Postgraduate funded opportunities

Project details

Graduate Teaching Assistant with PhD in Human Sciences

Due to the launch of the new Medicine with a Gateway Year programme at Hull York Medical School, an exciting opportunity for a successful candidate to take the post of Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) while simultaneously studying for a PhD. The teaching position is based at the University of Hull campus. The PhD will be based within the Health Professions Education Unit (HPEU) - study hours can be based in Hull or York, at the preference of the candidate.

Project details

The supervisory team are open to receiving proposals on any topic within medical education, including researching the Gateway programme. There are also a number of projects proposed at the end of this document that can be selected from and developed with the team in the HPEU.

What is the Health Professions Education Unit?

The Health Professions Education Unit (HPEU) brings together the scholarship of those engaged in teaching and education development across the School. The Unit facilitates and provides leadership for many issues related to innovation in learning and teaching, and provides a platform for much of the school’s medical and health care education research. The unit is comprised of academic and clinical staff, all of whom are research active. There is vibrant postgraduate community. The interests of the HPEU can be viewed on the webpage linked below or by reading staff profiles. The HPEU has an excellent record in publications and grant income.

Supervisory Team

Principal supervisor: Professor Gabrielle Finn (Hull York Medical School, University of York)

Co-supervisors: To be determined when project selected but may include Professor Martin Veysey, Dr Paul Tiffin, Dr Jimmie Leppink or Dr Paul Crampton.  

Role description

This is a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) position and, in addition to research, the successful candidate will be expected to contribute up to 250 hours per annum of teaching support. The successful candidate will contribute to the development and delivery of biomedical teaching on the Medicine with a Gateway Year programme.

What is the Medicine with a Gateway Year programme?

The MB BS Medicine with a Gateway Year is a six-year programme. The Gateway forms the first academic year, and on successful completion students will automatically progress to our five-year MB BS Medicine course.

The Gateway Year focuses on facilitating students’ transition from school or college to university, bringing their scientific knowledge up to the required standard, and enhancing their study skills while teaching them about professionalism and the NHS.

Students will experience clinical placements in a GP and hospital setting from the very start of the programme, coming into contact with real patients as they begin to develop the excellent communication skills and confident, empathetic approach to delivering care that are the hallmark of our graduates. This hands-on experience will be supported by a combination of small group teaching, self-directed learning, lectures and clinical skills sessions, ensuring they are able to transition smoothly and confidently into life as a medical student.

Teaching duties

This will include delivery of the Human Biology I and II modules on the Medicine with a Gateway Year programme. Teaching activities will include facilitation of  human biology lectures and seminars, the supervision of laboratory classes, day-to-day support for students in relation to the module, and contributions to assessment and module organisation as required. There will be the expectation to contribute to other strands of the Medicine with a Gateway Year programme such as professionalism and ethics, health and society and study skills. Such a wide portfolio will provide the student with a great deal of teaching experience, which will contribute significantly to employability post-PhD. As part of this position, there will also be the opportunity to gain a teaching qualification.  

Training will be provided by the Health Professions Education Unit and the MB BS Medicine programme team. Additionally, training will be provided in relation to University teaching methods, management and delivery. The principal base for the successful candidate’s research and teaching will be on the University of Hull campus. However, teaching duties may occasionally involve physical presence at the Hull York Medical School University of York campus.

Additional teaching opportunities will be available in all aspects of the MB BS Medicine curriculum in line with the successful candidates experience and interests, for example clinical skills for anyone with a healthcare background.

You are encouraged to contact Professor Gabrielle Finn ( directly to discuss this position prior to submitting your application.


A stipend at the Research Council UK rate (£14,777 for 2018-19) and a fee waiver at the Home/EU rate will be provided.

This competition is open to UK and EU graduates or graduates from overseas. If a successful candidate is not eligible to pay Home/EU fees, they will be offered a waiver to fund the difference in tuition fees between the prevailing Home/EU and Overseas fees.

Start date

1 July 2019

Qualifications and skills required

The successful candidate will be expected to hold a first class honours degree or an upper second in a relevant subject area. Subjects within the biomedical sciences are preferred. Preference may be given to a candidate with a Master’s degree in a relevant topic with honours or distinction. We also accept applications from those who are qualified as a health professional. As part of your application you will need to submit a CV, and a personal statement outlining your career to date, career intentions as well as detailing your experience, skills and knowledge relevant to this position (up to 1000 words). Some experience in the delivery of academic or practical content to small groups would be preferred. You should have excellent written and oral communication skills, be able to work well independently and be highly motivated to undertake PhD research.

