MPhil/PhD Biological Sciences

Duration MPhil: Full time 2-3 years; Part time 4-5 years
PhD: Full time 3-4 years; Part time 6-7 years
Discipline
  • Biosciences
LocationCornwall (Penryn)
Start date September, January or April See note

Overview

"I love my PhD"

PhD student Nicole Goodey tells us about her research and why she loves her PhD. View full size.

"I love my PhD"

PhD student Paul Hopwood tells us about his research and why he loves his PhD. View full size.

Successfully completing an MPhil or PhD entails undertaking an in-depth study of a particular topic and making an original contribution to knowledge in the field. Our MPhil/PhD students are actively involved in work at the cutting edge of all research activities within Biosciences at the University of Exeter.

We are a rapidly expanding centre for Biosciences research and engage in a wide variety research. On our Penryn Campus in Cornwall, the Centre for Ecology and Conservation has a thriving and dynamic population of MPhil and PhD students. A diverse range of topics are studied by our students, who work at sites around the UK (from Scotland to Cornwall) and around the world (from South Africa, to Gabon, the Cayman Islands, to Cyprus, and Australia, to the Arctic).

The Centre for Ecology and Conservation has more than 50 academic staff, including several independent Research Fellows, and a dynamic community of postdoctoral researchers and PhD research students funded by research councils, industry and charities; information about individuals’ research interests is available via our staff profile web pages. We have state-of-the-art research facilities and aim to create a stimulating environment in which to undertake an MPhil/PhD.

South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP)

The University of Exeter is part of the South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership, one of a limited number of doctoral training partnerships funded by the BBSRC to provide PhD training across the UK in areas of strategic relevance. The partnership comprises the universities of Bristol, Bath and Exeter, together with Rothamsted Research, and provides training in two key areas: food security, and world-class bioscience. Find details of the studentships offered as part of this partnership, alongside current funding opportunities for our Biosciences PhD programmes.

Postgraduate training and support

The University of Exeter is committed to ensuring that its research students are given the training and support to develop high-level professional skills required for careers in academia, commercial or public sectors.

On our Penryn Campus, there are several training options open to our students, including grant and fellowship application workshops, intensive programmes highlighting ways in which to help get scientific literature published, and training in statistical programming.

You can also find out more about the options available to research students at the University of Exeter on our Research Opportunities and Careers webpages, including the University’s Researcher Development Programme which offers an extensive choice of training and development events exclusively designed for our PhD students.

Programme structure

The normal study mode is full-time, however home/EU students may be able to study part-time. Visa regulations normally prevent international students from following this option, although it may be possible to undertake your research at a distance via split site study. This involves spending the majority of your time in your home country, although you will normally be expected to attend the University for limited periods and you will need to prove you have access to appropriate academic facilities locally such as libraries, labs, computers and desk space. Split site students are normally employed by, or registered with, a local institution, but receive support and supervision from staff at the University of Exeter.

Duration of study

Up to 4 years full-time, including submission and completion; up to 7 years part-time, including submission and completion

MPhil

The MPhil takes two to three years full-time to complete. Embarking on an MPhil and then progressing to a PhD does not increase the overall study period – you will still complete your thesis by the end of the third year of study.

PhD

The normal duration for a full-time PhD is three years full-time. This involves undertaking the research and writing the thesis. After the thesis is complete, some work may be required into the fourth year to prepare and undertake the viva (oral) examination and make any necessary amendments to the thesis.

Our research studies culture

As a member of the Russell Group, the University of Exeter has a worldwide standing for its research excellence and impact. This outstanding reputation is exemplified within Biosciences, which is ranked in the top 10 in the UK for world-leading and internationally excellent research.^

Join a thriving research community

The Penryn Campus in Cornwall is a modern, vibrant environment that has benefitted from an extensive investment programme in recent years. As well as outstanding facilities, we have recruited some of the world’s leading academics in the fields of evolution, behaviour, ecology and conservation biology, who bring a culture of research excellence, dedication and success. With state-of-the-art laboratories, and the ideal ‘natural laboratory’ on our doorstep in Cornwall, we provide the very best environment in which to succeed.

A dynamic and supportive environment

The hallmark of Biosciences in Cornwall is our dynamic, thriving and innovative research environment. Our academics enjoy an international reputation of excellence, and are passionate and enthusiastic about their research and teaching. You will be challenged to produce outstanding research, but in turn will enjoy a truly rewarding experience.

