Course Description

SPHeRE PhD Programme in Population Health & Health Services Research

SPHeRE is Ireland’s national research training programme for population health and health services research (PHHSR) and is funded by the Health Research Board in Ireland. SPHeRE means ‘Structured Population and Health-services Research Education’.

The SPHeRE concept captures our approach to the inter-relationship of research, translation and practice.

Our aim is to create a national facility for students, regardless of their discipline or institution, qualifying at various academic levels for both academic and non-academic settings.

Our vision is to provide an excellent education and training programme that delivers a sufficient quantity of high-quality population health and health service researchers, qualified at various academic levels for both academic and non-academic settings, thereby expanding the national skill base in PHHSR.

The programme

The programme is ‘structured’ because we want all our scholars to receive the same training, regardless of their previous experience. This is because improvements in population health and health service delivery can’t be achieved without co-operation across disciplines. SPHeRE connects scholars from diverse backgrounds and gives them a common language to work together.

We aim to develop the research leaders of tomorrow: a cadre of networked academics with a common training but diverse skills. We match excellent scholars with the best supervisors to carry out research of strategic importance to the Irish population. To do this we have developed a wide network of academics from disciplines such as biostatistics, economics, nursing, psychology, medicine, occupational therapy, sociology, speech and language therapy, management, geography and physiotherapy.

Our scholars bring a diverse range of life experiences to each class and many have worked as clinicians, managers or policymakers in the Irish health system. Their research is conducted to the highest standards and has been widely published in prestigious international journals.

Further information is available on our website

Applying to the SPHeRE Programme 2019-2020


The SPHeRE Programme is now accepting applications for the 2019/20 academic year from;

  1. Individual applicants
  2. Supervisors/Principal Investigators with an alternative funded Scholar who wish to apply for inclusion of their candidate on the Programme.

The SPHeRE PhD Programme in Population Health and Health-services Research (PHHSR) aspires to cultivate world-class researchers through a four-year structured PhD Programme. The SPHeRE Programme can also be undertaken over a longer time period on a part-time, self-funded basis. The Programme is a joint initiative of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and University College Cork. We welcome applicants with an interest in carrying out research on population health and/or health services in the Irish context and from a wide range of academic and clinical disciplines, including public health, health psychology, health economics, health policy, general practice, biostatistics, health geography and social science among others.

The full-time 4 year structured PhD Programme features:

  • 6 taught modules completed in the first year of the Programme
  • Opportunities for multidisciplinary research
  • Supervision by internationally renowned Principal Investigators
  • In addition, SPHeRE HRB funded scholars benefit from:
  • 8-week specialist rotation in Irish health related agencies in the first year
  • Placement with a prestigious overseas agency to further PhD project development in the second or third years
  • Professional skills training allowance
  • Travel funds to national training days and international conferences
  • Annual stipend of €18,000 plus laptop computer plus PhD feesApplicants or Supervisors who have already secured independent funding for a PhD or applicants who wish to pursue the Programme on a part-time/full-time basis are also welcome to apply. No additional fees are payable to the SPHeRE Programme outside of your institutional and scholarship costs.

All applications are submitted online through 1a. Individual Applicants (HRB Funding or Self-Funding)

There are two modes of application for entry to the SPHeRE Programme 2019

How to apply?

  • Individual applicants are asked to complete an online application form and submit a one-page cover letter and a two-page Curriculum Vitae (including degree grades and contact details for two referees). In your cover letter, please discuss your education, training, and experience (research and/or practice) in population health and health services research (PHHSR) and provide evidence of leadership (in an academic and/or non-academic capacity). Additionally, you may consider indicating how your prior experience or possible PhD topic are policy relevant and potentially address SPHeRE’s twelve Research Priorities (further information available on our website).


  • When completing your application, be aware that only 3 full-time PhD positions are funded. HRB funding is not available for part-time PhDs on the SPHeRE Programme or for scholars registered outside of the three partner institutions (RCSI, TCD & UCC). However, individual self-funding applicants, either full-time or part-time, who either do not apply for a HRB Scholarship, or are not successful in receiving one, but are deemed suitable for entry to the SPHeRE Programme may register at any of RCSI, TCD, UCC, UCD, DCU, MU, NUIG or UL, where the relevant University registrations and fees are payable. Self-funded scholars are liable for fees at their host institution and all equipment, data collection & dissemination costs.


  • Successful non-EU applicants for funded positions will be liable for fees above that for European applicants. Fees vary, but further information on fees can be found on the websites of the individual institutions.


  • Supervisor/Principal Investigator Applicants (with Alternative Funding)Supervisors/PI’s that can fund a Scholar for 4 years, who wish to apply for a place on the Programme are required to complete an online application form available on our website. No additional fees are payable to the SPHeRE Programme outside of your institutional and scholarship costs.


  • The deadline for applications is Friday, 5th April 2019. Incomplete applications or late applications will not be considered. Interviews will take place the week of the 20th May 2019.

For more information on the application process, please go to

The operation of the SPHeRE Programme is subject to funding by the HRB.


CollegeRoyal College of Surgeons Ireland, Trinity College Dublin & University College Cork
Course LocationDublin
Location PostcodeDublin 2
Course CategoryHealthcare, Medicine & Healthcare
Course TypeBlended Learning - Mix of Classroom & Online
Course QualificationHigher Doctorate
Awarding BodyNational University of Ireland
Awarding Body DetailsPhD
Course Start Date2nd October 2019
Course End Date30th September 2023
Course DurationFour Year Structured PhD Programme in Population Health & Health Services Research
Course TimeFour Year Structured PhD Programme (Full-time) Part-time, self-funded options are also available
Course FeePOA
For information about Royal College of Surgeons Ireland, Trinity College Dublin & University College Cork, please visit our College Profile page on by clicking here.

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