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How to apply for a PhD studentship

Successful candidates will undertake a four-year research training programme under the guidance of a team of our world-class researchers.

Key information 

  • ICR-funded studentships are open to candidates of all nationalities.
  • The majority of our science PhD projects are fully funded studentships, which cover tuition fees, project running costs and a tax-free stipend for living expenses. 

Browse PhD projects

Student Recruitment System


 Before you apply

  • Identify studentships of interest on the PhD project list
  • Check when the application deadline is - different projects may have different deadlines
  • Make sure you meet all the entry requirements, including English skills
  • Check the fees and funding

PhD entry requirements

Applications for PhDs are invited from talented graduates or final year undergraduates.

Studentship funding is typically for a period of up to four years, and comes from the ICR and funding bodies such as The Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK, industrial partners, and other charities.

You are welcome to apply wherever in the world you are currently based. We particularly welcome British applicants from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds, as they are underrepresented at PhD level, both within the ICR and nationwide.

You can apply for multiple recruitment rounds, and you can apply where you have been previously unsuccessful. Your application will not be disadvantaged in either case.

For full details of our academic and English language eligibility criteria, please read our PhD entry requirements.

PhD entry requirements

Fees and funding

The majority of our science PhD projects are fully funded studentships, which cover:

  • tuition fees
  • project running costs
  • a tax-free stipend for living expenses (currently £23,000 per year, rising to £25,000 per year in October 2023 for most projects)

Students applying with their own funding in place will pay tuition fees and project running costs.

For more information, read our tuition fees guidance:

Tuition fees guidance

Information for international/EU applicants

All ICR-funded studentships are open to candidates irrespective of nationality.

Occasionally there are nationality restrictions placed on studentships by Research Councils and alternative funding streams, but this will be clearly stated on the advert and ICR website.

Tuition fees

The Institute of Cancer Research will pay tuition fees for most students that have been awarded fully-funded studentships.

The exception to this is:

These projects can only be offered to international or EU candidates where self-sourced funding is in place to cover international tuition fees.

Please see the UK Council for International Student affairs (UKCISA) website for clarification on what your fee status is.


EEA students will now need to apply for a visa to study in the UK. Students from the Republic of Ireland do not need to apply for a visa.

The Institute of Cancer Research has been granted a Student sponsor licence by the Home Office and can issue you with a Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies to support Student route immigration applications. The Registry team is contactable at [email protected] and will support you through the visa process as far as possible.

Additionally the UKCISA website is a good source of information on Brexit and its impact on international students. For the avoidance of doubt, it is your responsibility to apply for a visa and to ensure that you have a correct visa before travelling to the UK.

More information on Visas and Immigration

Overseas qualifications

The supervisors who will read your application are experienced at considering overseas candidates and different education systems. The Registry team can support supervisors using resources such as The National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (now Ecctis) to provide guidance on overseas qualifications and education systems.

You can also use the ‘Research Interests’ and ‘Additional Information’ parts of the application form to explain anything about your qualifications that may be unclear, or to highlight results that you think deserve notice. You will also have the opportunity to upload certificates and transcripts to help our supervisors and the Registry team clarify anything. 

More information for International Students

Information for disabled applicants

The Institute of Cancer Research welcomes applications from students with disabilities. We are committed to providing the highest quality support for those who need it.

More on welfare and disability support

The application process

Fill out your application on the Student Recruitment System.

You will need to:

  • Select the relevant recruitment round(s)
  • Provide two references
  • Submit your application by the deadline specified on the project.

When you submit your application you will receive an acknowledgment email from [email protected], and your referees will be will be contacted immediately.

If you are selected for interview, you will be contacted by the ICR Registry via email with further information. Unfortunately, because of the volume of applications we receive, it is not possible to contact all applicants to advise them if they have been unsuccessful, or provide feedback as to why.

For questions about the application process please contact [email protected].

Providing references

Key information about your referees

  • You will need to provide two references.
  • Ask your referees if they can provide a reference for you before you submit your application.
  • Both referees should be individuals that can comment on your suitability as a PhD student, for example because they have had input in, or have supported your most recent degree or research project.
  • At least one of the references should be academic. This means the referee should be someone who can comment on your academic ability and suitability for further study.
  • Referees will be asked to comment on things such as examination performance, practical work, time management, your ability to express ideas orally and in writing, reliability, initiative, independent work, and self-motivation. 
  • Your referees will be contacted automatically when you submit your application. They will receive an email from [email protected] with full instructions on how to provide your reference.
  • The reference deadline is usually one week after the application deadline.
  • We do not accept references from employment agencies as they are not able to comment on your suitability for a PhD project.

