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University of Cambridge

England , England ,United Kingdom

PhD in Medical Science (MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit)

We host 20–30 postgraduate students at any time and invite applications from prospective PhD students wishing to pursue research in areas covered by any of our research programmes. Our approaches include experimental cognitive psychology, neuropsychology, computational modelling and neuroimaging using MRI, MEG, and EEG.


Our aim is that students develop the skills required to submit an excellent PhD thesis in either three or four years, depending upon the duration of their funding. Furthermore, our goal is to equip students for highly successful careers in their chosen profession, whether this is academia, clinical practice or industry. Our students design and conduct experiments, analyse results and learn to communicate those findings both in writing and orally. There is no "standard" model for an excellent PhD, but they always result from the combined expertise of our supervisors and the dedicated enthusiasm of our doctoral students.


A PhD at the CBU is achieved by supervised research and is under the jurisdiction of the Degree Committee for the School of Clinical Medicine. The provision of supervision and teaching is overseen by the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences. Within the CBU, the internal Postgraduate Committee is responsible for all aspects of the running of the degrees. A suitable project falling within the interests of the supervisor, and sustainable within the limits imposed by the facilities available at the CBU, is agreed by both student and supervisor, and endorsed by the Postgraduate Committee.

Each postgraduate student has a primary supervisor, who will supervise the main body of their research, and an adviser who acts as a supplementary source of advice and support. We also have two pastoral tutors who offer personal support and counselling throughout a student’s time at the Unit. And we always encourage students and their supervisors to seek additional support where this will benefit the science, for example in the form of additional advisers from other departments.


Students attend a variety of Unit seminars given by distinguished scientists and are also able to present their research, usually in their second year. They can draw from the CBU’s panels of research volunteers, both typical volunteers and from specialist clinical panels, and enjoy the benefits of superb computing facilities and support staff, including a graphics and multimedia officer.

The Cambridge Postgraduate Programme in Cognitive and Brain Sciences

CBU students are full members of the Cambridge Postgraduate Programme in Cognitive and Brain Sciences, which has been jointly established by the Unit and the Departments of Psychology and Psychiatry. This consists of a weekly series of theoretical seminars presented by senior researchers from the CBU and the University. Lectures will be held at 4–5.30pm on Mondays in the West Wing Seminar Room at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, 15 Chaucer Road, Cambridge CB2 7EF (unless otherwise specified), or at the Psychology department on the Downing Site in Cambridge city centre. Seminars are held during Michaelmas and Lent terms only. These are compulsory for CBU first-year students, but anyone interested is welcome to attend and we also welcome visitors from other university departments.

Details of the Seminar programme will be updated regularly and any changes in the programme, as well as any other information of interest, will be communicated via email – if you are interested in receiving these updates please email the seminar administrator to ensure that your name is on the “Camgrads+” mailing list.

All public talks are publicised on the University talks website, which also contains an archive of older lectures.

Facilities and Linkages

The CBU has excellent state-of-the-art facilities for experimental behavioural studies involving normal populations and patients with brain damage, as well as institutional links with Addenbrooke’s hospital giving access to various types of patient populations, including stroke and progressive neural degenerative diseases. A number of programmes have strong interests and expertise in mental health, and in recent years students have worked alongside clinicians to explore mechanisms and novel treatments in individuals with ongoing mental health difficulties, including anxiety and depression.

There is a 3 Tesla MRI scanner on the premises, as well as MEG and EEG facilities. Through its partnership with the University of Cambridge Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre, the CBU has excellent access to PET, additional fMRI (3 Tesla) facilities, and in the near future high-field scanning (7 Tesla). The CBU also offers state-of-the-art computing facilities, supporting Unix, PC, and Mac platforms, and handling the large volumes of neuro-imaging data as well as extensive computational modelling. All students have their own networked desktop computer, with internet access through JANET.

The Unit’s close links with the University Department of Psychology and the Department of Psychiatry are strengthened through the Cambridge Postgraduate Programme in Cognitive and Brain Sciences, a joint programme of termly seminars given by members of each department and attended by all postgraduate students.

The CBU is also an active member of the wider neuroscience community in Cambridge, supported by the Cambridge Neuroscience network.

