Why choose this programme
The Surrey Space Centre (SSC) is the largest UK academic centre for space engineering research. With a host of expert academics and close links with industries, SSC offers the ideal research environment for the next generation of space scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs.
As a PhD candidate within the Centre, you’ll work alongside academics, postdoctorate 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 the Centre’s strong academic-industrial strategic partnership 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; and enabling technologies for low-cost space exploitation and planetary exploration.
Following completion of your PhD, you’ll able to apply for membership with the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), Chartered Engineer status with the Engineering Council UK and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The University of Surrey ranked 15th in the UK for research power for engineering by the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021. Our strength in engineering has been recognised with 93.3% of our research outputs considered world-leading or internationally excellent.
What you will study
Postgraduate researchers are registered for a maximum four-year period of full-time study. After 12 months, you’ll write a confirmation report, which is assessed by two independent examiners. You’ll submit a written PhD thesis after a minimum three years of 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 be in charge of monitoring 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 at the SSC building and you’ll typically share space alongside researchers with related interests. As a PhD student, you’ll be assigned to a research group, which includes a team of academics, postdoctoral researchers, guest scientists and fellows.
Many areas of research at SSC are inter-disciplinary 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.
SSC 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 invited lectures by renowned external speakers.
And you’ll be able to meet other researchers, academics and other staff at informal PGR forum meetings, and get involved in organising the PGR conference, social or other 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.
Our research themes cover a range of topics including – but not limited to – the following:
- Autonomy and robotics
- Sensors and platform systems
- On-board data handing
- Remote sensing applications
- Robotics and control
- Space environments and protection.
Other activities, such as space debris removal, solar sails and nanosatellite mission development, are being carried out across multiple research groups.
Our academic staff
- Clean room
- Nanosatellite/CubeSat laboratory
- Satellite Mission Operation Centre
- Plasma and propulsion laboratory
- Surrey Technology for Autonomous Systems and Robotics (STAR) Laboratory
- Autonomous systems laboratory
- Medical robotics laboratory
- Space optics laboratory
- Remote sensing laboratory
- Realistic Radiation Environment Facility (REEF)
- Structural dynamics laboratory
In addition to the above dedicated facilities within SSC, we also have access to all University of Surrey facilities for manufacturing and testing.
Applicants are required to have either:
- A minimum of a 2:1 UK honours degree or a recognised equivalent international qualification, in a relevant discipline
- A 2:2 degree and a distinction at masters level.
International entry requirements by country
English language requirements
IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6.0 in each individual category.
We offer intensive English language pre-sessional courses, designed to take you to the level of English ability and skill required for your studies here.
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 is based on applicants meeting the expected entry requirements, assessment of application, successful interview and suitable references where required.
Students are initially registered for a PhD with probationary status and, subject to satisfactory progress, subsequently confirmed as having PhD status.
Start date: April 2023
Start date: July 2023
Start date: October 2023
- To be confirmed
- To be confirmed
Start date: January 2024
- To be confirmed
- 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.
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) 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.