Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute PhD Graduate Programme

The CRUK Manchester Institute is a leading cancer research institute within the University of Manchester, and is supported by major core funding from Cancer Research UK, the largest independent cancer research organisation in the world.  The CRUK MI is at the heart of the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, a partnership that brings together the expertise, vision and resources of its founding partners: The University of Manchester, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Cancer Research UK, all of whom have formidable individual reputations in the fields of cancer treatment and research.  Cancer Research in Manchester is world leading. Cancer is one of The University of Manchester’s research beacons, showcasing pioneering discoveries, interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-sector partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest questions facing the planet.

In April 2017, The Paterson Building, which housed most of the Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute, suffered a major fire resulting in significant damage. During the period of rebuilding our world-class research facilities, our studentships were either based at the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (Oglesby Cancer Research Building), South Manchester, which has excellent facilities to carry out research, or at the internationally-renowned life sciences campus at Alderley Park. We returned to the new building and to our original site in Withington, Manchester, next to The Christie NHS Foundation Trust (Wilmslow Road, M20 4BX), UK in June 2023.

One of our current PhD students, Hannah Sheedy, talks about her research as she takes us on a tour of the Paterson Building:


CRUK MI comprises over 350 postdoctoral scientists, clinical fellows, scientific officers, administrative and technical staff, postgraduate research students and visiting fellows.  The CRUK Manchester Institute is currenty located across two building on the same site; the Paterson Building and the Manchester Cancer Research Centre (Oglesby Cancer Research Building).  Both buildings house research groups that are part of the Division of Cancer Sciences, The University of Manchester.   Groups work on many aspects of cancer research, from programmes investigating the molecular and cellular basis of cancer, to those focused on translational research and the development of novel therapeutic approaches, with considerable synergy and interaction across all groups.

The CRUK Manchester Institute offers postgraduate degrees for students interested in a career involving cancer research.  The Institute considers education of research and clinical scientists to be a major investment in the future generation of cancer researchers, and has an excellent track record of launching careers in basic, translation and clinical research.  As part of this commitment,  we have an active postgraduate programme that provides first class students and clinical research fellows the opportunity to study for cancer-related PhD degrees through a training programme that aims to improve effectiveness in research, provide professional and management skills and enhance career development.  Ninety-nine percent (99%) of our students in the past 8 years have found employment after graduation; half of these are in USA or European laboratories, with 20% of these students continuing to progress in their clinical careers in the NHS. Students leave the CRUK MI with excellent career prospects across the world. 

Cancer Research UK PhD Studentships

We are committed to training the next generation of cancer research scientists, helping launch careers in basic, translational and clinical cancer research. Postgraduate students enjoy a supportive environment, a challenging project and, together with tailored training in transferable and generic skills, development as independent scientists with excellent career prospects will ensue. 

A PhD should be an exciting and stimulating time.  We are looking for talented and motivated graduates with backgrounds in biological and biomedical sciences, mathematics, computer science and/or chemistry interested in pursuing scientific research careers.  As well as benefitting from dynamic and interactive research environment, graduate students will have access to outstanding facilities within the Institute.  

Each year we recruit students to join us on our 4 year PhD programme. Cancer Research UK studentships within the Institute and we welcome applications from UK, EU and international students.  CRUK studentships are fully funded by Cancer Research UK and come with a generous tax-free stipend (living allowance) of £21,000/annum (outside of London), tuition fees and allocation of appropriate level of funding to ensure the project bench fees are fully supported.  Projects are typically conducted within a single research group, although many students find themselves interacting and collaborating with more than one group as their project matures.

Studentships are advertised on our webpages annually in October/November with interviews taking place in January/February of the academic intake year. We are flexible as to intake within University postgraduate semesters with registrations in either April or September.  Additional PhD studentships and vacancies may be advertised at various times throughout the year.

Hear from some of our current PhD students on their research and experience at the CRUK Manchester Institute here

Self-Funding Students

If you have secured your own funding (stipend, tuition, bench and living fees) to undertake and support a PhD degree, and you are interested in study with a supervisor based at the CRUK Manchester Institute, you can submit an application directly to the University of Manchester for consideration;   Your application should clearly state how you intend to fund your studies for the duration, an outline of your proposed research and interests, supporting academic, sponsorship and financial documentation.  You will need to select "PhD Cancer Sciences" as the programme description on the application form.  Please note, regardless of funding, the CRUK Manchester Institute PhD admission criteria remains as above: a first or upper second class honours degree and minimum level of English language qualification.

Visiting Postgraduate Students (maximum 12 months)

Each year a number of students that are currently registered for a PGR programme at another institution spend time at the University undertaking research and training. All visiting students must be formally registered with the University of Manchester.

Appropriate registration of PGR student visitors on the student record system means that the University can meet its legal obligations for monitoring and oversight of students, e.g. for immigration, insurance, health and safety, and export control due diligence purposes. All students visiting the University for more than a week must be registered on Campus Solutions. Registration ensures the student experience, providing University identification, allowing access to email, access to the library and other buildings and facilities, as well as ensuring associated insurance cover.