How to apply

All applications must be submitted to the Hull York Medical School Postgraduate Centre via the online application method on the University of York website.

Please select ‘PhD in Human Sciences’ with a start date of 1 July 2019.

The deadline for applications is Monday 29 April 2019 at 23h59.

Please quote “Hull York Medical School - Gateway GTA” when applying. In order for the Panel to get a sense of your academic background, commitment and interest, you are required to complete the application form in full and provide a research proposal/outline of academic interest. Research proposals and personal statements will be used in selecting applicants for interview. If you have any queries on how to apply please email

Please note that this is a student scholarship. If you will be employed by Hull York Medical School (e.g. on a fixed or short term contract) for the duration of your study, you will not be eligible to receive the student scholarship as a member of Hull York Medical School staff. You should contact Elaine Brookes in Postgraduate Admissions if you still wish to apply to discuss different options.

Interview date

Applicants who are shortlisted for interview will be sent details of the date, time and venue via email within a week of the deadline. If you are not invited for the interview, it means that your application has not been successful. Please note that we do not offer feedback to applicants who are not invited to the interview.

Interview outcome

As soon as reasonably practicable after the interviews have taken place Hull York Medical School will write to the successful applicant offering him/her the post. Upon receipt of formal written acceptance of the post we will write to notify unsuccessful candidates. Whilst we try to do this in as effective and efficient manner as possible, sometimes the process can take rather longer than is ideal because of the need to recall candidates for a second interview and reconvene interview panels and/or due to routine disruptions caused by leave and other absences. We apologise for any delay and inconvenience caused in these circumstances.

Project options available with the Health Professions Education Unit team

Below are some of the projects that HPEU team members are willing to develop with applicants.

Gender biases within medical education

Gender bias is a well-documented phenomenon across many sectors including medicine and academia. Examples include females are likely to rise through the ranks and receive significantly lower salaries, and less females choose clinical academic careers. Gender bias includes assumption of identities, gender roles, including heteronormativity and maternal wall bias, as well as the vocabulary associated with gender. This project explores the experiences and awareness of gender bias and heteronormative assumptions within staff and students involved in medical education. This project allows the applicant to develop research questions around gender issues in the clinical and university environments, as well as explore issues with associated curricula development. Issues covered will include discrimination, bias, organisational culture, equality and diversity. Mixed methods or qualitative methods will be supported.

Anatomy pedagogy

Professor Gabrielle Finn has a specialist interest in anatomy pedagogy. There is scope for an applicant to develop a project aligned to the HPEU’s anatomy pedagogy and innovation e.g. body painting, imaging, socialisation within anatomy etc. Opportunities to develop eye tracking studies are also feasible. 

The hidden curriculum

The hidden curriculum refers to the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students learn during their education.  The formal curriculum consists of the courses, lessons, and learning activities students participate in, as well as the knowledge and skills educators intentionally teach to students. This qualitative project allows the applicant to explore the hidden curriculum through multiple lenses in a range of healthcare professions as well as across the student journey from admission to graduate. This project would also be in collaboration with The Mayo Clinic, USA. 

Designing education and training for high-stakes settings

Although problem solving is part of our everyday lives, there are problem-solving contexts which can be considered high stakes. From our perspective, high-stakes domains are those in which the decisions are made by individuals or groups have significant consequences for the preservation of human lives. Traditional instructional design approaches emphasise on early specification of instructional objectives and distilling complex skills into their component parts to then design instruction around teaching or practicing these components. High-stakes environments are highly complex, extremely dynamic and in these times ever evolving, and outcomes in these environments are often unpredictable; in such environments, fragmented instruction approaches will probably fall short. This project will focus on features of instruction, assessment, and/or feedback that can help current and future professionals in a high-stakes setting to not just become an expert in certain tasks (i.e. routine expertise) but to learn how to adapt to changes in their setting(s) and to new territory (i.e. adaptive expertise).

Fading instructional support or productive failure?

There has been and continues to be quite a bit of debate regarding how much instructional support, as in for instance worked examples (i.e. tasks in which all steps to a solution have been worked out) or completion tasks (i.e. tasks where some of the steps have been worked out and the student needs to complete the remaining steps to solve the problem), students need to learn. Some approaches prescribe a strategy of starting with a lot of instructional support to then fade (i.e. scaffold) that support. One way of implementing this strategy is example-problem sequences, and an alternative is found in example-completion-problem sequences. However, some studies appear to suggest that, at least under some circumstances, having students struggle with a problem before actually providing them with a solution or worked example may actually benefit learning (i.e. productive failure). This project will compare these rivalling approaches – fading instructional support and productive failure – in terms of learning outcomes, in particular content knowledge and self-regulated learning skills, under different conditions in a health professions education setting.

Reliability and resources needed for reliable assessment

Many high-stakes decisions in medical education depend on the scores derived from Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs). A critical question in relation to OSCEs is how many stations, items or assessors we need in a given context to achieve acceptable reliability. For this purpose, we typically use Cronbach’s alpha and generalisability models that are based on the same restrictive assumptions. In the face of departures from these restrictive assumptions, we obtain inappropriate reliability estimates and inappropriate estimations for the numbers of stations, items or assessors needed to achieve a particular reliability. This project will focus on alternatives to the default Cronbach’s alpha and generalisability models already described in the literature and will explore options for the development of new alternatives. 

A longitudinal approach to assessment and feedback

Learning is by definition a longitudinal phenomenon; to inform and stimulate it, we need a longitudinal approach to assessment and feedback. Besides, each assessment method may at best shed some light on a particular type of knowledge, skill, or attitude, and comes with limited feedback options. Therefore, high-quality assessment involves the careful planning and combination of a variety of assessment methods in a programme of assessment that is fit for purpose. In other words, we need a programme of assessment that is optimally aligned with assessment purposes. This project will focus on possible combinations of assessment methods in the face of specific sets of intended learning outcomes and assessment purposes constructively aligned with these intended learning outcomes in a health professions education context. Assessment methods may include but are not limited to: spotter and steeplechase exams, objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs), long cases (OSLERs), portfolios, essays, and progress testing.

Setting the standard

Striving for the best possible patient care, it is of paramount importance that our assessments of knowledge, skill, and attitude enable us to distinguish between competent and not so competent students. Part of this process is to set a standard or cut-off score with which we make pass/fail decisions. As inappropriate cut-off scores can have serious consequences for medical students and/or patients, the process of standard setting is not to be taken lightly. Although a variety of standard setting methods is encountered in the literature and research on some of these methods has been around for decades, the main conclusion remains that there is no “gold standard” method for standard setting, and that each method has its relative pros and cons. These pros and cons relate to features of different tests, cohorts or students, types of subjective decisions in the standard setting process, and demand on resources. If we agree that we should strive of obtaining cut-off scores as accurate as possible with as few resources as strictly needed (e.g. to minimise unnecessary time of clinicians and academic staff in standard setting panels), an interesting question is under what conditions we may actually do with less resource intensive methods than we have been doing so far (e.g. Cohen instead of Angoff). This project will focus on the feasibility and potential of different standard setting methods in a health professions education context of choice.

Fitness to practice in medical undergraduates: a mixed methods study

During the undergraduate years of medical school issues that potentially impact on later fitness to practice may be a significant predictor of future professionalism issues. There are broad range of issues that may come under this category, including those related to student mental health, substance use and conduct problems. The latter includes both academic conduct issues, such as plagiarism, as well as more extreme behaviours that might be liable to criminal prosecution.

Recently there have been changes the way that the General Medical Council collates issues in relation to fitness in the undergraduate years.  Previously a student merely had to make a self declaration online, whereas now medical schools will inform the General Medical Council of any FTP issues that occurred during undergraduate years prior to provisional registration being granted.

However, it is possible that the standards and processes around the FTP issues in medical undergraduates are not applied consistently across institutions, and possibly not even within universities. This immediately raises issues of both fairness to the students involved as well as patient safety, subsequently. Therefore this proposal suggests that a mixed methods study can be used to investigate the extent to which fitness to practice processes are uniform, or otherwise, across UK medical schools. There will also be an opportunity to perform quantitative data modelling using data related to undergraduate fitness practice events in the UK medical education database.

Thus there will be some qualitative components to this work, involving, possibly, documentary analysis of policies, as well as interviews with those who chair the fitness to practice panels across a selection of UK medical schools. The quantitative component will be consist of evaluating the predictors of FTP in undergraduates.