Completion on time

The procedure below was initially designed to ensure that students complete their research on time and within the time allowed by their funding. With the introduction of the new four-year degree programme, we will be offering more formalised training opportunities and a personalised training and research programme will be agreed with all students during the early weeks of the degree. This will ensure that a realistic and appropriate timeframe is planned to ensure completion of the PhD thesis within the agreed period, whether three or four years. The timeframe below is given for the three-year duration; adding an extra year for those students with four-year funding will front-load the training programme into the first year and shift the review points back by a year, but the overall structure remains the same.

The primary goal of the student’s first year is to put them in a position to hit the ground running at the beginning of their second year, with a fully developed and agreed research plan for the last two years of their thesis, and, preferably, with a significant chunk of relevant research and training already completed. To this end, students and supervisors are encouraged to begin a discussion of possible topics as soon as the student arrives, and to initiate exploratory research, skills training, literature surveys, etc, as soon as is practicable. If supervisors do not feel that satisfactory progress has been made towards agreeing and developing a possible topic within six months of the student arriving (usually 1 March of the first year), then they should allocate a topic within the broad area of interest stated on the student’s application. A student who objects to the proposed topic may approach the Postgraduate Studies Committee over a change in supervisor, but should be prepared to accept a proposal from the secondary supervisor.

Assessment will take place at the end of the first year, with the submission of a 5,000-word report by 30 June. This will comprise a summary of the student’s progress over the previous months and is likely to include a literature review motivating the choice of a research topic and an account of experimental and theoretical work completed. The report must also include a proposal outlining the research planned for the next two years’ work, directed towards the completion of a PhD in that period. The student will also be expected to submit an up-to-date progress log, outlining their participation in seminars, training courses, etc, over the first year. This is to meet University and Research Council requirements for postgraduate training.

The report is assessed by viva, involving 2 independent assessors who make a recommendation to the Department on whether the student should be registered for the PhD.  Unless there are exceptional circumstances, we would expect the evaluation process to be completed by the end of July.

Around nine months before students are due to complete, a meeting will be held between student, supervisors, and representatives from the Postgraduate Committee to make sure things are on track for completion. Our aim is to reduce the stress of discovering, towards the end of the final year, that there is still too much to do and not enough time to do it. Students will be asked to bring two things to these meetings: an outline of the proposed thesis, with a plan for what is still needed and when it will be done; and a first part of the thesis itself, which could be a literature review, methods sections, an experimental chapter, etc.

This is not in any way intended as an assessment, which in any case would not be suitable in a student’s final year. The thesis plan is intended to crystallise the remaining requirements in the minds of both students and supervisors. The written material is intended to ensure that the student has actually got some experience of what writing the thesis will be like. It frequently happens that students discover that writing is far more time-consuming than they had expected, and we think the best way to get a realistic expectation about this is to have some actual practical experience. To sum this up: our aim is to reduce stress, not to add to it!


  • Oct

Application Processing Time in Days: 20

Minimum English Language Requirements

English Level Description IELTS (1.0 -9.0) TOEFL IBT (0-120) TOEFL CBT (0-300) PTE (10-90)
Expert 9 120 297-300 86-90
Very Good 8.5 115-119 280-293 83-86
Very Good 8 110-114 270-280 79-83
Good 7.5 102-109 253-267 73-79
Good 7 94-101 240-253 65-73
Competent 6.5 79-93 213-233 58-65
Competent 6 60-78 170-210 50-58
Modest 5.5 46-59 133-210 43-50
Modest 5 35-45 107-133 36-43
Limited 4 32-34 97-103 30-36
Extremely Limited < 4 < 31 < 93 < 30

Job Opportunity Potential

Whether you’re sure of the career you want to pursue when you graduate or you’re looking to explore your options, we’ll help you to prepare for your future.

  • 89% of our students who responded to the Graduate Outcomes Survey were in work or further study within 15 months of graduating¹
  • Top 10 in the UK for graduate prospects (Complete University Guide 2021)

Transferable skills
The majority of graduate employers recruit students with any degree discipline. It’s the flexibility of your degree, as well as the range of transferable skills that you develop, that are of interest to employers.

