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Phd programmes

Research Degree Programmes


Research study

90% of the Department of Biology's research in biological sciences was judged as internationally excellent, encompassing biochemistry, chronic disease, microbiology, plant biology and ecology (REF 2014) - we are competitive internationally in all fields of investigation. With a commitment to interdisciplinary research, our research is arranged in nine foci that use state-of-the-art technology to address three global challenges facing humanity. Read more

Our almost 70 principal investigators are supported by current grants totalling £55 million. Every step of our research is carried out with the indispensable help of postgraduate students. No matter which area of Biology you specialise in, you will be working alongside some of the world’s biggest names in their respective fields, at the cutting edge of scientific exploration. Our academic staff

We have around 120 research students, and we take good care of them. As a research student you can expect:

  • a supervisor who directs your research and training
  • your supervisor to spend at least 1 hour per week with you
  • a Thesis Advisory Panel of 2 other staff to monitor progress and offer advice
  • a progress meeting with your supervisor every 2 months
  • a Thesis Advisory Panel meeting every 6 months for which you prepare a report
  • a programme of training in research and transferable skills tailored to your needs
  • opportunities to attend seminars by leading scientists from around the world, and to present your own work through posters and talks

Degree programmes


Full-time Part-time Writing up period     
Length of thesis (max) Assessment 
MSc by Research 1 yr 2 yrs 3 months

30,000 words


MPhil 2 yrs 4 yrs 12 months

60,000 words

Thesis & oral examination Self-funded
PhD 3/4 yrs 6 yrs 12 months

80,000 words            

Thesis & oral examination

Self-funded or studentship


A PhD thesis must contain a substantial original contribution to scientific knowledge or understanding. The thesis is judged by two examiners and the student is required to attend an oral examination on the subject of the thesis and on related research. The oral examination is vital for the award of the degree.

An MPhil thesis is expected to display a good general knowledge of the field of study; a comprehensive knowledge of some part or aspect of the field of study; and a recognisable original contribution to knowledge or understanding. The thesis is judged by two examiners and the student is required to attend an oral examination on the subject of the thesis and on related research. The oral examination is vital for the award of the degree.

An MSc by Research is shorter than an MPhil programme and consequently, the thesis will be narrower in scope than an MPhil thesis, although it should still contain some original work. The thesis is also judged by two examiners but the student is normally not required to attend an oral examination.


Your personal supervisor is responsible for overseeing both your progress on the research project and your personal welfare. Your and your supervisor meet weekly on an informal basis to discuss progress. In addition, two independent academics are appointed as members of your Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP) to maintain an overview of your research work. You, your supervisor and TAP members will meet formally at least twice a year to review progress and make a realistic appraisal for the timetable of work to be undertaken.


Our research degree programmes include an integrated cohort-based training programme to provide you with project-specific and transferable skills for your future career. You will learn to read and appraise scientific literature, to speak and present confidently to a scientific audience, and to write a lucid account of your research. You will have the opportunity to gain experience of demonstrating to undergraduate and taught masters students, and receive practical advice on career planning. Our Department also holds a series of research seminars across all disciplines which are open to all researchers.

Projects available


We offer a number of projects (fully-funded and self-funded) to support research leading to a research degree. Your nationality and residency status will determine which of them you are eligible for. Please click on the links below to check the research projects available for immediate application.

Research projects available:

Further information:

Training & Careers


All our research students benefit from a balanced programme of training in broader research-related skills that enhance their career prospects. This is tailored to individual needs, taking into account previous experience and future career aims.

  • General courses for all students include project planning, writing and presentation, ethics, media, etc.
  • Specific courses for individual needs might include advanced science training through our Masters modules in bioinformatics, etc.
  • All students are expected to attend a UK GRAD school or similar intensive residential course.
  • York Biology employs a Graduate Skills Coordinator who oversees this provision and develops it to meet the needs of all our students.
  • Each student has a training record and needs to spend about two weeks each year on training activities
  • Our programme is designed to meet and exceed the requirements of the UK research councils.


A research degree is internationally recognised as a demonstration that you have the skills, intellect and motivation to carry out original research and present it convincingly. It is more or less essential to have a research degree if you plan a career as an independent researcher with responsibility for your own research programme, whether in academia, research institutes, or industry. In this case, the next stage will probably be a postdoctoral position where you will broaden your research experience and perhaps do some teaching and help to supervise other staff and students.

A lifetime of research is not for everyone, though, and there are many other careers in which the skills you develop during your research degree will certainly not be wasted. You will have learnt to think rigorously for yourself, to find information and teach yourself what you need to know, to present your case convincingly in writing and to an audience, to meet deadlines, and to plan your work effectively on short and long timescales. Employers of all kinds recognise and value skills like these.



All research students have access to:

  • Modern, well-equipped research labs
  • Your own desk in a write-up area outside the lab
  • The Technology Facility – a very special feature of York – with advanced equipment and expert staff to help you use it; all research students get an annual allowance to use the TF for training and research
  • Catering and social areas on site to meet your friends and keep yourself going through those late-running experiments.


What qualifications do I need?

For entry to our research degree programmes, applicants will normally be expected to have a good honours degree (first or upper second class or equivalent) in any biological subject. We will consider applicants with backgrounds in Chemistry, Computer Science, Electronics, Environment, Mathematics, Medicine or Physics who can demonstrate a commitment to the biosciences. Entry requirements

What should I do before submitting an application?

Before submitting an application you need to identify a research project that interests you. We would encourage you to email your CV to the potential supervisior to have an informal discussion about your suitability for the project. The potential supervisor will decide whether or not you should submit an application through our University online system.

What happens after I apply?

Your potential supervisior will assess your application and all the relevant documents, including two academic references. If your application is strong enough, you will be invited for interview. For UK applicants this will normally be in person. For international applicants, unless they are visiting the UK, interviews will normally be conducted by skype. As part of the interview process, you will be expected to make a 10 minute presentation on a recent piece of research conducted by you. The interview panel will consist of your potential supervisor and an independent academic. After the interview, your potential supervisor will inform you whether or not your application will be forwarded to our Biology Research Admissions Committee (RAC) for official approval. RAC will check whether you have appropriate qualifications and background to undertake research study in our Department, and that satisfactory arrangements are in place for supervision. Applicants offered places must fulfill all conditions (degree result, language and financial where appropriate) for the uptake of their place by the time the course starts.

How can I find out more about applying?

We will consider applications for research study at any time of the year but we would strongly encourage a start date in either October or January, when induction and training sessions are normally scheduled for new research students. If you have any queries about the application process, or more specific enquiries about the research degree programmes please contact us.

Contact Us

 For enquiries please contact the Biology Admissions Office:

  • Postal address
    Biology Admissions Office
    Department of Biology
    University of York
    YO10 5DD
    United Kingdom