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Postgraduate research degree opportunities

There are many different types and areas of research and research degrees.

Research types include:

  • discovery science
  • clinical trials
  • epidemiology
  • qualitative research.

Postgraduate research degrees include masters level courses which can be taught, or research based and doctoral level including, Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

Taught courses

Taught courses can be found on higher education institute webpages. Research degree opportunities may be advertised as clinical fellow posts on NHS jobs or University vacancy webpages.

They can beadvertised on social media and websites such as

Three Ps

When investigating research opportunities, you need to consider the ‘three Ps’:

  • the project
  • person (supervisors and support they will give you)
  • the project funding.

You will need money to support your salary and potentially your tuition fees.

Projects may be pre-funded (e.g., by industry or the supervisor may have obtained a grant through a funding body such as the NIHR) or you may need to apply for a clinical research training fellowship to fund your project.

Clinical Research Training Fellowships

The Medical Research Council (MRC) and the NIHR coordinates applications for Research Training Fellowships. The NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre also published a ten year strategic review of training in July 2017 available here.

These fellowships provide a full-time salary to support you studying a PhD. Applications require a full project plan with designated supervision and training arrangements.

They are highly competitive, with less than 30% of applicants successful in securing funding. Funding may be joint with the Wellcome Trust or another organisation (for example RCOG, Target Ovarian Cancer, Welsh assembly.)

Wellcome Trust no longer runs their own clinical research training fellowships but instead provides funding to the MRC scheme.

There are two applications rounds a year- around August and December. The RCOG jointly funds the Clinical Research Training Fellowship with the MRC.

Several charities fund their own clinical research training fellowships independent of the MRC. They all have different criteria for the research that they fund, and different application processes. Early engagement with a research supervisor and preparation of the fellowship application is recommended.

PhD Training Fellowships (Wellcome Trust)

The Wellcome Trust invites universities to run PhD training fellowships. selecting potential PhD candidates in open competition.


Participating universities select potential PhD candidates in open competition and support them to develop a high-quality PhD project. The Wellcome Trust funds the full-time PhD. Universities across all regions of the UK and Ireland are represented, although each clinical PhD programme has different eligibility criteria and structure.