Applications opening soon

MRS is migrating to a new online application management system designed to make submission as easy as possible. The call will open when the system is ready.

MRS PhD Studentships provide funding for four year doctoral training programmes to be delivered by Scottish Universities or Research Institutions working in collaboration with an External Partner Organisation (EPO). The awards, with their combination of academic PhD training and career development, augmented by training and experiences delivered by the EPO, give students excellent foundations for their future careers.

Applications must be for a defined research project addressing a question of relevance to human health or disease. It can be in any discipline. It must provide an academically stimulating PhD project, a PhD training programme delivered by the Administering Institution (the University of Research Institution) complemented by training, research and work experience delivered by the EPO, which the student would not receive through a Studentship delivered solely by a university.

Students will also take part a programme of career development events, delivered by MRS, the Researcher Development Events.

We like to award 15 four year PhD Studentships each year. The awards provide a generous student stipend, doctoral programme fees at EU/UK level, Research Expenses, a Travel Allowance and contributions to open access publication costs. Details of the current value of the awards can be found under Funding below.

Administering Institution researchers and EPOs should develop the project together. MRS is not involved in matching universities and EPOs.

Eligibility and Requirements

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 EPO.

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, including hearing aids.

At least three supervisors are required per Studentship, these being a Principal and Second Supervisor from the Administering Institution and an EPO Supervisor.

A Principal Supervisor can only hold one active MRS 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 Principal Supervisor can be Second Supervisor on another Studentship. Supervisors can be Second (or additional) Supervisor on more than one PhD Studentship.

The EPO 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, but must be more than provision of resources. It must provide an appropriate training programme and work experience for the student. It is anticipated that the training will be delivered at the EPO, though the placements and interactions should be tailored to the nature of the project and collaboration. The arrangement should be to maximise the benefit to the student and project.

The EPO 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 MRS;
  • Additional research expenses that may be required over and above the Research Expenses allowance provided by MRS;
  • Essential travel and accommodation expenses, including expenses incurred in connection with training placements at and visits to the EPO.

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


Applications must be submitted by the Principal Supervisor through our online application management system (AMS).

After the Principal Supervisor has initiated the online application they will invite the other Supervisors to contribute to the application via the AMS.

Guidance Notes will be posted soon!

The call for applications for the 2018 PhD Studentship call is now closed. Applications for the next call will open soon.

Application Review Process

Applications are initially subject to independent review by the members of an expert peer review PhD Studentship Panel, including representatives from academia and industry and at least two Trustees of Medical Research Scotland. The PhD Studentship Panel then meets in committee do discuss and assess the applications.

Please note that the PhD Studentship 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 Board of Trustees use the PhD Studentship Panel’s assessment of the applications when they make their final award decisions.


The Studentships provide the following funding:

  • Student stipend: Years 1 and 2 – £17,500 per year, Years 3 and 4 – £18,000 per year.

MRS will pay an annual student stipend (Years 1 and 2 – £15,000, Years 3 and 4 – £15,500) to the University at the start of each academic year, subject to satisfactory progress.

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

  • 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 EPO. 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 EPO.
  • 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 publication must be provided.
  • EPO 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 (via email through the AMS) of the outcome of their application and all parties to the PhD Studentship must accept the offer of award through the AMS.

Student Appointment

Following acceptance, those awarded funding are required to select a suitable student to undertake the PhD Studentship. MRS will arrange for the PhD Studentships to be openly advertised via Candidates must apply directly to the Administering Institution through their usual doctoral training programme recruitment system.

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

Candidate interviews must be conducted in accordance with good recruitment practice. As a minimum, the interview Panel must comprise at least one of the supervisors from the Administering Institution, a representative from the EPO and an independent Panel Member from the Administering Institution with appropriate expertise in graduate recruitment.

MRS 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 the Studentship provided MRS is provided with 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.

Salaries at clinician levels for clinicians carrying out a doctoral programme are not covered.

MRS Researcher Development Events

MRS organises a series of Researcher Development events for the PhD students providing career development talks and an opportunity for the students to learn about the work of their fellow MRS PhD students and network. These take place at least annually and student attendance is compulsory.


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.

Reports for PhD Studentships awarded from 2019 onwards must be submitted through the AMS.

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



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 travel expenses for attendance at conferences/scientific meetings. All claims from the Travel Allowance component of the award should include an explanation of the purpose and relevance of the travel to the PhD Studentship. Payment of Research Expenses and travel expenses cannot be made in advance.

Eamon Fitzgerald praises MRS on the scope of research it funds.


Here about Jennifer Clark’s project and her experiences as an MRS PhD student.


Kym Bain explains the advantages of industry collaboration.


James Ozanne gives his views on Medical Research Scotland PhD Studentships and medical research.