UCL Division of Medicine



The MBPhD enables students taking a 5-year Primary Medical Qualification (MBBS, MBChB, etc) to conduct a major research project and gain a PhD.

About the programme

This three-year research degree is ideal for budding clinician-scientists with commitment, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn. It sits between MBBS Year 4 and Year 5.

After completing Year 4 of the MBBS programme at UCL, MBPhD students switch to full-time research studies for three years. You re-enter MBBS Years 5 and 6 after submitting your thesis.

A regular clinical teaching programme keeps your clinical skills and knowledge up to date during the research phase.

You may be based in the Division of Medicine or in one of several world-class institutes, such as the Institute of Child Health, the Institute of Neurology, or the Institute of Ophthalmology. You can also choose projects at the Francis Crick Institute and the Cancer Research UK City of London Centre.

MBPhD graduates become professors, research group leaders and consultants based all over the world. Graduates can work in academia, clinical medicine, the pharmaceutical industry, public health planning, or even in financial services around funding for clinical commercial ventures.

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Funding options

You are not expected to apply for your own funding.

You may be matched with a project and supervisor that already has funding (or a funding application) in place. You may also wish to work with a supervisor who you have already worked with and they will need to apply for funding for you.  The MBPhD programme works with a few funders and we may be able to applly for funding from them but the options are limited.

Funding includes a stipend and sometimes tuition fees (home rates) and/or bench fees. If these are not included, we will pursue further funding options for you.

Funding covers tuition fees at the home (UK) rate. For overseas students, we may be able to accept self-funding to cover the difference between overseas fee rates.

As an overseas student, you can either find a supervisor who will fund the difference between home and overseas fees, or apply for another source of funding, or for the Research Excellence Scholarship (which you will need to do during the iBSc year).

Unfortunately, we are unable to accept applications from students whose fees classification is overseas, unless you are currently on the MBBS programme at UCL.

Skyward image of the glass framework, Paul O'Gorman Building, UCL

What you can expect

  • Supervision from world-class clinical academics and institution staff.
  • A programme of continuing medical education, keeping you updated with the clinical side of your degree.
  • One-to-one mentoring, with academic, clinical and pastoral support.

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Are you eligible?

The programme is only available to students who are currently undertaking a full five-year Primary Medical Qualification (MBBS, MBChB or equivalent) at a UK Medical School.

At the point of entry, all successful applicants must have:

  • Completed the first two years of their primary medical qualification.
  • Achieved an upper second- or first-class honours degree (BSc/iBSc).
  • Passed MBBS Year 4 at UCL (first attempt). (External students must also complete MBBS Year 4 at UCL, even if they have already completed an equivalent elsewhere.)
  • For all external applicants: eligibility to continue at their own Medical School and classified as home/UK students for tuition fees purposes.

We also accept Master's degrees (e.g. iMSc), but we will need confirmation of your award or a letter of completion in time to issue your place and enrol you onto our MBBS by 31 July. This can be difficult to achieve. Please check with your institution that your degree will be awarded in time. 

All external applicants must also meet UCL Medical School's entry requirements.  In addition, external applicants should check the information pertaining to transfers to UCL.

This list is not exhaustive. Please contact med.mbphd@ucl.ac.uk for more details.

Selecting a supervisor

Your supervisory panel

You will have a Principal and a Subsidiary Supervisor: your Principal Supervisor must be based at UCL, unless your MBPhD is with The Francis Crick Institute.  All supervisors must be approved by the Faculty Graduate Tutor to undertake supervision before the start of the MBPhD.  The MBPhD Programme Admisitrator can check on the status of any prospective supervisor.  All students have a thesis committee which may also include members of collaborating bodies if they have specific expertise relevant to your research.

You don't need to have a supervisor or project arranged when you apply. We will give you guidance on this once you have been accepted onto the programme.

Selecting a supervisor

Selecting a supervisor is vital, so you need to take your time and get it right.

