Astronomy Centre

PhD Studentships

Admissions 2018

 The Sussex Astronomy Centre is pleased to announce the availability of fully-funded PhD studentships starting in 2018, working in any field of research in the Astronomy Centre.  Please see for further information.

The Sussex Astronomy Centre offers the opportunity to study for a PhD in Astronomy, for which the normal duration of study is expected to be three years. The format is almost exclusively research based, although students attend a number of short courses during their first two years on current research topics given by members of the Astronomy Centre.

 PhD projects may be exclusively theoretical or observational but many combine aspects of both. It is normal for students to attend at least one relevant international conference during their three years of study, and most students working on observational research projects will normally undertake a number of observing trips (depending on the requirements of their project) to telescopes overseas.

 The normal PhD student intake each year is about four or five, two of which are funded via STFC Quota awards for which qualifying UK and EU residents are eligible to apply.  STFC grants cover all University fees, but living expenses are included only for UK and certain EU residents.  A number of overseas PhD students are also admitted each year financed from other sources, including funding bodies in their own country and scholarships available to University of Sussex applicants.

Student progress is reviewed annually by written report and interview to ensure timely completion of the PhD.

Projects & Supervisors

Each year our twelve faculty members will between them offer a total of 10-20 PhD projects.  With typically four or five students starting their PhD each year, there are many more projects than students. Students will be allocated a nominal project and supervisor on accepting a PhD place, but there is some flexibility to change project on arrival in October.  All students are allocated a second supervisor, whose share of supervision can amount from a nominal 5% (offers occasional advice) to 50% (genuine joint supervision).

 A preliminary list of projects offered for 2018 is given below (likely to be updated before the deadline). These projects are given only as a guide, and applicants are encouraged to discuss their own ideas for research projects with potential supervisors.  Insight into the current research interests of potential supervisors can be found at and by looking at their recent papers using NASA/SAO ADS or the preprint arXiv (astro-ph).



Chris Byrnes Constraining the small scale perturbations in our big universe
Ilian Iliev Simulating the Cosmological Structures
  Signatures of Cosmic Reionization
Antony Lewis Microwave Background polarization
Jon Loveday Constraining modified gravity and galaxy formation models
Seb Oliver Star-Forming Galaxies in the Distant Universe with Herschel and LOFAR
Kathy Romer Clusters of galaxies as cosmological probes and astrophysical laboratories: making use of the latest X-ray and optical surveys.
Mark Sargent Gas and star formation in galaxies through cosmic time
David Seery Inflation in the post-Planck era
Tests of modified gravity
Robert Smith Combining cosmic shear and large-scale structure data to constrain
the acceleration of the Universe
Peter Thomas Galaxy formation using world-leading numerical simulations and observational surveys
Steven Wilkins Confronting simulations of the high-redshift Universe with observation


Requirements for Admission to Postgraduate Study

The minimum academic requirement for admission as a PhD student is the equivalent of a UK upper second class honours degree.  Most students admitted to the PhD programme hold, a 1st class honours degree, Masters degree, or equivalent, in a relevant subject.  If you are studying for a degree overseas and are unsure of its UK equivalent value, please contact for advice.

 Please see our  Academic Requirements FAQ for further useful information about first degree requirements and some specific information for applicants from the USA.

 Overseas and EU students must also provide evidence of proficiency in written and spoken English.

Our PhD degree involves 3-4 years of study and is almost exclusively by research.  However, in the first two years students attend a range of courses designed to provide key research skills and knowledge of current research in astrophysics. The structure of the PhD degree in the United Kingdom contrasts with that available in the United States of America and elsewhere, where one or two additional years of study, involving a substantial course-based component, is completed before the exclusively research-based element begins. As a consequence, students embarking on the PhD at Sussex will normally have completed training in a physics-based degree to masters level.

 In the United Kingdom and Australia, students will have completed a four-year undergraduate degree leading to a master of science, or similar qualification. In other countries, including the majority of Europe and India, a three-year undergraduate degree followed by a one- or two-year masters degree is necessary. A number of factors are considered when assessing applications, including relevant research experience and the subject area of the undergraduate degree (nearly always physics, astrophysics or mathematics based). The minimum academic requirement for students graduating on a North American-related "GPA scheme" is a GPA of 3.7/4.0, although the majority of successful applicants have a higher grade.

 Students whose initial training is in another discipline, such as mathematics, normally need to acquire a masters level qualification with a substantial physics-based element.  We offer one and two-year masters degrees in Astronomy and Cosmology.  Typically, each year, several students completing these courses are offered admission for a PhD at Sussex or elsewhere.

Contacts & How to Apply

The deadline for funded applications will probably be in February 2018, please check back for detail of timetable and interview dates nearer the time.

For practical questions about applications and/or funding please contact the Rsearch Support Assistant Rebecca Foster on  

For academic questions please contact the Astronomy Post Graduate Admissions coordinator (Dr. Jon Loveday).

To start your application through the university's on-line admissions system, go here.

Academic Requirements FAQ

My academic training is not in astrophysics, can I apply to become a PhD  student in astronomy at Sussex?

Our research-only PhD  course is not well-suited to someone who has not had undergraduate training in astrophysics or physics with a component of astrophysics.  There simply isn't time available to acquire the necessary background in astrophysics while also completing enough research for a PhD.  As a consequence, students whose initial training is in another discipline, such as electrical or aerospace engineering, computing, pure mathematics,... normally need to acquire a masters level qualification with a substantial astrophysics/physics-based element.  Many students from such background who have taken our MSc courses in Astronomy or Cosmology have gone on to study for a PhD at Sussex or elsewhere.

I have an undergraduate degree from the United States of America and a strong GPA score, can I apply to undertake an Astronomy PhD at Sussex?

 Undergraduates educated in the United Kingdom (UK) embarking on our PhD programme will have completed a four-year programme of study consisting almost exclusively of physics/astrophysics and mathematics courses.  The students are thus far less broad educationally then their counterparts in the USA but their knowledge in physics and mathematics is significantly more advanced. The difference in the undergraduate programmes explains the very different format and timescale for the respective PhD  programmes in the two countries. PhD programmes in the USA typically involve a two-year period with a considerable course-work element, followed by a three-year period devoted exclusively to thesis research. At Sussex (and most universities in the UK) the length of the PhD is just three-four years and the thesis research element commences right at the start.  As a result, we are rarely in a position to offer admission to our PhD programme to someone straight from an undergraduate training in the USA. For students wishing to research in predominantly theoretical areas, including cosmology and the cosmic microwave background, admission to the PhD programme is simply not possible.  If a student is interested in projects with a more observational/data-analysis bias admission can be a possibility, in which case see the requirements outlined below.

 For an application to be viable, a student will expect to complete a four-year undergraduate degree in the USA, with a strong emphasis on physics and mathematics courses, including several at postgraduate level. A GPA score of at least 3.8 (on system with a maximum of 4.0) is required and you should also have undertaken at least one research internship or research-project in the field of astrophysics. When making an application it is not necessary to describe a specific Ph.D. project but you should indicate the type of research in which you are interested, with some indication of subject area(s) and relevant faculty member(s) [who might act as supervisor for a Ph.D.].