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.
You'll become a member of at least one of the following research groups:
Secure Systems – Exploring technical foundations of cyber security and its applications, from applied cryptography and cryptanalysis, formal verification, security protocols, authentication and privacy through to trusted systems, secure communications, and distributed ledger technologies.
Distributed and Networked Systems – Exploring theory and practice in reliable, scalable, and trustworthy distributed systems, failure resilience in adversarial settings, scalable data storage and replication, distributed trust and coordination, edge and cloud computing, fog computing and internet of things, space networks, web tracking and privacy, and online harms such as hate speech and misinformation/disinformation in social networks.
Nature Inspired Computing and Engineering – Exploring cross-disciplinary areas of artificial intelligence such as evolutionary computation, deep learning and trustworthy machine learning, computational neuroscience, such as spiking neural networks and neural plasticity, computational biology, and complex systems.
The Secure Systems group and the Distributed and Networked Systems group form the core of the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (SCCS), one of only 19 Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research recognised by the UK Government
Our research groups have strong ties with global research institutes, such as the University of Oxford, Microsoft Research Cambridge, KU Leuven (Belgium), McMaster University (Canada), Emory University (USA), IMDEA Software Institute (Spain), Technion (Israel), and various universities in Australia, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Japan and China.
Many scholarships have been fully or jointly funded by Honda, National Physical Laboratory, Pirbright and Moorfields Eye Hospital. With EIT Digital, we have established a Centre for Doctoral Training in Future Connected Technologies focusing on applied research in cyber security, artificial intelligence and communications.
We strive to excel in our research, with many members of staff publicly recognised as experts in their respective fields.
In the most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014, 60 per cent of our research was rated world-leading or internationally excellent, and our research profile has been consistently ranked in the world top 150 and top 10 in the UK, according to academic subject rankings of SJTU Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) in Computer Science.
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 during your PhD.
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.
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.
- 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
Nature-inspired computing and engineering
- Computational intelligence
- Evolutionary optimisation
- 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
- Systems biology
- Morphogenetic engineering
- Neural information processing
- Developmental and cognitive neuroscience
- Time series analysis
Our academic staff
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.
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.
Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.
Start date: October 2021
Start date: January 2022
Start date: April 2022
Start date: July 2022
For fees payable in 2020/21, 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 2021 entry should note that annual fees will rise by 4% rounded up to the nearest £100.
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.
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) 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 more.