Postgraduate study

Evolutionary Biology

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

Programme website: Evolutionary Biology

As a research student at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology you will join the UK’s largest and most dynamic community of researchers in the field.

With about 30 research groups, which includes about 50 PhD students, you’ll benefit from a busy programme of seminars, journal clubs and other research-led activities and will be encouraged to publish your findings. You’ll also take part in student-led courses and talks.

We have an enviable record in academic career success. Our institute reflects the School-wide figure of 84 per cent for students achieving academic posts after they complete their PhD.

We go beyond the study of animal behaviour to focus on the underpinnings of the science of evolution, down to the level of DNA, to look at just how organisms fundamentally develop as a result of natural selection.

Our current research falls under three broad themes:

  • evolutionary and quantitative genetics
  • evolutionary ecology and behaviour
  • biodiversity and ecology

Researchers are working on everything from viral evolution and host-parasite co-evolution to natural selection in the wild and plant conservation genetics.

PhD students may attend the taught components of the MSc courses Quantitative Genetics & Genome Analysis and The Evolution of Language & Cognition. In addition, there are several active seminar series and journal clubs both within the Institute and elsewhere in the University. A programme of transferable skills courses facilitates broader professional development.

Supervisors are an important source of support for our PhD students. You can identify potential supervisors from the School of Biological Sciences website and discuss your PhD proposal with them.

Topping our list of impressive research tools is the GenePool, one of the UK’s biggest and best university-based genomics facilities. Attracting visiting researchers from all over the UK and internationally, this next-generation facility opens up new ways of creating research data.

If your study involves bioinformatics, the Ashworth Bioinformatics Support Service provides a vital link with the expertise and facilities on offer through our world-leading School of Informatics.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject. You should have some research experience and be able to demonstrate that you have a good understanding of the field you propose to study.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

All applicants must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of their English language ability:

  • an undergraduate or masters degree, that was taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country as defined by UK Visas and Immigration

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 with at least 20 in each section
  • PTE(A): total 61 with at least 56 in each of the Communicative Skills scores
  • CAE and CPE: total 176 with at least 169 in each paper
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Degrees taught and assessed in English must be no more than two and a half years old at the beginning of your degree programme. Language tests must be no more than two years old at the beginning of your degree programme.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

If you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate in order to study this programme.

For detailed information on fee status, policies and payment see:

Most laboratories require a bench fee of up to £2,000 per year. This cost can be covered in Research Council studentships.

  • Postgraduate Programme Administrator
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 5455
  • Email: gradbiol@ed.ac.uk
  • Graduate School of Biological Sciences
  • Mary Bruck Building
  • Colin Maclaurin Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3DW

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit two references with your application.

To discuss your PhD proposal, you should identify potential supervisors from the School of Biological Sciences.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Postgraduate Programme Administrator
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 650 5455
  • Email: gradbiol@ed.ac.uk
  • Graduate School of Biological Sciences
  • Mary Bruck Building
  • Colin Maclaurin Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3DW