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Course essentials

The Institute of Cancer Research offers a prestigious PhD programme for science graduates. This table presents important information about this course.


Science PhD / MPhil

Entry requirements

Science qualifications and relevant lab experience, see Entry requirements

Mode of study

Full-time / part-time

Our PhD places are usually offered on a full-time basis. In rare cases, where a student's personal circumstances make part-time study more appropriate, this may be allowed at the discretion of the primary supervisor and Deputy Dean. However, owing to the fast pace of our research, this may not be feasible for some projects. 

Length of course and possible exit points

Studentship funding is typically for a period of 4 years. There are 2 exit points:
  • MPhil: successful completion of first year, including upgrade report and transfer viva
  • PhD: successful completion of research project, including thesis submission and final viva

Degree-awarding institution

The majority of our students are registered at the ICR, which leads to an award of a PhD from the University of London.

If you are registered at another university (e.g. Imperial College London) you may receive an award from a different institution.

Teaching institution

The majority of our students are taught at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), University of London. The ICR is regulated by the Office for Students.

If you are registered at another university, you may experience teaching elsewhere.

Brief outline of course structure and assessment

Initially, students are registered for an MPhil. After the first year, an upgrade report and oral examination  takes place (known as a transfer viva). Successful students will then be transferred onto PhD registration. 

During years 2 and 3, students' work continues to be reviewed to ensure good progress. See Academic Support for more information.

At the end of the PhD programme (4 years), students will be expected to submit their thesis (~100,000 words) and a final viva takes place.

Possible outcomes from the PhD viva include:

  • pass with no corrections,
  • pass with minor corrections,
  • resubmission of thesis (with or without a further oral examination),
  • further oral examination required,
  • fail (student may be considered for award of MPhil)


All supervisors receive formal training in research degree supervision and attend periodic update sessions. Every supervisory team must include an experienced member of Faculty or Honorary Faculty.  

Studentships are awarded to supervisors based on a number of factors including previous performance and success rate.

Working hours and annual leave


Standard working hours are expected at a minimum (9.30am–5.30pm, with an hour for lunch), although it is understood that the nature of the work requires flexibility and that students may need to work outside these hours. A student and supervisor should agree on what are acceptable working hours.

The total annual leave entitlement for full-time students is 30 days per annum plus public and ICR holidays. It is the responsibility of the student to arrange mutually convenient dates with her/his supervisor(s).

If a student expects to be absent they must inform their supervisor. See the MPhil and PhD Code of Practice for details about absence through prolonged illness and interruptions of study.

Possible locations

The ICR has two dedicated research sites – in Chelsea and Sutton. However, where students are based depends on individual projects and this is something that you should discuss with your supervisor.

Other important information

You must submit your thesis within 4 years. Exceptions to this rule can only be made in very rare circumstances. See the MPhil and PhD Code of Practice for more details.

Key documents

 All key documents can be found on the education policies and strategies page.

ICR values

Our values – developed together as an organisation – make it clear how each and every one of us work to meet our mission – to make the discoveries that defeat cancer.