How to Apply

Studentships for September 2020 - all places are now filled.  We will open recruitment for 2021/22 in January 2021.

Studentships for September 2021 - Please note that we will not start to consider applications until January 2021. 

Please read the guidance on this page before making your application.

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. Each year between 10-20 high calibre PhD candidates are selected to join the programme.

Entry Requirements

We welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons and actively encourage applications from groups that are underrepresented in our CDT. All appointments will be made on merit.

Applicants should have, or expect to obtain, a 2.1 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 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 programme start date. 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

Applicants may apply for one of the 6 projects listed above.

Applications are submitted via the Heriot-Watt website at 

You should choose "Robotics and Autonomous Systems, PhD" as your programme selection. Please note programme code is F229-RAS.

You should also upload the following supporting 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 ask referees to send them to with the name of the applicant clearly marked
  • Passport - front cover and page with your details
  • 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. If you are proposing your own topic, use the number 500000.

Your research proposal should outline a clear scientific idea and should include the following:

  • Title and topic number from relevant above list
  • 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. 

You will need to complete the application form before the option to add supporting documents is made available.

NOTE that applications submitted without the required supporting documents may not be considered. We would ask that you only submit the documents listed above as any additional documents will not be considered when your application is reviewed.


Contacting us

For general enquiries please contact

For institution specific queries, please contact: (Centre Director at Heriot-Watt University or (Centre Director at University of Edinburgh).


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 £15,009 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: There are a limited number of studentships available for students outside the EU and therefore entry to the programme is highly competitive.


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 Heriot-Watt University and one from the University of Edinburgh. Your supervisor, on acceptance, will be the one associated with your chosen PhD topic. 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. Students will be allocated a desk at the University of their first supervisor.  Hot desks will be available at the other university.