UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies is an interdisciplinary centre for the integrated study of science's history, philosophy, sociology, communication and policy, located in the heart of London. Founded in 1921. Award winning for teaching and research, plus for our public engagement programme. Rated as outstanding by students at every level.

At UCL, the academic mission is paramount. Our ambition is to achieve the highest standards in our teaching and research.

Join us for BSc, MSc, and PhD study.

Staff books include:

Tobin - Philosophy of Science

PhD programmes

The next round of admissions will be in January 2015 for 2015/16 applicants (7th January 2015).

Final round of admissions will be in May 2015 for the 2015/16 applicants

(6th May 2015)

This page provides information about PhD programmes and admissions:

  • PhD in History and Philosophy of Science
  • PhD in Science and Technology Studies
  • PhD CDA Studentship: “Charles Blagden and Banksian Science, 1770-1820”  APPLICATION DEADLINE 31st MAY 2015

For PhD enquiries, contact us directly: sts@ucl.ac.uk

Students are registered as MPhil/PhD at the start of the programme.

If you are interested in our taught Masters (MSc) programmes, look here.

Basic information

The department offers both taught and research degrees at the graduate level. The MSc is a taught programme, open to students without a previous background in the field. The MPhil/PhD is a research degree, suitable for those with sufficient academic background and research interests compatible with those of the staff.

The department offers research degrees under two subject headings: History and Philosophy of Science, and Science and Technology Studies. Students may specialise in the history of science, the philosophy of science, the public understanding of science, the sociology of science and technology, science and technology policy research, or a suitable combination of those fields.

All graduate degrees can be undertaken on a part-time (50%) basis. Tuition fees for part-time students are pro-rata of the full-time fees. Details of attendance and supervision should be discussed with the Departmental Graduate Tutor at the time of application.

For MPhil/PhD, previous preparation at the level of a taught Master’s degree is expected. Non-native speakers of English will be required to present formal evidence of English language proficiency; the minimum result required is 600 in TOEFL and 5 in the Test of Written English, or 250 in the computer-based version of TOEFL with essay rating of 5, or 7.0 in IELTS with a minimum of 6.0 in each sub-test, or equivalent. However, the department gives preference to applicants with considerably higher levels of proficiency.

PhD Programme

All research students are initially registered for the MPhil degree. Please note that the MPhil is not a taught degree and is normally only intended in our department as a temporary category of registration for PhD students in their early stages of work. On satisfying the department of sufficient progress, students can be transferred to the PhD programme at a suitable time after 12 months of full-time study (or equivalent). PhD students are expected to engage in high-quality original research, resulting in a dissertation of up to 100,000 words. The minimum period of full-time registration is three calendar years. Research students may apply to commence their study at the start of any term during the year (September, January or April); however, the usual time to start is at the beginning of the academic year in September.

Research students are required to participate in the department's Methodology and Academic Development programme, which includes masterclass seminars on "Key Concepts in STS", departmental research seminars offered by external speakers, and a variety of skills and methodology training sessions. Students are also strongly encouraged to take part in other research activities both within and outside the department, including reading groups and research seminars.

Applications and Further Information

Enquiries about the MPhil/PhD programme should be directed to Dr Chiara Ambrosio, Graduate Tutor, Department of Science and Technology Studies. Applications are submitted via UCL's online applications portal which can be found here.

All MPhil/PhD admissions decisions are made by the Departmental Graduate Committee, chaired by the departmental Graduate Tutor (Dr Chiara Ambrosio). Please note that a key component in the admission decision is the research proposal submitted with the application form. Since the MPhil/PhD is a research-only degree, we expect candidates to have a fairly well defined research proposal at the time of the application, and we strongly encourage candidates to contact potential supervisors in advance of submission to discuss their proposal. Candidates are also welcome to submit samples of their written work in conjunction with their research proposal.

For 2014 applications STS will be operating a simplified system for admissions with two deadlines. Applicants wishing to apply for either UCL's ORS and GRS funding, or for Research Council funding, should apply by January 7th 2015. All applications received by this date will be considered and a decision made within 2 weeks. Note that applications received prior to this date will not have a decision made until this time.

The final deadline for applications for 2014 admissions is May 6th 2015.

