Postgraduate study

Informatics: ILCC: Language Processing, Speech Technology, Information Retrieval, Cognition PhD, MPhil, MScR

Awards: PhD, MPhil, MScR

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Strongly interdisciplinary in nature, the Institute for Language, Cognition and Communication (ILCC) is dedicated to both basic and applied research in the computational study of language, communication, and cognition, in both humans and machines.

As technology focuses increasingly on language-based communication tools, research into the automation of language processing has become vital. ILCC offers you the broadest research scope in the UK, and a strong computational focus.

Our primary areas of research are:

  • natural language processing and computational linguistics
  • spoken language processing
  • dialogue and multimodal interaction
  • information extraction, retrieval, and presentation
  • computational theories of human cognition
  • educational and assistive technology
  • visualisation

Much of our research is applied to software development, in areas as diverse as social media, assisted living, gaming and education.

You may find yourself working closely with other departments of the University, particularly the School of Philosophy, Psychology & Language Sciences.

Many of our researchers are involved in cross-disciplinary research centres; for instance:

Centre for Speech Technology Research (CSTR)

The Centre for Speech Technology Research (CSTR) is an interdisciplinary research centre linking Informatics and Linguistics. Founded in 1984, it is now one of the world's largest concentrations of researchers working in the field of language and speech processing.

CSTR is concerned with research in all areas of speech technology including speech recognition, synthesis, signal processing, acoustic phonetics, information access, multi-modal interaction and dialogue systems.

The Centre is home to state-of-the-art research facilities including specialised speech and language-orientated computer labs, a digital recording studio, perception labs and a meeting room instrumented with multiple synchronised video cameras and microphones. There is also access to high-performance computer clusters, the University storage area network, a specialist library, and many speech and language databases

Centre for Design Informatics

Data driven innovation is transforming society and the economy. In the Centre for Design Informatics, we design systems for better human data interaction, in diverse settings such as health, culture, mobility and finance. We explore design from, with, and by data: the central concern is the design of flows of data which sustain and enhance human values. Relevant technologies range from the internet of things, through blockchains, to robotics, speech recognition, data visualisation, interaction design, and social computing.

UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training in Natural Language Processing

The Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Natural Language Processing (NLP) is jointly run by the School of Informatics and the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences. Its aim is to equip students with the fundamental skills for advanced research in NLP and language science, giving them foundations in: linguistics; machine learning, statistics, algorithms; programming; working with other modalities such as vision; and design, ethics, and responsible innovation as they apply to NLP systems.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDInformatics3 YearsFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20
MScRInformatics1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2019/20

You carry out your research within a research group under the guidance of a supervisor. You will be expected to attend seminars and meetings of relevant research groups and may also attend lectures that are relevant to your research topic. Periodic reviews of your progress will be conducted to assist with research planning.

A programme of transferable skills courses facilitates broader professional development in a wide range of topics, from writing and presentation skills to entrepreneurship and career strategies.

The School of Informatics holds a Silver Athena SWAN award, in recognition of our commitment to advance the representation of women in science, mathematics, engineering and technology. The School is deploying a range of strategies to help female staff and students of all stages in their careers and we seek regular feedback from our research community on our performance.

The award-winning Informatics Forum is an international research facility for computing and related areas. It houses more than 400 research staff and students, providing office, meeting and social spaces.

It also contains several robotics labs, an instrumented multimedia room, eye-tracking and motion capture systems, and a full recording studio amongst other research facilities. Its spectacular atrium plays host to many events, from industry showcases and student hackathons to major research conferences.

Nearby teaching facilities include computer and teaching labs with more than 250 machines, 24-hour access to IT facilities for students, and comprehensive support provided by dedicated computing staff.

Among our entrepreneurial initiatives is Informatics Ventures, set up to support globally ambitious software companies in Scotland and nurture a technology cluster to rival Boston, Pittsburgh, Kyoto and Silicon Valley.

While many of our graduates pursue an academic career, others find their skills are highly sought after in the technology industry. A number of our students serve internships with large UK and international software developers, while others take up positions with major social media companies.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, typically in an area of informatics, such as artificial intelligence, cognitive science or computer science. You should have experience in computer programming.

We may also consider a UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in engineering, linguistics, mathematics, philosophy, physics or psychology.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component

  • TOEFL-iBT: total 92 with at least 20 in each section

  • PTE Academic: total 61 with at least 56 in each of the Communicative Skills scores

  • CAE and CPE: total 176 with at least 169 in each paper

  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Academic Technology Approval Scheme

If you are not an EU, EEA or Swiss national, you may need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme clearance certificate in order to study this programme.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhDInformatics3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDInformatics6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MPhilInformatics2 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
MPhilInformatics4 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScRInformatics1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScRInformatics2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Informatics Graduate School
  • Office 3.42, Informatics Forum
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AB

Applications for 2020/21 entry can be submitted all year round, however, please submit your completed application at least three months prior to desired entry date.

If want to be considered for school funded PhD scholarships you must apply by one of two rounds:

Round Application deadline
1 29 November 2019
2 31 January 2020

Please note that some university and school scholarships require separate applications via the Scholarships portal.

You must submit two references with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Informatics Graduate School
  • Office 3.42, Informatics Forum
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AB