Cambridge students are typically ambitious, intelligent, motivated, hard-working, passionate, committed, curious, intellectually creative, independent thinkers, and able to manage their time effectively. Employers know this and look for the same attributes in potential new employees, which is why our graduates are so sought after.   

Dedicated support and guidance
Once you’re at Cambridge, you can work with our dedicated Careers Service from day one to explore your career options. The team of experienced and impartial careers advisers can help you connect with employers and navigate the complex job market, saving you time and maximising your employability prospects. The Careers Service run a range of workshops on topics including choosing a career, cover letters, applications and getting ready for interviews. They also organise more than 200 careers events and briefing and skills sessions, and typically around 15 major careers fairs each year.

Internships and work experience
Our industry connections provide a range of opportunities for you to undertake work experience, enhancing your CV ready for graduation. Thousands of opportunities are publicised across all sectors on the Careers Service’s Handshake site, with bursaries offered to support unpaid opportunities with charities.

Networking opportunities
The Careers Service’s alumni database, GradLink, will give you access to contact details for over 1,200 Cambridge alumni working in a huge range of industries who can offer first-hand advice. The Service also runs more than 50 employment-related skills training sessions and can offer information on occupations, further study courses and funding.

Graduate employment destinations
Our graduates go on to work in a wide range of industries, from social work and education, to legal activities and finance. The list below shows the top ten occupations of respondents to the Graduate Outcomes Survey (15 months after graduation).¹

Medical practitioner

  1. Programmer/software development professional
  2. Management consultants and business analysts
  3. Finance and investment analysts and advisers
  4. Marketing associate professionals
  5. Business and related associate professionals
  6. Secondary education teaching professionals
  7. Primary and nursery teaching professionals
  8. University researchers
  9. Higher education teaching professionals

PSW Opportunity

UK announces 2-year post-study work visa for international Students

Admission Requirement / Eligibility Criteria

Postgraduate study at the University of Cambridge is intense and very intellectually demanding, so the University has high academic entry requirements. You are normally expected to hold or to have achieved by the start of your course:

minimum of an upper second class (good 2:1) honours degree from a UK university or an equivalent standard from an overseas university; and
completion of, or release from, any current training or education course

University Minimum Requirement
Professional Bachelor's (at least 4 years) in professional subjects such as Agriculture, Architecture, Business Administration, Business Management, Business Studies, Computer Applications, Engineering, Fine Arts, Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery, Law, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Technology or Bachelor of Arts / Science / Commerce (3-4 years) from well ranked institutions with an overall grade of 70% or CGPA 7.3+.

If the academic requirement of the course is a first:

Professional Bachelor's (at least 4 years) in professional subjects such as Agriculture, Architecture, Business Administration, Business Management, Business Studies, Computer Applications, Engineering, Fine Arts, Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery, Law, Nursing, Pharmacy, Physiotherapy and Technology or Bachelor of Arts / Science / Commerce (3-4 years) from well ranked institutions with an overall grade of 75% or CGPA 8.0+.

IELTS Academic1 – normally a minimum overall grade of 7.5, usually with 7.0 or above in each element
TOEFL Internet Based Test (IBT) – normally a minimum overall score of 110, with 25 or above in each element
EU students – a high grade in English taken as part of a leaving exam (eg the European/French Baccalaureate, Abitur etc) may be acceptable
Cambridge English: C2 Proficiency – accepted with a minimum overall score of 200, with no element lower than 185.
Cambridge English: C1 Advanced – accepted with a minimum overall score of 193, with no element lower than 185, plus an assessment by the Language Centre. Following assessment the University Language Centre may advise further action from the applicant (eg enrolment at one of the Language Centre courses, or completion of an IELTS test).
Singapore Integrated Programme (SIP) – may be considered an acceptable English language qualification

  • Course Type: Full Time
  • Course Level: Doctoral Degree/PhD
  • Duration: 03 Year  
  • Total Tuition Fee: 97056 GBP
    Annual Cost of Living: 12006 GBP
    Application Fee: 70 GBP
This Institution is not directly represented by us and applications / visa support (to them) attract a nominal charge