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Postgraduate Study

The Department of Zoology is home to a community of researchers from a great diversity of disciplines, ranging from cell and developmental biology to field ecology and conservation. Evolutionary biology is a major focus of our work. We share an interest in whole organisms, and in how systems interact across different levels of organisation to generate the complexity of form, function and behaviour that is observed in the living world. Much of our work is underpinned by questions about evolution and an appreciation of the importance of the interactions between living organisms and their environments.

The PhD degree is a minimum of three years of full-time research with an individual supervisor. At the end of their degree, students will produce a written thesis, which will be assessed by independent experts, and examined with a viva. This is the principal research degree offered in the Department of Zoology and the great majority of our students are registered for it.

Students are supervised by at least one member of the academic staff who is an expert in the student's field of study. Supervisors support students in developing an independent and novel project in their field of interest. Students will learn how to review relevant literature, to phrase and answer scientific questions, and to report their findings to the scientific community, at conferences and through peer-reviewed scientific publications. We very much encourage students to get experience in undergraduate teaching, which can be either as demonstrators during practical classes or supervisors teaching small groups. 

At the end of their first year of study, students are required to pass a first-year assessment, based on a detailed progress report examined by viva by the student’s thesis advisory committee. At the end of the second year and third year, a brief report (without viva) is required to ensure satisfactory progress toward the timely completion of the PhD degree.

Most candidates taking this option start in October, to take advantage of Departmental and University induction programmes, but admission in January or April is also possible.

Please note: part-time study may not always be viable and will be considered on a case-by-case basis, so please discuss this option with your proposed supervisor before making an application for this mode of study.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the programme, students will have:

  • a comprehensive understanding of techniques, and a thorough knowledge of the literature, applicable to their own research;

  • demonstrated originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in their field;

  • shown abilities in the critical evaluation of current research and research techniques and methodologies; and

  • demonstrated some self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and acted autonomously in the planning and implementation of research.


Open Days

The Postgraduate Virtual Open Day usually takes place at the end of October. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions to admissions staff and academics, explore the Colleges virtually, and to find out more about courses, the application process and funding opportunities. Visit the Postgraduate Open Day page for more details.

See further the Postgraduate Admissions Events pages for other events relating to Postgraduate study, including study fairs, visits and international events.

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Key Information


3-4 years full-time

4-7 years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy

Department of Zoology

Course - related enquiries

Application - related enquiries

Course on Department Website

Dates and deadlines:

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.

Michaelmas 2024

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.

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Oct. 2, 2024
Course Starts
Jan. 5, 2025

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

Applications open
Sept. 4, 2023
Application deadline
Jan. 15, 2025
Course Starts
April 17, 2025

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

Course Funding Deadline
Jan. 4, 2024
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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