Postgraduate study

Speech and Language Processing MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

This intensive programme covers all areas of speech and language processing, from phonetics, speech synthesis and speech recognition to natural language generation and machine translation. You will have an exciting opportunity to learn from world leaders in both informatics and linguistics.

The programme provides research and vocational training and can be either freestanding or used as preparation for a PhD. The modular nature allows you to tailor it to your own interests.

Key research areas

This programme combines elements of linguistics, artificial intelligence, computer science, and engineering and is taught by leading researchers from Linguistics & English Language, the Centre for Speech Technology Research, and the School of Informatics.

In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), Linguistics research at Edinburgh is ranked 3rd in the UK (Times Higher Education, Modern Languages and Linguistics, Rank order by GPA).

What will I learn

You will develop up-to-date knowledge of a broad range of areas in speech and language processing and gain the technical expertise and hands-on skills required to carry out research and development in this challenging interdisciplinary area.

This programme covers all areas of speech and language processing, from phonetics, speech synthesis and speech recognition, to natural language understanding and machine translation.

The flexible nature of the programme allows students to take courses ranging across other areas of linguistics, informatics, and cognitive science.

Is this MSc for me

This programme is best suited to applicants whose academic background is in:

  • linguistics
  • computer science
  • engineering
  • cognitive science

It provides an excellent preparation for further research and knowledge as a specialist, whether you choose to pursue this in further in academic research or in a professional career.

Reputation, relevance and employability

Edinburgh has a proud and distinguished place in the teaching in Linguistics and you will be taught by world-leading experts across a range of research areas.

You will benefit from the breadth and strength of the interdisciplinary academic community at Edinburgh, having the opportunity to select option courses and attend research seminars across different disciplines.

Our students’ research projects are often published in academic or professional journals.

Our programme has an excellent reputation amongst employers. Many of our graduates have gone onto PhD training and we have a high academic job placement record.

Find out more about our community

The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is home to a large, supportive and active student community, hosting events and activities throughout the year which you can join. As a postgraduate student, you will have access to a range of research resources, state-of-the-art facilities research seminars and reading groups.

This programme contains two semesters of taught core courses and optional courses followed by a dissertation.

The taught courses and their assessments take place between September to December (Semester 1) and January to April (Semester 2). Dissertation topics are assigned during Semester 2 and the project is carried out between June and August.

Core courses

Most core compulsory courses have both computational and mathematical content. A few optional courses need a stronger mathematical background. The core courses are:

  • Computer Programming for Speech and Language Processing
  • Accelerated Natural Language Processing
  • Speech Processing
  • Statistics and Quantitative Methods
  • Research Ethics Training in Linguistics and English Language

Optional courses

The optional courses offer you the opportunity to explore areas of your interest. Examples of optional courses are:

  • Natural Language Understanding, Generation, and Machine Translation
  • Automatic Speech Recognition
  • Speech Synthesis
  • Machine Learning in Signal Processing
  • Simulating Language
  • Phonetics and Laboratory Phonology
  • Speech Production and Perception
  • The Human Factor: Working with Users
  • Introductory Applied Machine Learning

Dissertation

The dissertation involves writing a research project in close collaboration with an expert supervisor.

You will produce a written report, similar to an academic journal article; indeed, some dissertations do result in a published paper.

The empirical work and writing takes place between April and August and will be due in August.

Past examples of dissertation topics include:

  • Multi-Task Learning Approaches to Accented Speech Recognition
  • Using i-vectors in Speaker Adaptive Speech Synthesis for Disordered Speech
  • Multimodal Emotion Recognition: an Assessment of Deep Learning Approaches
  • A Sequence-to-Sequence Neural Network for English Past-tense Inflection
  • Hate Speech Detection on Twitter
  • Controlling Prosody in Speech Synthesis Systems
  • Knowledge-lean Approaches to Metonymy

How will I learn

Most courses are taught by a combination of live and pre-recorded lectures and seminars/tutorials. The number of contact hours and the teaching format will depend to some extent on the option courses chosen.

After classes finish in April, you will spend all your time working independently on coursework, exam revision and on your dissertation. When you carry out your supervised dissertation research, you will receive guidance from your supervisor through one-to-one meetings, comments on written work and email communication.

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
MScSpeech and Language Processing1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2022/23

This programme aims to equip you with the technical knowledge and practical skills required to carry out research and development in the challenging interdisciplinary arena of speech and language technology.

