Project code

BUSM4520219 (UK and EU students) BUSM4550219 (International students)


Organisation Studies and Human Resource Management

Start dates

February and October

Closing date

Applications accepted all year round

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

Applications are invited for a self-funded, 3 year full-time or 6 year part-time PhD project, to commence in October or February.

This PhD will be based in the Faculty of Business and Law, and will be supervised by Professor Ashraf Labib, Professor Gordon Blunn and Dr Maria Barbati.

The work on this project will:
  • focus on how to develop advanced root cause analysis methods that are capable of being used at prospective (at design stage) and retrospective (as a learning from failure analysis) phases
  • focus on basic fundamental research on improvement of medical errors analysis and prevention technology through studies of accident development scenarios, simulations, probabilistic assessments and basic data review from the NHS registers, as well as interaction with key stakeholders
  • develop a framework for assessing and improving the resilience of the health service

High Reliability Organizations (HROs) usually refer to industries such as nuclear and aviation where they possess a high degree of reliability despite their hazardous environment.

Health systems and HROs such as commercial aviation companies have many common characteristics. They both have a continuously changing organizational environment, with many interactive and interdependent processes, whose interactions may lead to unpredictable, unintentional consequences.

However, healthcare systems are currently far from being HROs: in 20022011, 1.6 deaths occurred per million flights, while it is estimated that 1300 to 2800 deaths occur per million hospitalizations in the U.S. due to medical errors.

The proposed research will assess both the seriousness and frequency of medical errors, with particular focus on potential errors and near-misses, such as unsafe conditions and events that did not reach the patients; these provide clues toward weaknesses in the system.

The research will adapt and develop models of high reliability organizational theory to redesign work processes and mitigate medication errors and patient accidents, and will include methods of extracting data about near-misses, performing root cause analysis, and the extraction of generic lessons. These techniques will be applied in a similar approach as applied to the cases of disasters in industrial engineering.

By introducing the practices of HROs into healthcare, our aim is to minimize the negligence cases frequently reported in healthcare. This will prepare NHS towards achieving higher standards of patient safety, adopting the most appropriate strategies, as suggested by the investigation conducted.

The project is designed to extend theory through extraction of generic lessons for prevention, mitigation and response to any future accidents.


  1. Ilo, K.C., Derby, E.J., Whittaker, R.K., Blunn, G.W., Skinner, J.A., & Hart, A.J. (2017). Fretting and corrosion between a metal shell and metal liner may explain the high rate of failure of R3 modular metal-on-metal hips. The Journal of Arthroplasty, 32(5), 1679-1683.
  2. Agwu, A.E., Labib, A.W., & Hadleigh-Dunn, S. (2019). Disaster prevention through a harmonized framework for high reliability organisations. Safety Science, 111, 298-312.
  3. Barbati, M., Greco, S., Kadziński, M., & Słowiński, R. (2018). Optimization of multiple satisfaction levels in portfolio decision analysis. Omega, 78, 192-204.
  4. Perris, T., & Labib, A.W. (2004). An intelligent system for prioritisation of organ transplant patient waiting lists using fuzzy logic. Journal of Operational Research Society, 55(2), 103-115, 2004.
  5. Labib A.W., & Perris, T. (2004). The prioritisation of  organ transplant patient waiting lists: Application of Fuzzy Logic and Multiple Criteria Decision Making. The 46th Annual Conference of the O. R. Society, York, UK.

Fees and funding

Funding availability: Self-funded PhD students only. 

PhD full-time and part-time courses are eligible for the UK Government Doctoral Loan (UK and EU students only – eligibility criteria apply).

2022/2023 fees (applicable for October 2022, February and April 2023 start) 

PhD and MPhil

UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students 

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

EU students
(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full-time: £4,596 (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £2,298 (may be subject to annual increase)

International students

  • Full-time: £17,000 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
  • Part-time and part-time distance learning: £8,500 per year (may be subject to annual increase)

All fees are subject to annual increase. If you are an EU student starting a programme in 2022/23 please visit this page.

Bench fees

Some PhD projects may include additional fees – known as bench fees – for equipment and other consumables, and these will be added to your standard tuition fee. Speak to the supervisory team during your interview about any additional fees you may have to pay. Please note, bench fees are not eligible for discounts and are non-refundable.

Entry Requirements

  • You'll need a good first degree from an internationally recognised university (minimum second class or equivalent, depending on your chosen course) or a Master’s degree in an appropriate subject.
  • 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 candidates with a keen interest in both operational research and its application to healthcare.


If you have project specific enquiries, please contact Professor Ashraf Labib ( to discuss your interest before you apply, quoting the project code.

How to apply

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 how it meets the stated objectives, the challenges this project may present, and how the work will build on or challenge existing research in the above field.

Our ‘How to Apply’ page offers further guidance on the PhD application process.

If you want to be considered for this self-funded PhD opportunity you must quote project code BUSM4520219 (UK and EU students) or BUSM4550219 (International students) when applying.

October start

Apply now