How to apply for postgraduate study at the MRC CBU
We welcome applications from UK and International students for PhD or MPhil research on any topic that falls within the research interests of staff at the CBU. Please visit the research pages to find out more and keep the following key information in mind:
- All applications must be made online via the Postgraduate Admissions website
- To apply for a PhD, please select ‘PhD in Medical Sciences (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit)’
- To apply for an MPhil, select ‘MPhil in Medical Sciences (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit)’
- From October 2023 entry, there will no longer be a fee to apply for a PhD, and the University has reduced the MPhil applicaton fee to £50 (and this can sometimes be waived for individuals who meet certain widening participation criteria)
If you have any questions or wish to make a preliminary enquiry please email us at grad-admin [@] mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk (without the brackets and spaces).
Further details about submitting an application for postgraduate study at the MRC CBU
All applications must be submitted online via the University of Cambridge Postgraduate Admissions website which has information on the various courses and qualifications you can apply for. Please ensure you are applying for the correct programme and have the appropriate prerequisites.
We highly recommend that you make contact with a potential supervisor before applying, particularly as you will need to upload a research proposal as part of your application, and they can provide some helpful feedback. In considering ideas for your research proposal, you can learn about our current research and our programme leaders on our website. We have also provided some project ideas for inspiration to choose from if you wish, or you are welcome to propose an idea entirely of your own. Either way, supervisors welcome being approached by prospective students and are happy to discuss their research, and ideas for PhD or MPhil projects. Contact details for individual researchers can be found on our research or people pages.
In your application:
- please name the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit as the Department you wish to apply to, selecting ‘PhD in Medical Sciences (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit)’ or ‘Mphil in Medical Sciences (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit’
- upload a 2 page (PhD) or 1 page (MPhil) research proposal detailing the topic you wish to cover in your PhD
- please also upload a CV
- you will also need to name two referees
- ensure you tick any funding sources you believe you may be eligible for, so that you receive full consideration in all relevant funding competitions and maximise your chances of being awarded funding
All the above will need to be provided electronically via the University application system, ensuring you upload all supporting information by the deadline so that your application does not automatically expire. Please do not send items directly to the CBU by post or email, as we are not permitted to accept applications directly. Instead, the University Postgraduate Admissions Office will forward your application to us once it is complete. It is also worth noting that there is no special form to be considered for MRC studentship funding.
Full details of the application process are given on the Postgraduate Admissions website.
We prefer CBU students to begin their course at the beginning of Michaelmas term in October, as we run various induction events and postgraduate training seminars for first year students at the beginning of Michaelmas term. Having said that, we do sometimes permit deferred entry with a later start, and can make reasonable adjustments. However, please contact us in advance if there are good reasons why a deferred entry might work better for you or your supervisor.
In addition to being a member of the University and also the Department (which in this case is the CBU), all Cambridge postgraduates will also be a member of a Cambridge College. Further information about selecting a college can be found here.
If you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact grad-admin [@] mrc-cbu.cam.ac.uk (without the brackets and spaces).
Eligibility for admission to the University
Competition for admission to postgraduate programmes at the University of Cambridge is intense, and the CBU, like all departments, requires its postgraduate entrants to have:
- at least a good 2.1 in an Honours degree or equivalent (eg CGPA 3.5/4.0) in a relevant subject
- two outstanding references as detailed in the application
- fluency in the English language, as described here
These minimum entry requirements are set by the University, not the CBU, and are therefore not negotiable. Further details of the University’s entrance requirements can be seen here.
We welcome applications from individuals wishing to undertake a part-time PhD (5-7 years). We are accustomed to supporting part-time students and making appropriate adjustments to the timing of annual review meetings and provision of training. If you wish to consider this as an option, we recommend that you contact your potential supervisor in the first instance and email us at the above address before applying.
We sometimes have students who wish to undertake a one year (research) MPhil. MPhil students are currently in the minority at the CBU. However, if this is an option you are interested in, we encourage you to contact your potential supervisor before submitting your application. Please also do not hestitate to contact us if you have any questions.
If we shortlist you following submission of your application, you will be invited to an interview. Interviews are generally held in early January and will this year most likely be held by Zoom. The interview typically lasts 30 to 40 minutes, and is used as an opportunity to chat about your experience of research to date and your ideas about the research you would like to do in an MPhil or PhD. You will also be given an opportunity to ask us any questions you have about what it is like to be a student at the CBU, the colleges, the University, or anything really. Interviews generally involve a panel of three to five individuals – the admissions tutors and individuals who have more expertise in the particular area of research. But don’t let this worry you – we are friendly! We aim to let you know whether we have offered you a place to embark on postgraduate study at the CBU within one to two weeks of your interview.
Membership of the University of Cambridge
Students at the CBU are registered as PhD candidates at the University of Cambridge and are required to fulfil the admissions requirements of the University. Information about fees, funding, the application process and more (including for overseas students) can be found on the Postgraduate Admissions page, where there are answers to many frequently asked questions and a Contact Form to facilitate inquiries to the Admissions Office. Students will initially be registered as ‘probationary’ PhD students (referred to in the Student Registry and in CamSIS as ‘Not at first registered’), and students are only fully registered for their PhD upon satisfactory completion of their first year of study, assessed via a first year review meeting typically held in June of the student’s first year.
You become a member of the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine which oversees the progress of your research and offers additional facilities and courses. While carrying out your research you are able to enjoy all the advantages of the University facilities and the collegiate system. There are substantial contacts with other experimental, clinical and neuroscience groups in the University of Cambridge, including the Departments of Psychology, Neurology, and Psychiatry, and the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre (WBIC) at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Our postgraduate program
To find out more about our postgraduate program and individuals who have been offered a place in previous years, please have a look here.
Last but not least, for a more informal sense of what it is like to be a postgraduate at the CBU, we recommend our student testimonials