The 2021 call is expected to open in Summer 2021.


We aware of the restrictions on research activity because of Covid-19. The length of any delay is difficult to predict and the impact it will have on our students’ research progress uncertain. We wish to give reassurance that, in the event of Covid-19 demonstrably effecting PhD completion, we will be open to discussion as to how best to manage the situation, including no-cost extensions to research expenses and the possibility of stipend and fees extensions. Our policy on extensions can be found here. We advise all our researchers to follow the advice given by their Universities and the Government.



Medical Research Scotland, Scotland’s largest funder of PhD studentships, call for doctoral training funding for PhD Studentships to start in autumn 2021 has now closed.

Applicants can access and monitor their applications by logging on to the Application Management System.

Funded students will receive a generous four-year stipend, up to £35,000 research costs, travel costs and university fees paid.

Applications must be:

  • For a defined research project addressing a question of relevance to human health or disease
  • An academically stimulating PhD project as well as work based experience.
  • The student must undertake the PhD training programme offered by the University or Research institution, alongside training experiences delivered by an External Partner Organisation. Full guidance notes and additional information can be found here.

If you are interested in receiving updates on how to apply for furture rounds of PhD Award funding, please contact [email protected].

Eligibility and Requirements

To be eligible, the Administering Institution must be a recognised Scottish University or Research Institution in which the student will be matriculated and which will award the PhD degree. There is no geographical requirement or restriction for the External Partner Organisation.

There is no requirement or restriction on the subject or nature of the research, provided it addresses a question relevant to human health – the causation, prevention, diagnosis or treatment of illness or the development of medical or surgical appliances.

At least three supervisors are required per PhD Studentship, including a Principal and a Second Supervisor from the Administering Institution and an External Partner Organisation Supervisor.

A Principal Supervisor can only hold one active Medical Research Scotland PhD Studentship, though they can apply as Principal Supervisor for a subsequent PhD Studentship to commence after the completion date of their current one. A Second Supervisor can be supervisor on one or more PhD Studentships.

The External Partner Organisation is expected to make a valuable and meaningful contribution to the proposed research project, the specific nature of which will depend on the proposed project. It must provide an appropriate training programme and work experience for the student. It is anticipated that this will be delivered at an operational base of the External Partner Organisation, though the extent of placements at, and remote interactions with, the external partner organisation should be tailored to the nature of the project and collaboration. The arrangement should be to maximise the benefit to both the student and project.

The external partner organisation must provide the following financial contribution to the Studentship:

  • An annual cash contribution of £2,500, paid to the Administering Institution, to top up the student stipend provided by Medical Research Scotland
  • Additional laboratory costs that may be required over and above the consumables allowance provided by Medical Research Scotland
  • Essential travel and accommodation expenses, including expenses incurred in connection with placements at and visits to the external partner organisation location(s)

The PhD Studentship Standard Conditions, to which applicants and awardees must agree, can be downloaded here


To apply, PhD funding applications must be submitted by the Principal Supervisor through our new online application management system. To monitor the progress of your application, click here.

The 2021 call is expected to open in Summer 2021.

Once the Principal Supervisor has initiated the online application they will invite the other Supervisors to contribute to the application via the online application management system. Please see Section 18 of the Guidance Notes for more information on deadlines.

Guidance Notes and a sample application form are available here alongside the PhD Studentship Standard Conditions, and declarations and authorisations of signatories.

Application Review Process

Applications for funding are initially subject to independent review by the members of an expert peer review PhD Panel, which includes representatives from academia and industry and at least two Trustees of Medical Research Scotland.

The 2020 PhD Studentship Panel members are:

Dr Caroline Barelle
Professor Jim Bown
Dr Ed Chadwick
Dr Martin Denvir (Chair)
Professor Chris Linington
Dr Alec McLean
Professor Yvonne Perrie
Dr Michael Roberts
Professor Val Speirs
Professor Heather Wallace (Vice Chair)
Dr Emma Wood

Please note that the PhD Panel members’ scientific and medical expertise may lie in a different specialism to that of the proposed research, which should be taken in to consideration when completing the proposal: it is important to make the application understandable to scientifically literate but non-specialist reviewers.

Applications will be assessed on:

  • the scope of the project and resources available
  • the programme of work to be conducted
  • the opportunities for student development
  • the experience for the student

The Medical Research Scotland Board of Trustees use the PhD Panel’s assessment of the applications when they make their final award decisions.


From 2020/2021 academic year the Studentships provide the following funding:

  • Student stipend: Years 1 and 2 – £18,500 per year, Years 3 and 4 – £19,000 per year.

MRS will pay an annual student stipend (Years 1 and 2 – £16,000, Years 3 and 4 – £16,500) to the University at the start of each academic year, subject to satisfactory progress.

