Courses and skills development training

This degree programme is designed to be maximally flexible whilst including some compulsory courses. 

The structure of the PhD with integrated studies requires all students to study taught courses whilst concurrently completing the research elements required by the traditional PhD programme. The programme is designed to be maximally flexible in the way in which credits are accumulated, however, all students must successfully complete a total of 180 taught credits (with at least 150 credits at level 11) over the first three years, in addition to the equivalent of three years of PhD research, spread over the four years of programme.

A path through the programme is given in the table below - this is an example only and other paths are possible:


Year 1

Doing research in NLP


Foundational courses


Group project

[20 pts]

Individual project

[40 pts]

PhD research


Year 2

Specialist courses

[30 pts]

Case Studies in AI Ethics


PhD research


Year 3

Specialist courses

[20 pts]

PhD research


Year 4

PhD research



Year 1

Students will be routed into courses following a Training Needs Analysis on entry.  For example, students with strong computer science or maths background will take more linguistics based courses, while students with strong linguistics or cognitive background will take more programming and machine learning based courses.  There are foundational and specialist courses listed in the Degree Programme Table.  In year 1, the emphasis is on foundational courses (though specialist courses can also be taken).

Degree Programme Table

In addition, you will take between 20 and 60 credits of foundational courses, and between 10 and 60 credits of specialist courses. The list of admissible foundational and specialist courses is given in the DTP.  In addition, you can take up to 20 credits of courses from any discipline (schedules A to Q, T and W).  When choosing courses in year 1, please bear in mind:

  • You need take 180 credits overall across the first three years of study
  • Out of these 180 credits, 150 credits need to be at level 11 (Masters degree level) or higher, therefore, you can only take a maximum of 30 credits at level 9 or 10
  • You need to leave at least 10 credits for year 2 (as year 2 contains a 10 credits obligatory course).  Hence you can take between 110 credits and 170 credits in year 1, but you should normally restrict yourself to 120 credits of courses, otherwise your course load will be too heavy 
  • Try to balance courses equally across the two semesters (typically 60 credits per semester; bear in mind that Doing Research in NLP spans both semesters)
  • You also need to leave time to work on your PhD; you will submit a PhD research proposal at the end of year 1, which is formally assessed.
Obligatory courses in Year 1

The following courses are obligatory for all first year students:

Group Project in Advanced NLP: Students will form interdisciplinary teams to tackle a directed research problem assigned by a team of CDT supervisors.  In your group project, you can directly apply the skills you learn in your foundational courses and in the Doing Research in NLP course (see below).  As all CDT students in a given year take part, the group project will build the cohort and will also train you in project management and team work skills.  The project topics will be defined in consultation with our partners, who may also contribute resources.

Individual Project in Advanced NLP: In addition to the group project, each student will also select a supervisor and define a short individual research project, which may be stand-alone or serve as the basis for a subsequent PhD project.  We expect you to work with different supervisors on your individual and group projects in order to experience different working styles and broaden your methodological skillset.  Some of the individual projects will be conducted with our partners.

Doing Research in NLP: Designed to complement the first-year projects, this course will align with project milestones and teach skills that you can immediately put into practice.  In addition to technical skills in NLP at the level required for PhD work, it will teach presentation, communication and writing skills.  Project and time management, as well as NLP specific aspects of Responsible Research & Innovation, will also be covered.

Years 2-4

In these years, students take a decreasing number of courses and focus more on their PhD research.  Year 2 includes the course Case Studies in AI Ethics that all students take.  In addition, they are expected to take specialist courses that complement their PhD research (see Degree Programme Table).  There are no obligatory courses in year 3, but students can take more specialist courses if they haven't taken all their required credits yet.  

Students should be focussing fully on their PhD research in year 4.

Degree Programme Table

Skills Development Training

You will have access to the training courses that the University's Institute for Academic Development runs for PhD students.  Topics include Research Planning and Management, Communication and Impact, Personal Effectiveness, Public Engagement/Outreach, etc.

Institute for Academic Development