Postgraduate study
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Centre for Doctoral Training in Designing Responsible Natural Language Processing PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Placements/internships

The Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Designing Responsible Natural Language Processing (NLP) aims to develop doctoral graduates that represent a new paradigm of interdisciplinary NLP researcher. Individuals, who can harness the full potential of NLP-based systems and create richer interactions between humans and AI. Our training will give students foundational knowledge across five fundamental skills domains, along with expertise in at least one of these areas. The training programme aims to create an NLP practitioner culture of responsibility, with graduates who are confident in combining technical expertise with:

  • ethics

  • governance

  • consideration of users and use contexts

Students will train together in cohorts formed from various disciplines and background experiences. The students will be supported to collaborate on “team science” applied NLP projects. Through these projects, the students will also get the chance to work with some of our 70+ partners in the following sectors:

  • industry

  • public

  • non-profit

  • research

As part of the structure of our PhD with integrated studies, all students must study taught courses whilst completing the research elements of the traditional PhD programme. We have designed the programme to be flexible in the way credits are acquired. However, all students must successfully complete 180 taught credits over the first 3 years, plus the equivalent of 3 years of PhD research, spread over the 4-year programme. Out of the 180 credits, you will achieve 110 via mandatory courses that all CDT students take, and the remaining 70 credits from optional courses at the appropriate SCQF level.

Every student will have a placement, no more than 3 months long, during Years 2 or 3. The placements will involve students working in our partner’s teams and using skills developed through their training. We expect around two-thirds of placements to be with industry or in international research labs.

Our students will gain the skills, knowledge and experience to study and design real-world applications of NLP in an interdisciplinary training environment, hosted by the new Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI).

The training programme brings together world-leading researchers at our University to supervise students and guide them in their training and learning. Their expertise covers a range of subjects including:

  • informatics

  • design

  • linguistics

  • speech science

  • psychology

  • law

  • philosophy

  • information science

  • digital humanities

As well as the formal credit-bearing courses all CDT students will be enrolled on, we have a variety of other training initiatives and activities within the CDT to:

  • enhance the learning opportunities for students

  • build links between students across different cohorts

  • personalise student’s training plans

Examples include:

  • entrepreneurship and innovation-oriented training

  • the Annual CDT Festival where students present their work

  • annual Industry Challenge Days

  • placements with partners

  • policy Workshops and Fellowships

  • responsible NLP speakers and masterclasses

  • support for student-led training

Students will be involved in the vibrant world-class and interdisciplinary research community at the EFI, with access to cutting-edge computational, design, fabrication and testing facilities across:

  • the School of Informatics

  • Edinburgh College of Art

  • the EPCC

This includes access to multiple state-of-the-art GPU clusters that enable work with large language models.

We expect many students will seek diverse career pathways after their PhD such as in:

  • academia

  • industrial research and development

  • entrepreneurship and social innovation

  • creating start-ups

Each cohort of students will participate in Fast-Track Impact training for PhD students in Year 1, and placements will provide students with hands-on industry experience. Students will also be able to participate in Bridge, a new start-up building course delivered by the EFI and partner Codebase.

Additionally, the Bayes Centre and Edinburgh Innovations will provide students with access to University support to facilitate the commercialisation of their research. The support will include:

  • mentoring

  • access to business advisors

  • incubators

  • accelerators

  • a network of investors and peers

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in an area related to the topic of the CDT, for example informatics, computer science, AI, cognitive science, mathematics, design, linguistics, psychology, philosophy, law, and social and political science.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

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. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

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
PhDNatural Language Processing4 YearsFull-timeTuition fees

The CDT will be seeking to fund about 10-12 studentships in each cohort, with the ambition to create cohorts of students from different backgrounds and disciplines.

Studentship funding may be subject to eligibility requirements as set by the programme funder. We will conduct eligibility assessments as part of the application process.

For more details, please refer to the programme's webpage.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • CDT in Designing Responsible Natural Language Processing
  • School of Informatics
  • 10 Crichton Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AB
Round Application deadline
1 11 March 2024

You must submit two references with your application.

You must submit an application via the EUCLID application portal and provide the required information and documentation.

Application needs to include CV and statement of intent and alignment with the CDT; further details can be found on their website.

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

Further information

  • CDT in Designing Responsible Natural Language Processing
  • School of Informatics
  • 10 Crichton Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AB