How to Apply

Studentships for September 2019 - we now only have industry places  available for 2019/20 academic year.  Due to available funding, these posts are only suitable for UK/EU students.  

* Please note we are not accepting any further applications from overseas candidates*

Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh are jointly offering an innovative 4 year PhD training programme, drawing on our extensive experience with postgraduate teaching and research supervision in the area of Robotics and Autonomous systems. Applicants must write a short proposal based on a topic from the list of proposed topics or propose their own topic (details below) and each year, between 10-20 high callibre PhD candidates are selected to join the programme.

Entry Requirements

We welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons. However, as female candidates are currently under-represented in the Centre, we would particularly welcome applications from female applicants. All appointments will be made on merit.

Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a 2i or higher degree in Engineering, Computer Science or related subjects such as Maths, Physics, Computational Linguistics. Applicants from a Psychology background with a strong technical background and/or experience in statistical research methods are also welcome.

Non-native English speakers must ensure they meet the English language requirements.


English Language Requirements

Non-native English speakers need to provide evidence of a SELT (Secure English Language Test) at CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference) Level B2 taken within 2 years of the date of application. 

There are several types of SELT but IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is the most common. The minimum requirement is IELTS 6.5 or equivalent, no individual component can be less than 6.0 in a single sitting.  

A degree from an English speaking university may also be accepted in some circumstances.


Making your application and details of supporting documents required

Applications can be submitted via the Heriot-Watt website at

You should choose "Robotics and Autonomous Systems, PhD" as your programme selection. 

You should also upload the following supporting documents. NOTE that applications submitted without the required supporting documents may not be considered. Submit and only submit the following documents:

  • An up-to-date CV
  • Previous degree certificates and transcripts.  If submitting certificates and transcripts which are not in English, please submit a certified English translation for all documents
  • Two references - please load one via the application portal and ask referees to send the other to with the name of the applicant clearly marked
  • Passport
  • Personal statement of no more than 250 words stating reasons for applying to the programme.
  • Project proposal relating to the project for which you are applying.  In this document please also confirm the reference number of the project to which you are applying plus the reference details of a further three advertised projects in which you might be interested.

Your research proposal should outline a clear scientific idea this can be based on a topic defined in the topic list or can be your own idea. The research proposal should include the following:

  • Title and topic number from the topic list. If you are proposing your own topic, use the number 500000
  • Describe why your idea is worth pursuing
  • Outline how it has been approached previously
  • Describe what worked in that approach
  • Detail how you would approach your research topic
  • Demonstrate how this is different/better than any previous approach

You may also find the following link useful when writing your proposal. 

Contacting us

For general enquiries please contact

For institution specific queries, please contact: (HWU) or (UoE).


Studentships and funding 

How many studentships are available each year?

Typically 10-12 studentships are available per annum. In addition there will be a number of industry studentships available.

Is funding available?

Yes, each eligible student will receive a scholarship of at least £14,777 per annum plus have their tuition fees paid for the duration of the 4 year programme. You will also receive funds for travel to conferences, an optional international secondment, small pieces of equipment and access to the National ROBOTARIUM. 

Who is eligible for funding?

Because of constraints from funding agencies, there are different rules for funding depending on your fee status. If you are unsure about your status, please read the Heriot-Watt University web pages about fees and fee status.

UK and eligible EU students: Full funding (fees and stipend) is available for UK students and for EU students who have been in the UK for the last three years (for example on a full-time degree course). 

Other EU students: There are a limited number of studentships available for EU students who have not been in the UK for the last three years, including a maximum of 2 university funded scholarships per annum at UoE and up to three per annum at HWU.  Typically, fully funded industry sponsored studentships are open to EU applicants (unless explicitly specified otherwise).

Non-EU students: Funding is significantly more competitive.  Students from outside the EU may apply to the Centre, however, the Centre is unable to provide funding for the difference between overseas fees and UK/EU fees. Non-EU students must either:

  1. Compete for a prestigious HWU Scholarship covering fees and living allowance (one per annum), or
  2. Provide their own funding, typically via a scholarship from their country of origin.


About the programme

What programmes will the Centre provide?

The Centre will provide individually tailored course and project portfolios taken during the first year of the programme that ensures all students gain a strong general grounding in current theory, methods and applications, with flexibility for strategic individualised study, and strong support leading to a specialised PhD project.

When can students start?

There is an intake each September, to ensure that students complete the requisite taught courses.

What taught courses are studied?

Taught courses are studied during the first year of the programme. Courses are offered by the University of Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt University (School of Engineering & Physical Sciences and School of Mathematical and Computer Science).

Will there be placements?

Some students will be linked to a company sponsor for the whole programme and so have the opportunity for industrial placements. There will be an opportunity for an exchange with an international lab in Year 3.

How are the students supervised?

Each student will have two Academic Supervisors - typically but not always, one from the University of Edinburgh and one from Heriot-Watt University.  Your supervisor, on acceptance, will be the one associated with your chosen PhD topic from the list. If you are picking your own topic, then a match will be found. 

Which University will award the final degree?

The final degree award will be a dual award from both universities. However, you will graduate (only once) from the institution of your primary supervisor.

What does the first year of the PhD involve?

The first year is approximately 50% taught and 50% independent research towards your PhD.

Would students be mainly based within the Heriot-Watt campus or Edinburgh University campus?

Students will receive instruction on both campuses during Year 1 but once they start their independent research, they would be expected to spend most (but not all) of their time at their supervisor’s campus. Desks will be made available at both campuses.