2024-25 Bloomsbury Colleges PhD Studentships

The Bloomsbury Colleges group was set up in 2004 and consists five institutions: BirkbeckLondon School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), and the UCL Institute of Education (UCL–IOE). These studentships were set up to increase collaboration and interdisciplinary research opportunities across the colleges.

Applications are invited for three-year PhD studentships, to start in the academic year 2024-25. There are two studentships available at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (where LSHTM is the lead institution): one studentship award per research project.


Each studentship will provide:

for the duration of the award. 


The LSHTM-led studentship projects available for 2024-25 are: 

Project 1: Understanding the complex interrelationships between crises and corrupt practices in the health system

Supervisory team

Principal Supervisor: Dina Balabanova (LSHTM)

Co-Supervisor: Pallavi Roy (SOAS)

Project description


This is an exciting opportunity to obtain a PhD studentship to conduct novel research examining the complex relationship between health system corruption and responses to disease outbreaks. The PhD student will work with Prof Dina Balabanova (LSHTM) and Dr Pallavi Roy (SOAS) as co-supervisors who have led extensive research and advocacy on health sectors corruption in low and middle income countries(LMICs). The student will also be supervised by Prof. Susannah Mayhew, an expert on outbreak responses, health systems resilience and governance and Dr Eleanor Hutchinson, anthropologist working on informality and corruption. 

Corruption (the abuse of public power for private gain) threatens health in LMICs, especially among the poor is increasingly seen as a major barrier to Universal Health Coverage. WHO estimated that corruption accounted for 7.3% of global spending in 2008. It is regressive, pushing people into poverty. Corrupt practices undermine trust underpinning effective, equitable, and responsive health care; a 2011 study attributed 140,000 child deaths annually to it.[1] Some argue that increasing national wealth and maturity of institutions will change incentives for rule enforcement, eliminating corruption, while others see it as reflecting social norms. Yet, there has been little health systems debate and research so far, particularly testing proposed solutions. A Cochrane review found nothing that reliably reduced corrupt practices, in health while other initiatives have achieved limited or short-lived success at scale.  

The Covid-19 pandemic further changed the debate, with corruption emerging as an important factor influencing corruption responses, and creating spaces for corrupt practices. This was also reported in high income countries despite highly formalised and well-enforced rules and regulation[3]. However, rigorous analyses of how and why the pandemic response may have enabled corruption are relatively scarce, particularly vis-à-vis how these practices manifest at primary health care and how these affected users and communities. 

The overall aims of the PhD will examine the complex (bi-directional) interrelationship of health system corruption and effective responses to outbreaks. Its objectives are to a)explore the manifestations, responses and consequences of corruption during public health outbreaks (at national/ district/ facility level), b)explore the role of corruption on perpetuating harmful practices during outbreaks affecting access to and quality of care for the most vulnerable populations, c)examine current power configurations and historical events that have shaped the anti-corruption responses during disease outbreaks seeking to identify actors who have power, capabilities and interests to act against particular types of corruption drawing on Khan and Roy’s conceptualisation[4], d) formulate policy recommendations for the country-level and international stakeholders involved in efforts to improve the accountability of the crises-responses. These will consider formal and informal drivers of corruption, and a fit with political economy and social landscapes.  

The PhD will involve a country case study (possibly Zimbabwe, Nigeria or elsewhere). We envisage that the study will use mixed methods and this will be shaped by the research questons which will be finetuned at the start of the studentship period. We believe these may include qualitative research (in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, observations) to understand the unique features of corruption during outbreaks and how this manifests at community and PHC level, and how it then influences the health system and its ability to delivery essential services as well as outbreak-focused activities. Discourse or framing analysis of policy documents and media accounts and analysis of quantitative secondary data will be also conducted where relevant. Interpretation will be facilitated through consensus exercises with key formal and informal actors (community members, practitioners, civil society representatives, policy makers etc.) 