Collaborative Doctoral Award:

PhD Studentship: “Charles Blagden and Banksian Science, 1770-1820”

Following the award of an AHRC collaborative doctoral studentship to Simon Werrett (UCL) for “Charles Blagden and Banksian Science, 1770-1820a 3-year fully funded AHRC studentship at UCL is available. The successful candidate will be expected to carry out research for a doctorate in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, supervised by Simon Werrett (STS) with support from Keith Moore (Librarian, Royal Society). The student will undertake research at the Royal Society and other London libraries, museums and archives. Candidates should be able to demonstrate an interest in the study of the history of science. They are normally expected to have a good Master’s degree in History, History of Science, Museum Studies, or a related discipline. A summary of the project is below.

Candidates should apply through the normal application procedure for the PhD degree at UCL, via an online application system:


Candidates should make clear in their personal statement that they are applying for the “Blagden studentship”. Candidates should explain in the statement their experience and/or qualifications for undertaking this project and they should describe how they will approach the topic to be researched. Candidates should also provide a sample of their work (an essay or Master’s thesis chapter, for example) no longer than 3000 words.

Applicants are bound by AHRC eligibility criteria: only EU citizens can be given awards and for a full award UK residency is required. EU students will receive a fees only award, and UK resident students will receive fees and a stipend. Please see the Humanities Division and AHRC pages for detailed guidance on this.

The deadline for applications will be 31 May 2015 and candidates should be ready to be called for interview for the studentship in the third week of June in London. It is expected that the successful candidate will take up the position in October 2015. Further enquiries about the position may be directed to s.werrett@ucl.ac.uk or keith.moore@royalsociety.org

The Partnership

This project is a new partnership between the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London and the Royal Society in London. The PhD will explore the seven-volume diary of Charles Blagden (1748-1820), whose career as a physician and natural philosopher spanned one of the most important eras in the history of British science. Between his early years serving as a medical officer in the British army during the American War of Independence, and his death in France in 1820, Blagden was witness to a flourishing scientific culture which took in radical transformations in chemistry, astronomy, natural history, and physics. At the heart of many of these transformations was Joseph Banks, famed as the natural historian on the first voyage around the world of James Cook (1768-1771), which earned him the Presidency of the Royal Society for an unprecedented tenure of forty-one years from 1778. Blagden held the position of secretary to the Royal Society, and worked closely with Banks for more than a decade.

Blagden’s diary is potentially a source of great significance for the history of science, containing thousands of pages of information about the daily scientific life of London during this period. This project will seek to first transcribe a portion of the diary and then to use this material to explore the workings of the “Banksian regime” in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century London. Despite his long tenure at the Royal Society, the figure of Joseph Banks is relatively unknown in comparison to contemporaries such as James Watt and Joseph Priestley. Yet Banks presided over a vast network of correspondents and collaborators located in London and around the world. When voyages of exploration set out from London it was invariably Banks who chose scientific personnel to accompany them, and voyagers to Asia, Africa, and the Americas regularly sent information and materials to Banks’s Soho Square house in London. Banks was also at the centre of scientific politics in the period 1780-1820, praised and damned alike for his patronage and control of many figures in the Royal Society, prompting controversies and even the establishment of the Royal Astronomical Society as an alternative venue for science free of Banks’s influence in 1820. Although he is not remembered for any great scientific breakthroughs or publications, Banks profoundly reshaped science in Britain and around the world.

Blagden’s diary bears witness to this, but owing to its rather illegible writing, historians have not used it as a source for revealing the shape of Banksian science. However, the diary is exceptional because it records many things which were not written down in letters and so reveals how much London men of science were seeing and talking to one another almost every day, usually in Banks's library in Soho Square. Blagden kept almost a running record of who he talked to and the information they gave him. The diary is especially good for revealing the social life happening inside Banks's library, because Blagden went there virtually every day when he was in London.

Research Questions

The Blagden diary will reveal new perspectives on Blagden himself, on Joseph Banks, and on science, exploration and empire in the period 1770-1820. The supervisors will work with the student to refine research questions, but important questions to be addressed will include the following:

1. How does the diary reveal the networks of personnel and institutions which Banks worked with to develop scientific activities?

