Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics MSc

Start date
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Taught

£9,500 (UK students)
£19,440 (International Students)
More detail


Our Computational Neuroscience and Cognitive Robotics MSc provides flexible interdisciplinary research and access to state-of-the-art equipment for brain imaging, electrophysiological recording, psychophysics, human-computer interfaces, advanced data analysis, computational modelling and robotic systems.


Please rest assured that we will make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities described. However, it may be necessary to make changes due to significant disruption, for example in response to COVID-19.

Information for future students and applicants

This MSc course aims to integrate two active and rapidly developing fields, computational neuroscience and cognitive robotics, to generate innovative strategies and solutions for scientific problems and technological limitations.

From modelling human cognition to programming robots to act in their environment, this course crosses the boundary between several disciplines, including biology, neuroscience, psychology, and computer science. 

The CNCR MSc course is highly interdisciplinary encompassing psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, computational modelling, neuroimaging, robotics, and patient rehabilitation. The Course is designed for those who are interested in applying knowledge of neural systems, brain function, and modeling to research in human cognition, perception, sensory and motor systems as well as the design of bio-inspired and biologically plausible robotic systems. It has a strong research focus with hands-on modules and practical applications. The course is aimed at both students from psychology/neuroscience with a strong quantitative background and at students from computer science and physics that want to apply their knowledge to neuroscience.

Iulia Comşa

“The course successfully introduced me to computational and cognitive neuroscience and I am very happy with the research and transferable skills that I acquired”

Iulia Comşa - CNCR MRes graduate

Programme organisation

A significant part of the CNCR MSc Course involves being part of a research group and conducting an independent research project. For this, you will be assigned to a supervisor and supervise the research project. Your research project is written up as the masters dissertation and counts for one third of your degree.  Exposure to a different research group is intended to broaden research experience and widen research skills repertoire.

The course is organised jointly through the Schools of Psychology, Computer Science, Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation  Sciences and Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering.

Your choice of course modules will be individualised and agreed between you and your supervisor. The goal is to develop your knowledge and skills to allow you to carry out your research project in Semester 3 while learning a wide range of neuroscience, computation, and experimental method topics. Several modules rely on Matlab programming skills for their practical exercises, which could be used also in the placement and project. Students that don't have a sufficient programming knowledge will be required to attend a programming course in Semester 1. 

You will be taught to devise a research plan, and will read and comment on scientific articles. You will choose the topic for your research project with the help of a research proposal module. A year-long CNCR Foundations module allows you to participate in CNCR seminars, journal clubs, and lab activities to have sufficient knowledge to carry out the research project. This will expose you to cutting edge research and labs. 

For more module information see the Modules section.


You can select from a range of research topics depending on your areas of interest, and there are a number of supervisors who can provide support. See some of the recent projects and placements undertaken by students on the programme.

See MSc CNCR frequently asked questions (PDF 88KB)

In terms of the quality of education, reputation and the value of the experience I could gain, I would say that I was fortunate that the University of Birmingham chose me. My experience has been wonderful.

Malvika Iyer

Why Study this Course?

This course provides a flexible inter-disciplinary research apprenticeship, suitable for those seeking to begin commercial or postgraduate research.

You will have access to state-of-the-art equipment for brain imaging, electrophysiological recording, psychophysics, human-computer interfaces, advanced data analysis, computational modelling and robotic systems, supervised by internationally leading researchers.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) latest updates and FAQs for future students and offer-holders

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The taught modules and research training will provide hands-on expertise and knowledge to successfully perform two short research placements and a longer independent research project, which will be closely supervised by a relevant member of academic staff.

Taught modules cover relevant aspects of cognitive and brain function, including brain imaging and cognitive robotics. Three optional paths are available so that the taught modules are tailored to your interests and previous knowledge. The three paths are intended to enhance either the neuroscience, the computational or the robotics components of the course.

Modules include: 

  • Mind, Brain and Models
  • Foundation/CNCR Issues
  • Proposing Research in Psychology
  • Practical Research Skills for CNCR

Optional Modules:

  • Intelligent Robotics
  • Advanced Robotics
  • Robot Vision
  • Advanced Computational Methods
  • Introduction to Computational Methods
  • Software Workshop 1
  • Advanced Brain Imaging Methods
  • Fundamentals in Brain Imaging
  • Application of Electrophysiological Approaches in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Introduction to Neuroscientific Methods
  • Neural Computation
  • Foundations of Data Science

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 2020. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules after that date; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.

