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The Dunhill Medical Trust, NIHR, University of Manchester PhD Studentships

Training researchers specialising in healthy and active ageing.


Six studentships are available to PhD researchers undertaking projects in healthy and active ageing starting in October 2022.

The studentships are being made available through a partnership between The Dunhill Medical Trust, The University of Manchester, and the National Institute for Health and Care Research's (NIHR) Older People and Frailty Policy Research Unit (PRU) and Applied Research Collaboration – Greater Manchester (ARC-GM). These studentships provide funding for tuition fees and a stipend for three years.

Successful candidates will be based within the University's multidisciplinary Healthy Ageing Research Group (HARG), which has researchers in social and clinical gerontology, health services research, epidemiology, psychology, nursing, dietetics and nutrition, social sciences, statistics and medicine.

HARG's work covers a wide age-range (younger-old 55+ to oldest-old). The emphasis is on healthy and active ageing to promote active participation in society, with research having direct relevance to policy and practice for older adults at a local, national and international level.

HARG engages with and involve the public, community, patients and other stakeholders in our activities, and is a constituent member of Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing (MICRA).

Successful PhD candidates will be integrated into the research culture of HARG, the NIHR Older People and Frailty PRU and ARC-GM, as well as into the wider academic community of the University and related networks such as MICRA. MICRA offers a vibrant PhD support programme open to all students researching any aspect of ageing and ageing populations.

People in a corridor


Candidates for our studentships can choose from eight research projects.

These projects focus on priority areas that align with our research programme and funder themes.

1. Technology-assisted implementation of FaME falls prevention programme among community-dwelling older adults

Falls Management Exercise(FaME) is an evidence-based programme normally delivered face-to-face.

This project will investigate how/if FaME can be delivered digitally alongside a more extensive rollout of the programme, and what factors act as barriers/facilitators, based on the lived experience of older people garnered through PPIE.

This project will complement ongoing work assessing implementation of the FaME programme in Greater Manchester.

2. Inequalities and digitalisation of GP services

There has been a rapid push to digital access of services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not clear how this has affected older people's use of services, health and wellbeing. We do not know enough about the effect of factors such as deprivation and ethnicity on service access.

This studentship will participate in exploration of how routine datasets (big-data) can give us insight into these changes to explore how digitalisation relates to health inequalities. We will use PPIE work to give voice to older people experiencing these changes.

3. Signposting to health

Frailty Index algorithms can identify people at risk of becoming frail or losing independence. Identification from either GP or shared care records could permit phenotyping and then signposting people to suitable services such as exercise/activity or dietary interventions to reduce risk of frailty progression.

This studentship will be linked to our work with the Greater Manchester Frailty Reference Group and PPIE to identify how best to move non-medical but effective interventions up the health policy agenda, to facilitate implementation of a signposting to health programme within the emerging landscape of integrated care systems.

4. Addressing the effects of COVID-19 pandemic lockdown deconditioning

Public Health England has highlighted the social determinants related to the 'deconditioning epidemic'. Our own work using UKHLS data has also revealed the importance of social determinants of inactivity during lockdowns among older people.

This project will further explore these social determinants, and use understanding from our reviews of behaviour change, updated MRC framework for developing interventions, and PPIE work to design and feasibility-test tailored interventions to help older people from socially deprived backgrounds to become more active.

5. Addressing inactivity among older people from UK's Chinese ethnic minority*

Inactivity has been described as pandemic among older Chinese people. Older Chinese people in the UK become more inactive with age and have activity levels overall among the lowest three ethnic groups.

This project will explore mechanisms underlying inactivity to develop a culturally appropriate intervention to promote activity levels among older UK dwelling Chinese people. PPIE will help co-produce any intervention from inception.

* Although we identify specific ethnic minority populations, the self-same projects could be presented for different ethnic minority communities, with justification of the choice.

6. Frailty progression and maintaining independence to age in place

During older old age, people can struggle to remain independent and in their own homes, and this is often driven by social determinants of health.

This project will use mixed-methods and PPIE to explore social determinants of health, such as caring and housing, and how these support ageing in place.

7. Co-development of a digital activity programme for older people from minority ethnic communities*

Exercise has major beneficial health effects. Emerging evidence suggests digital approaches can help motivate older people to participate, but age, ethnicity, poverty, geography are all associated with digital and health inequality. This studentship will explore cultural, environmental, social, economic and physical factors that affect use of digital health solutions in older adults and take an effective digital intervention (Keep-On-Keep-Up) and adapt it to be accessible and usable for older people with a minority ethnic background.

* We have not identified any specific ethnic minority populations for this project, the project could be presented for different ethnic minority communities, with justification of the choice.

8. Developing health-promoting activity in the workplace

Analysis of home working during the pandemic reveals clear deleterious effects of physical inactivity on physical and mental health. Promoting anti-sedentary behaviour to counter these effects in office workers/home workers aged 55+ should be a priority.

Following the updated MRC framework for development of complex interventions, this project will develop and feasibility-test an activity promotion programme in workplace/homeworking settings.

If you have any queries regarding the above project themes, please contact Professor Chris Todd.


Successful candidates will be subject to a DBS check, as required.


How to apply

Please follow our instructions on how to apply for our studentships.

In addition to the formal online application, candidates are required to submit supporting documents.

Information on eligibility criteria, submitting an application and the supporting documents required can be found on the How to apply page.

Key dates

  • Application deadline: 15 June 2022
  • Interviews: Early July 2022

Please note that these dates may be subject to change.

Applications must be submitted by the deadline. Late or incomplete applications will not be considered. Please ensure your application is complete and includes all required documentation


Contact us

For queries regarding the application process, please contact the Doctoral Academy.

Tel: +44 (0)161 275 5608

For queries about the research projects available for our studentships, please contact Professor Chris Todd.






Thank you to the Centre for Ageing Better for images from their age-positive image library.