It is, therefore, a requirement that the University of Manchester's Doctoral Academy is made aware of all visiting PGR students to enable the following:

  • approve all tuition fee levels in advance of the student arrival (by the relevant Division Senior PGR)
  • identify students that are considered to be part of a collaborative research arrangement (which attracts a one-off lower fee)*
  • formally register the student on the University system to allow the payment of appropriate fees which covers swipe card, email, library access, insurance cover for access to buildings and facilities

Tuition fees may be applied at the ‘collaborative fee’ rate when the student is attached to a supervisor as part of a genuine collaborative research initiative, or when a supervisor has relocated from another institution with their research group but the student remains registered at that institution.

If you are interested in a visiting postgraduate place to study with a supervisor based at the CRUK Manchester Institute, you should contact the proposed supervisor directly to discuss further before submitting an application to the University of Manchester for consideration.

Monitoring, Mentoring, Progression and Supervision

Students offered a PhD position at the Institute will receive high quality training in scientific research through an intellectually demanding, but achievable research project.  Projects are internally and externally peer-reviewed and approved by the Education Committee in advance of a student commencing their project.  Every student will have a main supervisor, a nominated co-supervisor to contribute their expertise, and pastoral advisor to provide impartial support and advice.  A laboratory supervisor (post-doctoral fellow or associate scientist) will ensure that day-to-day supervision is provided for technical support.

eProg is the University of Manchester's online progression system to support you through the duration of your PGR programme.  It allows you to break down the requirements of the programme into manageable goals and supports you in planning achievable targets.  eProg enables you and your supervisory team to record and reflect on your progress against agreed objectives and deadlines.  Ultimately, it helps students complete their research programme both effectively and on time with set milestones and deadlines. eProg is accessible from any location throughout your PhD.

PhD progress is monitored via a mixture of oral presentations, written reports and progress meetings.  These modes of assessment are designed not only to provide formal points at which progress is monitored, but also to help develop the presentations skills which are a fundamental part of a successful research career.  We ask our PhD students to present their data regularly within their own research groups and also at internal/external seminars throughout their project.  This focused environment is key in providing an opportunity to present and discuss your research with peers.  

CRUK Manchester Institute Education Committee 

The Education acts for postgraduate students based within a core-funded Cancer Research group.  The Education Committee's goal is for every student to have an approved research degree proposal at the commencement of their studies ensuring this is both achievable and intellectually stimulating.  Alongside the supervisory team, the Education Committee monitors student progression, attends student talks and provides written feedback to students throughout the various yearly assessment stages of their project.  

The Education Committee is staffed by the Institute's senior group leaders, operational staff and student representatives;

  • Chair and Director: Tim Somervaille
  • Ex-Officio Member: Caroline Dive
  • Postgraduate Tutor: Santiago Zelenay
  • Postgraduate Manager: Julie Edwards
  • Academic staff members: Georges Lacaud, Claus Jorgensen, Caroline Wilkinson, Amaya Viros, Carlos Lopez Garcia, Mark Williams
  • Student Representatives:  Sophie Richardson, Florentia Mousoullou

PGR Director

The School PGR Director leads postgraduate research activities within the School and works with the Head of School — and a team of Senior Tutors at Division level – to ensure that PGR objectives and issues are addressed at both a strategic and operational level.

Postgraduate Tutor (PGT)

Within the University of Manchester's School of Medical Sciences there is an appointed Postgraduate Tutor (PGT).  The role of the PGT within the CRUK Manchester Institute is to approve eProg milestones, advise on research progress, approve theses examiners, to provide academic and pastoral support and to serve as an Education Committee member.

Meetings and Conferences

The CRUK MI runs an external seminar series featuring talks from many of the leading scientists in cancer research, which our students attend. The speakers are internationally renowned scientists and we consider it essential that our students are exposed to outstanding research from leaders in different disciplines, which will give them a broad understanding of many aspects of cancer research and basic biology. In addition, we hold a series of weekly postdoctoral research seminars and attendance from PhD students is also an integral part of their learning. While students themselves are asked to give talks at key points during their PhD, they also have opportunities to present their work at lab meetings and during student forums within the Institute.

STAy (Science TakeAway) is a Committee group run by junior scientists and students in the CRUK Manchester Institute with the aim of providing a forum for discussions and training related to research, communication of scientific engagement and development of social and networking opportunities.  STAy are keen to encourage networking, career progression and personal growth of early-career researchers. 

The CRUK Manchester Institute Colloquium takes place annually in September, and is an excellent opportunity for our new intake of students to meet other established PhD students, members of the Institute, including group leaders, postdoctoral fellows, and scientific officers.  This forum communicates up to date science in the form of oral presentations given by group leaders and second year PhD students, as well as poster presentations from a range of scientists across the Institute covering all aspects of cancer research.

Cancer Research UK contributes towards an exclusive annual international PhD Student Cancer Conference (IPSCC) allowing high calibre students from top cancer research institutes across Europe to organise and present at their own scientific conference.  Core participating Institutes include the CRUK Manchester Institute, The Francis Crick, Cambridge Institute, Beatson Institute, Netherlands Cancer Institute, European School of Molecular Medicine, German Cancer Research and Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine.


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