Firstly, you express an interest in a field. The MBPhD programme tutors will guide you towards suitable potential supervisors or research groups to investigate. Many excellent supervisors may not be immediately obvious.

You can approach anyone. Supervisors are used to these enquiries by email. Keep it short: summarise your current position and your specific interest in a PhD. If the supervisor is interested in your ideas, they will set up a short meeting to chat about your interests.

Golden rules

We recommend three rules that should guide your search for a supervisor:

  1. A track record of international research, with high quality publications. Use PubMed and the IRIS system to confirm the themes of their research and check any research group websites. You want to aim for the research group of a current or future world leader.
  2. Meet before making any decisions. The professional relationship lasts several years. It is helpful to meet and get an idea about what sort of a supervisor they are and whether they will be a good fit for you. You need to be able to get along, but also be inspired and guided.
  3. Meet students in the research group to find out about the group and how your potential supervisor treats them. Ideally, you can get an honest opinion. If there are no students, this may be a cause for concern.

Explore the current projects within the School of Life and Medical Sciences.  There are several projects available to students who are successful in their application to the MBPhD programme and who are awarded CRUK CoL funding for cancer research. 

See which experts have supervised our students.

Your supervisors' duties

Supervisors' duties are listed in the Code of Practice for Graduate Research Degrees.


Project supervisors and MBPhD Programme Tutors will help you identify sources of funding once a project is confirmed. You do not need to explore funding options before applying.

Previous sources of funding include UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, The Astor Foundation, CRUK, The Rosetrees Trust, The London Centre for Nanotechnology, AstraZeneca, and the Royal Free Charitable Trust. Successful applicants can apply for studentships at the Francis Crick Institute. Some projects are supported by grants made directly to supervisors. While funding is not guaranteed, it is not usually an obstruction.

See who has funded our former students

Funding for Year 4 of the MBBS is through the Student Loans Company (SLC). Funding for Years 5 and 6 is via the Government funding mechanisms (currently NHS Student Bursary) in place when you return to the MBBS. Applications to the SLC and NHS Bursary Office remain your responsibility.

We can provide confirmation that the MBPhD is a single integrated degree and the periods of MBBS and PhD registration. We must confirm the award date of the PhD as prior to, or within, the MBBS programme.


Successful funding applications normally result in a scholarship.  Scholarships include:

  • An annual stipend. The maximum stipend is the Wellcome Trust rate.  Most students receive the UCL minimum stipend, which is £19,668 for 2022/23.
  • UCL home level tuition fees
  • A contribution to laboratory costs.

Exact amounts vary by funding body. The department in which you are registered pays your tuition fees (home level). Overseas students must find further funding to cover the difference between home and overseas fees, such as the Research Excellence Scholarship. In most cases, students may use personal/ family resources to fund the difference: please contact MBPhD Administration to discuss.

You can also apply for a wide range of additional funding via the UCL Scholarships & Funding office.

Student Finance England Doctoral Loan

A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs. Students who begin after August 2022 can borrow up to £27,892 (accurate as of January 2023). You need to apply within 9 months of the first day of the last academic year of the course.

How and when to apply

All students embark on the PhD after having successfully completed MBBS Year 4 at UCL (i.e. in the September of the next academic year).

External students must apply for the MBPhD in the year before they begin MBBS Year 4 (or equivalent). For most students, this will be during the IBSc year; for students who already completed an undergraduate degree before starting Medical School, this will be in Year 2.  External students must transfer to UCL for MBBS Year 4 and there are no exceptions to this.  After completing Year 4, you switch to the PhD, before later completing MBBS Year 5 and 6 at UCL.

