Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit


Gatsby Unit PhD Admissions - Frequently Asked Questions


Do you still accept applications by post or email?

From the 2018 round, applications will be made using an online portal. This asks you enter particular information in a specific format. We will no longer accept applications by letter or email.


What qualifications do I need for admission to your programme?  Do I need a Master’s degree?

Minimally, entry to UCL requires a relevant first degree awarded with first or upper second-class Honours or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Where the US/Canadian marking scheme is used, a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 is required.  As entry to our programme is highly competitive, the academic achievement levels of admitted students is typically higher than UCL’s minimum requirements.  Many applicants to our programme will have a Master’s degree but this is not essential and each application is assessed on its individual merits.


Do I need to apply to the UCL Registry at the same time as applying to the Gatsby Unit?

No. Initially, you need apply only to the Gatsby Unit.  If offered a place on our programme, you would then need to seek formal admission through the UCL Registry.  At the formal UCL admission stage, all candidates will require official transcripts (in English) and international students will need to meet (and evidence) UCL’s English language proficiency requirements.  Translations of transcripts must be verified by the issuing university, a solicitor or official translation service (e.g. the British Council service) and must be accompanied by a certified copy in the original language. Further information relating to application and entry to UCL, including UCL’s Entrance Requirements and information for International Applicants, can be found at: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/graduate


What does a Gatsby Unit studentship provide?

Our studentships cover payment of UCL fees in full (at either the home/EU or international fee rate, as appropriate) and provide a tax-free stipend (currently GBP 23,500 per annum).  Additionally, each student receives an annual conference travel budget of GBP 2,000 to be spent in consultation with their academic supervisor.


Does the studentship cover all four years of the PhD programme?

Subject to satisfactory progression, Gatsby Unit studentships are awarded for four years of study.  Satisfactory progression includes the passing of formal examinations in the first year and later meeting the requirements for transfer from MPhil to PhD.  Transfer requirements are detailed under ‘Structure’ on our PhD programme web page.  Satisfactory progression also requires a commitment to intellectual development including active engagement with seminar programmes, journal clubs, reading groups and other Unit activities.


Can I start my studies at any time of year?

No.  Students can be admitted to our programme only at the start of each academic year in September.  The first year of our programme involves intensive instruction in techniques and research in theoretical neuroscience and machine learning.  There are induction activities in September and formal instruction commences in early October.


What should my research statement include?

You should identify one or more problems of interest in machine learning or neuroscience, explain why you find them interesting, why you think them important, and how they would align with research in the Gatsby Unit. We are not seeking a detailed project proposal — thesis projects are developed in consultation with your supervisor towards the end of the first year of the PhD — and nor do we hold anyone to the specific areas identified in their statements if they join us. The statement is to help us gauge your motivation and the depth of your thought about problems in machine learning or neuroscience.

Do not use your statement to describe your previous research experience. There is another section of the online form for that. You may, though, find it helpful to highlight experience of any sort that fits with or motivates the questions you discuss.

The suggested length of the research statement is around two pages.


Can I substitute employer references for academic references?

Academic references are more useful to us than employer references and, consequently, are more beneficial to your application.  We ask very specific questions of the referees and ask them to assess intellectual capability in relation to typical PhD students in their own departments.  Academic excellence is a key component of our shortlisting process.  References are required as testament to academic excellence.


My transcripts are not available in electronic format. Can I send these by post?

We would prefer if you could scan and upload them. If this is not possible you may mail them, but please contact admissions@gatsby.ucl.ac.uk to let us know. Mailed documents must reach us by the submissions deadline.


When can I expect a response to my application?

We start reviewing applications as soon as our submission deadline has passed.  We anticipate contacting all candidates no later than late January.


If I am called to interview, do you provide assistance with travel costs?

Yes.  We will reimburse (against evidence of expenditure) reasonable travel costs based on economy air or rail travel and airport or station transfers.  We will arrange local hotel accommodation and contribute to subsistence costs.  We provide this assistance for all shortlisted candidates irrespective of the distance to be travelled.


To be admitted, do I need to attend interview?

Yes. We do not admit students to our programme without interview.  If you require a visa to travel to the UK we will provide the necessary documentation and reimburse any fees, and will accommodate any delays that are outside your control. Please bear in mind that it is as important for you to meet us as it is for us to interview you.


What happens if I miss the submission deadline?

If you miss the November submission deadline, your application will be held until all applications received by the deadline have been assessed.  It is very likely that all available positions will be filled by this time.