Students Staff

Postgraduate research

PhD studentships

Water droplet on the end of a leaf

PhD studentships are now open for 2017 entry - view and apply now. Projects range across the spectrum of our expertise.

Our School provides a stimulating environment for research training and offers opportunities to take up postgraduate studies through MSD, MPhil, MD and PhD research programmes. Our research covers a wide range of areas, from the genome to communities and ecosystems, allowing the opportunity for developing novel ideas and inter-disciplinary projects. Our research is supported by modern, well-equipped facilities managed by trained technicians and research officers.

We offer opportunities for research degrees in the following areas:

Which research degree?

We offer four pathways to a research-based postgraduate degree, all designed to provide graduates with a wide range of transferable skills and employability options.

  • PhD

    A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree consists of a three years (full-time) or six years (part-time programme based on research and study at the highest level, followed by the production of a doctoral thesis.

    All PhD students are initially registered as MPhil/PhD students and you are transferred to a PhD degree in the first half of the second year, subject to satisfactory progress. Admission for a PhD is conditional on the your demonstration of academic excellence, strong motivation and future potential.

  • MSD

    The MSc by dissertation (MSD) involves a minimum of one year of full-time research or two years part-time followed by production of a dissertation. Students enrolled on an MSD programme often upgrade to an MPhil or PhD subject to satisfactory progress and recommendation by the supervisor.

  • MPhil

    An MPhil involves a minimum of two years of full-time research or four years part-time followed by the production of a thesis.

  • MD

    The Doctor of medicine (MD) is a research-based degree for medical doctors and is awarded to clinicians who undertake an independent research programme, usually for a period of two years (full-time) followed by a thesis. The MD degree is co-supervised by an academic member of staff from the University and a Consultant staff member from an NHS Hospital. To be eligible for the MD Degree, you must have a degree in medicine and a strong interest in clinical research.

Research Environment

As one of the largest schools at our University, we offer a lively, friendly and supportive environment. A dedicated study room allows all our postgraduate students to have office space, a desk and a computer outside of the research laboratories. This provides a focal point for our postgraduates, facilitating reading and writing as well as good communication and a sense of community.

As a postgraduate research student, you’re expected to attend and contribute to School and research group seminars. A Graduate Forum, organised by our graduate students, is held each September where students present their research to the School. All of our students are encouraged, and funded, to attend national and international conferences. During the later stages of your PhD, you are expected to present their work at such conferences.

Our School is committed to promoting a positive and inclusive environment for our community of students and staff and holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Departmental Award in recognition of this.

Preparing for your future

A comprehensive training programme is offered to all our postgraduate research students.

The University offers Proficio, an innovative professional development scheme for doctoral students, unique to the University of Essex. Proficio provides funding to spend on a variety of courses, from research skills to personal development and career management.

This is supplemented with tailored training, delivered by the School of Biological Sciences. All new research postgraduates have the opportunity to teach on our undergraduate courses as paid Graduate Laboratory Assistants to gain teaching and supervisory skills.

How to apply

We welcome enquiries and applications from prospective graduate students both from the UK and overseas. As part of the decision making process for applicants a brief interview is required.

Fully-funded PhD studentships are offered throughout the year and will be advertised when they are available. We also welcome self-funded students or those with alternative funding. Please search our research and academic staff pages to contact a potential supervisor directly. Prospective students should contact Emma Revill ( our Graduate Administrator for further information and advice on the application process.

If you are considering a research degree and have questions about financial help available, our University provides more information on current studentship funding opportunities.