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Durham University

Department of Biosciences

Research Degrees

The Department offers three postgraduate research degrees:

MSc - A one year full-time course plus a 50,000 word thesis. A part-time option is available.
PhD - A three year full-time course plus a 100,000 word thesis. A part-time option is available.
PhD (BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership) - A four year full-time course (1 year MRes, 3 years research project) plus a 100,000 word thesis. (Full-time only).

Our usual minimum entry requirement is an Upper Second Class or Master’s Degree or international equivalent.

Have a look at our current opportunities for PhD and MSc, or register to view our prospectuses for UK/EU or International applicants.

BBSRC Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP)

The BBSRC DTP is a jointly funded programme with the Universities of Newcastle and Liverpool. The MRes will be carried out in part in one of the collaborating institutions (Newcastle or Liverpool for Durham PhD students), and students will have the opportunity to work in industry for up to 3 months during the course of the programme. Projects are offered in the BBSRC strategic priority areas of Food Security, Basic Bioscience Underpinning Health or Worldclass Bioscience.

Research Environment

The Department of Biosciences is a research-led department, which had at least 90% of its research rated as International Quality in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), with 50% recognised as Internationally Excellent or World-Leading. With excellent facilities for carrying out both teaching and research we offer high quality undergraduate teaching programmes and a supportive environment for research staff and postgraduate students. Research in the Department is broadly focused around 5 research groups which address major biological questions relating to:

  • Stress, signaling and environmental adaptation
  • Cell structure, function and development

These groups hold regular seminar series, host conferences, foster collaboration on research and publications, organise social events, and provide a supportive environment for research training. Research within the Department also contributes to major University initiatives, such as the Biophysical Sciences Institute, Durham Energy Institute , Institute of Hazard & Risk Resilience and the North East Stem Cell Initiative.

For more on the schools research activities please see the Research pages.

Postgraduate Training and Personal Development

Together with the Department of Biosciences, the University runs an integrated programme of training courses, which will form part of your degree. This includes:

  • Active training aimed at nurturing good practical skills and experimental technique
  • Academic programmes to raise awareness of contemporary research topics within Biological and Biomedical Sciences and related subjects, particularly cross-disciplinary areas
  • Complementary Skills – written and verbal communication, research management, safety and equality issues

Postgraduate students are encouraged to present their findings at research meetings, both within the Department as part of their training programme, and at research conferences at home and abroad.


Many of the Department’s postgraduates have proceeded to distinguished careers in academia, government and industry, and the Department aims to prepare its postgraduates for different career paths without compromising the quality of the research programme, which remains the focus of the degree routes.

The Right Combination - Research and Training in a Dynamic Environment

Although the primary aim of our postgraduate programmes is to produce international-quality research, they include a specific training element, mainly during the first year of study. Postgraduates can also interact with teaching in undergraduate degree programmes. The Department runs regular seminar programmes throughout the year, which attract speakers at the leading edge of scientific progress from both UK and International institutions. Our research reputation attracts senior personnel from both academia and industry to visit our Department from all over the world. Postgraduates also run their own seminar series, which mixes science with socialising.

The Department employs 47 members of academic staff, and around 50 members of research staff (including research fellows and postdoctoral workers). The postgraduate body, which includes a strong international element, contains around 80 students actively carrying out research programmes. Postgraduates work alongside both post-doctoral research fellows and academics, and make a significant contribution to our research; they are encouraged to integrate into exisitng research laboratories and are full members of the School's research community.

Find a course that's right for you

Why not look at the range of courses available