UCL Graduate degrees


Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour PhD

Students at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre (SWC) study toward a PhD in Systems Neuroscience. The four-year programme starts with a semester of coursework followed by up to three laboratory rotations. At the beginning of the second year, students select a PhD project and advisor.


Key information

Programme starts

September 2020

Modes and duration

Full time: 4 years

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 1 November 2019
Close: 17 November 2019

Tuition fees (2020/21)

£5,365 (FT)
£26,160 (FT)

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.

Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in neuroscience, life sciences or related degrees, including physics, mathematics and computer science. Bachelor’s level or overseas equivalent. Applicants should demonstrate a keen interest in neuroscience.

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

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:


Our students receive a comprehensive introduction to theoretical and systems neuroscience, as well as intensive training in experimental techniques, including imaging, physiology, molecular, and behavioural methods in systems neuroscience.

The Programme is taught by SWC faculty and colleagues at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit and other affiliates, all experts in their respective fields. Gatsby and SWC students overlap extensively during the Programme, building the foundations for long-lasting collaborations and friendships.

You will work in central London, with the highest concentration of neuroscience research in the world.

SWC students are fully funded and receive an annual stipend, as well as funds to attend international courses or meetings. We also cover tuition fees for home and international students.

Please see our website for more information.

Research areas

  • Cellular logic of sensory circuits
  • Circuits for sensory-motor transformation
  • Computation of instinctive decisions
  • Molecular genetics of behaviour
  • Neural circuits for sensory processing and sensory-guided behaviours
  • Neural mechanisms of intelligence
  • Organisation of circuits for cortical information processing
  • Spatial and ethological memory

More information can be found on the department website: Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour PhD

About this degree


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


SWC students are fully funded and will receive an annual tax-free stipend of £22,278, equivalent to the Wellcome PhD programme.

SWC also covers the cost of tuition fees for home/EU students and international students.

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


Why study this degree at UCL?

The SWC will provide intensive training in experimental techniques, including imaging, physiology, molecular, and behavioural methods in systems neuroscience. First-year students will build their own two-photon microscope, implement a 1,000 channel in vivo recording system, design viral tools for circuit tracing, and develop a closed-loop behaviour assay.

We will provide (together with our colleagues in the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit) a comprehensive introduction to theoretical and systems neuroscience. Gatsby and SWC students will overlap extensively during their first year with the opportunity to maintain these contacts throughout their PhD.

You will live and work in central London, among the highest concentration of neuroscience research in the world. The SWC PhD is your opportunity to receive world-class training as a neuroscientist and launch a career in academia or industry.

Department: Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour

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.

Application deadlines

All applicants
17 November 2019

Applications for our 2020 cohort open on Monday 9 September 2019.

To apply visit http://www.ucl.ac.uk/adminsys/search/ and search for the 2020-21 academic year of the RRDSWNSYSN19 programme by selecting the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre as the department.  

Please complete the online application form and upload:

  • A current CV;
  • Transcripts or qualification certificates and, if available, GRE scores;
  • A 1,000 word essay focusing on what you see as a key unanswered question in neuroscience.  Please discuss why you are interested in this question, how you would approach its solution, and what impact finding a solution would have for our understanding the brain.     

Deadline: midnight, Sunday 17 November 2019.

Please ensure your given referees are able to provide a reference by the deadline.

We will use the email address given in your application for correspondence so ensure that you will still have access to it at the start of the next academic year.

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

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Page last modified on 31 July 2020