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Pilot selection procedure: MPLS doctoral training courses


This page provides information about the continuing pilot to improve the selection procedure for graduate applications, in order to ensure all candidates are evaluated fairly.


We believe that science is best done by a diverse and inclusive team, in which all members are valued, and in a supportive and positive research culture. Our philosophy is that embracing and supporting diversity in all forms will lead to a collaborative research culture in which science and scientists can flourish.

Inspired by discussions with our students and our scientific communities, and by initial measures piloted in the 2020-21 academic year, we are continuing to explore actions aimed at better contextualising our admissions procedures for graduate students while minimising conscious and unconscious bias. These actions are informed by the Wellcome Trust report on research culture and ongoing efforts by UKRI in equality, diversity, and inclusion. These actions have evolved from previous initiatives, and will continue to evolve as we learn and develop more effective ways to oppose actively discrimination of all forms.

The information provided on this page applies to all courses taking part in the selection pilot that are listed below (unless indicated otherwise).

Courses taking part in the selection pilot

This list will continue to be updated as courses are opened to accept applications. Please check back regularly for updates.

What actions are we taking?

We will be:

  1. anonymising applications (except for Health Data Science EPSRC CDT);
  2. using a standard format for the statement of purpose
  3. taking into consideration socio-economic data as part of the shortlisting and decision-making process;
  4. using a standard format for the CV;
  5. collecting a contextual statement; and
  6. taking positive action to address the under-representation of Black-British students in STEM subjects at doctoral level in the shortlisting of applications for interview.

In addition, Chemistry in Cells and Sustainable Approaches to Biomedical Science will contact referees and ask them to answer a small number of specific questions about the candidates. This will be in addition to the standard reference requirements as described on the course page.

The academic selection criteria used for shortlisting and selection at interview are listed on the individual course pages that can be accessed through the course links above.

What do these things mean and why are we taking these actions?

Anonymisation of applications (except for Health Data Science EPSRC CDT)

This means that all references to your name and your gender pronouns (she/he/they/ze) will be removed in anything used by the academic assessors to assess your application during the shortlisting procedure. The people assessing your application will, therefore, have no idea of your cultural background, ethnicity, gender, or skin colour from your name or pronouns at the academic shortlisting stage.

The reason for using anonymised applications is because research has shown that information inferred from your name can lead to bias in the shortlisting process.

We request that you assist in the anonymisation of applications by taking the following actions when you submit your online application:

  1. Anonymise your CV and statement of purpose when you submit your application.
  2. Ask your referees to anonymise their letters of reference in relation to your name and gender pronouns.

Use of a standard statement of purpose format

We also ask that you follow the standard statement of purpose template shown in the ‘How to apply’ section of the course page in preparing and uploading your statement of purpose.

The aim of this process is to allow us to focus on the key objective pieces of information in your application that will help us to assess your academic merit, potential, and suitability in shortlisting and decision-making procedures. As noted above, we ask that you anonymise your name, ethnicity and gender in both your CV and statement of purpose to support the anonymisation of your application (except for Health Data Science EPSRC CDT).

Use of collected socio-economic data

For the courses taking part in the selection pilot, we will take into consideration the socio-economic data collected in the graduate application form, where it has been provided, for the assessment of applications. Further details can be found in the Socio-economic data section of this page.

Use of a standard CV form

For the courses taking part in the selection pilot, we will ask you to fill out an online form that requests certain information that you will likely have included on your CV. Further details, including instructions for accessing the form and submitting your standard CV, can be found in the Standardised CV form section of this page.

Use of a contextual statement

We recognise that socio-economic data may not fully capture an individual student’s personal circumstances, so if any of a range of criteria apply (listed in the in the Contextual statement section of this page), we encourage you to submit a statement providing additional detail on your personal circumstances using the contextual statement form. Please refer to the Contextual statement section of this page for full details.

Shortlisting Black-British students for interview

Subsequent to academic shortlisting we will use information on ethnicity to ensure that Black-British students who have clearly demonstrated that they are interested in undertaking research within the remit of the programme for which they are applying, and who meet at least one of the following criteria, are invited to interview:

  • consistently high performance or a strong upward trajectory leading to a predicted or obtained high 2.1 or 1st class degree in a relevant STEM subject;
  • high performance consistent with a distinction in a masters' degree; or
  • substantive relevant work experience consistent with the academic criteria listed above.

The reason for taking this action is to help address the under-representation of Black-British students in doctoral research by ensuring that eligible candidates are given the opportunity to demonstrate their potential for doctoral study at interview.

Selection of offer holders for college places

The changes apply to the departmental selection procedure only. The college selection procedure has not been amended, and will be undertaken in the same way as for any other courses within the University.

Collection of socio-economic data

The University currently collects a range of socio-economic data from candidates who apply for graduate study. This information is used to understand the demographics of those applying and of candidates who are offered places, but it is not available to assessors.

We would like to use these data to contextualise our shortlisting and decision-making processes. Academic assessors will be enabled to do this by the use of a flagging system similar to that used for United Kingdom applicants for undergraduate admissions.

By better understanding your socio-economic background, we can better understand the challenges that you have had in your education to date.

Standardised CV form

We will ask you to fill out and submit a standardised CV form with your application. This form will request the same information from all applicants and will provide this information to the assessors in an identical format. This allows us to ensure that we are comparing all applicants fairly, as we will ensure that we have the information that we require from everyone, rather than leaving it to chance that this is included on your CV.

Our assessors will see this information in the same format, meaning that they will be able to compare this information more easily, and not be influenced by differences in CV formatting.

Instructions for submitting your CV

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. You will need to upload a standardised CV to the graduate application form as part of your application. This standardised CV should be generated using the online form that requests certain information that you will likely have included on your CV. Once you have completed the form, you will have 15 minutes to download your CV as a PDF document. We request that you anonymise your CV in relation to your name and gender pronouns. 

This PDF document will be in the same format for all applicants and you should not modify the document before you upload it, or submit your CV in a different format. 

Generate your standardised CV

Contextual statement form

We recognise that socio-economic data may not fully capture an individual student’s personal circumstances, so if any of the criteria listed below apply, we encourage you to submit a statement providing additional detail on your personal circumstances using the contextual statement form.

Submit a contextual statement

This will not be made available to assessors during the initial phase of academic shortlisting, but may be used in association with socio-economic data to contextualise short-listing and decision-making processes.

You may wish to provide a contextual statement, particularly if you:

  • are in the first generation of your family to go to university;
  • have been in care for at least three months;
  • have been a young carer;
  • are from a low-income background;
  • you have received a means-tested scholarship;
  • you have needed to work to support yourself during your academic studies because of your socioeconomic circumstances;
  • are a refugee;
  • are neurodivergent;
  • have or have had one or more disabilities or chronic illnesses that have affected you in education or at work; and/or
  • wish to disclose other circumstances that have substantially affected you in education or at work.

Please note, this statement is in addition to completing the 'Extenuating circumstances’ section of the standard application form.