Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training) | University of Oxford
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Autonomous Intelligent Machines and Systems (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)

About the course

The DPhil offered by the CDT provides graduates with the opportunity to develop in-depth knowledge, understanding and expertise in autonomous intelligent systems. The programme provides a comprehensive, state-of-the-art view of autonomous intelligent systems, combining theoretical foundations, systems research, academic training and industry-initiated projects and thus mixing both practical and theoretical aspects of intelligent machines and systems.

The first year is oriented towards developing your knowledge base. You will take 14 courses, each lasting one to two weeks, and your day comprises lectures each morning with laboratory sessions each afternoon. You will undertake two 8-week projects, precursors to your DPhil study, to hone your research skills and shape your main research area. You will meet your supervisor regularly to assess progress and discuss academic issues.

Years 2-4 see an increasing emphasis on individual research. A summary of projects is produced each year by supervisors, but you will be encouraged to develop projects based on your own research ideas within the four key research themes of robotics, vision and perception, machine intelligence and multi-agent systems, control and verification, and M2M (or the 'Internet of Things'), and secure sensing and actuation. Training will continue in academic reading, writing and presentation skills, business and commerce (to include innovation and IP curatorship and entrepreneurship), career development and planning, and ethics and law, where the societal implications of autonomous systems will be considered.

Research seminars are used to discuss papers, for rehearsing conference talks and for building links between groups. An annual workshop gives the opportunity to present research to students, industrial partners and invited researchers from other universities. Industrial collaborators are invited to share their latest problems and market trends and to discuss opportunities for future collaboration.

You will spend one or two months over the second or third summer in an industrial lab to gain experience in industry-led projects and expanding your horizons by engaging in an AIMS topic that is not your main one. After the end of the internship, further interaction will be encouraged by inviting your industrial supervisors to join your group in Oxford for short periods.

You will also be encouraged to take demonstrations of your systems to companies, government departments, as well as schools. In the fourth year, the cohort help organise the annual workshop, inviting keynote speakers, participating in the program committee, reviewing papers submitted by second and third year students, and publicising the workshop to universities and industrial partners beyond those directly involved in the CDT.

You will be assessed continually throughout the first year during courses and projects and at its end the CDT supervisors will assess whether sufficient progress has been made to continue to the research phase. At the end of the second year, you will be required to write a report and give a presentation on your research, and to present a detailed and coherent plan for the research-intensive phase in the third and fourth years of your doctoral studies. Progress towards completion is again formally assessed some way into the final year of study.

For the DPhil you will be required to submit a substantial thesis which is read and examined by experts in the field, one from the department and one from elsewhere. Often the thesis will result in the publication of several journal and conference papers.

Graduate destinations

The development of a positive group dynamic within and between year groups in the CDT and the progressive increase of responsibility and external exposure, equips graduates from the AIMS CDT for leadership roles in industry both nationally and internationally. It is anticipated that others will continue to spend time in postdoctoral research, probably developing the work in their theses towards product.

Related courses

Multiple applications

In applying for this programme, you may submit further applications for up to two of the following associated programmes without paying an additional application fee.

You may only apply to one programme from Group B under this arrangement without paying further application fees.

Group A
Group B
Cyber Security (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)DPhil in Computer Science
Statistical Science (EPSRC & MRC Centre for Doctoral Training) 

For instructions, see Applying for more than one course in the Application Guide.

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2016-17

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in computer science, engineering, physics, mathematics, statistics or other related disciplines. A previous master's qualification is not required.

Candidates will need to demonstrate a broad interest in the four AIMS themes:

  • robotics, vision and perception
  • machine intelligence and multi-agent systems
  • control and verification
  • pervasive networked sensing and actuator systems

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

Other appropriate indicators will include:

References/letters of recommendation 

Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement and potential, motivation, creativity and ability to work singly and in a group, all with particular consideration of the four AIMS themes. Three references are required, of which at least two must be academic references

Statement of purpose/personal statement

You are required to write a personal statement in English of 1,000 to 1,500 words. 

This will be assessed for your past commitment to sustained and intense study, your reasons for wishing to undertake research in the area of autonomous intelligent machines and systems and how the interdisciplinary approach in the CDT will be of benefit in this context.