Accessible and world-leading supervisors

We adopt a tailored supervision approach to help best suit your requirements. Supervisors are easily accessible, and are enthusiastic about working directly with postgraduate research students. You will have regular meetings with your supervisory team, other members of your research group, and mentors. In addition, academics strive to ensure a quick turnaround to submissions and queries from students. Biosciences is committed to the Athena SWAN charter to promote opportunities for women – working and studying – in the STEM/M subjects in higher education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine).

An active event schedule

Your postgraduate experience is enhanced by a diverse array of generic and subject-specific training, and programmes of seminars and lectures from visiting speakers. There is a weekly research seminar series that is attended by postgraduate research students and academics. You will also get involved in supporting the delivery of our teaching programmes. Each opportunity is designed to ensure that you are embedded in a thriving research-led culture, and to support your training and development as a successful researcher.

^Research Excellence Framework 2014 based on the percentage of research categorised as 4* and 3*

Research training

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to MPhil/PhD students, including both universal transferable skills and research specific training. These opportunities are either provided by Biosciences staff, or colleagues from the University’s Researcher Development Programme.

There are also a wide range of events, workshops and targeted sessions available throughout the year. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.

We also organise a series of research seminars featuring internal and external speakers, held each week during term time. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences, which are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

PhD and MRes students based at the Penryn Campus also have a number of traditional training options open to them:

Training in ‘R’

'R' is the most widely used statistical programming language in Biology. This four day workshop at the beginning of the semester is run every year; any students who wish for additional training can also enquire about longer training options. Contact Dr David Hodgson for further details.

Critical readings in contemporary Biological literature

This reading and discussion group selects various general biology texts for thorough dissection and meets once a week for 20 weeks. Contact Professor Tom Tregenza for further details.

Grant and fellowship applications

This one day workshop focuses on NERC & Royal Society Grants, but also covers grants available to graduate students such as Genetic Society, ASAB etc. Contact Dr John Hunt for further details.

Publishing scientific literature

Biosciences currently has a number of staff who are, or have been, editors of journals focusing on areas complementary to the research work of Cornwall Biosciences groups. This day-long training programme calls on their expertise, covering both practical and structural aspects of getting published, reviewing and dealing with reviews. Contact Professor David Hosken for more details.

Careers

We are committed to ensuring you receive high quality research supervision to maximise your scientific potential and prepare you for a rewarding future, whatever your chosen career path. While many of our research degree graduates choose to continue their scientific research, others have embarked on careers in a variety of other sectors.

Some examples of recent destinations of our research students include (Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond):

Job TitleOrganisation

Environmental Scientist
Executive Director
Fish Biologist
Marine Biologist
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscop
Performance Analyst
Postdoctoral Fellow
Research Fellow
Scientific Researcher
Technical Development Engineer
Trainee Patent Attorney

AstraZeneca, UK
British Trust for Ornithology, UK
Devon and Cornwall Police, UK
Harvard University, USA 
Institute of Cancer Research, UK
Jacobs and Babtie, UK
National Institute of Agronomic Research (INRA), France
Oberthur Technologies, UK
Royal Haskoning, UK
Toledo Institute for Development and Environment, Belize
University of Exeter
Utila Centre for Marine Ecology, Honduras

Entry requirements 2017

Applicants will typically hold (or be expected to attain) a First Class or Upper Second Class degree in biology or a related subject (or equivalent qualifications from other countries). However, specific requirements may vary and prospective applicants should contact the team on pgr-cles-admissions@exeter.ac.uk, or by calling +44 (0)1392 723310.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.

TOEFL IBT*

Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Start date

You can start in September, January or April but we strongly encourage a you to enrol in Term 1 in September as induction events are focused around this start date. However, we do permit MSc by Research/MPhil/PhD students to enrol either at the start of Term 1, Term 2 or Term 3 (see the University's term dates), or on the 1st of any other month except August, September and October.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2017/18

  • UK/EU: £4,400 full-time; £2,200 part-time
  • International: £19,050 full-time

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

Funding

Our Postgraduate Funding webpage provides links to further information. If you are considering a PhD in the future, in addition to University of Exeter funding, Biosciences have been successful at securing postgraduate funding for PhD research through our Funded centres.

Funding opportunities

Find out about current funding opportunities for our Biosciences research programmes.

Contact us

We welcome enquiries about the degree, for further information contact:

Email: pgr-cles-admissions@exeter.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 1392 725150

Potential applicants should first identify a member of academic staff who may be a suitable supervisor, and contact them by email to discuss possible directions for a research proposal. The research proposal must be agreed by the supervisor before an application to study can be made.

