UCL Astrophysics Group



We expect to offer several ~3-year studentships in astrophysics, instrumentation, and atmospheric/planetary physics for 2020 entry. Funding opportunities available to candidates depend primarily on nationality, as do fees.

UK/EU candidates

We will automatically consider UK/EU candidates for an appropriate studentship when you apply to us by 24 January 2020

If you are from the UK, or from the EU and meet residency requirements (settled status, or 3 years full-time residency in the UK), you are eligible for a studentship provided by the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC). This pays UK/EU tuition fees and a maintenance (i.e. subsistence) allowance. More details on the studentships, including their value, can be found on the STFC website. Applicants meeting the relevant criteria are automatically considered for a studentship and do not need to apply for a studentship separately.

If you are from the EU but do not meet residency requirements, your fees are still set at the EU/UK rate, but you do not qualify for full STFC support. We normally have a limited number of departmental (non-STFC) studentships that will pay both EU/UK fees and maintenance.  Once again, you will automatically be considered for these positions when you apply for a PhD in the Department, so do not need to make a separate studentship application. Note that Brexit will not impact the availability of these funds for EU nationals.

Applicants whose first language is not English should note the additional requirements in respect of this. Please note that unless you satisfy the requirements mentioned above the department cannot offer you a PhD position (i.e. we are not allowed to make exceptions). We strongly advise that you check whether you meet the requirements, and take any necessary tests such as the IELTS, before making an application; or, if this is not possible, no later than the date of interviews (early March, 2020 in the coming round).

Overseas (non-EU) candidates

If you are from outside the EU, and do not meet UK residency requirements, there is no Departmental funding available, but you may apply for centralised UCL funding schemes. UCL has consolidated information on funding opportunities (along with other information about financial matters), listed here and here. Please note that it is not the Astrophysics Group’s usual policy to accept students who are not supported by officially recognised funding sources - therefore if you do not have such funding, you should first apply for the centralised UCL funding schemes using the instructions below.

The application procedure for these UCL scholarships is quite complex and the awards are highly competitive. Each UCL department is only able to put forward a small number of candidates. Your application will need to proceed through several stages:

  1. You must send a CV to physast.phd@ucl.ac.uk, along with an indication of preferred supervisors and research interests, by 2 December 2019. Because of the competitive nature of these studentships, you are most likely to have a strong chance if you have a track record in the form of awards or publications; please be sure to include this information on your CV. For guidance on possible research topics and supervisors please see our projects page. You are encouraged to contact individual supervisors for more information about their work before submitting your CV. 
  2. We will acknowledge your CV shortly after receipt, and take a decision on further progression through the process by  around mid-December, 2019. Please contact us if you do not receive this acknowledgement. Applicants who are put forward to the next stage will need to complete the formal application at this stage. The committee will provide individual guidance, but note that this full application will need to be completed (and references received) by mid-January 2020
  3. In early February, the final decision is made by the department (including other physics research areas) on which candidates to put forward for the central UCL scheme. A final decision by UCL is normally reached in early March.

Applicants whose first language is not English should note the additional requirements in respect of this. Please note that unless you satisfy the requirements mentioned above the department can not offer you a PhD position (i.e we are not allowed to make exceptions).

ATAS requirements

The Academic Technology Approval Scheme, ATAS, classifies Physics & Astronomy as a 'sensitive subject'. For compliance with ATAS,  applicants from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland are accordingly required to complete an on-line ATAS application, but only after an offer has been made. No action is required, therefore, at the application stage.

Special Instrumentation Studentship Now Available: A special studentship is currently  available, for preferable commencement in September / October 2020, for a student interested in "Modelling of the Performance of the Exo-Planet Characterising satellite ARIEL". The project is centred on the detailed optical modelling (with a good understanding of the underlying thermal aspects) of the satellite and its relation to the expected pointing performance of the spacecraft and how these affect the scientific output of ARIEL instruments throughout the mission. For more details, please see the PDF document below and contact Professor Giorgio Savini. (The student must be eligible for a UK STFC studentship).


PhD Opportunity in Milky Way Science and Galactic Dynamics: Applications are invited for a PhD position in Milky Way science and galactic dynamics at University College London. The successful applicant would work under the supervision of Dr. Jason Sanders on questions regarding the structure, history and evolution of our Galaxy. The main focus of Dr. Sanders' research is using large photometric, astrometric and spectroscopic datasets to characterise the dynamical structure of the Milky Way and in turn reveal its formation history.

How galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time is still an open question in astrophysics. Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, represents one of the only opportunities to study the small-scale dynamical processes that restructure all galaxies and to uncover the detailed history of a single galaxy. Furthermore the Milky Way offers the ideal laboratory for mapping and characterising dark matter on intermediate scales. Recent data from the Gaia astrometric satellite on billions of stars in the Milky Way has invigorated the field and led to rapid developments in our understanding. This data revolution has been further complemented by the arrival of large-scale spectroscopic surveys. A highly-motivated PhD student would work together with Dr Sanders on i) the development and application of new methods for the dynamical modelling of astrometric and spectroscopic data, ii) detailed numerical simulations of Milky-Way-like galaxies, and iii) machine-learning techniques for the synthesis and exploration of the current and future generation of large stellar datasets.

The PhD position is fully funded by the Royal Society and UCL for four years, and is open to UK and EU applicants. The successful applicant would ideally start on 1st October 2020, although a later start date may be possible. Candidates should have an appropriate Masters degree in Physics, Astronomy or Astrophysics. Experience in the areas of dynamics or data science is highly desirable. Potential applicants are encouraged to email Dr. Sanders with any questions (jason.sanders@ucl.ac.uk).

Applications must be submitted by Mon August 31, 2020. Interviews are anticipated to take place during September.

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