Study with us

Join us as a PhD student

PhD student Kobby K A Nuamah
"My supervisor's enthusiasm for his research work convinced me that CISA would be a good fit. I get to share ideas with and learn from some of the best in the world." - Kobby Nuamah, PhD student

We are keen to attract the brightest minds from across the globe, interested in tackling some of the most exciting challenges in the field. For example:

  • How can different heterogeneous intelligent processes be integrated with each other?
  • How do concepts and theories about the world evolve in the light of new information or conflicting views?
  • What computational techniques are needed to support collaboration among people and/or machines?
  • What systems infrastructures need to be deployed in real-world applications to enable such collaboration?
  • How can we make complex intelligent systems understandable, human-friendly, and ethically sound?

Visit our current list of sample PhD project topics to get an idea of possible project topics CISA supervisors are interested in.

Studying at CISA

PhD study at CISA involves close one-to-one supervision from a principal supervisor (supported by one or more additional supervisors) and research as part of one of the Research Groups hosted by CISA. You will join a very diverse group of around 20 current PhD students from many different countries and cultures, and engage in cutting-edge computing and AI research from day one.  If you are a current Edinburgh undergraduate or MSc student, you can get involved with research at CISA through taking some of the courses relevant to our research, or by selecting Honours and Master's projects proposed by CISA staff.

Beyond day-to-day research activities and regular seminars and academic events, CISA provides funding for equipment and travel you may need as part of your PhD project, and many social activities for everyone such as our weekly lunchtime talk with sandwiches and cakes, our Christmas lunch, and our annual weekend trip to Firbush, the University's outdoor activity centre in the Highlands.

As part of the School of Informatics, every CISA student also benefits from the support of the Informatics Graduate School which provides a broad range of support, training, and social activities to all Informatics research students and enables you to interact with students in its other institutes.

Typical PhD projects last between three and four years, but we also offer shorter research degrees such as the MPhil and MSc by Research and part-time PhD options. You can find out more about those at this page.

We are always keen to increase the proporition of women and underrepresented groups in the institute, and are committed to the School's Equality and Diversity programme which has earned us an ATHENA Silver Award.


Our PhD students receive funding from many different sources. Funding bodies include the University of Edinburgh, the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC), the European Commission, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), the Wellcome Trust, Commonwealth Scholarships, as well as companies and funding agencies abroad.

Before applying, please consult our School's pages on Fees and Funding Opportunities which contains further links to funding sources, and information about how to apply. A significant number of scholarships are currently made available through our three Centres for Doctoral Training in Data Science, Pervasive Parellelism, and Robotics and Autonomous Systems. All of these offer four-year programmes that involve an initial year of taught study at Master's level. If your proposed topic is relevant to their areas, you can study toward a PhD at CISA within these programmes. PhD funding opportunities are also available through the Alan Turing Institute, the UK's national centre for data science.

Since we always receive more applications from strong students than we can fund, we also advise potential applicants to explore national funding sources in their home country or through non-UK funding sources. Scholarships (partially) funded by industry may also be relevant, and may be supported by your current employer. At Edinburgh, for example,  the Data Lab, our national innovation centre for data science, provides a scheme for Collaborative PhD/EngD projects with industry.

If you are planning to apply, it is always advisable to make contact with potential supervisors to explore mutual interests and agree an initial project topic for which you will have to submit a research proposal with your application. Academic admission to a PhD programme, regardless of whether funding can be provided, always requires a supervisor to agree to supervise the applicant, so speaking with them will always be beneficial to your application case.

While we accept PhD applications throughout the year, several funding opportunities have specific deadlines, including the Principal's Career Development PhD Scholarships and Edinburgh Global Research Scholarships open to students from anywhere in the world, for which the next deadline is 1st February 2017.

What do CISA PhD students say about us? 

“Edinburgh is a great city to live in, and the Informatics Forum is an amazing environment to work in.” - Amy Guy

“The diversity of research broadens the way you think.” - Andriana Gkaniatsou

“Informatics keeps generating leading outcomes.” - Can Cui

“The smaller size of CISA often results in more support being offered to individual students.” - Paolo Pareti

“High quality of education given by people with recognised standing.” - Francisco Quesada

"I decided to come here because of the University’s reputation. It has a high ranking in QS [a world-wide university ranking] and is well-known in international level graduate programs" -  Punyanuch Borwarnginn  

Please visit this page if you want to find out more about our current students' experiences, aspirations, and advice to future applicants.

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