Computer Science/Cognitive Science PhD

Computer Science/Cognitive Science PhD:

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. 

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Ayush Joshi

Ayush Joshi

PhD Computer Science

“I chose the University as there are some of the leading researchers in the field of Computer┬áScience and specifically natural computation at Birmingham, which for me was the important deciding factor as it was my chosen field of study.”

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.

Our research is grouped into the following main themes:

Artificial intelligence


  • 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

  • Robotics

    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

    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. 

    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

    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 
    F ax: +44 (0) 121 414 4281 
  • Human–computer interaction

    Human–computer 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 

    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 

Related links

School of Computer Science website:  

Fees and funding

Tuition Fees 2018/19 academic year:

  • £4,270 UK/EU students, full-time
  • £2,135 UK/EU students, part-time
  • £20,280 International students, full-time

Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships
Sources of funding may include the EPSRC, the BBSRC, the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), the European Union and industrial funding for UK and EU students.International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.
For further information contact the School directly or email

For information about research scholarships in Computer Science visit

Entry requirements

2:1 Honours degree in Computer Science or a subject relevant to the research topic (eg, Mathematics or Physics). Learn more about entry requirements

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

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Our research lies mainly within the following themes and their sub-themes. There is a Grouping of academics associated with each sub-theme, but the groupings have a lot of overlap, and there are no formal boundaries.

In addition to the research groupings pages listed below, we also have Research Blogs on our work.

Nature-Inspired and Intelligent Computation (Including Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive Science)

Computing Systems

Theoretical Computer Science

Software Engineering

Research Centres

Further information at Postgraduate Research Degrees

Find a PhD



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