Funded PhD Project (UK and EU students only)

Project code



Organisation Studies & Human Resource Management

Start date

October 2019

Closing date

20 August 2019 (midnight)

This project is now closed. The details below are for information purposes only. View our current projects here.

The PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Dr Yi-Ling Lai, Dr Darren Van Laar and Natalie Silverdale. 

Successful applicants will receive a bursary to cover tuition fees at the UK/EU rate for three years and a stipend in line with the UKRI rate (£15,009 for 2019/2020). As part of this PhD position, we offer funding to attend conferences (currently £550) over the total length of study (3 years).

The work on this project will: 


  • Use qualitative and quantitative methods to standardise and validate a coaching framework
  • Evaluate cancer coaching
  • Use the Fountain Centre as pilot site 

The wellbeing of cancer patients and the importance of treating a person’s emotional state and not just their physical illness – i.e. more personalised care, is increasingly being recognised. As per NICE guidelines for Supportive and Palliative Care (2004), the Fountain Centre (an information and support charity) provides all level 3 psychological interventions to cancer patients and their loved ones receiving treatment in St Luke’s Cancer Centre. Traditionally this has been provided by counsellors. However in the past five years this has broadened to include health coaching, and coaching is now viewed as an integral level 3 emotional support service within the Fountain Centre.

Coaching is used to help patients get ready for their surgery and treatment, manage their illness, and move forwards after treatment, including returning to work.  The Fountain Centre has seen how health coaching supports patients to achieve this and research has shown significant, positive and lasting benefits for cancer patients. There is now a need to formalise health coaching within the cancer setting by developing robust and transferrable standards, alongside validated standardised measures with which coaching can be evaluated. As per NICE SPC guidelines (2004), these standards will allow coaching to be formally recognised as a level 3 intervention. This will enable significantly more cancer patients across the Surrey and Sussex Cancer Alliance and beyond, to access health coaching.

Using the Fountain Centre as a pilot site, and working alongside coaching research experts from the University of Portsmouth, the successful candidate will use validated qualitative and quantitative methods to standardise and validate a coaching framework. This research would also establish validated measures to evaluate the value and usefulness of cancer coaching. These measures would be transferable across all types of cancer coaching (and other long-term conditions) that support patients through their diagnosis, treatment and beyond. 

Entry requirements

You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum upper second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in Psychology. In exceptional cases, we may consider equivalent professional experience and/or Qualifications. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0

We’d welcome applications from candidates with a relevant Master's degree and/or experience in Occupational Psychology, Health Psychology, Coaching Psychology or Health Care Management relevant areas.

You’ll also be expected to have good knowledge of quantitative, qualitative and experimental research methodology and good social, team working and communication skills.

How to apply

We’d encourage you to contact Dr Yi-Ling Lai ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

When you are ready to apply, you can use our online application form and select ‘Business and Management’ as the subject area. Make sure you submit a personal statement, proof of your degrees and grades, details of two referees, proof of your English language proficiency and an up-to-date CV. 

Please also include a research proposal of 1,000 words outlining the main features of your proposed research design – including the following items:

  1. Brief literature review on relevant research
  2. Research methods/design, including outcome evaluation
  3. Possible theoretical and practical contributions
  4. Research plan/timeframe
  5. Dissemination and publication plan

Suggested reading:

  • Kivelä, K., Elo, S., Kyngäs, H., & Kääriäinen, M. (2014). The effects of health coaching on adult patients with chronic diseases: a systematic review: Patient education and counseling, 97(2), 147-157.
  • Ammentorp, J., Uhrenfeldt, L., Angel, F., Ehrensvärd, M., Carlsen, E. B., & Kofoed, P. E. (2013). Can life coaching improve health outcomes? A systematic review of intervention studies: BMC health services research, 13(1), 428. 

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process. If you want to be considered for this funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BUSM4590819 when applying.

This site uses cookies. Click here to view our cookie policy message.

Accept and close