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ABERDEEN - CURTIN ALLIANCE JOINT PHD OPPORTUNITY:- Widening access to medicine: An international comparison of student experiences

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  • Full or part time
    Prof J Cleland
    Assoc Prof Sally Sandover
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

People from certain groups, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds or certain ethnic and cultural groups, remain under-represented in medicine worldwide. The reasons for this are linked to a myriad of wider, intersecting systemic and societal issues such as ethnic and social inequalities, social influences and expectations.

Although the issues in widening access (WA) to medicine are complex, the solutions proposed have often been relatively simplistic, and generally not effective. This lack of success may reflect the limits of an approach which does not acknowledge (or begin to address) the complex sociological issues which may act as barriers to “getting in” and “getting on” in medical school. There are relatively few empirical studies which move “beyond the numbers”, from the macro to the micro, to explore the experiences of people from WA backgrounds who have managed to achieve a place at medical school. However, understanding the personal experiences of these individuals is critical to driving change in the philosophies, policies and practice of WA.

In this collaborative, qualitative study, our aim is to gain new insight into the ways in which medical school applicants and medical students from WA backgrounds negotiate the medical selection process and experience medical school. This will represent the first cross-context (UK and Australia), longitudinal qualitative study on the topic of widening access to medicine.

In Aberdeen, the student will be based in the Centre for Healthcare Education Research and Innovation CHERI https://www.abdn.ac.uk/cheri/index.php

The successful candidate will have, or expect to have, a UK Honours Degree (or equivalent) at 2:1 or above in a relevant discipline such as but not limited to education, psychology, linguistics and language, sociology or medicine is required.

A Masters in research methodology, qualitative research or similar is desirable but not necessary.

This is a qualitative programme of research which will use multiple methods (e.g., interviews, audio diaries) to collect longitudinal data from students who self-identify as from widening access backgrounds. We are particularly interested in the stories people have of their journey into medicine, and their professional development in the early years of medical school.

The other supervisor on the project is Assoc Prof Sally Sandover Curtin University.

The start date for the project is to be agreed by the supervisors but no later than 30 April 2018.

Formal applications can be completed online: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/postgraduate/apply. You should apply for Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Medical Sciences to ensure that your application is passed to the correct person for processing. Applicants will be required to meet the English Language Requirements of both Institutions.


Informal inquiries can be made to Professor Jennifer Cleland ([Email Address Removed]) with a copy of your curriculum vitae and cover letter. All general enquiries should be directed to the Postgraduate Research School ([Email Address Removed])

Funding Notes

Funding Notes: Funded by the Aberdeen-Curtin Alliance. 2 years in Aberdeen and 1 in Curtin. Curtin University will pay its stipend at the Australian Government RTP scholarship base rate of AU $27,082 (2018) per annum. The UK (RCUK published national minimum stipend) is £14,553 (2017). All students will be given a fee waiver by the Institution at which they are studying, whether Home or Host. Travel expenses will also be provided at the rate of £1,500 for both outward and inward bound flights to host institutions.


Bowes, L, Thomas, L, Peck, L, Nathwani, T. (2013) International research on the effectiveness of widening participation. Higher Education Founding Council for England (HEFCE) http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/rereports/year/2013/wpeffectiveness/
Cleland JA, Dowell J, McLachlan J, Nicholson S, Patterson F. (2012) Identifying best practice in the selection of medical students (literature review and interview survey). http://www.gmc-uk.org/about/research/14400.asp
Gale T, Parker S. (2013). Widening participation in Australian Higher Education. Report to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Office of Fair Access (OFFA), England. CFE (Research and Consulting) Ltd, Leicester UK and Edge Hill University, Lancastershire, UK. URL http://www.deakin.edu.au/arts-ed/efi/pubs/wpin- australian-he.pdf
Nicholson S, Cleland JA. (2015). Reframing research on widening participation in medical education: using theory to inform practice. In Cleland JA and Durning SJ (Eds), Researching Medical Education. Wiley: Oxford, pp 231-244.
Southgate E, Kelly BJ, Symonds IM. (2015). Disadvantage and the ‘capacity to aspire’ to medical school. Medical Education; 49: 73–83.

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