Institute of Astronomy

Ph.D. Application Procedure

All initial enquiries should be made using the contacts linked to this webpage and not by emailing individual members of the academic staff of the Institute of Astronomy. As the information on these pages explains, projects are allocated after admission and we ensure that we can offer appropriate projects to the candidates to whom  we offer admission.

Application for graduate study at the Institute of Astronomy is via the Graduate Admissions Office's new Applicant Portal. Formally, the application deadline is 31st January 2017 but applicants should be guided by the funding deadlines (many of which are much earlier). All UK/EU applicants will be considered for STFC funding if their completed application is received by 31st January 2017.

Information for applicants, application forms and answers to many frequently asked questions can be found on the University's Graduate Admissions homepage

Completing the Graduate Admissions Office's Application Form

Please note that  there is a non-refundable application charge of GB£50 for online applications and GB£100 for paper applications. See the  Prospectus for details of how this should be paid.

Guidance for completing the Research Section of the Graduate Application Form

Overseas applicants (Non-UK or EU), who are not normally called for interview in Cambridge, should complete the Research Summary section.  It is  NOT necessary to identify a supervisor or provide details of a specific Ph.D.  It is essential, however,  for both the applicant and the Institute that the range of Ph.D. topics offered includes research opportunities of interest to the applicant. Applicants should therefore provide some information concerning the research fields in which they are interested and the names of members of staff whose research is of relevance and with whom they might wish to work. Information about our research areas and staff members can be found here.  

UK and EU applicants do NOT need to identify a supervisor or provide details of a specific Ph.D. project.  It is helpful to indicate whether you are principally interested in theoretical or observational work. If there are particular subject areas or members of staff that may be of interest then please put this information in the Research Summary section.


If you wish to be considered for University funding, please note the various funding deadlines and complete the Funding Section. All students who are eligible for an Isaac Newton Studentship will be considered automatically, there is no need to make a specific application.  For STFC eligibility please see the STFC Student Eligibility requirements.

If you wish to apply to more than one Department  i.e. Institute of Astronomy, Cavendish Astrophysics, Mathematics, you must make an individual application to each Department  to ensure you can be ranked by each Department for appropriate funding.

Applicants completing a Continuation Application form i.e. if you are or have previously been a Cambridge Graduate student, please follow the Graduate Admissions Office instructions which can be found  here

English Language Tests

You do not need to take an English Language test before you apply.

If you are made a conditional offer and have not already met the University's English language requirements, one of the conditions of your offer will be that you pass a test at the required level.

Please note that test results are only valid for two years.

A list of language tests accepted by the University and a link to the scores required for our course can be found here

What happens next?

Applications will be acknowledged in CamSIS. Your record will say "Applicant under consideration" once at least the application and two references have been loaded. It is your responsibility to check whether references have been uploaded and to chase referees if necessary. It is important to note that your application will not be considered until these documents  (application and two references) have been uploaded.

Given the high demand for places, we advise prospective overseas students to submit their applications as early as possible, especially if you wish to be considered for funding awards. The Institute will endeavour to provide preliminary feedback on applications within a month of receipt. We will normally communicate by email.

Applications for STFC-supported places should arrive early in the New Year as the initial selection will be made in  mid-February and shortlisted applicants resident in the UK will be asked to visit the Institute  during the week commencing 13th March 2017 (to be confirmed); the Institute will cover reasonable travel expenses. Applicants will be interviewed, typically for about 30 minutes, by the four members of the Graduate Student Selection Committee in order to discuss aspects of their undergraduate courses and their potential research interests. Before and after the interview, members of staff will be available to talk to applicants on an individual basis about the availability of Ph.D. topics in particular areas. The opportunity to meet current postgraduate students is also an important part of the visit.

Final allocation of STFC funded studentships cannot take place until the undergraduate degree results are available, usually at the end of June. However, following the interviews, provisional awards are offered to the highest ranking candidates.

In the case of applicants for non-STFC funded places, offers will be made subject to an assessment of academic record and the availability of appropriate projects/supervisors. Normally, we will conduct a phone or skype interview. Regrettably, the combined cost of fees and living expenses for non-EU nationals requires resources of at least £30,000 per year.

Many applicants will apply to a number of other universities, some of which have different timetables for deciding on admissions. If applicants are still interested in a Ph.D. place at the Institute, it is essential that following an offer from another university, they contact  before responding.


Details of how to apply can be found on the University's Graduate Admissions homepage.

Application deadlines for 2016:  UK and EU applicants eligible for full STFC funding should apply early in the New Year and by 31st January 2017 at the very latest. Overseas applicants, also wishing to apply for Cambridge funding, should be guided by the relevant funding deadline and more details can be found here.

Please follow the instructions!

Please contact at the Institute of Astronomy if you encounter any problems with the application process.

Page last updated: 1 September 2016 at 12:31