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Have you ever wondered how animals move collectively in flocks, swarms and shoals? Or how the brain learns and remembers information? Or how different plants, species or even transport systems evolve and adapt according to their environments? These are just a few examples of the numerous strands of research undertaken at the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences (BCCS), a Centre for Doctoral Training funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The BCCS cultivates interdisciplinary research across a range of modern engineering, social, life and molecular science subjects. Combining new and traditional methods from a variety of disciplines, our complexity sciences research focuses on the development of innovative mathematical methodology, tools and concepts which can be applied and tested on important real-world problems.

You will be exposed to a variety of cutting edge theoretical techniques and will be given the opportunity to apply these techniques in two diverse projects before deciding on your three-year PhD project.


Programme structure

Our four-year PhD programme starts with a taught component during the first year to allow you time for exploration and to provide a greater depth of experience and understanding in complexity sciences, before you decide on a final PhD project which is undertaken in years 2, 3 and 4. During the taught component you have the added benefit of working with potential PhD supervisors before deciding on the final project.

Year One (Taught Component)

During the first half of the taught component you will study a range of mathematical sciences including:

* Network Theory;
* Control Theory;
* Nonlinear Dynamics;
* Big Data;
* Mathematical Modelling.

Alongside this theoretical training you will also be exposed to a variety of disciplines and problems across Engineering, Biological Sciences and Social Sciences where the mathematical theory can be applied.

During the second half of the year you will work on two distinct 12-week research projects, which provide the opportunity to develop novel theoretical approaches and apply them within specific real-world systems.

One of these 12-week projects often serves as a springboard for the final PhD project.

Years Two to Four (PhD study)

Upon successful completion of the taught component, you will move into a host department to work on your PhD, which is usually defined by the main supervisor of the project. All PhD projects are supervised by at least two members of staff, to provide both a theoretical and applied perspective to the research. There are also many links with potential supervisors at other institutions or in industry. While working on the PhD you remain enrolled with the BCCS.

Throughout the PhD programme you are actively encouraged to participate in a personal development programme of activities including transferable skills workshops, outreach events, teaching the Additional Research Skills lectures, producing the BCCS newsletter, and other social arrangements. As a result there is a strong sense of community and successful integration both horizontally (within the same year) and vertically (across different years and with staff).

UK requirements for international applications

Universities in the United Kingdom use a centralized system of undergraduate application: University and College Admissions Service (UCAS). It is used by both domestic and international students. Students have to register on the UCAS website before applying to the university. They will find all the necessary information about the application process on this website. Some graduate courses also require registration on this website, but in most cases students have to apply directly to the university. Some universities also accept undergraduate application through Common App (the information about it could be found on universities' websites).

Both undergraduate and graduate students may receive three types of responses from the university. The first one, “unconditional offer” means that you already reached all requirements and may be admitted to the university. The second one, “conditional offer” makes your admission possible if you fulfill some criteria – for example, have good grades on final exams. The third one, “unsuccessful application” means that you, unfortunately, could not be admitted to the university of you choice.

All universities require personal statement, which should include the reasons to study in the UK and the information about personal and professional goals of the student and a transcript, which includes grades received in high school or in the previous university.

University requirements

Undergraduate applicants may use UCAS system or Common App (for all courses except medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences). International students may find country-specific admission criteria on the website. For instant, student from Russia with a Certificate of secondary education may be admitted to the Univeristy of Bristol only after foundation/bridging program, while those with International Baccalaureate/A-level degree may apply directly to undergraduate programs.

Graduate students have to use university's website for application. All documents should be uploaded on this website and the admission decision will also be provided on the website.

International students should provide English test results in order to apply to both undergraduate and graduate programs. University of Bristol accept various tests, including IELTS, TOEFL, CAE/CPE and some others. Language requirements may depend on the type of program: they are typically higher for Art&Humanities and lower for Science programs. For instance, the highest IELTS score required (profile A) for undergraduate and graduate programs is 7.5 (7.0 in each section).

Program requirements


An upper second-class honours degree (or international equivalent) in a relevant subject.

English Language Requirements

IELTS band: 6.5

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.


Up to 10 fully funded studentships are available to UK students on the four-year PhD programme only. EU offer-holders may be entitled to limited funding and should contact the BCCS for further information. Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students is available from the Student Funding Office website.

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