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MRC Biostatistics Unit


Applying to the MRC Biostatistics Unit PhD Programme

The BSU seeks to recruit outstanding students with strong research potential, as based on their academic records, previous research experience, references, and interview assessment.

On average we receive over 60 applications per year, inviting 12 to 15 students for interview.

Our recruitment for funded studentships takes place in autumn each year, with a closing date in early January. However, we do occasionally re-advertise in the spring to fill unallocated funded places or, in exceptional cases, to offer a place in advance of the standard recruitment round.

Applicants who do not require Department or University funding are welcome to apply at any time.

The same entrance criteria apply to all prospective students, regardless of whether they are applying for UKRI funded places, funded scholarships from the University of Cambridge, or with external funding. This ensures an excellent standard of PhD students is maintained.

Q. University of Cambridge entrance criteria

Competition for admission to the University of Cambridge graduate programme is intense. Like all departments affiliated to the Graduate School, we require all our graduate entrants to have:

  • At least a 2.1 in an Honours degree or equivalent (eg CGPA 3.5/4.0) in a relevant subject
  • Two outstanding references from senior university staff at your most recent university
  • Fluency in the English language –
    • IELTS: Overall band score of 7.0, with not less than 7.0 in speaking, listening and writing, and 6.5 in reading
    • TOEFL: paper-based test 600 with 5.0 in the Test of Written English (TWE)
    • TOEFL: internet-based test 100 with a minimum score of 25 in each element
    • You must achieve the minimum requirements in the same test and this must be no more than two years before the start of the course.
    • Please note – applicants are not expected to meet the language requirement at the time of their application, but must do before commencing studies.

The minimum entry requirements given above are set by the University, not the BSU, and are non-negotiable. For more details of the University’s entrance requirements see here.

Q. Academic Eligibility for the MRC Biostatistics Unit

PhD studies in the MRC Biostatistics Unit require a unique blend of statistical competence, mathematical knowledge, and programming expertise. Our rigorous interview process will test your ability in each of these areas.

We would therefore advise that all candidates have at least a degree-level qualification in one of these areas, with significant experience and knowledge of at least one other.

A Master’s degree in statistics or a related discipline is considered desirable but not essential.

Q. BSU studentships

The MRC Biostatistics Unit expect to have 3 or 4 funded studentships on offer for commencement in the academic year 2024/25. Whilst these are open to all, our funding eligibility requirements mean that at least 2 of these will be offered to UK applicants and the remaining to either UK or non-UK candidates.

BSU studentships normally provide:

  • A generous monthly stipend
  • Tuition fees
  • A travel and training budget

Q. Application Procedure

Prospective applicants who have access to their own funds should contact potential supervisors to discuss ideas to aid the applicant’s development of a project of mutual interest, to be included in their application. Please quite “PhD application- MDBI22” in your email subject line and should make it clear what their funding will be.

Applications to the MRC BSU are accepted via the University application portal only. The University will forward on all complete applications to directly to the Department for their consideration – details of how to apply can be found here.

The relevant information for this department is as follows:

  • Department: MRC Biostatistics Unit
  • Course Code: MDBI22
  • Programme of Study: PhD (Probationary) at MRC Biostatistics Unit
  • Duration: 3 years


Once you have submitted your initial application, please ensure you upload all your supporting information by the required date or your application will automatically expire. We ask all applicants provide a CV and two references; these should be supplied electronically via the University application system in addition to the University application form. Do not send items directly to the Unit by post or email, as they cannot be accepted directly. Applications without the accompanying University application form will not be considered.

From 2023-24 an online application for a doctoral degree at the University no longer requires payment of any fee.

All application information needs to be uploaded to the website before the relevant deadline.

Q. Application deadlines

Applications for funded studentships at BSC should be submitted on the University of Cambridge application portal by 23:59 GMT on January 4th 2024.

Our main recruitment round closes in early January each year. All applications received after this deadline will only be considered for funding if there is unallocated funding remaining. In this case, applications are reopened and a second deadline in March or April will be set.

Applications from students who do not require Department or University funding are accepted all year round and are considered on a rolling basis.