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PhD Studentship – Determinants of Human Papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination for cancer prevention (PhD2019STIRF)

The Department of Health Sciences, University of York, is inviting applications for a funded PhD studentship, made available through funding from the Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Foundation (STIRF) on a full-time basis to start in October 2019. The successful candidate will be jointly supervised by Dr Amanda Mason-Jones and Professor Rob Newton.

Project details

The purpose of the studentship is to explore the determinants for uptake of the HPV vaccination programme in the UK and Uganda. We would like to know more about the barriers and facilitators to HPV vaccine uptake, initiation and completion among young people aged 14-18 years including differences of opinion between parents/guardians and young people and potential changes in risk-related behaviours. We would also like to find out more about differences in attitudes towards HPV vaccination between Uganda and the UK.

The studentship would suit candidates qualified in public health, epidemiology, sexual health and/or paediatrics. The student will have a background in mixed methods with a strong interest and experience in global health issues. A range of methods will be used that will require skills in evidence synthesis, and quantitative and qualitative research. This studentship provides a unique opportunity to help shape a major global health research programme conducting high profile public health research in the African region. The successful candidate would have the opportunity to spend time at the Medical Research Council Uganda Virus Research Institute (MRC/UVRI) Unit Uganda and should be willing and able to do so.

HPV programme

This studentship is a collaboration between the Public Health and Society and Epidemiology and Cancer Statistics research group and combines the skills and expertise of both groups. The vaccination programme for human papilloma virus (HPV) was introduced for girls 12-13 years in September 2008 in the UK, initially using the bivalent vaccine Cervarix. The vaccine, Gardasil was introduced from September 2012 and protects against four strains of HPV (HPV16, HPV18, HPV6 and HPV11) and is currently being given as a two-dose schedule in schools as part of the healthy child programme for girls aged 11-14 years. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recently agreed that it will also be introduced for boys.

In Uganda, following the success of demonstration projects, the government introduced the vaccines for girls at school recently. The vaccines are highly effective at preventing pre-cancerous lesions associated with HPV, for at least 10 years and has proven to be cost-effective in most countries. However, there remain a number of unanswered questions about the introduction of the HPV vaccine including the experiences of young people receiving it. Most studies have only explored parents’ views of the vaccine. The very few published studies investigating young peoples’ understanding of the HPV vaccine found a limited awareness of the virus, and specifically its relation to cervical cancer and other cancers.

Recent evidence has shown that positive sentiment about the HPV vaccine is most common in social media discussions but that negative associations between named brand vaccines is also present in the public domain and most are related to reported side effects. Therefore, a clear understanding of the views and experiences of vaccination may help to inform trends in vaccine uptake which remain variable and with a lower update overall in England in 2015/6 compared to the previous year, and in Uganda, barriers to uptake remain.


This studentship is open to all applicants on a full time-basis (3 years) and provides (i) a tax-free stipend at the RCUK rate (£14,777 for 2018-2019); (ii) £5,000 research costs; and (iii) tuition fees at the UK/EU rate.  

Essential and desirable requirements

Applicants need to hold at least an upper second class honours (2.i) degree in an appropriate social or biomedical sciences subject and preferably have a Master of Public Health, MSc in Epidemiology or equivalent. Applicants should also be analytically-minded with a strong potential for creative independent thinking and have well developed time management skills.
Students whose first language is not English must have a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 in each component and an overall score of at least 7.

Process for Application

Applications should be received no later than Thursday 30th May 2019 before 16:00h UTC. Applications will not be considered for the studentship after this date.

Applications should be made using the Department of Health Sciences on-line application process which can be accessed using the following link.

Please read the ‘How to apply’ tab before submitting your application. To apply you will need to provide a current CV and a sample of your written work.

When completing the electronic form, applicants will need to state that they are applying for the advertised scholarship and include ref: PhD2019STIRF under the ‘How studies will be funded’ section, in order to be considered for the studentship.

Shortlisting: Shortlisting will take place as soon as possible after the closing date and successful applicants will be notified promptly.

Start date: October 2019.


Individuals with the strongest academic record, experience, and research proposal will be shortlisted and invited to interview. Interviews will be conducted face-to-face or via Skype or similar communication tools, if required.  

Informal enquiries

For informal enquiries please contact Dr Amanda Mason Jones (

Department of Health Sciences

The Department of Health Sciences includes over 280 academics, teachers, researchers and support staff engaged in delivering research, professional development, education and training. Our core aim is excellence in research and teaching, while contributing to improving health and healthcare through the application of our research to policy and practice. We are a multidisciplinary department, involving clinicians from a range of health professions including medicine, nursing and midwifery alongside disciplines such as statistics, health economics, health services research, psychology, sociology and epidemiology. In the most recent assessment of research quality in the UK (the 2014 Research Excellence Framework), the Department was ranked equal first nationally for its research environment and all aspects of our research environment was judged to producing research of world-leading quality in terms of vitality and sustainability.

Our research activity is organised around six core themes: mental health and addiction; trials and statistics; public health and society; cancer epidemiology; cardiovascular health; and health services and policy.

The successful candidate will join a vibrant community of over 200 postgraduate students in our Graduate School, including over 40 PhD students. Our PhD students are embedded in one of our research groups and have the flexibility to tailor their studies to pursue their own research interests, and a bespoke training programme is designed in conjunction with the supervisory team to support the development of essential subject-specific and transferable skills for their future careers.

The University

The University of York is one of the foremost Universities in the UK and a member of the Russell Group of leading UK Universities. It has an outstanding record of research, teaching, and training across a full range of disciplines. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, The University ranked 10th on the impact of our research and 14th overall. The University has a particular strength in health-related research.

The main campus is a 200-acre landscaped park, with colleges and academic buildings within walking distance of each other. Proximity to the historic city of York makes the University a popular choice and provides a pleasant working environment. Transport connections to York are fast and effective.

University of York Graduate Research School