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Manchester Tsinghua PhD Partnership

Dual award PhD in Synthetic and Systems Biology

The University of Manchester and China's Tsinghua University have come together to offer a unique dual degree PhD programme in Synthetic and Systems Biology, with successful applicants spending four life-changing years across Manchester and Beijing.

Play a key role in developing sustainable, bio-economy solutions to address current and future global challenges - all while broadening your horizons with an incredible opportunity to study abroad.

At Manchester and Tsinghua you'll benefit from the excellent research infrastructure and academic supervision of not one, but two world-leading institutions.

Why undertake the dual degree PhD programme in Synthetic and Systems Biology?

  • Embrace the challenge of living abroad in one of the world's most famous cities, in a country with the world's fastest-growing economy.
  • Form part of a talented cohort seeking to address sustainable development challenges through research in bio-economy solutions, and choose from a range of projects spanning synthetic and systems biology.
  • Develop a global perspective and international fluency to benefit your future development, opening the door to exciting new job opportunities.
  • Boost your intercultural skills and become part of a talented pool of prospective employees for UK academia and industry.

About the programme

The first-of-its-kind dual award PhD programme in Synthetic and Systems Biology brings together two globally-renowned institutions at the forefront of research in this area: the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology (MIB) at The University of Manchester, and the Center for Synthetic and Systems Biology (CSSB) at Tsinghua University in Beijing, China.

Each share a vision for world-class research in synthetic and systems biology. The MIB's research areas both inform and are informed by its Grand Challenges, which centre on emerging areas of excellence in the wider biotechnology field. Biotechnology is also one of the University's specialist research beacons and was recently awarded the Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

It is the mission of the CSSB to pursue excellence in scientific research and education in order to answer some of the fundamental questions of life science. Tsinghua is one of the most prestigious universities in China and is committed, through teaching, research and innovation, to the advancement of both the country and the wider world.

This dual PhD programme will develop biotechnologies to support clean growth in order to deliver drop-in solutions and new sustainable processes to industry, while at the same time providing PhD training and skills to support a transition from a fossil resource to a bio-based system.

"It promises to be a fantastic programme and will provide a unique educational experience for the next generation of scientists. The strengths of Manchester and Tsinghua together will provide an excellent environment for PhD students to grow and blossom." - Dr Neil Dixon, Programme Director.

“This Tsinghua-Manchester dual degree PhD programme will provide unique opportunities for students to experience various research environments of both universities, to learn great sciences across national borders and to become more culturally open. More importantly, the students will exploit complementary strengths of both sites.” - Professor George Guoqiang Chen, Programme Director of Tsinghua University.

A double helix of DNA

Life at Tsinghua University

As part of this programme you’ll spend two years at Tsinghua University – one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Its campus is also considered one of the world’s most beautiful, and is the site of the former imperial gardens of the Qing Dynasty.

Spending so much time abroad can seem daunting; but everything is in place to ensure a wonderful, life-changing experience in Beijing.

Many international students attend Tsinghua, and you can find out more about activities and events on the university’s website. You can also discover more about opportunities for UK students in China through the British Council campaign Generation UK.


You'll spend two years at The University of Manchester and two years at Tsinghua University, with supervisors in both locations. You'll then follow one of three possible pathways, flexible to suit your research needs.

You'll be required to submit a single thesis in English within four years of the registration date, and your final viva examination will take place in either Manchester or Tsinghua. At the end of the four-year full-time programme, you'll receive a dual PhD, one award and two certificates.

A computer generated image of bacteria


Fees at both institutions are covered as part of the studentship package, and other fantastic funding opportunities include an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (around 15,609 for 2021 / 22) that will be paid to students while in Manchester, and a commensurate stipend while at Tsinghua.

You'll also receive an annual Research Training Support Grant towards project running costs/consumables while in Manchester, and a flight allowance for travelling between Manchester Tsinghua will be provided.

How to apply

Students must meet the entry requirements of both universities, and will be registered at both institutions in the first year of study.

Entry via Manchester is open to UK, EU and international students, excluding Chinese nationals.

Applicants should hold (or be about to obtain) a minimum 2:1 bachelor's degree (or overseas equivalent), in a relevant discipline, plus a master's degree or extensive research experience. Applicants can be internal or external to The University of Manchester. For applicants whose first language is not English, we require a minimum IELTS score of 6.5.

If you would like to apply for the dual award PhD in Synthetic and Systems Biology, please:

  1. Decide on the project(s) that are most relevant to your research interests from the list of available projects when they are announced. At this point, you are strongly encouraged to make direct contact with potential project supervisors to discuss their project and to arrange a meeting as soon as possible. You can find the name of the supervisor on each project, and their contact details in the University’s online directory. It is your responsibility to arrange meetings with supervisors. Invitations to our interview days are dictated by supervisor nominations, so you are unlikely to be nominated by a supervisor unless you have made contact with them, in addition to submitting an online application.
  2. Go to the University's general online application form.
  3. Follow the instructions to register.
  4. When you get to the 'Create a New Postgraduate Application' page, select:
    Institution: The University of Manchester (general applications are made via The University of Manchester irrespective of your institution)
    Academic Career: Postgraduate Research
    Mode of Attendance: Full Time
  5. In the Programme Description box enter 'PhD Tsinghua Dual Award', and then click on the 'search' button.
  6. PhD Tsinghua Dual Award should appear as one of the options. Select the 'apply' link next to this option. This will take you to the start of the online form for the programme. Now just enter your details and follow the instructions.
  7. There are a number of pages to complete. The first two pages are self-explanatory.
  8. For the Start Date, select September 2022.
  9. Where applicable, in the 'Proposed Research' box, for the 'Research Title', please enter the relevant project information.
  10. You should leave the 'Special Study Options' box blank.
  11. If there is anything extra that you like to tell us that is not covered by the rest of the form, please enter it in the 'Further Information' box.
  12. Please note if you have any existing publications, then enter them in the Publications boxes ('First Publication', 'Second Publication'), but we do not expect candidates to have publications.
  13. On the 7th page, please provide full details of two referees. Please note, at least one of these should be an academic referee. 
  14. If you already have funding or you are ineligible for a research council studentship, then enter the details of your funding in these boxes.
  15. On page 9: if you have an academic transcript or other useful documents, then please feel free to upload a copy here, or alternatively these can be emailed or posted to the address at the bottom of this page.

Interviews for shortlisted candidates will take place in April.

All Chinese nationals should apply via Tsinghua University. For further details please contact Ms Anqi (Ann) Peng at Tsinghua University.

Decide on the project(s) that are most relevant to your research interests from the list of available projects when they are announced.

The Manchester Institute of Biotechnology building at The University of Manchester.

Contact us

If you have any queries about the programme, the application process or your eligibility, please contact us.


Senior Postgraduate Recruitment and Admissions Administrator
Department of Chemistry
The University of Manchester
Brunswick Street
M13 9PL


Tel: +44 (0)161 306 9279