UCL students: for the 2022/23 application cycle we will accept applications from MBBS Year 4 students, as well as from students in their IBSc year.  MBBS Year 4 students will be applying to begin their PhD in September 2023; IBSc students will be applying to start their PhD in September 2024.  Due to the funding available, for the September 2023 intake, we will only accept applications from MBBS Year 4 students who wish to undertake research in musculoskeletal biology, cancer and kidney disease/ urology.  From the 2023/24 application cycle, and beyond, the MBPhD programme will only accept students applying during their IBSc year, or from MBBS Year 2 if they already hold an undergraduate degree, to start the PhD after having completed MBBS Year 4 in the September of the same calendar year (ie students applying in the Spring of 2024 will be starting their PhD in September 2025).  The Spring of 2023 is the last time we will accept applications from students who are currently in MBBS Year 4 at UCL: thereafter we will no longer accept any applications from Year 4 students.  

What you need

You must submit the following:

  • A signed copy of the application form.
  • Your CV.
  • Two or three references.
  • External applicants require additional documentation - please refer to the guidance notes, below.


Your application requires minimum two references: one from your iBSc / BSc project supervisor or programme lead, and one from your pre-clinical tutor or supervisor.

You may also supply a third reference from a tutor who can comment on your lab skills / practical research ability if this is not reflected by your BSc. Equally, somebody who can comment on any additional research you have done may be useful for the recruitment panel to consider.

If referees intend to submit references directly to MBPhD Administration (med.mbphd@ucl.ac.uk), these must arrive by the deadline. You must note this intention on the application form, or by email to MBPhD Administration, otherwise it will be deemed incomplete.


  • Full details on how to apply are provided in the guidance notes, above
  • Applications should be submitted by email to med.mbphd@ucl.ac.uk.
  • Deadline: 31st March 2023


Important dates

For UCL students in MBBS Year 4 applying to begin the MBPhD in September 2023, and MBBS Year 3 / external transfer students applying to begin in September 2024.

  • Open Day:  The afternoon of Friday 3rd February 2023 at UCL, Bloomsbury Campus - for more information or to attend please see Eventbrite or you can contact med.mbphd@ucl.ac.uk for details.
  • Applications close: Friday 31st March 2023. 
  • Interviews: Thursday 18th May 2023.

Specialist opportunities

Logo for The Francis Crick Institute

If you are accepted on the MBPhD programme, you can apply to conduct PhD research at the Francis Crick Institute. Applications are open from early October to mid-November and from mid-February to mid-March. You will need to apply to the MBPhD programme before starting Year 4 of the MBBS.

Opportunities at The Francis Crick Institute

Logo for the Cancer Research UK, City of London Centre

This unique network provides a crucial pipeline for cancer discovery science. If you are accepted onto the MBPhD, you can apply to conduct research under the supervision of experts at the CRUK CoL Centre. To be considered, please indicate this specific interest in your MBPhD application.

Opportunities at the City of London Centre

Open day: Friday 3rd February 2023, 1.00 - 3.15pm 

Find out about the programme and what life is like as an MBPhD student. Hear from the Programme Lead, Prof Motallebzadeh, from UCL Medical School on the external transfer process, from the Francis Crick Institute, and meet former and current students. You will have the chance to ask questions and interact with faculty and current students. This event is suitable for:

  • UCL MBBS Year 4 students who are considering applying for 2023 entry.
  • UCL MBBS Year 3 (iBSc) students who are considering applying for 2024 entry.
  • UCL MBBS Year 1 & 2 students wanting a feel for the programme with a view to applying in the future.
  • External students in MBBS/ MBChB Year 3 (iBSc).

The event is in person at the Bloomsbury campus of UCL. For further information or to sign up, please go to our Eventbrite page or contact med.mbphd@ucl.ac.uk  

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Supervisors and funders

See who has supervised past MBPhD projects and which organisations have provided funding support.

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MBPhD thesis prize

See our winners of the Cordwainers Prize, which is awarded for the Best MBPhD Thesis of the Year.

Key contacts

  • Academic and Clinical Lead: Prof. Reza Motallebzadeh
  • Programme Administrator: Carolyn Cohen (med.mbphd@ucl.ac.uk), UCL Dept. of Renal Medicine, Royal Free, 1st Floor/Room 1670, Rowland Hill Street, London, NW3 2PF.