How can we understand socioeconomic inequalities in breast cancer survival in the UK?

Even though there have been vast improvements in breast cancer survival in the UK, there is striking evidence that women from different backgrounds (i.e. more deprived areas) are more likely to die from breast cancer. This studentship will identify factors underlying socioeconomic differences in the experiences of women diagnosed with breast cancer.  

Start date
1 July 2021
36 months
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey, Project-led Studentship Award.
Funding information

The funding package for this studentship award is as follows: 

  • Full UK/EU tuition fee covered  
  • Stipend at £15,285 p.a. (2021/22) 
  • RTSG of £1,000 p.a.  
  • Personal Computer provided by the department 


This studentship will identify factors underlying inequalities in breast cancer patient outcomes across the care pathway. It builds on previous research that has found a lack of evidence for socioeconomic (SES) differences in outcomes arising from factors operating before diagnosis (i.e. delays in help-seeking), by focusing on what happens to women post breast cancer diagnosis.   The Candidacy Framework will underpin the research, as it helps understand the process by which people access (and re-access) healthcare. It can be applied to understand how SES differences may be generated at the person (e.g. difficulty articulating need) or healthcare (e.g. being offered/taking up different treatments) level. Using a sequential staged design comprising three related phases, the primary objectives of the proposed project are to:  

  1. Quantify socioeconomic differences in the experiences of women diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK (e.g. experiences of information provision, follow-up support) using existing data, including data from the Cancer Patient Experience Survey and a literature review (Phase 1). 
  2. Provide an in depth understanding of factors operating after diagnosis (by applying qualitative methods in a group of women with breast cancer, n~30) that may give rise to socioeconomic inequalities (Phase 2). 
  3. Synthesise the results from the Studies 1 and 2 to understand where findings from each method agree (convergence) or appear to contradict each other (dissonance) to provide a comprehensive understanding of underlying mechanisms, drawing on a broad range of data (Phase 3).  

Supervisory team:

Eligibility criteria

We are seeking applicants with an interest in cancer, early diagnosis and inequalities.  

Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree (upper second) in an appropriate discipline and healthcare related experience. An MSc in an appropriate discipline is desirable. 

This studentship is only available to UK/EU applicants.

IELTS requirements: IELTS requirements: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category. 

How to apply

Applicants must submit an online application via our online application system.

Please submit copies of educational qualifications, your CV and a short research proposal for this project (not more than 5 pages) including the following sections: rationale, research question and objectives, study design and methodology 

Informal enquiries should be directed to Dr Katriina Whitaker.

Application deadline

Contact details

Katriina Whitaker
105-20 SM 01
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684622

Studentships at Surrey

We have a wide range of studentship opportunities available.