The External Partner Organisation must provide a top-up of £2,500 per annum for the student. The Administering Institution must undertake to make arrangements to collect the External Partner Organisation’s stipend top-up and the Principal Supervisor must ensure the stipend top-up is received from the External Partner Organisation and the student is paid their full annual stipend.

Past stipend rates can be found here.

  • Fees paid at EU/UK rates for four years. MRS will pay the published EU/UK rate for university tuition fees for the first year and reasonable increases annually thereafter. Should fee increases be above 5% per annum, notification of and full justification for the increase must be submitted to MRS. If a non-EU/UK fee-paying student is to be appointed to the Studentship, MRS must be provided with evidence, prior to their appointment, that the student is able to finance the fee top-up required to the international fee rate for the duration of the Studentship. Salaries at clinician level for clinicians carrying out a doctoral programme are not covered.
  • Research Expenses: Years 1-3 – up to £10,000 per year, Year 4 – up to £5,000. Additional expenses must be provided by the External Partner Organisation. Research Expenses include the cost of laboratory reagents and other reasonable expenses required to complete the proposed research, including animal housing expenses, if applicable. Computers, IT equipment and software expenses are not covered, except in the case of specialist equipment fundamental to successful completion of the proposed research, in which case, clear justification for the IT equipment must be included with invoices submitted for payment.
  • Travel Allowance: £3,000 over the four year PhD Studentship to cover justified travel expenses incurred in relation to attending conferences/scientific meetings of particular relevance to the student’s PhD Studentship – all costs can be claimed including registration fees, travel, accommodation and subsistence. This allowance does not cover expenses relating to placements at and visits to the External Partner Organisation.
  • Virement: no transfer of funds between Research and Travel Expenses is permitted.
  • Open Access Publication Costs: MRS encourages open access publication of the results of the research it funds and has funds available for this. Application for these can be made to: [email protected]. Full reference details and an electronic copy of the open access publication must be provided.
  • External Partner Organisation Contribution: £2,500 student stipend top-up per year, additional necessary research expenses, and essential travel and accommodation expenses incurred in connection with training placements at and visits to the EPO.


Principal Supervisors will be notified by email of the outcome of their application and whether or not they have received doctoral training funding. All parties to the PhD Studentship must accept the offer via the online application management system to qualify.

Student Appointment

Following acceptance, those awarded funding are required to select a suitable student to carry out PhD study. Medical Research Scotland will arrange for the PhD Studentships to be openly advertised via To apply for the PhD position, candidates must apply directly to the Administering Institution through their usual recruitment process.

The eligibility criteria for candidates applying for a PhD Studentship will be tailored to the individual projects, but the Trustees of Medical Research Scotland expect the student to have been awarded a minimum of an upper second class undergraduate honours degree in a relevant subject.

Candidates will then be interviewed by a panel with at least one of the supervisors from the Administering Institution, a representative from the external partner organisation and an independent Panel Member from the Administering Institution with experience in graduate recruitment.

Medical Research Scotland must be notified of the outcome of the student recruitment process and reserves the right to veto the decision of the interview panel, where there is justified reason.

International students may be appointed to a position funded by Medical Research Scotland as long as they can provide evidence that they have funding from an alternative source to cover the difference between the EU/UK fee and international fee rate for the full duration of the PhD Studentship.

MRS Researcher Development Events

Students joining the programme will also receive career development support through a series of bespoke  Researcher Development Events organised by MRS a series of. These take place at least annually and student attendance is compulsory. Due to the coronavirus situation, the programme is currently on hold.


Throughout the term of the PhD Studentship, students and supervisors must submit reports on the progress being made. Reports are required at least annually. Funding for subsequent years of the PhD Studentship will not be released until the student has passed the Administering Institution’s internal annual student assessment and the annual MRS report has been scored as satisfactory by the Board of Trustees.

Report forms for pre-2019 PhD Studentship awardees can be downloaded here:

Reports for PhD Studentships awarded from 2019 onwardswill be submitted through the AMS when they are available, please use the above Set-up report form in the meantime.

Due to the current Covid-19 restrictions, we have introduced a temporary alternative to hard copy signatures for reports. Each of the signatories should email [email protected], attaching a copy of the final Word Doc version of the report form, confirming they have approved the attached report.


MRS will pay the annual student fees and stipend to the Administering Institution at the start of each year of the Studentship, provided the previous year’s annual report has been scored as satisfactory by the Board of Trustee.

The Administering Institution should submit fully itemised invoices quarterly in arrears for Research Expenses, open access publication costs and claims from the Travel Allowance for  expenses for attendance at conferences/scientific meetings.

The Travel Allowance Expenses Claim Form must be submitted for any claims from the Travel Allowance.

Payment of Research Expenses and travel expenses cannot be made in advance.

Are you looking for PhD studentship funding? Hear what our students have to say about the programme

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