Sainsbury Wellcome Centre Systems Neuroscience PhD

London, Bloomsbury

Students at the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre study toward a PhD in Systems Neuroscience. You will receive a comprehensive introduction to theoretical and systems neuroscience, as well as intensive training in experimental techniques, including imaging, physiology, molecular, and behavioural methods. You will network extensively with researchers at the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit and a broad variety of other neuroscience research groups at UCL. Applications to this programme must be submitted directly to the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre via our online portal.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
4 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
All applicants: 16 Oct – 20 Nov 2023

Applications closed

Entry requirements

Applicants should have a keen interest in neuroscience combined with an undergraduate degree in a relevant field (for example Neuroscience, Life Sciences, Physics, Mathematics, or Computer Science) at a minimum of upper second-class UK Bachelor’s level or overseas equivalent.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 2

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.

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

Equivalent qualifications

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. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

The Sainsbury Wellcome Centre PhD Programme is designed to provide world-class training in experimental and computational neuroscience, a perfect start for a career in academia or industry.

The first-year courses are taught by faculty from the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit (GCNU), and affiliated institutions, all experts in their respective fields. Right from the start of the programme, this team teaching approach allows students to interact with our faculty. The taught courses will provide you with a solid foundation in systems and theoretical neuroscience, as well as in modern experimental techniques and approaches to data analysis.

Regular large scientific events and informal internal meetings offer a wealth of opportunities to learn about the latest research going on within the Centre and in the larger neuroscience community.

Students in our programme are core to the activities at the Centre, playing a crucial part in organizing seminars, outreach opportunities, and internal learning groups.

Students admitted to the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre PhD Programme are fully funded and receive an annual stipend, as well as funds to support attendance at international courses or meetings. We also cover the cost of tuition fees for home as well as international students.

Who this course is for

We are looking for candidates with a demonstrable interest in neuroscience.

What this course will give you

In the programme, you will work within research labs with world-leading expertise in perception, cognition, planning, decision-making and learning, and corresponding experimental and theoretical techniques. In addition to developing advanced skills in neuroscience research, analysis and writing, you will practice presentation skills, teaching, and managing projects.

The foundation of your career

Alumni from the programme have set up or joined start-ups, and accepted positions in prestigious labs or world-renowned companies.


As a graduate from the Sainsbury Wellcome PhD programme, you will have developed advanced skills in neuroscience research techniques, analysis and writing, public presentations, teaching at university level, and managing projects. These transferable skills are useful also for careers outside of academia.


Sainsbury Wellcome Centre PhD students benefit from shared events with the Gatsby Computational Neuroscience unit and the UCL Neuroscience community as a whole. Students are regularly invited to informal lunches with seminar speakers from around the world. You will also receive a travel and education budget, which allows you to attend international courses and conferences.

Teaching and learning

Lectures, tutorials, journal clubs, hands-on practicals

There are two main assessments for students in the programme; the upgrade from MPhil to PhD, and the PhD examination. Both consist of a written and an oral component. The upgrade normally takes place early in year three, and the PhD examination takes place at the end of the degree.

Courses and talks are scheduled between 9 AM and 5 PM. Hours of self-directed study are flexible.

Research areas and structure

Research environment

Sainsbury Wellcome Centre comprises 14 research groups, focusing on perception, cognition, decisions, learning, and planning. Our state-of-the-art research facilities in central London are close to a wealth of other excellent neuroscience research institutions. You will work alongside outstanding scientists at all career levels and from around the globe, and also have access to on-site core facilities and platforms including advanced microscopy and imaging; advanced manufacturing and innovation, a research fabrication laboratory; high performance computing, and the neurobiological research facility.

Year 1: Courses and rotations. Year 2: Beginning of PhD project, select a supervisory team, write a project proposal, start research. Year 3: Upgrade, continued research. Year 4: Finish research, submit thesis.


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

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £6,035
Tuition fees (2024/25) £34,400

Additional costs

There are no programme-specific additional costs to students.

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

Funding your studies

A number of fully-funded studentships are available each year. Each studentship covers payment of full fees, provides a generous tax-free living stipend and a travel budget for conference/workshop attendance. Studentships are available to students of any nationality.

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

Next steps

All applications must be made directly to the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre by the deadline stated on our website. Details on how to apply are available on the SWC PhD programme website. Late applications will be held until all applications received by the deadline have been assessed. It is very likely that all available positions will be filled by then.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.