Postgraduate study

EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Robotics and Autonomous Systems PhD

Awards: PhD

Funding opportunities

Robots have the potential to revolutionise society and the economy, working for us, beside us, and interacting with us. This EPSRC-sponsored programme will produce graduates with the technical skills and industry awareness to create an innovation pipeline from academic research to global markets.

The robotics and autonomous systems area has been highlighted by the UK Government in 2013 as one of the eight Great Technologies that underpin the UK's Industrial Strategy for jobs and growth. Key application areas include manufacturing, assistive and medical robots, offshore energy, environmental monitoring, search and rescue, defence, and support for the ageing population.

The University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University are jointly offering this innovative four-year PhD training programme, which combines a strong general grounding in current theory, methods and applications with flexibility for individualised study and a specialised PhD project.

Robotics and autonomous systems are increasingly studied beyond the range of classical engineering. Today robots represent one of the main areas of application of computer science and provide challenges for mathematics and natural science.

It is impossible to imagine transportation, warehousing, safety systems, space and marine exploration, prosthetics, and many other areas of industry, technology and science without robots. Robots are used in theoretical biology and the neurosciences as a model of behaviour.

Areas of interest specific to the centre include: movement control, planning, decision making, bio- and neurorobotics, human-robot interaction, healthcare applications, robot soccer, neuroprosthetics, underwater robotics, bipedal walking, service robots, robotic co-workers, computer vision, speech processing, computer animation realistic simulations, and machine learning.

Many more topics can be found be exploring the Centre’s web pages, particularly the personal web pages of the Centre supervisors:

Our four-year PhD programme combines Masters level coursework and project work with independent PhD-level research.

In the first year, you will undertake three to five masters level courses, spread throughout robotics, machine learning, computational neuroscience, computer architectures, statistics, optimization, sensorics, dynamics, mechanics, image processing, signal processing, modelling, animation, artificial intelligence, and related areas. You will also be developing and pursuing a PhD research project, under the close supervision of your primary and secondary supervisors. The PhD will be awarded jointly by the University of Edinburgh and the Heriot-Watt University.

You will have opportunities for three to six month internships with leading companies or international research institutes in your area, and to participate in our industrial engagement programme, exchanging ideas and challenges with our sponsor companies.

Throughout your studies, you will participate in our regular programmes of seminars, short talks and brainstorming sessions, and benefit from our pastoral mentoring schemes. Our user partners in industry include companies working in offshore energy, environmental monitoring, defence, assisted living, transport, advanced manufacturing and education. They will provide the real-world context for research, as well as opportunities for reciprocal secondments, internships and involvement in our industrial engagement programme.

The School of Informatics is committed to advancing 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.

You will have access to the outstanding facilities in the National Robotarium, a national facility for research into robot interaction, supporting the research of more than 50 world-leading investigators from 17 cross-disciplinary research groups.

Research groups at the National Robotarium include humanoid movement control, underwater, land and airborne autonomous vehicles, human robot interaction, bio- and neuro-robotics, and planning and decision making in multirobot scenarios.

In addition, our research groups contain a diverse range of compute clusters for compute and data-intensive work, including a large cluster hosted by the Edinburgh Compute and Data Facility.

Our aim is to produce innovation-ready graduates who are skilled in the principles of technical and commercial disruption and who understand how finance and organisation realise new products in start-up, SME and corporate situations.

We intend for our graduates to become leaders in the globally emerging market for autonomous and robotic systems that reduce risk, reduce cost, increase profit and protect the environment. This vision is shared by our industrial supporters, whose support for our internship programme indicates their strong desire to find highly qualified new employees.

Our component research groups already have excellent track-records in post-graduation destinations, including the research labs of industry-leading companies, and post-doctoral research positions in top tier universities.

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ.

Please note 2023/24 is the final year of entry for this CDT programme.

A UK 2.1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in computer science or related subjects such as mathematics, physics, engineering, or computational linguistics.

Applicants from a psychology background with a strong technical background and/or experience in statistical research methods are also welcome.

Applicants coming directly from a bachelors (hons) or masters degree are welcome.

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 (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 59 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:

  • Robotics and Autonomous Systems Centre for Doctoral Training
  • Earl Mountbatten Building
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Edinburgh
  • EH14 4AS

Closing dates for all applications:

  • 16 January 2023

For more details including the application deadline, please refer to the Edinburgh Centre of Robotics website:

There may be further closing dates if funded places remain unfilled after the January deadline.

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

Please note: 2023/24 is the final year of entry for this CDT programme.

(Revised 30 November 2022 to remove the Overseas application deadline)

Full details of how to submit your application and the supporting documents required can be found on the Edinburgh Centre of Robotics website.

Further information

  • Robotics and Autonomous Systems Centre for Doctoral Training
  • Earl Mountbatten Building
  • Heriot-Watt University
  • Edinburgh
  • EH14 4AS