UCL Graduate degrees


Cell and Developmental Biology MPhil/PhD

Graduate students work with internationally renowned mentors and are immersed in research at the cutting edge of basic and biomedical science. You will emerge well-trained and well-rounded with outstanding skills that are internationally recognised, poised to take up posts in leading groups around the world.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2021

Modes and duration

Full time: 3 years
Part time: 5 years

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 9 November 2020
Close: 30 July 2021

Tuition fees (2021/22)

£5,525 (FT)
£2,765 (PT)
£26,940 (FT)
£13,520 (PT)

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree in an appropriate subject or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, or a recognised Master’s degree in an appropriate subject.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Good

Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.

Select your country:


The world-leading research groups of the department (Professor John O’Keefe was awarded the 2014 Nobel Prize) study biological questions ranging from molecule to man. These are listed below and are remarkable in their breadth and depth, from fundamental aspects of cell biology through to behaviour, and from key questions in biology to understanding mechanisms of human disease.

Research areas

  • Affective disorders
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Bioinformatics and computational biology
  • Biological clocks/sleep
  • Calcium signalling
  • Cancer cell biology
  • Cell migration
  • Cell signalling and signal transduction mechanisms
  • Early development (e.g. fertilisation, gastrulation, embryonic induction)
  • Evolution and development
  • Intracellular movements: endocytosis, exocytosis, RNA, protein, lipid and organelle traffic
  • Learning, memory and long-term change in the nervous system
  • Left-right asymmetry
  • Live cell imaging
  • Mitochondrial biology
  • Neural crest migration and differentiation
  • Neural development and neural cell biology
  • Neuroaesthetics
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Pain
  • Regeneration and repair
  • Stem cell biology
  • Systems and synthetic biology.
More information can be found on the department website: Cell and Developmental Biology MPhil/PhD

About this degree

Additional costs

Your research degree may be subject to an Additional Fee Element (AFE).  The AFE (also known as bench fees) is an additional cost, incurred by yourself or your sponsor.  It is levied to cover the costs related to consumables, equipment and materials etc which are not included in the tuition fee.  As each research project is unique in nature, the AFE is calculated on a student by student basis and is determined by your academic supervisor.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble accessable.co.uk. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.


Across the School of Life and Medical Sciences there is a wealth of graduate programmes that will bring students into the department. You may approach academic staff individually as there is a variety of intradepartmental options or opportunities to write grant applications for PhD funding.

You may also apply for any of the other programmes listed on our department’s website which are suitable for your skills and interests. These include four-year programmes where the first year is spent taking taught courses or in laboratory rotations before deciding on a final PhD laboratory and project; there are also several three year programmes where you enter the PhD host department directly.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.


Many of our recent graduates have taken up postdoctoral positions, for example in the UK at UCL, Imperial College London and Manchester University; in Europe at San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy, Milan; and across the world at Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Boston and FundRx, New York.  Some have continued their studies, become an FY1 doctor, taken up positions in teaching or at a New York charitable trust; others have progressed to become principal investigators at UCL, Cambridge and New York.


UCL is an internationally recognised and respected institution. A graduate degree from UCL opens up numerous national and international employment opportunities. Most of our graduate students pursue very successful careers in science and medicine. Two of our recent students have been awarded the Beddington Medal.


UCL and its extended network of research institutes are located in the centre of London and surrounded by numerous other research institutions, including the Francis Crick Institute and the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour. Students are encouraged to meet and collaborate extensively with members of these institutions. Regular seminars and training courses encourage interaction across London, the UK and Europe. You’ll regularly attend international conferences, workshops and retreats, providing opportunities for networking with colleagues and potential future employers.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The groups at UCL are world-leading, generating seminal contributions to their fields of study. Students working in the laboratories are welcomed into vibrant groups of enthusiasts, exposed to a wealth of expertise in an extraordinarily open and collaborative scientific community. Access to expert help in almost any conceivable area is available through the extensive network of scientists that makes up the UCL scientific community.

Within the departments there are regular laboratory meetings, project presentations, journal clubs, student-led symposia and other opportunities to hone presentation skills and training, extended through regular seminars from experts around the world and locally organised international symposia.

Department: Cell & Developmental Biology

What our students and staff say

Student review

"The state-of-the-art imaging facilities at UCL particularly impressed me. The three short rotation projects at the start of my PhD were really valuable to me, as this enabled me to try out different projects and work with three different supervisors in a range of laboratory environments. This allowed me to make an informed choice when settling on my final PhD project, which was useful as my final choice ended up being quite different from what I think I might have initially chosen on paper!"

Rachel Bonnington

Cell and Developmental Biology PhD, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology PhD
Staff review

"I was attracted to UCL because of the excellent scientific research in different Life and Medical Sciences departments. My own research focuses on the glial cells of the nervous system and my present interest is on how Schwann cells respond to nerve injury by reprogramming themselves to provide a favourable environment for nerve (axonal) regeneration."

Professor Rhona Mirsky

Cell and Developmental Biology MPhil/PhD
Student review

" My experience in my one year MSc in Neuroscience programme led by Dr. Andrew Batchelor was what sealed my interest in continuing towards a PhD at UCL. Research is a deeply personal endeavour and I truly believe we are only as good as those we surround ourselves with. UCL has surrounded me with excellent, world-class researchers who care deeply about me as a student and who have lifted me up. I think this is fundamentally unique."

Shannon Shibata-Germanos

Cell and Developmental Biology PhD

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

This programme requires two references. Further information regarding references can be found in our How to apply section.

Application deadlines

All applicants
30 July 2021

Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September. Deadlines and start dates can be dictated by funding arrangements for studentships and scholarships, so please check these on the department's website before submitting your application. In most cases you should identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application. For more information please see our How to apply page.

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

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Page last modified on 28 August 2021