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Postgraduate Admissions

Teaching

The Department has the overriding aim to provide all its postgraduate students with every opportunity for a broad education and a compatible environment in which they may complete a PhD or MPhil successfully. The Department will aim to provide guidance and, where appropriate, the facilities to allow postgraduate students to develop a number of different skills including the following:

  • Research methodologies and the process of research including quantitative and qualitative methods and data analysis; project planning and management
  • Effective use of learning resources including library and information technology;
  • Personal skills including oral and written communication, time management and teamwork skills, professional development and the preparation of curriculum vitae and employment applications;
  • Broad knowledge of the discipline in which the student is working;
  • Technical training to enable the student to undertake their research work effectively and efficiently;
  • Teaching experience by bringing to the notice of the student the opportunities within the Department for supervising and demonstrating to undergraduates;
  • Professional presentations.

All students in this programme will be members of the University’s Postgraduate School of Life Sciences (PSLS), which offer a wide variety of core skills and professional development training. Visit the Researcher Development page on the PSLS website for more information. 

One to one supervision

Expect regular uninterrupted discussion sessions, ideally at least once a month for laboratory-based students, and once every three months for field-based students, to consider any immediate matters about the research programme. 

The regularity with which postgraduate students meet with their Supervisor varies throughout the year but meetings are likely to be more frequent to start with, during the planning stages, and during the writing-up phase. All students should have the opportunity to seek formal feedback from their Supervisor, and supervisors should have the opportunity to give such feedback.

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice which sets out the University's expectations regarding supervision. 

Seminars & classes

Postgraduate students are asked to attend all the lectures in the Plant Sciences Seminars series. Other sessions can be attended as needed, decided by a discussion with supervisors.

Lectures

Lectures can be attended as needed, decided by a discussion with supervisors.

Small group teaching

As decided by a discussion with supervisors.

Journal clubs

As decided by discussion with supervisors.

Literature Reviews

Once students have arrived in the Department and begun to settle into their research groups one of the first activities they must undertake is the preparation of their project proposal. The purpose of this project proposal is to accustom students to academic writing and to provide an important opportunity to clarify their research project and the techniques to be used. This is followed seven months later by a first-year report. This is the Department’s formal means of assessing students' progress and deciding whether they should carry on for a PhD degree. It is an opportunity for an extended piece of writing and a discussion about, and defense of, their work to date and their plans for the future.

Posters and Presentations

All full-time postgraduate students are asked to give a seminar in their first and third year. The first year seminar is a good opportunity for students to present an outline of their research project. Students should have a firm summary of their research programme with an emphasis on the background to their project and details of the techniques they intend to use in their research. The third year seminar is an important opportunity for students to maturely defend their work to experts.

All full-time third year students are also asked to give a poster presentation. This is one of the standard ways of communicating scientific information in a public forum. Here students are given the opportunity to inform the whole Department about their work to date. 

Practising the different formats of communicating research will familiarise the students with standard professional presentation skills. 

Placements

The Department has a number of projects which involve collaboration with Partner Institutes including the Sainsbury Laboratory, NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany), BAS (British Antarctic Survey), and international conservation organisations based in the David Attenborough Building (i.e. UCCRI). The Department has also a number of links with industry and/or breeding organisations. Placements will be dependent on the availability of a supervisor and project.

Feedback

After the end of each term, the primary supervisors are asked to provide a brief report on each student's progress via the online feedback and reporting system. The reports will be made available to students and they will be invited to respond to comments made in a termly self-assessment. This will allow students to review their own progress and to highlight any difficulties they feel they are facing.

Assessment

Thesis / Dissertation

A thesis is a significant part of the means by which students are assessed for their degree. Within forty-eight months after the start of a student's full-time PhD programme, they will be expected to have completed and submitted a thesis of no more than 60,000 words (80,000 by special permission) exclusive of tables, footnotes, bibliography and appendices. 

Once a student's thesis is submitted, two examiners will read the thesis and each will write a separate report. They will then arrange to give students a viva voce exam in which they will closely question them about any and all aspects of their work. They will write a joint report on the viva. The viva is an opportunity for the examiners to make sure students fully understand their work and for them to explain, if necessary, any of the more abstruse aspects of their experimental findings.

Other

Once students have arrived in the Department and begun to settle into their research groups one of the first activities they must undertake is the preparation of their project proposal. The purpose of this project proposal is to accustom students to academic writing and to provide an important opportunity to clarify their research project and the techniques to be used.

Nine months into the PhD, full-time students are asked to submit a first-year report. This is the Department’s formal means of assessing each student's progress and deciding whether they should carry on to a PhD degree. It is an opportunity for an extended piece of writing and a discussion about, and defence of, their work to date and their plans for the future. 

Entry to the PhD programme is subject to satisfactory progress and passing a first-year viva voce examination based on this written report.

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Key Information


3-4 years full-time

5-7 years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Plant Sciences

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2021
Application deadline
Oct. 4, 2022
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2023

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2021
Application deadline
Jan. 13, 2023
Course Starts
April 17, 2023

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Michaelmas 2023

Applications open
Sept. 15, 2022
Application deadline
May 16, 2023
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2023

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Applications open
Sept. 15, 2022
Application deadline
Oct. 4, 2023
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Applications open
Sept. 15, 2022
Application deadline
Jan. 15, 2024
Course Starts
April 17, 2024

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Course Funding Deadline
Jan. 5, 2023
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 12, 2022

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2023, Lent 2024 and Easter 2024.


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