Health & Wellbeing

The persistence of health and wellbeing inequalities requires a robust social science evidence base to improve policy and service responses and understandings of the social processes underpinning health worldwide. This pathway will equip cohorts of social science researchers to apply innovative methodologies that enhance our knowledge of health and wellbeing for diverse groups, in different contexts. The pathway offers rich opportunities for students to address pressing health and wellbeing issues across the life course in the UK, or to conduct their research in international settings in development contexts.

The pathway is built around a shared focus on national and global issues of health, wellbeing and social justice. At Brunel students will be based within the Institute of Environment, Health and Societies (IEHS), a cross-university Institute undertaking fundamental and applied research to address health and wellbeing inequalities and promote social justice, while OU students will join the School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care. The two universities provide opportunities to address diversity and inequality in health and wellbeing across the life course, working with children, youth, families, and older people and addressing issues such as experiences of health and illness, health behaviour, disability, gender and sexuality, and death and dying.

Students from a range of disciplinary backgrounds will combine robust core training across a broad health and wellbeing agenda, with specialist studies within areas of research excellence. Shared events will allow students to experience the richness and breadth of these different research environments.

The pathway offers several routes which allow students to pursue their research in the format most suited to their circumstances. We encourage applications from students with diverse academic and professional experience in the area of Health and Wellbeing.

1.    Students who already hold an appropriate Masters Qualification can enter the +3.5 route. This route is for research students who have already completed a Masters qualification which meets the expectations of the 2022 ESRC Training Guidelines. Students on these routes enter directly on to a full- or part-time PhD programme at Brunel or the OU

2.    Students who do not have an appropriate Masters qualification can enter on three different routes. Students undertake specific training at their host institution as detailed below, and additionally have access to appropriate training across the three universities:

  • +4 route at Brunel: students will begin by completing core Health and Wellbeing research modules in Approaches to Research, Research in Practice, and Evidence and Communication.
  • +4 route at The Open University: students will begin by completing four core research methods modules (Research Philosophies, Introduction to Social Research Design, and Approaches to Data Collection and Analysis)


The research undertaken in the Health and Wellbeing pathway is oriented to the challenges faced by health and wellbeing policy and practice in the UK and internationally. We have strong relationships across the health and wellbeing sector which allow students to maximise the benefits of their studentship by engaging in knowledge exchange activities, internships and placements. Students receive support and guidance to develop activities with appropriate partners which are suited to their research interests and to their individual academic and professional development.

All three universities work closely with research users and non-academic partners and much of our research is developed collaboratively with them. This offers students excellent opportunities to gain first-hand experience of how researchers can work in partnership with the health and wellbeing sectors to inform and support their activities. In the UK our non-academic public and third sector partners include Public Health England, Macmillan Cancer Support, Sport England, NSPCC, Age UK, Alzheimer’s UK, Spinal Injuries Association, as well as several  NHS Trusts, Clinical Research Networks and Commissioning Groups. For students conducting research in Global Health, there are also opportunities to carry out research visits with the CTMGH’s overseas research units, engaging with communities and health systems through locally-embedded research programmes.

Completing a doctorate in Health and Wellbeing allows students to progress to a range of academic, research and strategic roles in higher education, the health and development sectors, and private sector research and consultancy. Research-focused career paths include working within academia as a university lecturer; further development as a researcher within or outside the university sector, progressing from postdoctoral research to research leadership roles; and employment in government departments and agencies (e.g. NHS), major charitable organisations, and private consultancies. Doctoral students may also choose to draw on their research background and the skills gained through a doctoral degree to enter or return to other roles in health and wellbeing, where they are valued as among the most highly educated and skilled group in the labour market.


Pathway leaders: Professor Louise Mansfield and Dr Justin Rogers


Contact: and 

Brunel University London

Institute of Environment, Health and Societies (IEHS)
Structure of provision: +3.5, +4

The Open University

School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
Structure of provision: +3.5, +4