PhD and MSc Postgraduate Studentships in Astronomy, Astrophysics, Cosmology and Instrumentation beginning October 2024

Durham University is a world-leading centre for astronomy research. We have world-class groups working in a wide range of fields covering Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology (CEA), Theoretical and Computational Cosmology (ICC), and Astronomical Instrumentation (CfAI), with all three groups located to a large extent within the Ogden Centre for Fundamental Physics .

Project booklet: The 2024 PhD project booklet provides details of potential PhD projects that are available for an October 2024 start. The projects should be regarded as possible research topics. For any general enquiries please contact in the first instance.

Astronomy Research in Durham: CEA, ICC and CfAI

Astronomy and Cosmology research involving observations, theory and instrumentation is undertaken by students, postdocs and staff spread over three centres/institutes - but with strong collaborative links and close interactions: CEA, ICC and CfAI, with specific information regarding the research carried out given on their respective research pages (CEA, ICC and CfAI). The astrophysics staff includes roughly 38 academic faculty, 45 post-docs, 60 research students and a dozen support staff. Students have desktop/laptop access to a large local network of high-performance UNIX workstations / servers, as well as COSMA.

Post-graduate Research Studentships

We are seeking graduate students to undertake research within our PhD and MSc by research programmes, with the University regulations on the thesis/dissertation outlined here. We particularly encourage applications from members of the community that are under-represented in physics.

STFC studentships: We expect to take on several STFC-funded students for a PhD degree, in addition to further students either self funded or with funding from different sources. Students will undertake full-time (or part time) cutting edge astronomical research, in addition to our post-graduate lecture courses in their first year: Astronomy and Astrophysics and Astronomical Instrumentation. More details on the application procedure and eligibilty are below. The STFC-funded PhD studentships cover course fees and living expenses for the duration of the studentship (typically 4 years in Durham); the eligiblility criteria for a fully funded STFC studentship have been relaxed. Since 2021, together with support from Durham University, there are no restrictions on eligibilty, but there are quotas in place based on the fee category the candidate is associated with. We refer candidates to enjoy the clarity of the information and eligibility rules that applies to STFC studentships . Applicants are required to have, or expected to gain, at least a 2.1 in an integrated MPhys or a pass in a Masters degree or a 1st class in a Bachelors degree, in physics, astrophysics or mathematics.

Given the large size of the astronomy group at Durham, each year we restrict the number of astronomy staff who offer STFC-funded PhD projects to about a dozen (or less). We find that this provides a broad range of PhD projects while also making it (substantially) easier for potential students to select their preferred projects. The staff members who are likely to offer a funded PhD project this year include Dr. Sownak Bose, Prof. Shaun Cole, Dr. Ryan Cooke, Dr. Vince Eke, Dr. Francesca Fragkoudi, Dr. Robert Harris, Prof. Adrian Jenkins, Prof. Richard Massey, Dr. Kieran O'Brien, Dr. Kyle Oman, Prof. Tim Roberts, Dr. Russell Smith, Dr. Richard Wilson. Please check the PG booklet for the latest update.

International DDS/CSC PhD studentships: There are some fully funded studentship options available this year for an October 2024 start: typically one Durham Doctoral Studentship (DDS) and one Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC). The DDS studentships are open to students of any nationality and are fully funded; i.e., they pay for the course fees and also provide a 3.5 year stipend. DDS and CSC studentships can be on any project, including all projects listed in the 2024 PhD project booklet. Interested students should consult our group research web pages as well and contact a suitable staff member to discuss possible research projects. The latter is often easier to do once an application has been submitted to ensure full engagement from the potential supervisor.

Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund: The IOP and leading physicist Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell launched the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund to encourage greater diversity in physics. It is a scholarship fund to support full or part-time graduates who wish to study towards a doctorate in physics and are from groups that are currently under-represented in physics. As host university, Durham can put forward a maximum of two students for the Fund. To be considered, candidates needs to have applied and be nominated by a staff member by the internal physics deadline (date TBD). Hence the recommendation is to submit their application by early/mid December 2023 to receive full consideration.

