Ngā Ara Hou ki te Ora / New Pathways to Wellbeing

Healthcare delivery: Wellbeing, justice, equity and efficiency

Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD studentship to work on a project modelling healthcare delivery and optimising for wellbeing, justice, equity, and efficiency.

Equitable access to healthcare services, and timely transition to the next level of care for those patients who need it, are essential for health and wellbeing. Persistent failures to provide such access, not least “…the Crown’s failure to provide primary healthcare to Māori consistent with the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi…” requires critical attention. These inequities persist in patient pathways through to tertiary care.

How can we best improve healthcare, given that budgets are constrained? How can we improve equity of access to healthcare? What are the best measures of success for our healthcare services? Traditionally, operations research practitioners have used measures such as length of queues for treatment and time spent waiting for treatment as measures of efficiency for healthcare providers. Healthcare providers often also have targets, such as the target that “95 percent of patients will be admitted, discharged or transferred from an emergency department (ED) within six hours”. However, such measures do not necessarily reflect the lived experience of patients within our health system, and do not directly address equity of access and delivery.

This project will develop mathematical modelling, simulation and optimisation methods and tools to support capacity provision, allocation, and deployment decisions for health services, both longer term capacity provision, and shorter-term capacity allocation. Part of the project centres around which variables to include, and desirable outcomes and measures of success for health services that are appropriate for Aotearoa New Zealand and will promote wellbeing, justice and equity in delivery.


This scholarship is open to anyone who can be in New Zealand and meets the requirements to enrol in a PhD at the University of Auckland.

We are happy to consider students from a diverse range of fields including statistics, engineering, computer science, mathematics, and physics. The project involves modelling (primarily stochastic modelling), optimisation and simulation, and a background knowledge in one or more of these areas is expected. The successful candidate will hold, or expect to complete soon, a masters degree, or similar, in their disciplinary area.

Applicants from all backgrounds are actively encouraged to apply. Members of underrepresented groups are very welcome, as are students with families. Our research group aims to achieve work-life balance within a productive scientific environment.


You will be based at the University of Auckland and will work with Associate Professor Marama Muru-Lanning, Dr Michael O’Sullivan, Professor Tava Olsen, Associate Professor Cameron Walker, Associate Professor Krushil Watene and Associate Professor Ilze Ziedins.

The PhD position will be embedded within Te Pūnaha Matatini, the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre of Research Excellence for Complex Systems. Te Pūnaha Matatini brings together ‘many faces’ – different disciplines, ways of thought, methods, and crucially, people – to define, and then solve, society’s thorny interconnected problems.

This project brings together researchers in mathematical modelling and operations research with scholars in Māori anthropology and philosophy who have worked on Māori perspectives on wellbeing, and social and economic determinants of health and wellbeing. This transdisciplinary approach characterises Te Pūnaha Matatini and is unique within the Aotearoa New Zealand research system; it carries methods, approaches, and tools over from one discipline to another, and in doing so, develops integrated and transformative insights.


Informal enquiries are welcome by email:

Financial details

  • Full tuition fees
  • Stipend of NZ$28,800 per year (tax free)

Start date

Start date is flexible but would preferably be by July 2022.

How to apply

Interested candidates should send an email expressing their interest, along with a CV, academic record, and list of three potential referees to Ilze Ziedins at

Due date

Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Applications received by Saturday 30 April 2022 will receive full consideration.