School of Biological and Marine Sciences

PhD Biological Sciences

Conduct research at the cutting edge of the discipline, working alongside a team of specialist academic advisors. Our staff work in a wide range of fields, including ecology and evolution, marine biology, ecophysiology, developmental biology, animal behaviour, conservation biology and biological responses to global change. See our research group and staff pages for details.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an appropriate subject, and typically to have also completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level). If you do not have a masters level qualification, you may wish to consider an appropriate ResM such as ResM Biological Sciences or ResM Marine Sciences. Students who are making exceptional progress in a ResM programme may sometimes progress directly into our PhD programme without having to complete the masters, depending on the availability of funding.

Potential applicants for both ResM and PhD programmes should first identify a member of academic staff who may be a suitable supervisor, and contact them by email to discuss possible directions for a research proposal. The research proposal must be agreed by the supervisor before an application to study can be made. You must also ensure that appropriate funding is in place, to cover both fees, and the cost of the research.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

The UK is no longer part of the European Union. EU applicants should refer to our Brexit information to understand the implications.

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees. We are in Band 2 for fees purposes. You must also discuss direct research costs with your potential supervisor before applying, as these will also need to be covered.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

Submitting your application

Complete your application and upload supporting documents to the Doctoral College by completing our online application form.

Questions on the application process?

We're here to help. Please contact the Doctoral College team and we'll be happy to assist you.

You can view or download our postgraduate research admissions policy.

If you have a disability and would like further information on the support available, please visit our Disability Services website.

International Student Advice (ISA) provides support for our international students.

Find more information about how to apply for a research degree.

Course details

This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is usually the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

Potential applicants should first identify a member of academic staff who may be a suitable supervisor, and contact them by email to discuss possible directions for a research proposal. The research proposal must be agreed by the supervisor before an application to study can be made. You must also ensure that appropriate funding is in place, to cover both fees, and the cost of the research.

You will be guided by a small team of academic experts, led by your main supervisor (Director of Studies).

You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts, including seminars.

A PhD is assessed via submission of a written thesis and a viva voce (an oral examination).

For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

Core modules

A relevant research skills module (following discussion with your supervisor), either

MAR513 Research Skills and Methods

or

BIO5131 Postgraduate Research Skills and Methods

If you do not already have a masters degree, you may be interested in one of our masters level research degrees – for instance, our ResM in Biological Sciences (which enables a transfer directly into the PhD programme if you are making excellent progress), or else an MPhil degree. Further details about the University’s research degree awards.

Biological sciences research

Our staff are world-leading experts who are passionate and committed to both their research and teaching. This expertise provides a stimulating environment in which to develop your career

Staff in the biology subject area are affiliated with three research institutes (Cognition Institute, Marine Institute and Sustainable Earth Institute), linking you to a network of people that will enhance your research experience, and will allow you to meet fellow research students from a wide range of disciplines.

Academic staff