Postgraduate Research Opportunity

NIHR ARC East of England – Mental Health Theme


Title: NIHR ARC East of England Mental Health theme

Funding: Full time Home tuition fees and a stipend of £16,062 p.a. (UKRI rate for 2022-23.) To be eligible for this award you must be a Home student (i.e. UK national meeting residency requirements).

Application deadline: 27th June 2022

Start date: October 2022

Duration: 3 years (full time)

Location: Colchester Campus

Based in: School of Health and Social Care


This studentship is now closed to applications.

About this studentship

Applications are invited for a fully funded PhD studentship from October 2022 for three years (full time study). The PhD studentship is linked to the Mental Health Theme of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East of England (EoE).

The NIHR ARC EoE is a 5-year collaboration between Cambridge and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) and the Universities of Cambridge, East Anglia, Essex, and Hertfordshire, along with other NHS trusts, Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs) partnerships, charities, industry, and patient led organisations and partners across the region.

The mental health theme aims to reduce social and health inequalities for people with mental health difficulties, especially in communities with high health needs. Any new research within the theme should be co-developed with ARC Public and Community Involvement Engagement and Participation (PCIEP) groups.

The project

PhD research questions and proposed programmes of work must align with the NIHR ARC East of England Mental Health theme.

We are particularly interested in supporting a project which involves secondary data analysis using the Understanding Society dataset based at the Institute of Social and Economic Research within the University of Essex.

The research would use this dataset to address research questions concerning the crisis of mental health in coastal towns. In the East of England, this crisis is linked to social disadvantage, low and interrupted educational attainment, lack of jobs and high prevalence of long-term physical conditions.

In particular, the project would use location variables within Understanding Society to develop a typology of coastal communities in the UK against which it will be possible to compare East of England coastal areas and identify particular features related to high rates of mental illness. Analyses would also examine  mental health in coastal versus non-coastal communities nationally and within the region.

The project should incorporate qualitative data collection and analysis to explore in-depth experiences of people living with mental illness in coastal areas in the East of England and consider how these experiences fit with the typologies identified from quantitative analysis.

Proposed projects should aim to involve patients, service users, carers and members of the public with experiences relevant to the project aims. Project proposals should set out plans for working inclusively with people in communities to design, carry out, share and implement research findings.

The studentship will be offered to an outstanding early stage researcher to conduct applied research into aspects of mental health ensuring innovative and effective public and community involvement. The studentship is an exciting career opportunity for an ambitious researcher who is keen to develop as a future leader in mental health research. The studentship is aligned to the School of Health and Social Care Research Strategy.


The studentship comes with a yearly tax-free stipend at current UKRI rates (rate for 2022-23 will be £16,062) plus Home tuition fees, and £2,500 training bursary via Proficio funding, which may be used to cover the cost of advanced skills training including conference attendance and travel. To be eligible for this award you must be a Home student (i.e. UK national meeting residency requirements).

The successful applicant will enrol at the University of Essex.



We are looking for candidates who match the following criteria:

  • Applicants should have a 2.1 or higher Honours degree in a relevant discipline, a good knowledge of health or social care, and an interest in mental health research relevant to issues of socio-economic inequality.
  • Applicants should be committed to public involvement in health and social care research.
  • Applicants with a Master’s degree and/or experience of using large secondary datasets are especially welcome to apply.
  • Applicants must demonstrate how they will add value to NHS/health, social care or other provider organisations.
  • Applicant must have Home fee status.

How to apply

Please apply through our online portal.

You will need to provide the following information and documents:

  • A CV/resume (2 pages maximum).
  • A personal statement (maximum 500 words) in support of your application.
  • A research project proposal (maximum of 1000 words) that explicitly addresses the work you would like to carry out, detailing how it is linked to the ARC mental health theme and how it addresses the concerns detailed above.
  • Contact details of two academic referees.

Instruction to applicants

When you apply online you will be prompted to fill out several boxes in the form:

  • For "Course title" please put one of the following; PhD Public Health, PhD Applied Psychology, or PhD Health Studies (this can also be changed at a later date).
  • For "Proposed research topic or area of research" please put the title of this studentship (NIHR ARC East of England Mental Health theme)
  • For "If you have contacted a potential supervisor..." please put the name of the lead supervisor (Dr Susan McPherson)

If you have any informal queries about this opportunity please email the lead supervisor, Dr Susan McPherson (