Postgraduate study

Clinical Brain Sciences PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Clinical Brain Sciences

I have learned how to work with very large datasets and developed my understanding of statistics. I’ve also had the chance to develop my presentation skills, and learned to work in a team with people from different scientific backgrounds (e.g. healthcare, statistics, databases, project management).

Tim Wilkinson PhD Clinical Brain Sciences 2015-2019
Tim Wilkinson               PhD Clinical Brain Sciences 2015-2019

Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

The Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences (CCBS) combines laboratory and clinical research to study the causes, consequences and treatment of major brain disorders.

The Centre comprises 58 Principal Investigators, including 19 Chairs. 70% of our Principal Investigators are NHS clinicians.

CCBS has approximately 55 postgraduate students across its two programmes: Clinical Brain Sciences and Psychiatry. It is particularly strong in PhD training for clinicians.

The Centre is located at Edinburgh BioQuarter, next to the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. However, it also has bases in three other Edinburgh hospital sites.

CCBS subscribes to Edinburgh Medical School’s “One Health” vision. Laboratory scientists, clinical academics and informaticians work alongside one another. This encourages the free-flowing exchange of ideas, an efficient use of clinical data and joint academic/health service delivery.

CCBS is part of Edinburgh Neuroscience, an umbrella organisation that facilitates interaction among researchers working at all levels of neuroscience.

Research excellence

In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (2014), Edinburgh was ranked 3rd out of 82 submissions in Neuroscience and the research environment was given the maximum possible score of 100% and classified as ‘world-leading’.

Research community

We are extremely proud of our internationally renowned research community.

The Centre has attracted £42 million in grant funding over the last three years. Our 400+ members collaborate widely and lead international clinical trials.

Our research generates significant and measurable impact on patient health and wellbeing, NHS policy and public awareness.

The National Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD) Research and Surveillance Unit is a World Health Organisation Reference Centre for Human Prion Disease.

Two of our Professors are Chairs of the UK Dementia Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh.

Research strengths

Our major research strengths are:

  • cerebrovascular disease including stroke and small vessel diseases
  • neurodegenerative diseases: multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, dementias
  • neuroimaging
  • psychiatry, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression; autism, neurodiversity and learning disability
  • Prion diseases
  • synaptic biology & disease
  • epilepsy
  • neonatal development and the effect of premature birth
  • neuro-oncology / Translational Neurosurgery
  • functional disorders
  • sleep medicine

Specialist centres

The CCBS also has a strong record of attracting philanthropic donations to establish specialist centres of excellence:

For more information, see our website:

Note that our Psychiatry MScR and PhD programmes have their own page:

The programme is 100% research-based. There are no compulsory taught components. However, students can sometimes enroll on relevant courses after discussion with their supervisor.

There are formal assessment points at 10 weeks and 1 year (or pro-rata for part-time students), as well as regular meetings with the supervisory team.

On top of the standard 3 year (full-time) or 6 year (part-time) studentship, an additional 1 year is permitted for students to complete writing-up their thesis.

As a postgraduate student, you will be mentored and supported by at least two supervisors and receive long-term guidance from your thesis committee.

There are many opportunities for you to attend seminars and take courses in a wide variety of transferable or specific research skills. This includes opportunities to become involved in science communication and public engagement.

You will join a diverse community of researchers and clinicians. PhD meetings and the annual Centre Away Day provide valuable opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.

Clinical research and trials

Direct clinical links, Specialist Centres of Excellence, well characterised patient cohorts, national biobanks and disease registers permit detailed phenotyping for surveillance, clinical epidemiological studies and trials.

Find more information on the research centres:

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic provides an interface between patients and researchers and space to conduct studies.

We also have expertise in meta-analysis & systematic review (e.g. CAMARADES, Cochrane Stroke Group).

Neuroimaging

CCBS is part of Edinburgh Imaging, which provides state-of the-art imaging for preclinical and clinical studies.

Facilities include:

  • 1.5T research MR scanner
  • 3T MR scanner
  • PET MRI
  • PET-CT
  • 7T animal MR
  • image analysis suites including fMRI compatible EEG

  • Edinburgh Imaging

Neuropathology

We are experts in detailed pathological analysis of post-mortem human brain tissue. We run the Edinburgh Brain and Tissue Banks, part of the Medical Research Centre (MRC) UK Brain Banks Network.

The Edinburgh Brain Banks include:

  • CJD
  • HIV
  • stroke
  • motor neurone disease
  • dementia
  • sudden death

Laboratory research

Our laboratories are fully equipped for molecular biology, protein biochemistry and cell biology research. This includes large-scale studies, for example; molecular analyses of multiprotein complexes at the synapse.

CCBS researchers use patient-derived (induced pluripotent) and human embryonic stem cells to model disease processes using :

  • confocal microscopy
  • electrophysiology
  • Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS)
  • biochemistry

Translational neurosurgery

An emerging area of interest for CCBS, the research aims to inform, enable and accelerate the translation of advances from the laboratory to the operating theatre, with a focus on neuro-oncology.

Research methodologies

Find more information on our research methodologies on our website

A PhD in Clinical Brain Sciences will provide an excellent springboard for a career in academic or clinical research into all aspects of the brain.

Most of our graduates go on to postdoctoral positions in top academic labs in Scotland and around the world, while others go on to complete clinical academic training.

Graduates who do not wish to pursue an academic career have found employment in industry, for example in:

  • managerial roles at Universities
  • science communication and public engagement
  • charities

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 176 with at least 169 in each paper.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Application fee

None.

Deposit

None.

Additional programme costs

None.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhD6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

A funded PhD project will generally cover:

  • modest living costs
  • tuition
  • additional funds for research consumables
  • travel

Amounts do vary so please check the provision carefully.

If the PhD project is not already funded, it is your responsibility, in conjunction with your supervisor, to secure sufficient funds.

There are many funding opportunities available but securing a scholarship can take some time so please make funding applications well ahead of your intended start date.

Your supervisor is likely to be the best source of information about funding opportunities for your particular project.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Postgraduate Administrator, Charlotte Iliakis
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 465 9581
  • Contact: ccbs-phd@ed.ac.uk
  • Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • The Chancellor's Building, 49 Little France Crescent
  • Little France
  • Edinburgh
  • EH16 4SB

There are no programme-wide deadlines. Deadlines for individual funded projects will be noted in each advertisement.

You must submit two references with your application.

Before making your application, you must make contact with a potential supervisor to discuss your research proposal. Further information on making a research degree application can be found on the College website:

You will be formally interviewed (in person, by video-conferencing or Skype).

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

Further information

  • Postgraduate Administrator, Charlotte Iliakis
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 465 9581
  • Contact: ccbs-phd@ed.ac.uk
  • Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences
  • The University of Edinburgh
  • The Chancellor's Building, 49 Little France Crescent
  • Little France
  • Edinburgh
  • EH16 4SB