Space Engineering PhD

Key information

Full-time - 4 years

Start dates:
April 2024
July 2024
October 2024
January 2025

Part-time - 8 years

Start dates:
April 2024
July 2024
October 2024
January 2025

Why choose this programme

The Surrey Space Centre is the largest UK academic centre for space engineering research. With a host of expert academics and close links with industry, the Centre offers the ideal research environment for the next generation of space scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.

As a PhD candidate within the Surrey Space Centre, you’ll work alongside academics, postdoctoral researchers and fellow postgraduate researchers as they push the boundaries of low-cost small satellites and develop new innovative technologies. You’ll also benefit from strong academic-industrial strategic partnerships with both Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL) and Airbus DS.

Throughout your research, you’ll have access to our world-class academic research facilities. These cover:

  • Advanced multidisciplinary small satellite and space system engineering techniques for Earth orbit and interplanetary space
  • Innovative communications
  • Remote sensing
  • Robotics and space science payloads for small satellites
  • Enabling technologies for low-cost space exploitation and planetary exploration.

Following the completion of your PhD, you’ll able to apply for membership with the Institute of Engineering and Technology. You’ll also be able to apply for chartered engineer status with the Engineering Council UK and with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, the University of Surrey ranks 15th in the UK for research power for engineering, and 93.3% of our research outputs for engineering are considered world-leading or internationally excellent.

Postgraduate Research at Surrey

Frequently asked questions about doing a PhD

What you will study

Postgraduate researchers are registered for a maximum of four years’ full-time study. You’ll be allocated two Surrey-based academic supervisors, in addition to any external collaborative supervisors. Your principal supervisor will be an expert in your area of research and will monitor your research progress. The supervisors will help you define the initial objective and scope of your research, and to refine these as the project evolves. They’ll direct you to resources to help you learn the necessary experimental, theoretical or computing skills, and they’ll advise you on the completion of your PhD and the content of your thesis. In many cases, external collaborative supervisors are appointed to contribute specific expertise or facilitate access to resources or organisations.

Your office will be located in the Surrey Space Centre building and you’ll typically share space alongside researchers with related interests. As a PhD student, you’ll be assigned to a research group that includes a team of academics, postdoctoral researchers, guest scientists and fellows.

Many areas of research at the Centre are interdisciplinary and you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with scientists at universities, research establishments and industries around the world. If your PhD project is collaborative, it may involve travel for meetings with collaborators and access to specialised facilities.

The Centre's monthly seminars are open to all postgraduate researchers. You’ll get an opportunity to attend presentations by each research group and all research students are expected to present their individual research on the day of their group’s presentation.

In addition to these internal seminars, there are regular opportunities to attend lectures led by renowned external speakers.

You’ll also be able to meet other researchers, academics and staff at informal postgraduate research forum meetings, and get involved in organising the postgraduate research conference, and social or other events.

Assessment

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.

After 12 months, you’ll write a confirmation report, which is assessed by two independent examiners.

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

Our research themes cover a range of topics including, but not limited to, the following:

Other activities, such as space debris removal, solar sails and nanosatellite mission development, are being carried out across multiple research groups.

Our academic staff

See a full list of all our academic staff within the Surrey Space Centre.

Research facilities

  • Clean Room
  • Nanosatellite/CubeSat laboratory
  • Satellite Mission Operation Centre
  • Plasma and Propulsion laboratory
  • Medical Robotics laboratory
  • Space Optics laboratory
  • Remote sensing laboratory
  • Realistic Radiation Environment Facility
  • Structural Dynamics laboratory.

In addition to the above dedicated facilities, we also have access to all University of Surrey facilities for manufacturing and testing.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper second-class (2:1) UK degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower-second (2:2) UK degree plus a good UK masters degree - distinction normally required (or equivalent overseas qualification).

International entry requirements by country

English language requirements

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

These are the English language qualifications and levels that we can 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.

Application requirements

Applicants are advised to contact potential supervisors before they submit an application via the website. Please refer to section two of our application guidance.

After registration

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

Selection process

Selection is based on applicants:

  • Meeting the expected entry requirements
  • Being shortlisted through the application screening process
  • Completing a successful interview
  • Providing suitable references.

Fees

Start date: April 2024

Full-time

UK
£4,712
Overseas
£24,100

Part-time

UK
£2,356
Overseas
£12,100

Start date: July 2024

Full-time

UK
£4,712
Overseas
£24,100

Part-time

UK
£2,356
Overseas
£12,100

Start date: October 2024

Full-time

UK
To be confirmed
Overseas
To be confirmed

Part-time

UK
To be confirmed
Overseas
To be confirmed

Start date: January 2025

Full-time

UK
To be confirmed
Overseas
To be confirmed

Part-time

UK
To be confirmed
Overseas
To be confirmed
  • Annual fees will increase by 4% for each year of study, rounded up to the nearest £100 (subject to legal requirements).
  • Any start date other than September 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).

View the list of fees for all postgraduate research courses.

Additional costs

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

Funding

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

Apply online

If you are applying for a studentship to work on a particular project, please provide details of the project instead of a research proposal.

Read our application guidance for further information on applying.

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 to study at the University of Surrey, you are agreeing to follow our policies and procedures, student regulations, and terms and conditions.

We provide these terms and conditions in two stages:

  • First when we make an offer.
  • Second when students accept their offer and register to study with us (registration terms and conditions will vary depending on your course and academic year).

View our generic registration terms and conditions (PDF) for the 2023/24 academic year, as a guide on what to expect.

Disclaimer

This online prospectus has been published in advance of the academic year to which it applies.

Whilst we have done everything possible to ensure this information is accurate, some changes may happen between publishing and the start of the course.

It is 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

Address

University of Surrey
Guildford
Surrey GU2 7XH