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Postgraduate Study

Course closed:

Biological Science (Sanger Institute) is no longer accepting new applications.


The course is exclusively by research.

All students on this programme will be members of the University’s Postgraduate School of Life Sciences (PSLS), which offers a wide variety of core skills and professional development training. Visit the Researcher Development page on the PSLS website for more information. In addition, the Sanger Institute also provides students with general research and transferable skills training covering subjects such as bioinformatics, statistics, ethics, research integrity, scientific writing and presentation skills.

One to one supervision

Students are supervised by their Faculty member and postdoctoral scientists within the team on a daily or weekly basis.  Their supervisor on average will meet with the student on a one-to-one basis every two weeks to discuss progress with the student. 

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

There is an active seminar programme on-site and students can also attend seminars held in Cambridge. Students are able to attend a number of training courses in transferable and general research skills, both on-site and through the Postgraduate School of Life Sciences (see the PSLS website for more information). 


First-year students are expected to attend the Institute's Postgraduate Student Lecture series which comprises of approximately thirty 45-minute lectures by the Institute's Faculty members, held between October and February.

Journal clubs

Students are expected to attend the fortnightly, one-hour long Students' Journal Club. Students are also expected to participate in the programme of journal clubs held within their own research area.

Posters and Presentations

In their first year, at the end of each rotation project, full-time students are expected to present their work to the research team. After their second rotation, full-time students present a poster on their work at an Institute-wide poster session, whereas a report is written at the end of their first and third rotations. During their PhD, students are expected to present their work at the research talks and laboratory meetings held within their own research area.  In their third year, full-time students present their work to date at an Institute-wide Postgraduate Student Presentations Day.  After submission of their thesis, students give an Institute-wide PhD seminar. During their studies, students are encouraged to present their work at national or international scientific meetings.


Students will receive regular oral feedback and advice from their supervisor about performance and research direction throughout the course, and students can also expect to receive termly formal feedback reports via the online feedback and reporting system.


Thesis / Dissertation

Assessment is by submission of a thesis of up to 60,000 words (80,000 by special permission) excluding tables, footnotes, bibliography and appendices. All students have to defend their thesis by attending a viva voce examination conducted by two examiners. Although the thesis must be the work of the student, the supervisor is allowed to give suggestions, critical advice and feedback on content and any draft version(s) of the thesis.

Key Information

3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Study Mode : Research

Doctor of Philosophy

Wellcome Sanger Institute

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
May 16, 2024
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2024

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

Course Funding Deadline
Dec. 5, 2023
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 11, 2023

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2024, Lent 2025 and Easter 2025.

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