The DrPH programme leads to a doctoral-level qualification and is intended for leaders and future leaders in public health.
The programme aims to equip its graduates with the experience to deal with the particular challenges of understanding and adapting scientific knowledge in order to achieve public health gains, as well as the analytical and practical skills required by managers and leaders in public health. The DrPH therefore has a dual focus on developing both expertise to conduct and evaluate research and skills crucial for leadership roles in public health policy and practice.
Entry criteria for the DrPH are the same as for the PhD except that evidence of relevant experience in areas of public health policy, management and/or leadership is required. The rigour and volume of the work are doctoral level, and are appropriate to the personal development of senior public health professionals. Opportunities for undertaking the DrPH programme are available in all the School's Faculties.
- A taught component comprising two compulsory modules
- Research Study I: an Organisational and Policy Analysis (OPA) project
- Research Study II: a research project leading to the production of a thesis
Listen to staff and students talk about the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programme at the School.
The School's wide-ranging research programmes examine ways of improving and promoting health and health services and investigate the aetiology, diagnosis and prevention or control of both communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Basic laboratory research aims to improve understanding of the molecular mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions, and more applied work investigates diagnostic methods and therapeutic intervention.
The work of the School is multidisciplinary and therefore much of its research crosses disciplines, departments and faculties. This is enhanced by interfaculty centres and groups that focus on specific issues. Many research programmes are carried out in collaboration with institutions outside the UK. Such collaborative work enhances the quality of the training experience and is one of the unique aspects of training at the School.
The taught component consists of two compulsory modules. In “Understanding Leadership, Management and Organisations” students explore a range of issues and theories relating to management, leadership and organisations and consider the application of these theories both to public health organisations and their own management practice. “Evidence Based Public Health Policy” focuses on key skills required for improving and shaping policy and practice, involving accessing, understanding, developing, disseminating and facilitating the use of the evidence base for better public health outcomes. The modules are taught in London between late September and December. They are delivered through a variety of teaching methods including lectures, seminars and small group work. Students are expected to learn through both directed and self-directed study. Modules are assessed through individual written assignments.
Students are not required to take any other modules but may, throughout the remainder of the course, choose to study some MSc Modules to cover particular skills relevant to their research. This enables students to tailor the course to their individual backgrounds and needs.
Research Study I: Organisation and Policy Analysis (OPA) project
The OPA project involves research that provides DrPH students with the opportunity to observe and analyse the workings of a public health organisation in its policy environment and to gain a better understanding of how to develop effective public health organisations and policy. The project usually involves 3-6 months fieldwork within a host organisation of the student’s choice. The host organisation can be any public, non-profit or private institution that is engaged in public health practice or has a public health mandate.
The OPA project is assessed on the basis of a written report not exceeding 15,000 words examined by viva normally with the research thesis (see below). Progression to the OPA project component is subject to successful completion of the two compulsory core modules. The OPA project report is normally submitted for formative assessment before commencing the thesis element of the programme.
Research Study II: Thesis project
As for a PhD, the purpose of the DrPH thesis project is to enable students to develop as competent independent researchers. By the end of their studies students should be able to plan effectively and undertake independent research and will have developed key transferable skills. As with a PhD, the thesis topic can be from any public health- related discipline or subject area agreed with the student’s supervisor and the research must be original and make a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the chosen subject.
Unlike PhD students who are registered for an MPhil until they have successfully upgraded, DrPH candidates are admitted directly to the Doctoral Programme; this means that the approval of the research plans are assessed at the DrPH Review, rather than at an ‘upgrading’. Whilst the DrPH research thesis must meet doctoral level standards, due to the time allocated for this component (typically about 18 months), the DrPH thesis is necessarily shorter in length and more limited in scope than a PhD thesis.
The DrPH thesis has a 50,000 word limit, excluding references and appendices. It includes a 1,500 word integrating statement summarising the student’s learning over the three components of the degree and highlighting links between the components.
The period of study for full-time DrPH students is a minimum of three years and a maximum of four years (or four and six years respectively under part-time or split-study mode). Students are required to be in the School during the first term for the taught course elements and normally spend time in the School during the preparation of their OPA project. Following completion of the OPA project, students are also expected to spend time in the School preparing and presenting their research project plans to a DrPH Review Committee. Over the course of their degree DrPH students are expected to spend at least 9 months full-time in London.
As the timetable of compulsory modules is fixed, all DrPH students need to commence the course at the start of the UK academic year in September. Compulsory modules are London-based but in all other areas the programme aims to be flexible to meet students’ needs while at the same time adhering to excellence in learning and research.
The School requires students who apply for part-time study to be available to study for at least two days per week. Where applicable, a letter from your employer is required to confirm that at least two days per week will be permitted for work on your degree.
A split study option is also available whereby students complete the taught component in full-time mode before reverting to part-time mode at the mid-way point of their first year.
Applicants for MPhil, PhD or DrPH study should have at least one of the following:
- an upper second-class Honours degree of a UK university, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, in a subject appropriate to that of the course of study to be followed; or
- a registrable qualification appropriate to the course of study to be followed, in medicine, dentistry or veterinary studies; or
- a Masters degree in a subject appropriate to the course of study to be followed; or
- a professional qualification obtained by written examination and approved by the University of London as an appropriate entrance qualification for the degree in question.
For DrPH candidates, a minimum of two years' appropriate experience and, normally, a Masters degree are required.
Identifying a supervisor
DrPH candidates, like students on other doctoral programmes, work closely with an academic member of staff who acts as their principal supervisor. Applicants are only accepted once a suitable supervisory team has been identified and approved.
There is no intake quota for the DrPH programme but in practice the size of each year’s cohort is determined by supervisory capacity within the School. Not everyone has an opening for a research degree student each year.
To maximize the chances of a successful application it is recommended that applicants identify and make contact with School staff with research interests that match their own in advance of making a formal application.
Application for study
Please apply using our online application form.
Paper application forms are available upon request and will normally incur an administration fee of £50. You must send a copy of the personal details and photograph page of your passport with all paper applications. Your application will not be considered until you have provided the above documents.
DrPH students must join the programme at the start of the academic year (usually the last week of September). Although there is no closing date for applications, you are strongly encouraged to apply as early as possible. Please bear the following in mind:
- If you apply for a place without already having identified named supervisors then the School will try to match you up with suitable members of academic staff. This process can be quite slow and you should allow at least three months for this stage of the process. If we are unable to identify potential supervisors we will not be able to offer you a place.
- Once supervisors have been put forward the next stage is for you to be interviewed and then, if successful, offered a place.
- If you require a visa you will be given instructions for how to apply for it once you have your formal offer letter.
Applications for admission to the School should be made to the Registry and not directly to academic Faculties. All applicants should include with their application a short proposal for their thesis research, Research Study II, (maximum 1,500 words including footnotes and references). This should indicate the area in which the student wishes to specialise for their research thesis, enabling the application to be directed to appropriate potential supervisors.
The Research Study II proposal is also an important way of indicating the extent to which the student already understands the background to their proposed research, and the range of methods that may be employed.
DrPH applicants also need to submit a short outline of their preliminary plans for their Research Study I, the OPA project (e.g. likely organisation or type of organisation the applicant will be based in). It is appreciated that this information will be preliminary and that proposals may change once applicants have started their studies and have had the opportunity to discuss their OPA plans with their supervisor and DrPH teaching staff.