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Postgraduate Study


AIM PhD ProgrammeAIM PhD is a 6-month, online programme to assist applicants from underrepresented groups with their application to doctoral study at the University of Cambridge.

The programme runs from June to December 2024. During this time, you'll receive personalised support from admissions staff and students who have been through the application process themselves, giving you the confidence to make a competitive application to Cambridge.

Benefits include:

  • 1-2-1 mentoring from a current PhD student in your faculty
  • Learn about the application process from a peer with first-hand experience
  • Attend group sessions with your cohort
  • Hear more about life at Cambridge
  • Find out what your intended department is looking for in a doctoral candidate
  • Tips and tricks for boosting your application materials

At the start of the programme, you'll have the opportunity to visit the University of Cambridge for a day. Here, you'll get to meet your mentor in person, potentially visit a College, and see the facilities that Cambridge has to offer.

Programme schedule

The AIM PhD programme will take place from July to December 2024. It will begin with an online launch event welcoming participants, and a visit to Cambridge at the end of July/early August. The visit is not mandatory, but all travel expenses will be covered and lunch will be provided.

Mentoring will begin after this and continue until December, with regular contact between mentors and mentees. Group sessions will also happen during this time. We aim to schedule group sessions outside of regular working hours to help minimise interruption to daily life, however, this cannot be guaranteed. All sessions will be recorded.


AIM PhD has been designed to support applicants from groups that are currently underrepresented in postgraduate research at the University of Cambridge. To be eligible for the programme you will need to meet the following criteria.

Essential criteria (all required)

  • Be a resident of the UK or Republic of Ireland, intending to apply for postgraduate study as a home student.
  • If applicable, expect to complete your current undergraduate or postgraduate study by summer 2025.
  • Not have completed or be currently working towards a PhD degree.
  • Not have completed any previous education at the University of Cambridge.
  • Expect to meet academic entry requirements for your chosen course by December 2024 (please check the entry requirements for your course).
  • Intend to apply for a PhD at the University of Cambridge for the October 2025 start date, in one of these faculties/departments/DTPs:
    • Department of Chemistry
    • Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology
    • Department of Genetics
    • Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics
    • Cambridge Biosciences DTP (BBSRC)
    • Doctoral Training Programme in Medical Research (DTP-MR) - participating departments only (contact us for details)

Desirable criteria

  • Identify as Black or Mixed Black, Bangladeshi or Mixed Bangladeshi, or Pakistani or Mixed Pakistan

Additional criteria

In addition to the conditions above, we aim to support all underrepresented groups at Cambridge and priority will be given to applicants who also meet the following criteria:

  • Be in the first generation of your family to study at undergraduate level  
  • Have entered university at undergraduate level from a care background or a Foyer resident
  • Have been a young carer under the age of 18 or currently have caring responsibilities (providing unpaid support for a family who has a physical or mental health condition, or misuses substances) 
  • Be estranged from their parents/guardians  
  • Have been in receipt of free school meals at secondary school
  • Be in receipt of full state support for maintenance for their course of undergraduate study  
  • Be a mature undergraduate student (aged 21 or over on the first day of an undergraduate course)    
  • Would be a mature postgraduate student (aged 25 or over on the first day of a postgraduate course) 
  • Be either a single parent or lone guardian of a young person who is aged under 18 and/or is still in full-time education  

We particularly encourage applications from students who have not previously studied/are not currently studying at a Russell Group University.

How to apply

To complete the application form, you will need: 

  1. A short statement outlining: 
    • Your motivations for research at the University of Cambridge and how it supports your future career aspirations
    • Your previous study or relevant employment that accompanies this
    • Your motivations for applying to this programme and how you think AIM PhD will support you in your goals
  2. Details of a nominated referee (see Providing a reference below):
    • Please make sure to use your referee’s official university or employer email address
    • Check that their contact details are up-to-date and correct, as the inclusion of the wrong details can delay the application process

If you are successful and offered a place, we will ask to see a copy of your supporting evidence (transcripts or certificates) for all previous and current degree-level study (completed and incomplete), starting with the most recent.

If you have any issues with the application or any questions, get in touch with us at and we will try our best to help. 

Apply now

Providing a reference

As part of your application to AIM PhD, we ask for additional information from someone who can comment on your academic performance and intellectual potential.

This information helps us to better understand your suitability for the programme, and it will be considered alongside the other information that you provide in the application form.

Your referee will be asked to complete a short online form that must be submitted one week after the general application deadline (Tuesday 2 April 2024). If your referee has not provided a reference by this time, your application will be withdrawn.

An academic reference is preferred for all applications and is required if you have finished your undergraduate or postgraduate studies within the last two years.

If you left higher education more than two years ago and are unable to nominate an academic referee from your previous studies, you can nominate a professional referee who can testify to your abilities in a professional context.

A professional referee might be, for example, your current or previous line manager, a senior colleague who knows your work well (such as a director), or a project manager for a project on which you’ve worked. They will normally be someone who has had responsibility for your appraisal and your delivery of work.

If you have any questions or do not have someone suitable who can provide a reference, please contact us at and we will advise you further. 

We strongly recommend speaking to your referee in advance to make sure that they are happy to act as your referee. If you do not hear from them after asking, do not be afraid to contact them again if it has been over a week or so. 

Once you have your referee’s permission to name them in your application, there are some essential pieces of information you should give them. These include:

  • Your full name
  • Details of the PhD course you intend to apply to for Michaelmas 2025 entry
  • Your future academic plans
  • The application deadline

To support your referee in writing your reference, we recommend giving them plenty of notice and information about the AIM PhD programme. 

Please note that the AIM PhD programme is entirely separate to your actual PhD application. Entry to this programme does not guarantee acceptance to your intended PhD course, nor does an unsuccessful application to AIM mean you will be unsuccessful in your PhD application. Spaces are limited and if you are unsuccessful, it is no indication of your ability to study at Cambridge.

If you have any questions or need any assistance with your application to the programme, please get in touch with us at