A cross-disciplinary soft systems engineering approach to improving the quality of care of an ageing population

This project will also be supervised by Dr Arno Verhoeven.

About the Project

The Advanced Care Research Centre (ACRC) is an interdisciplinary, £20M research centre at the University of Edinburgh. The ACRC will lead society’s response to the grand challenge of an ageing population that is growing in size, longevity and needs through the pursuit of research intended to deliver “high‐quality data‐driven, personalised and affordable care to support the independence, dignity and quality‐of‐life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments”. 

This project sits within the ACRC Academy , a dedicated Centre for Doctoral Training, co-located with the ACRC, whose students will deliver key aspects of the ACRC research agenda through a doctoral-level research and training programme that will also equip them for careers across a wide range of pioneering and influential leadership roles in the public, private and third sectors. 

The PhD with Integrated Study in Advanced Care is a structured, thematic, cohort-based, programme of 48 months duration. Each PhD research project within the Academy has been devised by a supervisory team comprising academic staff from at least two of the three colleges within the University of Edinburgh. Each annual cohort of around twelve will include students with disciplinary backgrounds spanning from engineering and data science to humanities, social science, business, social work, medicine and related health and care professions. This unique level of interdisciplinarity is a key attribute of our programme. 



To develop and test a novel (data-based, person-centric) soft systems methodology approach to improving a problematic transition point in the care pathway.


  • Review the literature to determine the need and potential benefits of the proposed approach in general and in the selected problem scenario.
  • Use Patient, Public, Professional Involvement and Engagement (PPPIE), to co-design, with the care community, a suitable person-centric soft systems methodology and protocol.
  • Conduct an implementation study, of a problematic transition point in the care pathway, to determine the acceptability, feasibility and effectiveness of the approach and protocol.


There is a historical evidence base to support the utility of a systems-thinking and/or systems engineering approach to relevant issues and challenges in health and care. Furthermore, there is an ever growing awareness of the limitations of conventional systems engineering tools and techniques in the health and care application space, thus requiring the adaptation and optimization of existing approaches and/or the development of new techniques that are, for example, more strongly data-based while simultaneously being more person-centric through co-design with an emphasis on Patient, Public, Professional Involvement and Engagement (PPPIE).

Transitions and interfaces in the care pathway represent discontinuities that can become points of high-risk or failure, to the detriment of both cared-for and care provider.

The aim of this project is to develop and test the above approach in a suitable care pathway transition.

Further Information: 

PhDs are funded with an enhanced stipend for the full 4 year period.

The call is open to candidates of any nationality but funded places for overseas nationals are limited.

It is essential to read the How to Apply section of our website before you apply:

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Please apply here:
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The University of Edinburgh is committed to equality of opportunity for all its staff and students, and promotes a culture of inclusivity. Please see details here: https://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity

Closing Date: 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024
ACRC logo
ACRC logo

Principal Supervisor: 

Assistant Supervisor: 


Minimum entry qualification - an Honours degree at 2:1 or above (or International equivalent) in a relevant science or engineering discipline, possibly supported by an MSc Degree. Further information on English language requirements for EU/Overseas applicants.

We are looking for an enthusiastic PhD student who can work across disciplinary boundaries. The PhD will be rooted in Engineering, but will be truly interdisciplinary, requiring co-supervision in Health & Care and in methods of co-design and co-creation.

We are specifically looking for applicants who will view their cutting-edge PhD research project in the context of the overall vision of the ACRC, who are keen to contribute to tackling a societal grand challenge and who can add unique value to – and derive great benefit from – training in a cohort comprising colleagues with a very diverse range of disciplines and backgrounds. We advise prospective candidates to engage in dialogue with the named project supervisor and/or the Director of the Academy prior to submitting an application.

We aim to foster a supportive and collaborative culture, and welcome candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

You must read How to apply prior to application

Please Apply here


Tuition fees + stipend are available for Home/EU and International students.

See ACRC website for details on stipend level. 

Further information and other funding options.

Informal Enquiries: