School of Health Professions

PhD Health Studies

The School of Health Professions has something for everyone interested in health and care–related professions so come and join us to study for a PhD degree within a unique inter-disciplinary learning environment. You will benefit from excellent research laboratories, supervised by professionally registered academic staff.

You work on an advanced research project with a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies and are expected to fully engage with your personal skills development and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

Course details
  • Programme overview

  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake. The research team carries out research in a range of areas associated with the professions of Occupational Therapy, Optometry, Paramedicine, Physiotherapy and Podiatry
    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies and will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.
    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of a written thesis (up to 80,000 words) and a viva voce(an oral examination).
    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.
The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.
Entry requirements
All applicants must meet the entry criteria for a Faculty of Health research degree which are:
  • you'll usually need a 2:1 degree from a UK University or equivalent and an academic IELTS score of 6.5 (with no less than 6 in each component test area) or equivalent if you are a non-UK applicant
  • two satisfactory academic references
  • evidence of funding for the duration of your course.
For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.
Fees, costs and funding
Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home To be confirmed To be confirmed
International To be confirmed To be confirmed
Part time (Home) To be confirmed To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per a number of credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.
Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees.
If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.
If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.
You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.
Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.
How to apply
Potential applicants should first identify a member of academic staff who may be a suitable supervisor, and contact them by email to discuss possible directions for a research proposal. The research proposal must be agreed by the supervisor and the school’s postgraduate research coordinator (Dr Lisa Bunn) before an application to study can be made. You can identify research areas of interest at the University by browsing our school’s research groups and looking at publication outputs from Plymouth-based researchers. 
In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.
Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.
Submitting your application
Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.
Questions on the application process?
We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College and we'll be happy to assist you.
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.
If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit Disability Services.
International Student Advice (ISA) provides support for our international students.
Find more information about Apply for a postgraduate research programme

Our research

From basic research discovering the causes of disease, through to evaluating novel ways of delivering care to the most vulnerable people in society, our thriving community conducts adventurous world-leading research
The Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research acts as a gateway to those undertaking research and innovation in the areas of health and community
Our research

Funded PhD opportunities

Studentship: PhD in Optometry studentship

With Dr Eleni Papadatou and colleagues from the School of Health Professions and the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics, this translational research project will develop new concepts and tools for assessing the efficacy of intraocular lenses. The successful candidate will be based at the Cataract and Refractive Surgery Research Laboratory within the Eye and Vision research Group.

Applications have now closed.

Studentship: developing a prototype to model spasticity and hypertonia as a tool to improve clinical teaching and research outcomes

This is an exciting opportunity which brings together engineering and health expertise in a project with real life clinical, research and education applicability. Spasticity is a significant problem for people with neurological conditions, leading to restrictions in movement and loss of function which impact quality of life. Assessing spasticity and researching treatments requires a practical understanding of how an affected limb feels, moves and responds to handling. However, spasticity is complex, and the ability to gain ‘hands on’ experience in the laboratory would be a valuable addition to teaching and research.

Our previous work has produced data which informs how a limb affected by spasticity is likely to respond in different conditions. In this project you will bring together health and engineering expertise to develop a physical model which simulates the behaviour and response of a limb affected by spasticity. You will undertake a variety of theoretical modelling, lab work, practical development, and user feedback activities in a project with potential for long-term impact and scalability.

We are seeking a highly motivated individual to work in a rich academic environment within a world-leading research group in physical rehabilitation and medical engineering. The successful candidate will receive training and support provided in the School of Health Professions and the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics.

Applications have now closed.

Investigating feasible cooling strategies for people with multiple sclerosis experiencing heat-sensitivity

The aim of the PhD project is to investigate feasible cooling strategies for heat-sensitive individuals with multiple sclerosis. This project, developed in collaboration with people with MS, focuses on an important clinical problem. Up to 80% of people with MS show sensitivity to increases in environmental and/or body temperature where they experience a temporary exacerbation of symptoms which can be distressing, impact daily activities and lead to avoidance of exercise.

This project brings together an experienced supervisory team of clinical academic physiotherapists and exercise physiologists within the School of Health Professions. The successful candidate will be based within the Rehabilitation Research Group at the University of Plymouth. They will be part of a thriving postgraduate community, attend national and international conferences and establish links within both clinical practice and academia.

Important deadlines:

  • The anticipated closing date for applications is mid-May 2022.

  • The studentship will start on 1 October 2022.

If you wish to discuss this project further informally, please contact Dr Luke Connolly.

MClinRes Clinical Research hero image

Access our Masters of Clinical Research modules

In addition to the extensive personal development training programme offered through the Doctoral College and Plymouth Institute of Health Research (PIHR), students studying this PhD programme have free access to up to three modules offered from the Masters of Clinical Research (MClinRes). Study is as a short course option and can be undertaken through face-to-face, distance or hybrid learning. The modules on offer include Project design for research, Applied quantitative research methods, Applied qualitative research methods (MCR701), Applying evidence to practice and Systematic review
Image of a glass jar with saving written on a label, full with coins.
Postgraduate research students listening to a talk

Brain Research and Imaging Centre (BRIC)

The Brain Research & Imaging Centre (BRIC) is the most advanced multi-modal brain research facility in the South West and represents a sea-change in research capability in the field of human neuroscience. 
Our staff frequently conduct research at the BRIC, collaborating with experts from across the University. Contact Dr Lisa Bunn, our Doctoral College Coordinator, to find out more about opportunities with the BRIC.
BRIC building exterior

Contact us

Not sure who you would like to get in contact with or have an interprofessional PhD in mind? Email Dr Lisa Bunn (Doctoral College Coordinator) or any one of our supervisory team leads for help and advice:

Research team and PhD supervisors

PhD supervisory team members

We take pride in our interprofessional teamwork. We often compile PhD teams from staff across various professional groups, mixed and matched to our individual learners' needs.

View the complete PhD supervisory team

Join our research group meetings

In addition of becoming a member of PIHR, all PhD students and potential applicants are welcome to join research group meetings, including: