles, (Reader), RCTs and epidemiological research on anxiety and depression.

Miss Cathy Williams, (Consultant Senior Lecturer), Paediatric opthalmology.

Dr Caroline Wilson, (Research Associate), Diagnostic technologies; economic depression and mental health/suicide; lay and professional perspectives of chronic illness (diabetes, heart disease, cancer); medical anthropology/science and technology studies (STS); medical pluralism; qualitative and ethnographic methods; recruitment and teamwork in clinical trials; South Asia; the body.

Dr Lesley Wye, (Senior Research Fellow), Commissioning; community nursing; complementary therapies; end-of-life care; knowledge exchange/research implementation; quality indicators.

Professor Stan Zammit, (Senior Clinical Lecturer), Psychoses, cannabis, schizophrenia including epidemiological and treatment studies.

Dr Luisa Zuccolo, (Research Fellow), Mendelian randomisation, in particular applied to environmental/behavioural exposures and prostate cancer and health effects of alcohol consumption (including prenatal alcohol exposure).

How to apply
Application deadline:

Deadlines are advertised on the school website at various times throughout the year. We welcome enquiries at any time of the year.

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

  • 50% of research is world-leading (4 star)
  • 36% of research is internationally excellent (3 star)
  • 12% of research is recognised internationally (2 star)
  • 2% of research is recognised nationally (1 star)

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Get in touch

Sharen O'Keefe Postgraduate Administrator Phone: +44 (0) 117 928 7274 Email: scm-postgrad-admin@bristol.ac.uk

School of Social and Community Medicine
University of Bristol
Canynge Hall
39 Whatley Road
Bristol BS8 2PR http://www.bristol.ac.uk/social-community-medicine


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