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PhDs in Science and Engineering

Dual award PhD in Synthetic and Systems Biology between The University of Manchester and Tsinghua University

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.

A female scientists uses a pipette to drop liquid into a series of test tubes.

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

Applications are currently paused for our Dual-award in Synthetic and Systems Biology with Tsinghua University and we will not be recruiting any students for a 23/24 start.

Please check back for further updates and to find out when applications are being accepted.

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 don't hesitate to get in touch: