Computer Science

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
107 place StudyQA ranking:4048 Duration:36 months

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The University of Birmingham offers supervision for the degree of Ph.D. in Computer Science in many research areas of computer science.

We are looking for highly motivated and . Much of our school's development in the last five years has been in the development of new areas, notably the Natural Computation, Programming Languages, and Computational Linguistics groups.

The School of Computer Science welcomes highly motivated and well qualified graduates to join us to work towards a doctorate. Our work is regularly presented in international conferences and journals, indicating the high standards we achieve in research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise the School was ranked equal 7th in the proportion of 4* awards, for research quality that is world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.

Our research is grouped into the following main themes:

* Artificial intelligence
* Nature-inspired computation
* Computing and systems
* Theoretical computer science


Artificial intelligence


* Reasoning and cognition
* Robotics
* Natural language processing

Reasoning and cognition
This sub-theme covers research on architectures for human mental states and processes, as well as recreating them in computer programs. It also includes research on automated reasoning with applications to mathematical knowledge management and computer algebra. Analysing architectures for human mental states and processes allows us to investigate whether the ability to have emotional states is an accident of animal evolution, or an inevitable consequence of design requirements and constraints.

Automated reasoning research is relevant both to understanding how human reasoning works and to the design of useful practical tools. Modelling assertion evaluation research is important as it allows us to model the human ability to acquire knowledge through testimony in sufficient detail to allow a computer program to be written which emulates this ability. Collaborations include participations in Calculemus and the MKM network.

Contact: Dr Manfred Kerber
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 4787
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281|

We conduct basic research in intelligent robotics and related areas, including cognitive robotics, learning robotics, fault diagnosis, machine learning and sequential decision-making. In cognitive robotics, we design robots that are capable of having simple conversations about everyday objects in collaboration with a human. In diagnosis, we have made significant contributions to the state of the art, with applications to the NASA Mars rover programme.

We also have a strong track record in planning and control for planetary rovers, including planning technologies designed for use on the Mars rover missions. Our approach has a sound basis in decision theory and statistical methods from machine learning. We also support some work on robot learning and evolutionary robotics, and collaborate with members of the School working on natural computation, AI and machine learning.
The group is led by two senior lecturers with two research fellows and four doctoral students. We currently hold over £600,000 in externally funded grants from funders including the European Commission and The Royal Society. We have collaborations with a dozen different universities, including leading institutions in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.

Contact: Dr Jeremy Wyatt
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 4788
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281|

Natural language processing
The Natural Language Processing group performs research on every level of language from speech understanding to pragmatics and conceptual metaphorical reasoning. We also have research interests in applied natural language processing and information retrieval.

Contact: Dr Mark Lee
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 4765
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281

Nature-inspired computation


* Natural computation
* Image interpretation

Natural computation
The Natural Computation Group is one of the world's leading groups in this field as evidenced by journal editorships, conference committee memberships and refereeing activities. It conducts both basic and applied research in areas including evolutionary computation; neural computation; artificial life; self-organising systems; emergent behaviours; machine perception; evolutionary robotics; complex adaptive systems; swarm intelligence; and real-world applications.

The group is supplemented by CERCIA (Centre of Excellence for Research in Computational Intelligence and Applications), which, with major funding from Advantage West Midlands, investigates the industrial applications of natural computation techniques. The group includes at least six teaching staff, ten research fellows and more than 25 PhD researchers. It has averaged more than £1 million annual external grant income in the last four years.

Contact: Professor Xin Yao
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3747
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281|

Image interpretation
This theme covers multidisciplinary research on computational techniques for image interpretation. The core activities relate to medical imaging, and aim to develop diagnostic aids that quantitatively characterise the properties of body tissues and organs. Current projects target the early diagnosis of skin and colon cancer and diabetic retinopathy. Some of the most exciting results have been achieved through techniques based on the understanding of the physics of image formation pioneered by this group. The most notable example is SIAscopy, now used worldwide in the diagnosis of skin cancers.

The same principles have been shown to work successfully for images in such diverse domains as astronomy and fluorescence microscopy, which, with other domains, will be the subject of further developments. Another new area is the exploration of evolutionary computation for image interpretation.

The group includes and collaborates with physicists and clinicians, and is funded by grants from research councils and major charities.

Contact: Dr Ela Claridge
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 4778
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281

Computing and systems


* Distributed and autonomic systems
* Humancomputer interaction
* Modelling and analysis of systems

Distributed and autonomic systems
The Distributed Systems Laboratory conducts research in areas from principles, frameworks and tools for the design, modelling and implementation of distributed systems, to engineering novel systems such as distributed simulation kernels and microprocessors. Current research includes work on infrastructures for distributed virtual and collaborative environments, large-scale distributed simulation, grid computing, security, and verification of distributed systems.

The group is a founding member of MeSC, the Midlands e-Science Centre of Excellence. It has several ongoing projects and wide-ranging national and international research collaborations.

Contact: Dr Georgios Theodoropoulos
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 4780
Fax: +44 (0) 121 414 4281

Humancomputer interaction
Humancomputer interaction is the focus of the Advanced Interaction Group. The group exists to promote leading-edge research and development in theories, designs, methodologies, and systems to support people in whatever they want to achieve. The group acts as a focal point for research, development and expertise in anything that has the user at the core.

This includes:

* Mobile computing: laptops, handhelds, tablets, phones
* Internet-based systems: e-commerce, web design, shared spaces, communities
* New media and new technologies
* Ambient computing: ad-hoc interaction with the environment, other users, other systems
* Intelligent agents: entities acting for or on behalf of the user
* Usability and design: theories and methodologies to promote effective, usable, enjoyable systems
* Visualisation, virtual and augmented realities: the representation of complex information in effective ways
* Gaming, edutainment
* Interaction technologies: speech, gesture, vision

The group is an interdisciplinary grouping of researchers who bring a range of backgrounds and perspectives to bear on research problems.

Contact: Dr Russell Beale
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3729
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281

Modelling and analysis of systems
The research conducted under this theme is centred on languages and formalisms for modelling complex systems, especially those involving randomness, as well as software tools for their analysis. The analysis methods include simulation and verification via model checking. Current research areas include the feature interaction problem, access control systems, analysis of security protocols, verification of control software using real-time model checkers, and analysis of mobile ad-hoc networks.

The group has developed the PRISM system for building and analysing probabilistic models, and this has been applied to a wide range of real-life systems, including state-of-the-art communication protocols such as FireWire and Bluetooth, power management schemes and biological processes. The group is also a leading member of the Midlands e-Science Centre (MeSC).

Contact: Dr Mark Ryan
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7361
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281

Theoretical computer science


* Principles of programming
* Mathematical foundations of computer science

Principles of programming
This theme covers model-based and semantics-based approaches to program development, program structuring and program reasoning. Interests include type systems for programming languages; the study of computational effects (including control and state-manipulation operations); data abstraction mechanisms; object-oriented programs; dynamic data structures and concurrency.

The group is an active member of the APPSEM Thematic Network, funded by EU FP5, and has wide-ranging global collaborations.

Contact: Professor Uday Reddy
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 2740
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281|

Mathematical foundations of computer science
This group is concerned with developing mathematical models and theories that underpin the design and analysis of programming languages, helping to explain computational phenomena such as real number computation.

The major areas of research include domain theory and topology, exact numerical computation and computational logic and the relationship between them.

The group has wide-ranging global collaborations and is a leading member of the APPSEM Thematic Network, funded by EU FP5 and the TYPES network. It is also a founding member of the Midlands Graduate School in Theoretical Computer Science.

Contact: Professor Achim Jung
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 4776
Fax: +44 (0)121 414 4281|


We are looking for students with intellectual curiosity who want to discover more about topics in computing that fascinate them. To join us, you should:

* have excellent analytical skills, to be able to understand problems and propose solutions;
* be capable of working hard on difficult projects;
* have the ability to set your own goals and manage your time;
* be self-critical and be able to evaluate your own performance fairly;
* have good communication skills and be able to explain your ideas in meetings with your supervisor and in writing.

If you have all these attributes, then we encourage you to apply to study with us.

First degree requirements

* You must have a first degree before starting the PhD.
* You can apply before you have passed your first degree. If we offer you a place, it will be a conditional offer until your degree result is known.
* The minimal entry requirement is an Upper Second class Bachelor's degree from a British university, or the international equivalent. For most European countries, that means a Bachelor's, but for some other countries both a BSc and an MSc are required.
* In most cases, we expect a degree in Computer Science. For some research topics, a degree in Mathematics or Physics can be a good qualification.

How to Apply

1. Application form

Please apply by completing the online application form at the University of Birmingham Direct Application Service.

You must indicate a research topic for your PhD, and you are strongly encouraged to suggest possible supervisors or one of our research areas. If your PhD application is not related to our research interests and expertise, it will be rejected.

The programme codes for the different degrees are:

* PhD Computer Science Full-time: 3245 (in most cases, this is the code you will need)
* PhD Computer Science Part-time: 4011(Home/EU students only)

2. Research Proposal

Successful PhD applicants must show that they are capable of original and creative thinking. We ask you to write a research proposal which includes the following points:

* A description of work that you have done or would like to do. This work should have inspired you to want to study for a research degree.
* Briefly describe the way or ways in which this work could be extended to make good research topics.
* Using one of these research topics, give a plan for carrying through this research. Your plan should show the detailed stages which have to be carried out.
* Describe any other work you know of that is related to your proposed work, citing the relevant research literature.
* Explain how your work would be new and useful to other researchers in your field.

The research proposal does not commit you to writing your thesis on exactly that topic, as the actual thesis proposal is written at a later stage. The topic you propose should be relevant to the research interests of at least one possible supervisor among the academics in our department. See the range of research areas and personal web pages of academics.

Please be aware that the research proposal must be written solely by you. Any attempt at plagiarism will result in immediate rejection of your application.

3. Two Academic References

These should be written by two people who know you well, usually academics or in some cases employers. At least one reference must be written by someone who taught you when you studied for a previous degree. Reference letters should be written on official letterhead paper and signed. References for a PhD application should comment on your potential for research and your standing amongst students in your degree (e.g., in the top N percent).

4. Academic Transcripts

We need to see a list of the subjects/modules you have studied in your previous degree(s). This list should include the marks/grades you were given for each subject/module. If you have not finished your degree yet, you should send a transcript of the grades you were awarded in previous years.

5. English language certificate (if English is not your first language)

The University accepts IELTS 6.0, TOEFL 87 in internet-based test; 550 in paper-based test and TWE certificates.

English Language Requirements

IELTS band: 6 TOEFL paper-based test score : 550 TOEFL iBT® test: 87

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since April 2014 the ETS tests (including TOEFL and TOEIC) are no longer accepted for Tier 4 visa applications to the United Kingdom. The university might still accept these tests to admit you to the university, but if you require a Tier 4 visa to enter the UK and begin your degree programme, these tests will not be sufficient to obtain your Visa.

The IELTS test is most widely accepted by universities and is also accepted for Tier 4 visas to the UK- learn more.


The School of Computer Science has a number of fully-funded scholarships for our Ph.D. in Computer Science. Every Ph.D. application, if accepted, will automatically be considered for these scholarships.

As the scholarships are by nomination only, there is no need for a separate application. Only students who have applied for a PhD place and received a conditional or unconditional offer of a place to study here will be considered. Thus the best way to win one of our scholarships is to make a strong PhD application that is relevant to the research done in the department and to apply in good time.

Payment for 2011/2012: £13,950 per year (subject to review) and tuition fees.

Applicants should apply as early as possible. Decisions on School of Computer Science scholarships are expected to be made in July 2011. Later applications may still be considered, but all available funding may already be allocated.

EPS Elite Scholarships for students from outside the European Union

A number of 'Postgraduate Elite Scholarships' will be awarded to students from outside the European Union by the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences (EPS), of which Computer Science is a part. The EPS scholarships cover overseas tuition fees and maintenance as well as some expenses for travel. To be considered, students must hold an (at least conditional) offer of a PhD place.

Teaching Assistantships

We also have a number of Teaching Assistant (TA) positions for PhD students from the UK or the rest of the European Union. Our Teaching Assistants are paid an enhanced studentship for up to four years. Applicants should indicate whether they are interested in a Teaching Assistant position when making their application for a PhD place (on the application form under "How do you intend to fund your studies").

The Li Siguang Scholarship

The University of Birmingham offers 18 PhD scholarships for students from China. For the Li Siguang Scholarship scheme, you first need to apply for a PhD place here. Once you have an offer for PhD study, you then need to make a separate application to the China Scholarship Council for the scholarship.

Scholarships for specific projects

In addition to departmental scholarships and Teaching Assistantships, some of our research projects also have funded PhD positions. Currently these include:

* Verifying Interoperability Requirements in Pervasive Systems
* Co-Evolution of Neural Control and Body Plan under Limited Resources
* Study of fitness landscapes arising from software engineering problems

Paul and Yuanbi Ramsay PhD Scholarship

Our alumnus Dr Paul Ramsay has generously provided funding towards a scholarship for a UK or European Union student studying for a PhD in the School of Computer Science. The criteria for the Ramsay scholarship will be financial need and previous academic performance.

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