Other studentships: We welcome applications from graduate students who are unable to secure (or are ineligible for) one of our fully funded studentships to either our PhD or MSc research programmes. See our group research web pages for a more comprehensive look at our research portfolio. Students without studentship funding will need to be able to finance both living expenses and course fees. In some cases funding can be obtained from scientific and government agencies in countries outside of the UK.

Post-graduate Research Application Process

Project booklet: This booklet provides details of possible funded PhD projects that are available for an October 2024 start, together with some that are available but no funding yet associated with them. Shortlisted candidates for funded studentships will be invited for interviews; see below for the interview dates this year. We also encourage applications from candidates wanting to work with supervisors not necessarily listed in the booklet. Please consult our group research web pages and contact staff that you would be interested in working with, bearing in mind that until you have submitted an application most queries will be dealt with by Peder Norberg, the astronomy post-graduate administrator.

Applications and deadlines: There is no formal deadline for applications but any complete applications (including reference letters) received before Thursday January 4th 2024 will receive the fullest consideration for places beginning in October 2024. We recommend you to indicate several projects for which you wish to be considered, or your general area of interest (simulations, observations, etc), to help us identify potential supervisors. Your application is not expected to include an original research proposal, but rather to indicate which of the described projects you wish to pursue. In practice, these descriptions provide a starting point for each project; the ongoing direction of your research will adapt naturally over the course of study.

For STFC-funded positions we strongly recommend submitting applications by Thursday January 4th 2024 to allow us to shortlist candidates for the interview days (see below for the dates).

For DDS/CSC applications, the department of Physics nomination deadline is likely early January 2024 (exact date TBC). However, you will have had to contact us well in advance of this deadline (typically a week or two) so that we can work with you on the case for your research project. Hence we recommend CSC/DDS applications to be submitted by early December 2023 to receive full consideration. Details of how to apply are given here. Note that CSC/DDS applications requires evidence of English language ability (as per University regulations) to be met by the university CSC/DDS deadlines.

For the Bell Burnell Graduate Scholarship Fund, the department of Physics nomination deadline is likely early January 2024 (exact date TBC). As an application need support from the host institution who is responsible for submitting the application form, we recommend candidates interested in applying to Durham to contact us no later than early December 2023 to ensure full and fair consideration.

We note that the University is closed from Friday December 22nd 2023 to Wednesday January 3rd 2024, and as such any application submitted during that period will not be received by the academic staff until after January 4th 2024.

To be considered for a place on our PG programme we will require you to complete an online application form , where among other information required in the application process you can provide/upload a CV, a cover letter/research statement and contact details for two referees, that we will contact on your behalf upon receiving your application. Useful guidance on how to fill it out is available here.

Interview dates: The dates of the interviews for the STFC/Durham funded positions will be between mid/end February and early/mid March, likely through a combination of in person and virtual means (depending on the overall situation). Exact dates still TBC. Please indicate your availability in the time frame February 15th to March 15th 2024 when you put in your application. Interviews for any other studentships will take place on ad hoc basis (as necessary).

English-language requirements: For non-UK students, please note that you will need to meet our English-language requirements; the details are given here. For those students who do not meet these requirements it is possible to undertake an English-language course with us on a pre-sessional programme. However, note that these pre-sessional English programmes can last for many weeks and must be completed before you start your research programme.

For any generic physics post-graduate information contact:

    The Postgraduate Administrator,
    Department of Physics,
    Durham University,
    South Road,
    Durham DH1 3LE

    tel: +44 - 191 334 3745


For more postgraduate information, covering everything from fees for overseas students to sport, museums and Durham University experiences, see Durham University's PG student web-pages and the Durham student blog. Additional relevant information concerning postgraduate life at Durham is available on the Physics Department PG web-pages.

Last Modified: 24th October 2023.

Contact Details

Department of Physics,
Durham University,
South Road,
Durham DH1 3LE
Tel: 44 (0)191 3343635