You will learn about state-of-the-art techniques in:

  • speech synthesis
  • automatic speech recognition
  • natural language processing
  • language generation
  • machine translation

You will also learn the theory behind such technologies and gain the practical experience of working with and developing real systems based on these technologies.

This programme is ideal preparation for a PhD or for working in industry and teaches a broad range of transferable skills applicable to a wide range of modern jobs as well as further academic research and training.

Our graduates

The analytical skills you develop and the research training you receive will be valuable in a wide range of careers. In addition to a number of our graduates going onto further academic research opportunities, some recent examples of positions in industry they have progressed to are:

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • British Telecom
  • EF Education First
  • Ericsson
  • Google
  • Gracenote
  • IBM
  • Jibo
  • Microsoft
  • Nuance
  • Papercup
  • Phonetic Arts
  • Sensory Inc.
  • Speechmatics
  • Symantec
  • Trafsys

Several have started up companies, some directly after the MSc, including:

  • LEXILAB
  • Nested
  • Openhearted
  • Alivox

Many graduates will go on to study for a PhD, some examples of where they have gone on to study are:

  • KTH
  • MIT
  • NTNU
  • Northwestern University
  • Technische Universität München
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Padua

Former students have research or faculty positions at universities including:

  • KU Leuven
  • Macquarie University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • RIKEN Brain Science Institute
  • Stanford University
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Edinburgh
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Careers Service

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Your application and personal statement allow us to make sure that you and your chosen MSc are a good fit, and that you will have a productive and successful year at Edinburgh.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. You should generally avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding of, and commitment to, a specific programme are preferred.

There are typically up to 40 places available on the programme each year. We anticipate awarding most places in the first three batches.

Personal statements

When applying, you should include a personal statement detailing your academic abilities and your reasons for applying for the programme

The personal statement helps us decide whether you are right for the MSc programme you have selected, but just as importantly, it helps us decide whether the MSc programme is right for you.

Your personal statement should include:

  • What makes this particular MSc programme interesting for you?
  • What are the most important things you want to gain from the MSc programme?
  • What are the key courses you have taken and that are relevant for this specific programme and what are your academic abilities?
  • Any other information which you feel will help us ensure that you are a good match to your intended MSc programme.

A good personal statement can make a big difference to the admissions process as it may be the only opportunity to explain why you are an ideal candidate for the programme.

References

You will be asked to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application. Alternatively, they can email their comments to:

pplspgoffice@ed.ac.uk

Preparing a strong application

One factor used in the admissions process is your level of preparation for the programme. Whilst we do not expect an advanced level of preparation at the time of application, the majority of successful applicants do demonstrate that they have actively started to prepare. The programme director provides some suggestions of things you can do before applying and after receiving an offer. You can describe your level of preparation in your personal statement.

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

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 degree, or its international equivalent, in linguistics, computer science, engineering, psychology, philosophy, mathematics or a related subject. Your application should show evidence of a basic understanding of linguistics, mathematics and computer science and you must be willing to undertake further study to prepare you for the programme.

You can increase your chances of a successful application by exceeding the minimum programme requirements.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

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 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

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:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScSpeech and Language Processing1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScSpeech and Language Processing2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

There are a number of highly competitive scholarships and funding options available to MSc students.

Deadlines for funding applications vary for each funding source - please make sure to check the specific deadlines for the funding opportunities you wish to apply for and make sure that you submit your application in good time.

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
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Programme Director, Professor Simon King
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 5002
  • Contact: simon.king@ed.ac.uk
  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD
Programme start date Application deadline
11 September 2023 1 May 2023

We operate a gathered field approach to applications for MSc Speech and Language Processing. You may submit your application at any time.

All complete applications that satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be placed on a shortlist and held until the next batch processing deadline. Applications will then be ranked and offers made to the top candidates.

Exceptionally well-qualified applicants may occasionally be made an immediate offer, without entering the shortlisting process.

Applications are processed in batches:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 01 December 31 January
2 01 February 31 March
3 03 April 29 May
4 01 May 22 June

If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

Places available

There are typically up to 40 places available on the programme each year. We anticipate awarding most places in the first three batches.

Supporting documents and references

Applications must be complete with all supporting documentation to be passed on for consideration; this includes references.

Please ensure that you inform referees of any deadline you wish to meet.

You must submit two references with your application.

Please read through the ‘Important application information’ section on this page before applying.

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

Further information

  • Programme Director, Professor Simon King
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 5002
  • Contact: simon.king@ed.ac.uk
  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD