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Entry requirements for 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in a relevant science, medical or veterinary subject.

Applicants with a lower second degree will only be considered if they have a strong master’s degree in a relevant subject or substantial relevant scientific research experience.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

Directly-related professional expertise may be a substitute; for example, significant instrument-building experience.

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are sought.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

References/letters of recommendation 

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and your ability to work in a group. Your references should be academic. 

Covering letter

Your covering letter should be no more than one page long, and must be written in English. It should focus on your interest, experience and commitment to scientific work and to genomics more specifically, not more general interests.

It will be assessed for evidence of:

·         Your interest in genetics and the subject areas of research at MRC Harwell and

·         Any research experience you may have acquired.

You are not expected to invent your own research plan. 

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are held as part of the admissions process.  

Candidates will be shortlisted by academic qualifications (and professional track record if applicable), research statement and references.   This will be assessed from the application information that you submit.

The following are required for a complete application: (1) a one page covering letter, (2) a CV with the names and contact details of two referees and (3) a completed application form. Candidates submitting incomplete applications will not be shortlisted.

Two set of interviews will be held in January:

  1. a 15 minute interview by Skype with 3 senior members of academic research staff followed by
  2. a half-day of two interviews, in person or by Skype, one with a full panel of senior academic research staff and one with a panel of senior post-doctoral researchers. 

Those attending in person will also have an opportunity to tour of the laboratories and have lunch with current PhD students.

A shortlist will be created after the first Skype interview according to your performance in the interview.  Only candidates on this shortlist will be invited to the second interview.


If you have publications, make sure they are highlighted in your application; the committee will consider your track record in light of your professional experience. However, many candidates with no peer-reviewed publications receive offers each year. 

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the standard level required by Oxford University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

Graduates are jointly supervised by a senior academic researcher at MRC Harwell and a member of academic staff from the University of Oxford. 

Where possible your academic supervisors will not change for the duration of your course, however it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

To carry out a three year PhD with MRC Harwell, you will need sufficient funds to cover the University fee (your course costs) and your “maintenance” – that is, your accommodation, meals, books, travel, clothes and any other expenses that you incur while you study.

During the application process you will automatically be considered for the appropriate MRC Harwell funding which is usually an MRC Studentship. To be eligible for a full award (stipend and university fees) a student must have:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay.
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for three years prior to the start of the studentship. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences).
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals).

For purposes of residence requirements the UK includes the United Kingdom and Islands.

Whether you have yet secured funding or have your own funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.