The PhD student will benefit from access to data, networks and theoretical advances under existing projects–SOAS ACE (co-directed by Dr.P.Roy, health work led by Prof.Balabanova), LSHTM’s Accountability in Action project (PI Balabanova with University of Nigeria specialised in health systems and corruption research) and the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Building Partnerships for Resilience: strengthening responses to health shocks from the grassroots led by Prof.Mayhew. We will also link to the forthcoming Lancet Commission on Anti-corruption in Health (2014-26), the Global Network for Anti-corruption, Transparency and Accountability in Health (GNACTA) convened by WHO (Balabanova/Roy involved), and Health System Global’s Thematic Group on Action on Accountability and Anti-corruption for SDGs at (co-led, Balabanova).We will support the student in facilitating access to country specific information and to the field in the chosen country. The student will gain experience in in presenting to international fora, engage in policy processes, and build their scientific networks.

The PhD will run in September 2024-28.  

Person expectations

We are seeking a PhD candidate with a background in health systems/policy research, and ideally in political economy or development studies, with knowledge and strong interest in health sector corruption. They should have a strong background in research methods, predominantly qualitative and mixed methods and a track record in conceptualising a study, conducting research, analysing and writing up findings – particularly in LMICs.  The ability to work collaboratively with study country teams is essential for this studentship, and being agile to learn and implement new conceptualisations and methods. An experience of communicating confidently (orally and in writing) with different audiences (policy makers, health care professional, communities) is important and the student will be supported to enhance these during the degree period.

Subject areas/keywords

Subject area - Health policy and systems research/political economy/ health and development 

Keywords: corruption, governance, power configurations, accountability 

Key references

  1. Hanf,M.,et al. Corruption kills: estimating the global impact of corruption on children deaths. PLoS One,2011,6(11)
  2. Hutchinson,E,[…],Balabanova D. Targeting anticorruption interventions at the frontline: developmental governance in health systems.BMJ Glob Health.2020;5(12):e003092.
  3. [Thompson N[…],Balabanova D. The PPE procurement scandal-who pays and who profits?BMJ.2022 Oct 18.
  4. Khan, M.[…],Roy P. Anti-corruption in adverse contexts:strategies for improving implementation.2019

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Deadline for applications

The deadline for applications is 23:59 (GMT) on Thursday 29 February 2024.

Project 2: The health and environmental co-benefits of linking sustainable diets with sustainable production systems in the UK

Supervisory team

Principal Supervisor: Pauline Scheelbeek (LSHTM)

Co-Supervisor: Steven van Winden (RVC)

Project description


Over the past decade, the global discourse on sustainable diets has expanded significantly. This has offered many new insights into dietary changes that are required to reduce carbon footprints, water usage, land degradation, biodiversity loss, and eutrophication related to diets. Despite this progress, critical evidence gaps persist in our understanding of how to accelerate such behaviour change toward sustainable diets, how to effectively influence producer choices for sustainable food production, and how to elucidate the intricate linkages between sustainable diets and production systems.  

This proposed PhD project seeks to address these evidence gaps, focusing on the relationship between sustainable diets and production systems, using the United Kingdom as a case study. The overarching goal is to contribute to a fuller understanding of how changes in dietary choices are linked to production practices (and vice versa), how these can collaboratively lead to a reduction in food system emissions and – in turn – improve environmental sustainability, public health, and nutritional well-being. 

The PhD-student will use a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, including surveys, interviews, case studies, and modelling approaches. The study will draw on existing collaborations between the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) focussing on modelling the potential effect on food system emissions achieved through dietary changes, improved production systems, and a synergistic combination of both.   

The PhD student will build on this work and answer the following research questions:   

  1. How does current food supply map onto required supply for population-wide adoption of sustainable and healthy diets?
  2. What are realistic UK-based scenarios of production changes (e.g., moving from livestock to crop farming) that would reduce the supply gap of foods that align with healthy and sustainable diets at population level?
  3. What policy options would be most suited to facilitate such change? 
  4. What direct and indirect health effects and emission reductions would be expected from sustainable and healthy diets based on foods from sustainable production systems?  