2. What does the diary reveal about key areas of research investigated by Blagden or Banks, e.g. Banks’s own botanical investigations or Blagden’s work on the effects of high temperatures on the human body;

3. How did Blagden operate as a go-between among scientific, political and imperial protagonists in the period 1770-1820, e.g. in his role as a broker between English and French natural philosophers in the era of the Napoleonic Wars (he is known for passing information on chemistry between the English and French which proved critical in the “Chemical Revolution” of the time).

4. How did Banks and Blagden cultivate scientific research in the Pacific between 1780 and 1820?

Proposed Methodology

For this project, a student will work with the Royal Society in the first year of the PhD to identify a relevant part of the diary for transcription based on a theme or focus determined by the student in collaboration with the supervisors. In the remaining two years the student will conduct research to provide depth, context and interpretation of the diary and the events being discussed.


The student will be expected to complete the PhD in three years.

Plans for Dissemination

The student will be encouraged to produce peer-reviewed publications before finishing the PhD, and write the PhD in a way suitable for the production of a monograph. Exploring other appropriate methods of online dissemination beyond the museum – such as the Guardian’s public science platforms - will also be encouraged.

At the Royal Society the student will be encouraged to explore the dissemination of academic knowledge through public history programmes.

Expected Outcomes

The specific academic outcomes of the PhD will be determined in collaboration with the student, but may include:

. (1)  a better appreciation of the career and research of Charles Blagden

. (2)  a deeper understanding of British scientific culture in the period 1770-1820, and particularly the networks and interactions of natural philosophers in this period.

. (3)  a better appreciation of the activities of Joseph Banks in relation to building a global network of correspondents and collaborators which encouraged a vital link between science, government, and empire in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

. (4)  The opening up of a key source for the history of British science for use by historians, with a view to further transcribing and digitizing the diary after the PhD has concluded.

PhD students interested in visiting UCL

STS welcomes PhD students from other universities for a period of study under the supervision of a member of staff whose research interests overlap with the student's research project. Enrol as a 'Graduate Affiliate Student - Independent'. The application form is the same as for PhD applicants; fees are charged pro rata. All relevant information can be found here (link).

Financial Matters

Tuition fees for 2015/16 for full-time research students (MPhil/PhD) in the department are £4,635 for UK/EU students. For overseas students, the MPhil/PhD fees are £16,690. These amounts are subject to change in future years. Part-time fees are pro-rata of full-time fees.

A list of standard scholarships available to students applying to UCL is available here.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

UK students with excellent academic records in history of science or philosophy of science are encouraged to apply for a studentship from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Other EU nationals may apply for fees-only awards. Applicants applying for MPhil/PhD programmes in STS and wishing to be considered for the AHRC doctoral awards in the areas of either History of Science or Philosophy of Science should consult with the Graduate Tutor at the time of the MPhil/PhD application. AHRC grants are administered through the London Arts and Humanities Partnership of which UCL is a part. More information can be found on their website here.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The department has ‘+3’ and '1+3' recognition from the ESRC in the category of Science and Technology Studies. Studentships are available to UK and EU applicants intending to pursue a PhD and who have already received a foundation in research training (+3), or who wish to pursue a PhD after completing an ESRC-recognised MSc (including those within the department) (1+3). Applicants with such qualifications who are interested in the areas of public understanding of science, science policy research, social history of science, or the sociology of science and technology are encouraged to discuss the possibility of applying for an ESRC grant with the departmental graduate tutor at the time of their application. See the ESRC website for further details.

The Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust promotes research in the history of medicine, and provides studentships at both the MSc and PhD levels. Overseas as well as UK students are eligible. Further details are available from the Wellcome Trust website.

UCL Graduate Research Scholarships

The UCL Graduate School offers some scholarships each year. All applicants for research degrees (MPhil/PhD), including overseas students, are eligible for these awards. Further details are available here. Please note that in order to apply for UCL Graduate Research Scholarships, candidates must have already been accepted for MPhil/PhD.

For overseas students only

In addition to the Graduate Research Scholarships, overseas students are encouraged to apply for Commonwealth and British Council Scholarships in those countries where they are administered.

Further information 

Graduate Tutor: Dr Chiara Ambrosio
Department of Science & Technology Studies 
University College London 
Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT 
Tel: +44 20 7679 3521  
Fax: +44 20 7679 2328
Email: sts [at] ucl.ac.uk

Page last modified on 11 jun 15 14:26 by Susan E Walsh

UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies (STS)
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