Doctorate in Research (PhD) - Years 2 to 4


To facilitate high quality PhD research and in doing so provide a platform for a new generation of multi-disciplinary thinkers and innovators. PhD research project proposals are developed in collaboration with industry, through a competitive bidding process involving all departments, institutes and centres associated with the Centre. Selection of PhD research projects takes place toward the end of the first year of the course.

Participation in relevant technical courses, road mapping and business electives takes place throughout the PhD training.


Students who are awarded an MRes will then be permitted to progress onto the first stage of PhD programme. For your PhD you will join one of the large research groups at either UCL or Cambridge University. There will be opportunities to collaborate with external partners and to align your research with larger multi-disciplinary consortium projects with which the groups are involved. This will offer an immediate audience for your research and improve the prospects for publishing and employment. This applied research is agreed between the student and the Centre. Contact is maintained between the student and their supervisor, flexible to their needs and progress. Lectures are attended as necessary to support the student's research and personal development, but there are no mandatory courses required at this stage. Viva exams are completed to gain the PhD qualification, but no additional exams.

Transition from MRes to PhD

During the MRes year you will develop a suitable PhD research proposal with help from the Centre Directors and Research Group Leaders at UCL and Cambridge University. The research–focussed structure of the MRes will prepare you to take this step. PhD projects are proposed by Centre supervisors. Projects approved by the Research Strategy Committee are then listed on this website. Students list the projects they wish to undertake, in order of preference. Students will then meet with the supervisor offering the project and the supervisor provides feedback to the Committee on student suitability. The Committee then allocates research projects to students.

Supervision and mentoring

With guidance from the Centre Directors and Academic supervisors you will identify suitable supervision arrangements which will depend on the nature of your research. You will be registered at the university of your first (principal) supervisor. Your principal or first supervisor, along with the Research Group Leader, will act as a mentor with regard to wider welfare issues. The Centre Director will also undertake an annual review of progress with every student in the form of a one-to-one tutorial.

Over 100 potential supervisors have been identified across the two universities so the range of potential topics that can be supported is large. Being multi-disciplinary in nature, most projects will have supervisors from different disciplines and cross-campus supervision teams will be the norm. Examples of previous PhD project titles can be seen here.


You may also have the opportunity to spend time seconded to one of our partner universities overseas or external industrial partners. The potential added value of this placement to your research should be taken into consideration. It is an opportunity to access additional advanced facilities, to acquire new research skills, to get advice from, and form a closer working relationship with, leading international researchers. The placement will also  provide you with insights into different research and working environments and cultures.

Personal development and dissemination

During your PhD you will present your work at our Annual Colloquium and at conferences. Towards the end of the programme you will also be expected to give lectures, mentor younger students, and contribute to the academic life of the centre. Project research funds are available to allow attendance at conferences, workshops and summer schools both in the UK and overseas. As your research develops you will also be expected to speak at such events and to publish scientific papers.

Further learning opportunities

A programme of wider skills training will be developed between you and your supervision team. You may also be advised to attend other MSc modules or lectures in a non-assessed mode to support your research. Both UCL and Cambridge have many other generic skills training courses open to doctoral students including at the Judge Business School (Cambridge) and the London Business School. See below for examples of courses offered to the Centre, run at the London Business School.

Courses Offered to the Centre at the London Business School

  • Achieving Strategic Agility
  • Carbon Finance, Analytics & Trading
  • Emerging Markets
  • Energy: Markets, Models & Strategies
  • European Financial Markets
  • Leading Teams and Organisations
  • Managing Change
  • Managing the Growing Business
  • Negotiation & Bargaining
  • New Technology Ventures
  • New Venture Development
  • Strategic Innovation
  • Sustainability - Implications of Environmental & Demographic Change
  • The New Revolution: Social Entrepreneurship in the 21st Century
  • Understanding Entrepreneurial Management
  • World Economy: Problems and Prospects

Final assessment

Final assessment will be by thesis and viva.

Career Opportunities

The PhD in Photonics enables students to gain the skills required for jobs in the rapidly expanding photonics industry. The course provides unrivalled contacts, with access to top photonics industry professionals and the best academic and career development resources.

Further information

More information for prospective postgraduate students at each institution can be found at the links below: