UCL Division of Biosciences


4-year PhD in Neuroscience

funded by the Wellcome Trust & MRC

Guidelines on submitting your application


In order for us to process your application efficiently, please read all of these guidelines carefully.

(1) Is it worth applying for this programme?

This is a highly competitive programme. Normally, successful applicants

(a) have, or expect to get, a UK 1st class or high upper second class degree, or the foreign equivalent of this (we cannot consider anyone with a lower 2nd, even if they have subsequently done well in an MSc, and the low end of the upper second range is also unlikely to be successful);

(b) if your first language is not English then, if accepted onto the programme, you would need to provide evidence of a suitable level of competence in English (this proof can be provided after an offer of a place has been made - you do not need to have it when you apply).

but UCL prefers the IELTS qualification , and for our programme you need to have passed at the "Good" level, i.e. an overall grade of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each of the subtests.

(c) they are in the top 20% of their peer group for exam marks;

(d) if a non-EU student, they have a credible plan for paying the non-EU fees - if this involves applying for a UCL award to cover the fees, it is essential to have or expect to get a 1st class degree.

(2) How do I apply?

We accept applications only by e-mail, to the address: NeuroPhD@ucl.ac.uk

Make sure you receive an email from us confirming arrival of your application.

We very strongly advise you to submit your application at least one week before the deadline, to allow time for e-mail corruptions, tardy referees, lost documents and other problems to be sorted out. We will not extend the deadline for receiving readable applications and references under any circumstances. Applications received earlier in the year than November will be processed in November.

Please ensure that your surname (i.e. family name) is the first word in the subject line of the e-mail, both for your application and for references sent by your referees.

When applying make sure that you and your referees agree on what your surname (family name) is(!) and make sure that all documents for your application arrive with the same name - this is particularly important for applicants with Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese names. Sometimes applicants' documents arrive with a variety of last names, making it easy for them not to become associated with each other here, and thus preventing us assessing applicants properly.

You need to ask your referees to e-mail their references to NeuroPhD@ucl.ac.uk and to check with them that they have done so by the deadline. If your references arrive late, they cannot be considered when assessing your application. We strongly advise you to arrange for your referees to send their references at least 1 week before the deadline. Each year some applications arrive without at least 2 academic referees having submitted references; these incomplete applications are usually simply rejected. After asking your referees to send in their references, please do not email us to ask if they have arrived - instead ask your referees if they received an acknowledgement.

(3) What is needed in my application?

Your application should consist of a CV, a statement of why you want to do the 4 year PhD in Neuroscience at UCL (1 to a maximum of 2 pages long), and at least two academic references (the references should normally be sent by the referees, separately from the CV and statement).

The two (or more) referees should send their statements directly to NeuroPhD@ucl.ac.uk but, if this is (in exceptional cases) impossible, then you can send them yourself with an explanation and we will check their validity later. Please combine the CV (first) and statement (second) into a single Word file (strongly preferred) or a pdf file. When naming the file, make your surname the first word of the file name and do not include any punctuation in the file name (other than .doc or .pdf). Do not compress files - we do not accept zipped or RAR or SkyDrive files and you will have to submit your application again.

Please make sure that the files you submit are not larger than 1MB in size, because they cause problems with our automated email system. Thus, it is not necessary to include ultra high resolution pictures of yourself on the CV, and scans of transcripts (if provided) should be adjusted in resolution to be less than 1MB).

(4) How do I prepare my CV and statement?

Please follow these instructions carefully.

Start your CV with your name and all your contact details, including e-mail address and phone number. Give your date and place of birth.

Next, give your educational history, starting with your university degrees and running backwards in time to your school exams. In this section you must state the dates and grades obtained in both your final undergraduate degree exams (if you have finished them already - state your degree result both as a class and a percentage grade or GPA) and grades for individual exams at the end of each year. Please state the grades for your degree (and components of it) here, even if you append a full trancript with all your individual grades. For non-UK degrees, if possible please include an estimate of what percentage of students attain the grade that you got (e.g. top 20%, 10% etc). Please include your final school exam subjects and grades. If English is not your first language include the results of any English tests that you have taken.

Then include other items you want to have in your CV, including any previous experience relevant to the application.

Note that we strongly discourage submission of a "Europass" style CV, in which information is detailed in a different order to that specified above.

