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Study at the cutting edge of Photonics research.

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About the programme

We offer a 4 year PhD programme in Photonic Systems Development. Before starting their three-year PhD, students undertake a one-year MRes course that allows them time to absorb the context of photonics research and to learn tools and methods that can support powerful, influential research. Applicants may apply for the MRes alone if they wish. Please visit the Programme Summary and Featured Student pages of this website for more information about the programme and current work being undertaken by our students. You can see examples of past MRes and PhD project titles here.

Why apply to this programme?

  • As one of our students you will join a vibrant and diverse community of academics and graduate students.
  • We aim to deliver a broadly based, multi-disciplinary and demanding PhD training programme which will prepare you for your future career.
  • On completion of the programme you will have expert knowledge in the area of photonic systems development relevant to your research project; project and programme management skills; teamwork, communication and leadership skills and the ability to seek optimal solutions to complex or multifaceted problems.
  • You will be placed at either Cambridge or UCL where the Centre is led by world-leading academics assisted by industry partners and stakeholders providing a route into future employment in the rapidly expanding field of photonics research.
  • You will receive a stipend of £15,226 (Cambridge) or £17,090 with London weighting (UCL) per annum tax free, plus UK/EU fees for four years (conditions apply).
  • All students study at both universities – desks, IT and facilities are available to all Centre students at both Universities as required for their projects.
  • Industry/user linkage a key aspect so excellent preparation for a career in industry and business.
  • Annual conference of research projects
  • Monthly seminar series (alternating locations)
  • You will be able to carry out cross-departmental and cross-institutional research.

Who we are looking for

Applications are invited from outstanding UK graduates with a good first degree (1st or 2:1) in a relevant science (physics, mathematics, natural sciences, geology and geographical science, social sciences, materials science etc.), engineering (chemical, civil, electronic and electrical, mechanical etc). Eligible EU and overseas students with these or equivalent qualifications may also apply. Applicants with other relevant qualifications or extensive relevant industry experience who can show evidence of a scientific and engineering research capability may also apply.

How and when to apply

Recruitment for the 2014/15 academic year (Sept 2014 start) begins October 2013.

Application process

  • Applicants must complete an online CDT pre-application form available from this website.
  • It is advisable to prepare all elements of the pre-application form in a separate document (academic qualifications, CV, personal statement, research proposal) before starting to complete the online form. This is because the form cannot be saved and you may lose data if you experience technical difficulties.
  • The selection process will include an interview with members of the Centre management team following which, if there is a good match between your background and qualifications and the objectives of the Centre, you will be invited to make a formal application to UCL or Cambridge.
  • We only accept applications made online.



Fully-funded Engineering and Physical Sciences Council (EPSRC) studentships for candidates who meet the eligibility criteria will cover UK/EU fees and provide a stipend, variable depending on location. Funding will normally be for four years but will be dependent upon the successful completion of the MRes programme, identifying suitable PhD supervision and upgrade from MPhil to PhD.

We currently expect to have funding available for UK and EU students eligible for EPSRC awards for students to start in September 2014.

Eligibility for EPSRC funding

  • UK Nationals - UK applicants that have settled status* in the UK and have studied or worked in the UK for the past 3 years are eligible for full fees and stipend.
  • EU Nationals - Non-UK EU applicants that have settled status* in the UK and have studied or worked in the UK for the past 3 years are eligible for full fees and stipend.**
  • Non-EU Nationals - Non-EU applicants that have settled status* in the UK and have worked in the UK (this does not include full time education) for the past 3 years are eligible for full fees and stipend.***

*     this means you have no restrictions on how long you can stay in the UK.
**   EU applicants that do not meet the 3 year residency criteria are eligible for fees only support.
*** applicants that do not have settled status may in some cases apply for general UCL/Cambridge overseas scholarships or self-fund their PhD. For more information see links to search for funding on the homepage.

Please note we are unable to answer queries on academic suitability or funding eligibility prior to application due to the high volume of queries we receive. For further information on eligibility please see the EPSRC website.

How to Apply

Step 1: Complete the Pre-Application form

Potential applicants must complete the Pre-Application Screening Form. The details you supply are held confidentially and will only be seen by staff at the Centre.

Initial registration will be at Cambridge University or UCL. The course is identical whichever institution you are registered at. You may express a preference, but the decision as to which institution, if any, will make an offer to you, will be taken by the Centre. Please note that the pre-application does not constitute a formal application.

Step 2: Interview for a place on the programme

Following initial consideration of your pre-application, if there appears to be a good match between your background and qualifications and the objectives of the Centre and if you are fully eligible for funding, you will be invited to attend an interview in London or Cambridge. If you are an overseas student and your pre-application is strong enough, you will be invited to make a full application to either UCL or Cambridge (depending on your preference) and you will be invited to interview via Skype or by telephone, but not on site.

Step 3: Apply for a place

Following interviews, if successful, you will be encouraged to make a formal application to Cambridge or UCL using the standard application form.

Applicants choose to apply for a place at UCL or Cambridge.

You must fill in and return an application form for the university you are applying to.


Step 4: Offers & enrolment

Successful applicants are put forward by their department for a scholarship to the Centre (subject to eligibility).

A decision is made by the centre as soon as reasonably possible (normally within 3-4 weeks). The student is sent an offer letter from the supervisor, and a studentship offer letter from the centre.

Upon signing the offer letters the student commits to the programme. An official offer letter is sent by their university, and when this is returned, the enrolment process begins, usually in the last week of September. The programme starts in late September with an induction week, held in both Cambridge and London.