PhD: About the Programme

Cancer Research UK Manchester Institute students are registered with, and will graduate from, the University of Manchester, UK.  The University provides extensive training and formal monitoring assessments to guide students throughout their degree.   These important activities include training and workshops on presentation skills, academic writing, IT training and enhancing presentations skills. There are also plenty of social facilities and networking groups that our students can take advantage of.  For further information and details on the Graduate Training Programme and the facilities, visit The University of Manchester.

Duration, funding and stipend

Our PhD programme, which supports between four and eight students a year, is highly competitive and receives hundreds of applications each year from around the world.  Cancer Research UK (CRUK) funded studentships are for four years, giving our graduate students a significant amount of time to develop their research. 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.

Successful candidates for a CRUK studentship receive a generous non-taxable stipend for the duration of their four year studies, covering tuition fees (home and overseas), bench fees, and stipend.  Groups in which studentships are held are allocated an appropriate level of funding to ensure the project is adequately supported.

Monitoring, Mentoring and Supervision

We aim for each student to receive high quality training in scientific research through an intellectually demanding, but achievable research project. Projects are internally and externally peer-reviewed in advance, gaining Education Committee approval before a student commences.  Each PhD project is supervised by a group leader who acts at the main supervisor. Projects are mainly or entirely based within one research group, and a nominated laboratory supervisor (post-doctoral fellow or associate scientist) is appointed to each student to provide day-to-day technical support. Challenges of projects, however, encourage interactions and collaborations with other researchers locally, nationally and internationally.  Each student is also assigned a co-supervisor to contribute their expertise in assisting the main supervisor.  All students are assigned an advisor whose main role is to provide pastoral support to the student - not only to monitor their progress but to provide friendly and confidential advice. 

Postgraduate Tutor (PGT)

Each school and research group within the School of Medicine has an assigned Postgraduate Tutor (PGT).  The role of the PGT can vary slightly from school to school, but for PG students within the CRUK Manchester Institute this is as follows:

  • To act as the main point of contact and dissemination of information to schools and researchers
  • To manage and approve student admission
  • To approve progress milestones
  • To advise on research progress where problems have been highlighted
  • To approve examiner recommendations for thesis submissions
  • To act as contact for student and supervisor problems
  • To attend student talks and provide feedback as required
  • To provide academic and pastoral support
  • To serve as an Education Committee member and represent the Committee on interview panels

PhD Monitoring & Progression

The University of Manchester launched an online progression system eProg early in 2010 which has proved an extremely successful tool in helping the student and supervisory team experience through better planning and progression monitoring.  Ultimately, it helps students and supervisors complete their research programme both effectively and on time with set deadlines and alerts on overdue milestones.  All students are given access to eProg via their 'My Manchester' accounts once University registration is completed. Every student will be monitored throughout their course of study via a programme of annual oral presentations, written reports and progress meetings during their study which are reported into eProg. These modes of assessment are designed not only to provide formal points of progress for the student and the project, but also to help development of presentations skill that are fundamental to the majority of careers in science and industry.

Education Committee

The Education Committee acts for postgraduate students based within the Cancer Research UK core funded research groups and consists of senior group leaders, the Chief Operating Officer and the Postgraduate Education Manager.  The Education Committee's goal is for every student to have a project that is both achievable and intellectually stimulating and demanding.  Projects and students are monitored by the Education Committee which ensures the proposed plan is suitable and achievable.  Alongside the supervisory team, the Education Committee monitors student progression and provides written feedback to students during various assessment stages of their project. Regular talks, progress meetings and written reports are key to ensuring successful completion of the PhD programme.

Personal development and training

We offer a wide range of in house training courses which cover areas such as project managements, personal motivation and effectiveness, applying new models and techniques, getting results, interactions with peers and colleagues and how to best achieve project goals.

The University of Manchester offers a wide range of training courses for students. Every registered student is given access to My Manchester - a new University initiative introduced in 2013 as part of the Manchester Working Environment (MWE).   This acts as a personalised online space for current students and provides easy access to learning resources, skills training and booking services, student support and information all in one place.  Features include:

  • My Blackboard - easy access to courses and resources in Blackboard
  • My Course - information about your achievements, exams and graduation
  • My Library - search the catalogue and see your account
  • Email - access to your Outlook Live account
  • My Services - register, update your details and apply for funding
  • My Future - careers resources, live updates and advice
  • Crucial Guide Live - a wealth of information and advice to support you
  • Students' Union - information and news from the SU

A fundamental part of a successful research career is the ability to present one's work clearly and concisely to a scientific audience. We ask our PhD students to present their data regularly within their own research groups, and also in internal seminars at key points throughout their project. A monthly student seminar series is also run by our graduate students. This focused environment provides students with an opportunity to present and discuss research within their own peer group.

Meetings and conferences

An annual CRUK Manchester Institute colloquium is held in September. It is an excellent opportunity for members of the Institute to meet and interact in an informal setting. The vast majority of students registering in September attend, and get to meet the other new students and members of the Institute including group leaders, postdoctoral fellows, scientific officers and established PhD students.

Networking, and an awareness of the very latest ideas and developments, are key components of any PhD programme. The Institute runs an external seminar series, featuring talks from an international selection of invited speakers, and students in the programme are actively encouraged to attend national and international conferences in their area - group leaders’ budgets are supplemented to support this.

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

In 2015, the 9th IPSCC was successfully organised by PhD students from the CRUK Manchester Institute which attracted over 88 candidates.  Students were awarded with an excellent programme which included plenary lectures from Professor Bruce Alberts and Professor Mariann Benz, and two great social evenings in the centre of Manchester attended by both guest lecturers.  In 2017, the 11th conference was hosted by the MDC PhD students in Berlin, which was also a huge success.


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