Achieve your ambitions

We are searching for enthusiastic students who want to use data-driven research to develop and shape the UK’s response to the most complex health challenges of our times.

Register your interest here

The programme is generously funded, providing up to five studentships for 2023-24 and is open to applicants with an academic background in the quantitative disciplines.

All our PhD students undertake valuable doctoral research projects that they design themselves. They also gain a good understanding of the health data research sector and will have support in transitioning from their PhD into a new role.

The four-year programme is divided in two. There is an initial Foundation Year followed by a three-year research project. The first year combines the best in university-based training with HDR UK-led national activities. And we support students to produce game-changing research plans and their projects are backed by substantial research funding.

Each student is based at a “home university” but benefits from extensive additional training led by HDR UK enabling them to grow and learn within a national cohort of HDR UK PhD students. Immersion weeks provide experience of different areas of the health data research sector, including industry. Students operate as a national cohort and are supported to formulate research activities that bring together experts from across the UK, overcoming traditional institutional silos.

What our students say

“We had time to look for the ideal PhD thesis that we would like to do. It was really good to be able to do this in a relaxed environment. In a normal PhD application it’s very intense and you may not even be 100% sure if you and your supervisor are suitable fit.” Haoting Zhang who is researching active learning and the optimisation of drug combinations at the University of Cambridge.


Foundation Year

  • Residential 3-5 day immersion events allow students to gain insight into the work of HDR UK, and our academic, clinical and industry partners. Students undertake an intensive deep dive into an important area of health data science. Immersion topics include risk prediction, oncology, clinical trials, epidemiology and bioinformatics. Past immersion weeks have been hosted by the Universities of Birmingham, Manchester, Oxford and University College London and the European Bioinformatics Institute.

    The immersion events encourage students to work together and stimulate new interactions:


    Research areas

    PhD research projects can be linked to The Institute’s:

    Team working

    Students operate as a national cohort and work collaboratively with others, overcoming traditional institutional silos. Students are registered with a partner university but can draw on academic expertise from across the HDR UK network and are supported to formulate research activities that bring together experts from across the UK.

  • Students have access to graduate-level courses and research project rotation in their university to introduce them to different areas of health data science and enable them to develop a bespoke research project under the guidance of our expert university leads.

  • Regular workshops and short courses introduce students to the work of HDR UK experts across our hubs, themes and priority areas and to external organisations. Past contributors have included NHSX, IQVIA and AstraZeneca.

    Immersion and workshop events allow students to better understand the wider health and social care landscape and accelerate their potential to become sector leaders. They also enable students to develop more ambitious PhD research projects by stimulating collaboration with external academics, industry-based organisations, or by using national data infrastructure.

  • Training is provided by academic, industry and NHS experts to promote personal and professional development in leadership capability, cross-sector collaborative skills and inter-disciplinary working. In particular, HDR UK is committed to working with public and patients to build increased trust in health data research as well as designing solutions focused on improving patient outcomes and experience. Students will develop communication and collaborative skills to help put them at the forefront of this mission.

Years 2-4

  • At the end of the Foundation Year students design a bespoke three-year research project and a multi-disciplinary supervision team based on their training experiences.

    Research proposals will be rigorously reviewed by expert academics and public-patient representatives to ensure they are of the highest standards in terms of ambition, scientific methodology and impact on patient outcomes.

    The research will be carried out at their home university and could be linked to HDR UK research prioritiesresearch hubs or partnerships.

  • Alongside their research project, students participate in our flagship Leadership Programme which develops their all-round capabilities as future health data science leaders.

If you’d like to know more, email us at or telephone (+44 (0)770 847 8846).

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