Using the same referees when applying to two concurrent recruitment rounds

  • You should input the referee details in exactly the same way in both applications. Ensure the contact details and names are identical.
  • Your referees will receive an email asking for a reference for each recruitment round you apply to. However, once they have submitted a reference for one of the rounds, they will have the option to automatically pull through the previous reference they submitted for you on the other rounds.
  • It can be worth explaining to your referees this is how it will work and that they should follow the new link to enable the second application to be populated.

Changing your referee details

If your referee is unable to fill out the reference for you, we can change your referee details to another individual. Please send this request along with the full name and contact details for your new referee to [email protected] and we will change this on the system as soon as we can. Your new referee will be emailed immediately. 

Missing the reference deadline

We should receive your references by the reference deadline. Your referees can continue to add the reference to your application after the deadline and your application may still be considered, however your application will be under review by recruiting supervisors with whatever references have been submitted by this time. 

No applicant will be invited to interview unless both references have been received.

Contacting supervisors

Please do not contact our recruiting supervisors directly. All our studentships are recruited using our online Student Recruitment System and only applications we receive through this system can be considered.

The recruiting supervisor will see your application there. You should not send CVs to supervisors outside of our recruitment system. This helps us to ensure fair recruitment.

Any questions you have about the recruitment process, or your application can be addressed to [email protected].

We do provide detailed project proposals which should answer many of the technical questions you might have. There will be opportunities for networking and questions for recruiting supervisors further on during the application process. As a result and we discourage contact at this stage.

Project preferences

When applying for a PhD at the ICR our recruiting supervisors are assessing the quality of candidates during the application sifting and shortlisting stages. In general, they will be looking at if you would be a great PhD student at the ICR. As such there is no implied order of project preference.

If there are particular projects that have strongly motivated your application, please detail this in the ‘Research Interests’ section of your application. You must select three projects to submit your application.  

If we progress with your application there will be opportunities to change your preferences after panel interview, and again after one-to-one interviews after you have had a chance to meet with and learn more about recruiting supervisors and the projects they are offering.

If you are applying for the ICR and Imperial Convergence Science PhD programme your project choices will be used to inform the shortlisting process and used to plan the recruitment process if you progress to the interview stage. 

Supporting evidence

The associated documents that we ask for alongside the application form, such as your university transcripts and project summaries, are used by the Registry team to check your eligibility. They are also provided to supervisors as a separate document, to understand more about the specific content of your degree.

You do not need to send or attach a CV as the information you will complete in the Student Recruitment System is sufficient for us to evaluate your application as a whole.

There is an opportunity to provide detail about your employment history in the ‘Additional Information’ part of the application. You can also use the ‘Research Interests’ part of the application to highlight where your degree, or technical experience and expertise make you a good fit for research at the ICR, or on a specific project.

You should not attach personal photos of yourself to documents that you upload to the student recruitment system. Where you are shown in a document, such as a transcript, please obscure the image.

The interview process

If shortlisted, you will be invited to attend a panel interview, which is the first part of our recruitment process. We will contact you to ask if you need any adjustments before the event.

Interview dates

If you apply in October/November, the interviews will be scheduled for January, with the exact dates clearly detailed on the website. Candidates that progress to the panel interview stage will get the opportunity to see videos of all the recruiting supervisors explaining their projects and giving an insight into working with their team.

For projects advertised at other times of the year, information on the interview process and date/s will be provided on the PhD projects page.

Panel Interviews

We will provide full details with your invite but generally panel interviews last around half an hour, with three or more people on the panel. You will be asked to present some of your work, and you will be assessed using the same criteria as all other candidates.

You will also have the opportunity to hear about the ICR and our PhD programme from the Deputy Dean. Current students will be available to explain what it is like to study with us and there will be opportunities to network with recruiting supervisors.

One-to-one interviews

Candidates who are successful at the panel interview will be invited to participate in further one-to-one interviews on a different date. These will be with individual supervisors and specific to the projects you are interested in. As such, you may be invited to more than one interview as part of the second-round interviews. 

Changing the interview date

In the majority of circumstances, we are unable to amend interview dates. If you are offered an interview and you are unable to attend on the given date, please contact the [email protected] as soon as possible.

Studying here has offered me so many opportunities; I have attended conferences, get to regularly present my work and help contribute to the student experience through the Student Committee. I am always pushed to do the best that I can and believe my time here will prepare me well for my future career.

— Fiona Want, PhD student

Fiona Want pipetting in a lab

International students

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International students

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Accommodation and Transport

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