Students also undertake a supervised research project, leading to a 6,000-word research dissertation. See some of the recent projects (PDF 331Kb) undertaken by students on the course.

See a full list of modules and descriptions (PDF 214Kb)


Fees for 2020/21

  • UK students £9,500 FT (£4,750 PT)
  • International students £19,440 FT only

Learn more about fees and funding

Scholarships and studentships
Scholarships may be available. International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government. 

Find out about scholarships for intenational students.

For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Funding, Graduation & Awards via the online enquiries system.

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to eligible financial support via the Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan for the duration of their course. For more information visit the website.

You can also visit our EU Referendum information page for more information and updates.

EU Referendum

Answering your questions and concerns about the outcome of the EU referendum.

How To Apply

Please apply as soon as possible, as places are limited and the programme may close when full. Please ensure that your personal statement meets our requirements as failure to do so will result in delays to processing the decision on your application.

International students requiring visas

Thursday 1 July 2021 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2021 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2022.

Home/EU students (and International students NOT requiring visas)

Friday 10 September 2021 is the application deadline for Home/EU students and international students who do not require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2021 made after this date; a new application will need to be made for September 2022.

Applications for 2021 entry are now open.

Making your application

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

Applicants should have obtained at least a 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject (eg, Psychology, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Physics, Engineering or Mathematics). 

You must have a strong interest in learning in an interdisciplinary environment and must have substantial quantitative skills. Programming skills in Matlab, Java, and/or C  are desirable but not mandatory .  Note however that some research projects (e.g. robotics) require excellent programming skills. Students with very good undergraduate degrees from relevant backgrounds are encouraged to apply. These include psychology, neuroscience, computer science, physics, engineering and mathematics. Given the diversity of the applicants and the interdisciplinary nature of the program, all applications will be looked at on an individual basis. For this, we request that in your personal statement you provide one paragraph that describes your experience and qualifications in at least one of the following five areas:

  1. neuroscience
  2. experimental investigation and scientific method
  3. programming
  4. mathematics/quantitative
  5. robotics

Knowledge of every area is not necessary, here we want to ensure that you will be able to learn and effectively use the topics on the course.

In addition, please state the names of three academics within the School of Psychology and/or Computer Science that, given the opportunity, you would like to work with.  Please note: If you are offered a place on the MSc, we will contact you about identifying relevant, available supervisors before the course starts.  When allocating a supervisor, we will take your preferences into account, but there are a number of other factors we consider, so your supervisor may not be one of the academics you have listed. 

Learn more about entry requirements

International Requirements

International Students

English language requirements

Standard English language requirements apply (IELTS: 6.5 overall with no less than 6.0 in any band)

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 in Listening, 22 in Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): PTE Academic 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

stereoscopic cylinder whose image size is made contingent to the direction of rotation to test for perceptual learningMaterial is delivered through lectures, workshops and hands-on training in cutting edge laboratories. 

Some of the key features of this course and areas of focus for student learning include:

  • Coverage of brain and cognitive function, including brain imaging
  • Introduction to cognitive robotics
  • Hands-on training in state-of-the-art laboratories
  • Detailed research project cutting across disciplines 


Assessment Methods

Most of the course credits are gained through reports on research-related activities. A research placement in Semester 2 and a longer piece of individual research during Semester 3 lead to the masters dissertation, which constitutes the majority of the final degree.

In addition to progress reviews, your primary supervisor will be involved in devising assessments to help you develop useful skills. They will also be able to provide personalised feedback on your work (including your research proposal, research placement, transferable skills, and research project).

A large proportion of modules include practical lab activities that require programming or experimental reports.

You will receive training in computational and research methods, and will gain an overview of current research in neuroscience and robotics. The programme will prepare you to go onto high quality PhD programmes, leading to work in a range of fields from advanced robotics to cognitive neuroscience.

Tim Vivian-Griffiths, former CNCR student
"I would thoroughly recommend this course to people interested in this field, it has provided me with vital skills that I will continue to develop throughout my current PhD." Read Tim's full profile

Many of our students receive job offers before they graduate. Recent students have found employment working and training in an IT consultancy; software engineering at Google; and setting up startup companies to develop IT products inspired by human cognition.

Several of our students receive PhD offers before completing the course; one of our recent students will be studying for a PhD in computational neuroscience at University College Dublin with funding secured via a postgraduate award from the Irish Research Council. Others choose to stay at Birmingham for PhD study. The course gives you an opportunity to showcase your talent in the School of Psychology and the School of Computer Science, and to increase your chances of pursuing an academic career within the University of Birmingham.

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