Advanced Research Computing


How to setup GitHub for a research project

This guide explains how to sign up to use GitHub.com for research and teaching.

This guide is aimed at...

  • Research staff and students


GitHub are a leading provider of cloud-based source code management and collaboration tools, including great support for version control, issue tracking, and code review, as well as the ability to manage software documentation and websites linked to the source code. GitHub's Free tier allows unlimited public and private repositories to be created. The upgraded Team plan offers some additional features and is available a no cost to students, researchers and teachers at accredited educational institutions such as UCL. This guide explains how to sign up to use GitHub and apply for the free GitHub Teams upgrade. For further information see:

Create a personal account

First, users should create a personal account, using a ucl.ac.uk email address so that you will be able to sign up for free repositories for research. If you have already an account you can also add your UCL email to your GitHub's account. Visit GitHub's website, and fill in your details. Have a look at GitHub's documentation if you need help.

Create an organisation account

If you are a principle investigator (PI) or leading a research group or consortium, or are acting on behalf of one, you have the option to create an organisation account for your research group. Alternatively, you can use UCL's main GitHub organisation.

If you choose this option, have a look at the GitHub's documentation and then create your organisation.

  • You should choose the Free tier for now - we will show you how to upgrade to the Team tier later in this guide.
  • For the organization account name you need to choose a name which has not previously been used by either another organisation or user account. In the contact email field, enter any email address to which you have access. You can also choose whether the organisation will belong to your personal account or will belong to an institution (for example UCL) - the latter will require agreeing to further terms to allow for the institution assuming control of the organisation
  • If you accept the terms of service you should then be able to create the account by clicking the Next button (note the account will be immediately created once you click the button). You will then be given the option to add additional members of the organisation by entering their GitHub usernames - you can also do this later from the organisation's setting pageWe recommend you include the user rc-softdev-admin at this point. You do not have to do this, but if you do, it will help us to support you in your use of GitHub.

If you need only the features available in the Free tier, you can stop here.

The remainder of the instructions should be followed only if you need the additional features the GitHub Team tier offers.

Register your organisation for free GitHub Team upgrade

You should now proceed to request the GitHub education discount to tell GitHub your organisation will be used for research or teaching. Either go to GitHub Education, select Benefits from the top navigation bar and then click the Get teacher benefits button or click this link to go directly to the application page.

  1. Select Teacher

  2. Select your ucl.ac.uk email address in response to the What e-mail address do you use for school? question (or add it to your account if you haven't already).

  3. You may be prompted to upload proof of your academic status by uploading a photo of your UCL ID card or other proof of affiliation - if so follow the instructions on the page to complete this step.

  4. Enter University College London in response to the What is the name of your school? question (it may have already been automatically filled out based on the email address you selected).

  5. For the How do you plan to use GitHub? question you need to give a brief description of your intended research / teaching use case(s) - for example, "Management of researcher-written code for research data analysis, modelling and simulation" or a similar statement appropriate to your work.

  6. Once you have entered all the required information and checked it for accuracy click the submit button. 

If your application is approved you should receive a confirmation email - this may take a few days.

Once your application has been approved you then need to separately upgrade your organisation to GitHub Team plan from the GitHub Global Campus for teachers page by clicking the Upgrade to GitHub Team button in the Upgrade your academic organizations section. After clicking the button you should be presented with a list of organisation you own which can be upgraded to GitHub Team. Click the Upgrade button for the relevant organisation.

Once you have upgraded your organisation, if you have not already done so please add rc-softdev-admin as an owner of the organisation so that we can offer support, keep track of UCL groups' success in receiving the GitHub Team upgrade and produce usage metrics across UCL.

If you are unsuccessful, please get in touch with us at rc-softdev@ucl.ac.uk, so that we can instead add you to the central UCL GitHub organisation.

Accounts for students

If you are an individual student who is not part of a research team, you should not create an organisation, but simply request the Student Development Pack which provides a free GitHub Pro subscription your personal account while you are a student and many other benefits.

UCL GitHub organisation

If you wish to carry out your work as part of the central UCL GitHub organisation, email rc-softdev@ucl.ac.uk, and we will then create a team for you within the UCL organisation. You should expect this to be complete within two working days.

Your email should specify:

  • Your name.
  • Your Github username.
  • Your UCL user ID.
  • A team name for your group, (no spaces).
  • Name and Github username of one or more team maintainers.
  • A repository name for your first project.
  • Confirmation that you have read and understood the terms of use of the central account.

Requests should come from UCL academic staff: research staff and research students should request that their PI or supervisor apply on their behalf, or forward to us confirmation that the PI has read and accepts these terms and conditions.