Computer Science PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates:
October 2023
January 2024
April 2024
July 2024

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates:
October 2023
January 2024
April 2024
July 2024

Why choose this programme

Our PhD research programme provides you with the opportunity to study a wide range of computer science topics. These include technologies and systems for securing online businesses and our lives, technologies inspired by nature for solving complicated real-world problems in areas such as transport and health, and real-world applications of advanced technologies in cyber security and machine learning. Our expert supervisors, highly rated research activities and excellent facilities mean you’ll be a specialist in your field by the time you complete your PhD.

Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (SCCS), led by the Department of Computer Science, is one of only 19 Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research recognised by the UK government. It is particularly strong in interdisciplinary research with other departments, with links to Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Biomedical Sciences, Psychology, Business, Sociology and Law. We also have strong ties with global research institutes, such as the University of Oxford, Microsoft Research Cambridge, KU Leuven (Belgium), McMaster University (Canada) and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) for joint PhD projects.

Many PhD projects are collaborative with industrial partners. We strive to excel in our research, with many members of staff publicly recognised as experts in their respective fields.

The recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 puts Surrey 7th in the UK for research outputs in Computer Science, with 100 per cent of those outputs recognised as either world-leading (57.1%) or internationally excellent. 100 per cent of our computer science postgraduate research students go on to employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes survey 2022, HESA).

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

Our PhD in Computer Science will give you the knowledge, skills and abilities needed for a career in academia, research and development work in industry, and for a wide variety of professional opportunities elsewhere.

It normally takes around three to four years to complete a full-time PhD. You’ll be assigned at least two supervisors, a principal and a secondary, who’ll guide you through your studies. You’ll learn how to conduct literature reviews, how to develop your research ideas and verify them with experiments, and how to collaborate and perform interdisciplinary research.

Exactly what your studies will look like will depend on your choice of topic: most of our PhD students conduct their research on computers in the Department, but some need access to special hardware in a lab setting. We’ll make sure you’ve got everything you need to conduct your research.

We offer a diverse programme of activities within our Department, including monthly tea parties between PhD students and staff, elevator pitch sessions every other month, and bespoke workshops and social events.


Your final assessment will be based on the presentation of your research in a written thesis, which will be discussed in a viva examination with at least two examiners. You have the option of preparing your thesis as a monograph (one large volume in chapter form) or in publication format (including chapters written for publication), subject to the approval of your supervisors.

Research support

The professional development of postgraduate researchers is supported by the Doctoral College, which provides training in essential skills through its Researcher Development Programme of workshops, mentoring and coaching. A dedicated postgraduate Careers and Employability team will help you prepare for a successful career after the completion of your PhD.

Research themes

Secure systems themes include:

  • Hardware security 
  • Trusted computing 
  • Privacy-enhancing technologies 
  • User authentication 
  • Secure communications 
  • Network and mobile security and privacy 
  • Applied cryptography 
  • Security protocols 
  • Formal verification 
  • IoT security and privacy 
  • Security visualisation 
  • Intrusion detection 
  • Digital forensics 
  • Human factors  
  • Data loss prevention 
  • Concurrent and distributed systems 
  • Cloud, Edge and Fog resilience and security 
  • Connected and autonomous vehicles and transport systems 
  • Social networks and online harms 
  • Cyber crime 
  • Game theory for security.

Distributed and network systems themes include:

  • Complex network analysis, including controllability and criticality
  • Concurrency control
  • Development of control policies
  • Distributed coordination
  • Distributed trust
  • Edge networks and cloud computing
  • Fault-tolerance
  • Formal verification
  • Information processing in networks
  • Resource management
  • Social computing and computational social science
  • Web tracking and privacy.

Nature-inspired computing and engineering themes include:

  • Computational intelligence 
  • Optimisation algorithms
  • Machine learning, including deep learning 
  • Computer Vision/Pattern Recognition 
  • Reinforcement Learning (rule-based, deep) 
  • Control theory 
  • Prediction and learning in complex networks 
  • Data mining  
  • Natural Language Processing 
  • Knowledge extraction 
  • Signal processing 
  • Bayesian inference 
  • Medical image processing 
  • Robotics 
  • Systems biology 
  • Morphogenetic engineering 
  • Neural information processing 
  • Developmental and cognitive neuroscience 
  • Time series analysis.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Department of Computer Science.

Research facilities

We have a range of highly capable computing resources to support your research, including our own high-performance computing clusters, and a modern seminar room with teleconferencing and video recording facilities.

We have GPU facilities for parallel programming and deep learning and an applied laboratory with new machines, and an array of IoT equipment.

There’s a virtual network to support cyber security research, and a 200-seat computing facility for students where each seat offers access to a dedicated Raspberry Pi and TPM.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good Masters degree (distinction normally required).

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.

View the other English language qualifications that we accept.

If you do not currently meet the level required for your programme, we offer intensive pre-sessional English language courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.

Selection process

Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.


Start date: October 2023


To be confirmed


To be confirmed

Start date: January 2024


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To be confirmed

Start date: April 2024


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Start date: July 2024


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To be confirmed

For fees payable in 2022/23, these will increase by 4 per cent, rounded up to the nearest £100 for subsequent years of study. Any start date other than October will attract a pro-rata fee for that year of entry (75 per cent for January, 50 per cent for April and 25 per cent for July).

Overseas students applying for 2022 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.

View a complete list of all fees for our research programmes.

Additional costs

There are additional costs that you can expect to incur when studying at Surrey. Find out more.


A Postgraduate Doctoral Loan can help with course fees and living costs while you study a postgraduate doctoral course.

How to apply

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, you should enter the details of the specific project that you wish to apply for rather than your own research proposal.

More information on the application process.

Code of practice for research degrees

Surrey’s postgraduate research code of practice sets out the University's policy and procedural framework relating to research degrees. The code defines a set of standard procedures and specific responsibilities covering the academic supervision, administration and assessment of research degrees for all faculties within the University.

Download the code of practice for research degrees (PDF).

Terms and conditions

When you accept an offer of a place at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to comply with our policies and regulations, and our terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are provided in two stages: first when we make an offer and second when students who have accepted their offers register to study at the University. View our offer terms and conditions and our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2022/2023 academic year as a guide as to what to expect.
Please note: our offer terms and conditions will be available in the September of the calendar year prior to the year in which you begin your studies. Our registration terms and conditions will vary to take into account specifics of your course.


This online prospectus has been prepared and published in advance of the academic year to which it applies. The University of Surrey has used its reasonable efforts to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content or additional costs) may occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for a course with us. Read our full disclaimer.

Course location and contact details

Campus location

Stag Hill

Stag Hill is the University's main campus and where the majority of our courses are taught. 

University of Surrey Admissions

Contact Admissions Team


University of Surrey
Surrey GU2 7XH