Programme structure

The normal study mode is full-time, however home/EU students may be able to study part-time. Visa regulations normally prevent international students from following this option, although it may be possible to undertake your research at a distance via split site study. This involves spending the majority of your time in your home country, although you will normally be expected to attend the University for limited periods and you will need to prove you have access to appropriate academic facilities locally such as libraries, labs, computers and desk space. Split site students are normally employed by, or registered with, a local institution, but receive support and supervision from staff at the University of Exeter.

Duration of study

Up to 4 years full-time, including submission and completion; up to 7 years part-time, including submission and completion

MPhil

The MPhil takes two to three years full-time to complete. Embarking on an MPhil and then progressing to a PhD does not increase the overall study period – you will still complete your thesis by the end of the third year of study.

PhD

The normal duration for a full-time PhD is three years full-time. This involves undertaking the research and writing the thesis. After the thesis is complete, some work may be required into the fourth year to prepare and undertake the viva (oral) examination and make any necessary amendments to the thesis.

Our research studies culture

As a member of the Russell Group, the University of Exeter has a worldwide standing for its research excellence and impact. This outstanding reputation is exemplified within Biosciences, which is ranked in the top 10 in the UK for world-leading and internationally excellent research.^

Join a thriving research community

The Penryn Campus in Cornwall is a modern, vibrant environment that has benefitted from an extensive investment programme in recent years. As well as outstanding facilities, we have recruited some of the world’s leading academics in the fields of evolution, behaviour, ecology and conservation biology, who bring a culture of research excellence, dedication and success. With state-of-the-art laboratories, and the ideal ‘natural laboratory’ on our doorstep in Cornwall, we provide the very best environment in which to succeed.

A dynamic and supportive environment

The hallmark of Biosciences in Cornwall is our dynamic, thriving and innovative research environment. Our academics enjoy an international reputation of excellence, and are passionate and enthusiastic about their research and teaching. You will be challenged to produce outstanding research, but in turn will enjoy a truly rewarding experience.

Accessible and world-leading supervisors

We adopt a tailored supervision approach to help best suit your requirements. Supervisors are easily accessible, and are enthusiastic about working directly with postgraduate research students. You will have regular meetings with your supervisory team, other members of your research group, and mentors. In addition, academics strive to ensure a quick turnaround to submissions and queries from students. Biosciences is committed to the Athena SWAN charter to promote opportunities for women – working and studying – in the STEM/M subjects in higher education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and Medicine).

An active event schedule

Your postgraduate experience is enhanced by a diverse array of generic and subject-specific training, and programmes of seminars and lectures from visiting speakers. There is a weekly research seminar series that is attended by postgraduate research students and academics. You will also get involved in supporting the delivery of our teaching programmes. Each opportunity is designed to ensure that you are embedded in a thriving research-led culture, and to support your training and development as a successful researcher.

^Research Excellence Framework 2014 based on the percentage of research categorised as 4* and 3*

Research training

There are a wide range of training opportunities available to MPhil/PhD students, including both universal transferable skills and research specific training. These opportunities are either provided by Biosciences staff, or colleagues from the University’s Researcher Development Programme.

There are also a wide range of events, workshops and targeted sessions available throughout the year. These include quantitative biology and statistics, demonstrator training and various aspects of safety, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking, teamworking, and career management.

We also organise a series of research seminars featuring internal and external speakers, held each week during term time. You will be encouraged to attend additional optional courses, graduate schools and conferences, which are arranged through discussion with supervisors on an individual basis.

PhD and MRes students based at the Penryn Campus also have a number of traditional training options open to them:

Training in ‘R’

'R' is the most widely used statistical programming language in Biology. This four day workshop at the beginning of the semester is run every year; any students who wish for additional training can also enquire about longer training options. Contact Dr David Hodgson for further details.

Critical readings in contemporary Biological literature

This reading and discussion group selects various general biology texts for thorough dissection and meets once a week for 20 weeks. Contact Professor Tom Tregenza for further details.

Grant and fellowship applications

This one day workshop focuses on NERC & Royal Society Grants, but also covers grants available to graduate students such as Genetic Society, ASAB etc. Contact Dr John Hunt for further details.

Publishing scientific literature

Biosciences currently has a number of staff who are, or have been, editors of journals focusing on areas complementary to the research work of Cornwall Biosciences groups. This day-long training programme calls on their expertise, covering both practical and structural aspects of getting published, reviewing and dealing with reviews. Contact Professor David Hosken for more details.

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Athena SWAN

We have made a commitment to gender equality for all our staff and students and the University of Exeter has been granted a Bronze Athena SWAN award. Find out more about our pledge to the Athena SWAN charter.

"I love my PhD"

PhD student Beatrice Downing tells us about her research and why she loves her PhD. View full size.