Append your statement of why you want to do the PhD to the end of your CV, so it is all in one file.

E-mail the merged file to NeuroPhD@ucl.ac.uk and ask your referees to send their references to the same address, as soon as possible and before the closing date (ideally at least one week before - see above).

At this stage you do not need to fill in the online UCL application.

(5) How good does my degree result need to be?

Our funders require that you have at least an upper 2nd class of degree (or foreign equivalent). We cannot consider applicants with a lower second degree, even if they have subsequently done well in an MSc, and the low end of the upper second range is also unlikely to be successful. For non-EU applicants who would need to apply for a scholarship to pay the non-EU fees, you would need to have a first class degree and extremely good references.

(6) Are transcripts necessary?

They are optional: as noted above, you should include in your CV a summary of the grades you have got in your final school exams and university courses, but you may in addition send a scan of your transcripts (no file over 1MB please). Note that legally certified transcripts are not needed at the application stage (they will be checked later if you are selected). If English is not your first language include a scan (<1MB) of the results of any English tests that you have taken.

(7) Can foreign students apply?

Yes, many foreign students have been accepted into the programme. They receive the normal stipend, research and travel costs, and the EU component of their fees is paid, but non-European Union citizens have to pay the extra non-EU fees (currently an extra ~£16,000 per year) either themselves or by obtaining scholarship funding. Furthermore, all candidates who are selected for the Programme must be interviewed.

(8) Are telephone interviews possible?

No. However, we may be able to help with the cost of coming to UCL for interview, and for students outside Europe we sometimes can interview by Skype.

(9) I'm doing an undergraduate degree in physics or chemistry or engineering or psychology - can I use the first year to convert to Neuroscience?


(10) Does my age matter?


(11) I will be away at the time of the interviews (late January/early February).

Contact us: we may be able to interview early.

(12) I have another PhD offer, which needs a decision before you decide on your studentships.

Ask them to wait (they usually will); if not, contact us.

(13) Can I come to visit the programme before the interviews?

We only conduct visits for students at the time of the interviews, when shortlisted applicants will meet supervisors and students on the programme and visit labs.

(14) If I am offered a place, how long do I have to decide

You would have 7-10 days, depending on the date we send out offers. After accepting a place we ask you to withdraw all other applications for PhD places. Thus, you need to have thought in advance about whether you will accept a place if offered one, and we cannot wait for replies (for example) from universities in the United States that you have applied to.

(15) I am a non-EU student - how do I pay the non-EU fees?

Please do not apply for UCL's ORS awards. Instead, we have some funds to pay your non-EU fees that we will activate if you are successful in gaining a place on the programme, and if you are unsuccessful in applying for any other scholarships that you may be eligible for. Please, therefore, do not write to ask questions about non-EU fees - this issue will be sorted out only after you have been offered a place on the PhD programme.

(16) I have my own money to fund the fees and living expenses of my PhD. Can I be admitted to the programme?

Students, other than the 6 funded each year by the Wellcome Trust and MRC, may be admitted to the 4 year PhD Programme in Neuroscience, provided the following conditions are met.  

1. Students must meet the necessary academic standard. Assessment of this will always involve interview by the 4 year Programme Committee, preferably at the same time as other applicants are considered (late January - February each year). If students are not ranked within the top 12 of all the applicants, they will not be accepted onto the Programme. Since entry onto the Programme is highly competitive, we recommend that applications are made only from students who have obtained, or are likely to obtain, a 1st or a good upper 2nd class degree in their undergraduate studies. 

2. Students cannot be accepted if their funding ties them to a particular supervisor for the PhD part of the course. Final allocation of students to 3-month-rotation and PhD supervisors will be made by the 4 year Programme Committee in consultation with the student and the supervisor that they wish to work with. Students must do all the coursework that the Programme Committee suggests.  

3. The financial obligations of being on the 4 year Programme are approximately as follows. For 4 years funds are needed to pay: fees to UCL (~ £4000/year for European Union citizens); living expenses to the student (our other students initially receive approximately £23,000/year, increasing by about £1000/year); research expenses (£10000/year); and costs of travelling to scientific meetings (£400/year). The total needed for the 4 years is thus around £155,000 for an EU student and about £64,000 more for a non-EU student because of the extra non-EU fees. The research and travel expenses part of this funding will be administered by the 4 year Programme Committee in conjunction with the supervisors that the students work with.