This PhD project would help unravel the links between sustainable diets and sustainable production systems, which both need to undergo transformations to successfully reduce food system emissions. The work has the potential to be influential in guiding policies and is extremely timely in the current political climate, that has pathways to net zero as well as improvement of populations health high on their priority lists.

Subject areas/keywords

Sustainable food systems; Sustainable diets; Sustainable production system, Health, Sustainability, Agriculture, Diet, Production, Food, System, Policy

Key references

  1. Willett, W., Rockström, J., Loken, B., Springmann, M., Lang, T., Vermeulen, S., Garnett, T., Tilman, D., DeClerck, F., Wood, A., Jonell, M., 2019. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. The lancet. Feb 2; 393(10170): 447-92. 
  2. Hoek, A.C., Malekpour, S., Raven, R., Court, E. and Byrne, E., 2021. Towards environmentally sustainable food systems: decision-making factors in sustainable food production and consumption. Sustainable Production and Consumption, 26, pp.610-626. 
  3. Jarmul, S., Dangour, A.D., Green, R., Liew, Z., Haines, A. and Scheelbeek, P.F., 2020. Climate change mitigation through dietary change: a systematic review of empirical and modelling studies on the environmental footprints and health effects of ‘sustainable diets’. Environmental research letters: ERL [Web site], 15, p.123014.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Principal Supervisor: Pauline Scheelbeek
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Centre on Climate Change & Planetary Health
Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT  

Co-Supervisor: Steven van Winden 
The Royal Veterinary College
Pathobiology and Population Heath
Hawkshead Lane, Hatfield, AL9 7TA  

Deadline for applications

The deadline for applications is 23:59 (GMT) on Sunday 17 March 2024 

For details of studentships available at other Bloomsbury colleges but in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, please see the Bloomsbury Colleges website . Please apply directly to the lead institution only.


Applicants must meet minimum LSHTM entry requirements. Additional requirements may be required for each project. Please see the specific project information for further details.

These studentships are open to applicants assessed as both ‘Home’ and ‘Overseas’ fee status.  For further information about Fee Status Assessments please see the School’s policy and procedure document.

Successful international applicants will be required to cover the tuition fee top up costs from other sources (e.g. other scholarship or bursary awards). Awardees may not use their UKRI stipend or the UKRI training support to top up fees. Successful applicants who are nationals of low income countries or lower middle income countries (LLMICs) may apply for an LSHTM bursary to cover the fee top up costs. However, it should be noted that the number of LSHTM bursaries is limited to no more than one per programme in any academic year.

LLMIC applicants who are short-listed for interview, will be contacted by the LSHTM Scholarships Team at that time to provide further details of the LSHTM bursary scheme for entry in 2024-25.

Awardees may not use their Bloomsbury studentship stipend or personal funds to top up fees. 

To apply

Information about the MPhil/PhD programme structure at LSHTM, as well as application guidance can be found on the School’s Research Degrees and Doctoral College pages.

To apply for this studentship, applicants should submit an application for research degree study via the LSHTM application portal. The applicant should apply via the Faculty of the Primary Supervisor for their proposed project and must indicate that they are applying for a Bloomsbury PhD Studentship in the ‘Funding Section’ on the admissions application. Students should submit a research proposal based on the advertisement for this project.

Incomplete applications will not be considered for this studentship.

Applications for this project will only be reviewed and processed after the deadline. All applications that are submitted before the deadline will be considered equally, regardless of submission date.   

By submitting an application for this funding applicants agree to its Terms & Conditions.


The application deadline for Project 1 is 23:59 (GMT) on 29 February 2024.

The application deadline for Project 2 is 23:59 (GMT) on Sunday 17 March 2024.

Please see the specific project information for further details.