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Mapping patterns of inequality in students’ access to mental health services in London

About This PhD Project

Project Description

NIHR ARC North Thames

NIHR ARC North Thames is a research partnership committed to identifying the health and care problems that most concern everyone in our region and beyond, designing innovative research in response to those needs and then quickly putting the findings into practice. Led by Professor Rosalind Raine (UCL), the ARC is a collaboration of 50+ partners, including leading universities, NHS trusts, local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, UCLPartners, industry and organisations representing patients and the public. The following studentship is available in the mental health research Theme.

Project Description

There has been a fivefold increase in the number of students declaring a mental health difficulty to their institution over the last decade, leaving student services struggling to meet demand. Universities UK, the Office for Students and the national student mental health charity Student Minds have acknowledged that the needs of students will only be met through better partnership working with the NHS. However, estimates from London Clinical Commissioning Groups are that locally up to 40% of students entering mental health care do so in crisis, suggesting current care pathways are not functioning well for this population. There is universal concern about the increasing prevalence of suicide and self-harm in this demographic group.

The London context presents particular challenges for delivering effective care. Students may live anywhere in London or commute in; and may be registered with a GP near their family home or university, making them eligible for primary and secondary mental health care in different areas. London universities are also some of the most diverse, with proportionately higher numbers of international students and students from black and minority ethnic groups. Healthcare inequalities for people from ethnic minority and low socioeconomic status groups are well known. It is likely that problems accessing appropriate evidence based mental health care are not borne equally across the student population in London, but this question has not yet been investigated.

The studentship holder would investigate access to mental health care for different groups of students in London. They would collect routine data from participating NHS mental health services and GP practices, and analyse patterns of inequality of access using appropriate statistical methods. They would be a member of a team working to create evidence based care pathways to optimise the use of available resources to meet the mental health needs of the student community.

Project-specific skills and experience required:
The ability to manage large datasets;
Experience of advanced quantitative methods;
Organisational skills;
Interest in mental health.

Training opportunities

In addition to PhD training opportunities at their host institution, all ARC PhD students will benefit from training provided by the ARC Academy. This brings together PhD students from across the ARC, to create a community of students training in applied health research. The Academy will equip students with the skills needed to work at the interface of academia and health services.
Our doctoral programme focuses on practical aspects of applied health research, e.g. the skills required to undertake research in healthcare and public health settings, engaging patients/public in research, how to navigate ethical/research governance approval systems. We also aim to give students an understanding of how their work fits into NHS structures and applied public health environments. PhD students will be expected to attend and present at scientific meetings aimed at disseminating the findings of ARC research.


Candidates should hold a Master’s in a relevant discipline (or complete their Master’s by September 2020) and have a minimum of a 2:1 or equivalent in their first degree. Applicants should preferably have knowledge of the UK health and care system. All applicants require excellent written and verbal communication skills and should be willing to work collaboratively in multi-disciplinary and multi-professional teams.
Due to funding restrictions, applicants must be UK/EU nationals. Please see UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA - for criteria.

How to apply

Your application should consist of:
• A CV (qualifications, work experience, publications, presentations and prizes) & contact details of two academic referees.
• A personal statement (300 words) describing your suitability for the proposed project including how your research experience, skills and interests relate to the topic.
• A 1-page proposal of how you would develop the PhD project that you are applying for.
Please send to: .

Deadline: 26 Jan 2020
Interview: 12 Feb 2020
Duration: 3 years, commencing September 2020
Stipend: £17,803

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