School of Social and Political Science

University of Edinburgh / KU Leuven PhD Studentship (Medical & Health Humanities)


Applications are now closed.

The University of Edinburgh is offering one studentship for a PhD applicant to undertake a project in the field of Medical & Health Humanities for September 2021 entry.

The project must be selected from the two specified in the 'Projects' section below.



A maximum of one award will be offered. 

The successful applicant will be awarded a four-year studentship, which includes:

  • full tuition fees
  • a stipend and provision of research costs

The studentship will be awarded competitively and is open to UK, EU and overseas students applying to start their PhD programme of study in 2021-22.


All applicants should hold at least:

  • a UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent; and
  • a UK masters degree with an overall mark of 65% or its international equivalent

English Language requirements

All non-UK candidates whose first language is not English must provide a certificate of proficiency in the English language before they are able to matriculate at the University of Edinburgh.

Please note that if applicants cannot demonstrate that English language requirements have been met at the point of application, the English requirement will be part of any admission offer made.

Application deadline and process

The deadline for applications is 26 February 2021.

Applicants are required to provide the following information saved within one PDF file:

  • personal statement about your research interests and your reasons for applying for the specified project
  • academic CV
  • two signed referee letters of reference - you are required to submit at least one academic reference. The second reference may be academic or professional
  • degree transcripts - translations should be provided if the originals are not in English

Applicants wishing to apply for more than one project must submit an application for each project. Where information is missing, the application may not be considered.

The PDF file should be emailed to the following address by the application deadline: - email title must be 'Medical and Health Humanities application'


Joint University of Edinburgh – Katholieke Universiteit Leuven PhD programme

Available PhD projects in Medical and Health Humanities
Project 1: Rare disease patient organisations, biobanks, and biomedical innovation


  • Steve Sturdy (University of Edinburgh)
  • Ine van Hoyweghen (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

Since the 1990s, a growing number of rare disease patient organisations have set up their own biobanks and registries to serve as resources for laboratory and clinical researchers.

As a number of studies have shown, patient organisations’ control of access to these resources enables them to play an active role in promoting, coordinating and directing research into their particular disease, with the professed aim of ensuring that such research best serves the interests and concerns of their members.

The way that patient organisations leverage their biobanks and registries does not end with research, however. They also commonly seek to control the products of that research, through ownership of intellectual property and commercialisation agreements with researchers and manufacturers, among other means.

Patient organisations are thus establishing themselves as increasingly influential actors and partners, not just in research, but in the biomedical innovation system more generally.

This raises far reaching questions about how disease organisations mediate between their membership on the one hand and the worlds of medical care and biomedical innovation on the other.

How does their involvement in the biomedical innovation system affect the forms of solidarity they build, both among their membership and between rare disease organisations? And how, in turn, does their action on behalf of highly specific patient constituencies affect the dynamics, delivery and distribution of new biomedical goods?

This PhD project will examine these questions, drawing on in-depth qualitative and, if appropriate, quantitative research into selected rare disease organisations and their organisation and management of member biobanks and registries.

Queries regarding the available projects, candidate eligibility etc. should be directed to:

Professor Steven Sturdy (Science, Technology and Innovation Studies:

Project 2: Making Europe through personalised medicine healthcare


  • James Mittra (University of Edinburgh)
  • Ine van Hoyweghen (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven)

In recent years, the European Union (EU) has targeted Personalised Medicine as a key policy area, increasingly envisaging it as a cornerstone of its innovation strategy. Personalised Medicine has also been adopted as a key focus of health and innovation policy in a number of EU member states.

These developments, and the relationship and interactions between them, present a valuable opportunity to investigate the formation and implementation of European policy more broadly.

In particular, they afford a chance to examine how the pursuit of cutting-edge health care in national and regional developments can both incorporate and contribute to emerging ‘European’ socio-political realities and imaginaries.

Drawing on a Science and Technology Studies (STS) approach, and based on in-depth case studies of the formulation and implementation of personalised medicine in Scotland and Belgium, this project focuses on the broader social and political dimensions of PM innovations in relation to the political consolidation and contestation of Europe, and aims to analyse the mutual constitution of Personalised Medicine, health care and the making of Europe.

Queries regarding the available projects, candidate eligibility etc. should be directed to:

Dr James Mittra (Science, Technology and Innovation Studies):

Further information

General enquiries can be directed to 

Student category