Natural Computation MRes

Start date
12 months
Course Type
Postgraduate, Combined research and taught

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024/25:
£4,778 (UK)
£27,360 (International Students)
Further fee information is available.

There is an increasing need from industry for professionals with knowledge of natural computation techniques. Graduates from our Natural Computation Master of Research (MRes) develop a solid foundation to pursue a research and development career in industry or further studies.

This multidisciplinary area is the study of computational systems that use ideas and gain inspiration from natural systems. The MRes programme explores current topics in natural computation, such as evolutionary algorithms, co-evolution, evolutionary design, nature-inspired optimisation techniques, evolutionary games, novel learning algorithms, artificial neural networks and theory of natural computation.

The Natural Computation MRes is a Masters degree by research. This means that you are taught core principles and then develop these skills by doing interesting, innovative research, supported by academic staff and peers. This is structured so that you learn how to plan, organise and manage your time; you learn what it is to be a scientific researcher; you help contribute to the development of new knowledge; you learn intellectual skills such as argumentation, exposition, and reasoning; and you develop as an individual by improving your communication skills, writing, collaborative working and creativity.

The mini project module consists of a research project on the in-depth investigation of a chosen topic coming from industry (strongly encouraged) or academia.

The compulsory Research Skills module provides you with the basis of transferable knowledge and skills necessary for a successful research-oriented career in industry or academia, with a particular orientation to computing-based disciplines.

Your research thesis project consists of solving a substantial problem using natural computation techniques (including hybrid techniques). Industrial co-supervisors are used whenever appropriate, and you will be required to apply the knowledge and skills you have acquired to solve a difficult problem.


The course consists of a mini-project, and a research thesis, which will be two-thirds of the entire programme. You will also study essential Research Skills and a further 20 credits of optional modules.

Core modules

  • Research Skills - 10 credits
  • 30 credits - Mini-project - 30 credits
  • MRes Thesis - 120 credits

Optional modules

20 credits must be chosen, examples of optional modules are listed below: 

  • Advanced Aspects of Nature Inspired Search and Optimisation (Extended) - 20 credits
  • Neural Computation (Extended) - 10 credits
  • Intelligent Robotics (Extended) - 20 credits
  • Intelligent Data Analysis (Extended) - 10 credits
  • Machine Learning (Extended)
  • Nature Inspired Search and Optimisation - 10 credits

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2024. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to core modules; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.


Annual Tuition Fees 2024/25 academic year

  • £4,778 UK students, full-time
  • £27,360 International students, full-time

Learn more about fees and funding.


We offer a range of postgraduate scholarships for taught programmes and research opportunities to ensure the very best talent is nurtured and supported at postgraduate level.


How To Apply

International students applying for this programme will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office before the University can issue you with a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). We recommend that you apply for your ATAS certificate as soon as you receive an offer from us.

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

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

A 2:1 Honours degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering, or another science or engineering subject with a significant computing component. Students who have not studied in English must pass a recognised English test. This is a highly selective Masters programme and only a limited number of places are available.

A statement of research

The MRes in Natural Computation is research oriented, and includes two mini-projects and a summer project, written in the style of a peer-reviewed scientific journal paper. Your application should include two sides of A4 with research interests and tentative ideas that you plan to develop for these three projects. They should normally be close to the research interest of the School (please consult the web pages of lecturers, professors and research staff).

Once you are admitted, you will have an opportunity to revise or change your research plans after discussion with your project supervisors. But it is important at application time to know that you are interested and have potential skills for research, as well as some tentative plans. The Statement of Research is an opportunity for you to demonstrate this.

Learn more about entry requirements. 

International Requirements

International Students

English language

For students whose first language is not English, one of the following English language qualifications is required:

  • IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any band
  • TOEFL: 80 overall with no less than 19 in Reading, 19 in Listening, 21 in Speaking and 19 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: Academic 64 with no less than 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 169, with no less than 162 in any component

International students applying for this programme will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office before the University can issue you with a Certificate of Acceptance of Studies (CAS). We recommend that you apply for your ATAS certificate as soon as you receive an offer from us.

Our research is breaking new ground in the theory and practice of computational systems and their applications.

Artificial intelligence

The Intelligent Robotics Lab in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham has a history of working on basic and applied research projects at the intersection of AI, robotics, and machine learning. Our researchers have expertise in computer vision, knowledge representation and reasoning, cognitive systems, interactive learning, formal verification, and dexterous manipulation. Our research projects and educational initiatives are funded by competitive grants from funding agencies and industrial collaborators in the UK, EU, US, and other countries.

Security and Privacy

The Security and Privacy Group, led by Professor Mark Ryan, is a team of eleven academic staff based in the School of Computer Science at the University of Birmingham. For over a decade, the group has remained committed to its ethos of tackling cyber security problems that are important to society. Working in collaboration with academia, industry and government, the Group consistently produces internationally leading research on key issues that has led to recognition by GCHQ as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research.

Human Computer Interaction

The Human-Computer Interaction Centre based at the University of Birmingham focuses on a people-centred perspective on interaction and technology; it leads the development of our understanding on how people interact with technologies, and how one transforms the other.

Theory of Computation Sciences

Theoretical Computer Science at Birmingham is  one of the largest research groups in the world to focus on the logical foundations of computer science. Much of our work makes use of techniques such as category theory, type theory, topology, domain theory, and game semantics, which we apply to deep and conceptual questions in a broad range of areas.

This innovative MRes programme is led and run primarily by the world-leading Natural Computation Group and CERCIA in the School of Computer Science. The group has over 40 full-time researchers, including teaching staff, research fellows and associates, PhD students, and academic visitors.

Taught modules are assessed by a mixture of written examinations and continuous assessment. The first semester mini-project is assessed by a written report. Your thesis will be examined by an internal and an external examiner.

Career opportunities

We have strong links with industry, especially through CERCIA, including Honda, BT, Thales, Unilever, GSK, Rolls Royce, etc. We encourage MRes students to carry out their research projects in collaboration with our industrial partners, and opportunities also exist for students to do their project work within a company.

University Careers Network

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal.

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area, offering a specialised team (in each of the five academic colleges) who can give you expert advice. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CVs and job applications will help give you the edge.

If you make the most of the wide range of services you will be able to develop your career from the moment you arrive.