Your statement should focus on your research and career ambitions in the area of the CDT, rather than on other personal achievements, interests and aspirations.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews (in person or by other means) may form part of the admissions process.

Publications

Publications may be an advantage when applying.

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Department of Engineering Science and/or Department of Computer Science to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work. 
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Department of Engineering Science and/or Department of Computer Science and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. 
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Department of Engineering Science and Department of Computer Science.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course, however it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

The AIMS CDT is resourced by the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and is jointly hosted by the Department of Computer Science and Department of Engineering Science.

The Department of Computer Science (DoCS) was established in 1957. It is one of the UK’s leading computer Science departments, ranked first in a number of newspaper rankings and third in terms of research power. Many members of the department are active in externally sponsored research, with both government and industrial funding.

At present there are 52 members of academic staff and over 80 research staff. DoCS has close links with government, industry, and other departments within the University. Among the latter are the Departments of Mathematics, Engineering, Physics, Statistics and a number of life sciences departments. It has a major role in the rapidly-developing field of e-Science alongside the Oxford e-Research Centre, an independent unit with which we share a building. This is an essentially inter-disciplinary activity which is at present attracting major funding from a number of sources. DoCS external research income is some £8m annually.

Engineering research and teaching at Oxford takes place in a unified Department of Engineering Science whose close to 90 academic staff are committed to advanced work in their own specialities, while recognising a common engineering foundation. This creates an intellectual space where interdisciplinary work thrives and where expert advice is available to students in areas which though not central to their core research still impinge on it. There are strong links too with researchers in other departments in the mathematical and physical sciences, and, ever increasingly, with researchers and practitioners in medical science departments and University hospitals.

The key research cluster for AIMS is information, control and vision engineering, which is well-supported by experienced technical, computing, and administrative staff. The department has well-equipped research areas and workshops, which together with offices, lecture theatres, library, common room, stores, reprographics and other facilities, occupies some 16,000 square metres. There are approximately 280 research students and about 80 postdoctoral researchers and research fellows. The Department of Engineering’s external research income is approximately £12m annually.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available for courses starting in 2016-17. Full scholarships will cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. Information about the full range of funding available can be found in the Fees and funding section.

For over 70% of Oxford scholarships, nothing more than the standard course application is usually required. If you fulfil the eligibility criteria and apply by the relevant January deadline, you will be automatically considered. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out whether you are eligible for scholarships which require an additional application. If you are, the tool will include links to full details of how to apply.

Divisional funding opportunities

There are many different funding opportunities for students studying in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division at Oxford. Funding covering fees and living costs is available for a substantial number of doctoral training programmes. Research Council and other funding opportunities are also available for doctoral programmes in MPLS subjects.

Departmental funding opportunities

Additional funding opportunities may also be offered by your department. Department scholarships are included in the funding search tool, with links to further information. More details on funding opportunities may also be available on the department’s website.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2016-17

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£4,121£2,933£7,054
Overseas£18,770£2,933£21,703

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

Following the period of fee liability, you may also be required to pay a University continuation charge and a college continuation charge. The University and college continuation charges are shown on the Continuation charges page.

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of the website.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this programme that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, please note that, depending on your choice of research topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2016-17 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £970 and £1433 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

You are encouraged to communicate with the department in order to refine your application, especially where studentships are involved.

Please ensure that you have researched the specialisms of the department and those of your potential supervisor(s) before making contact. Once you have done this, you can either contact the academic staff member directly or route your enquiry via the AIMS CDT contact at the details provided on this page.

The set of materials you should send with an application to this course comprises: 

  • a personal statement/statement of purpose of 1,000 to 1,500 words
  • a CV/résumé
  • three references, of which at least two must be academic references
  • official transcripts detailing your university-level qualifications and marks to date.

Your statement and academic references should refer directly and specifically to the themes of the AIMS CDT.

You do not need to specify a supervisor or a specific research field or project title beyond "EPSRC CDT in AIM" in your application.

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

For continuing Oxford graduates

If you are a current Oxford graduate on an eligible graduate taught course and you are using the readmission form to apply for this course, you are permitted to re-submit the following documents from your previous application:

  • English proficiency scores, if appropriate.

If you are permitted to reuse any references, you should indicate which you wish to reuse in your application form and we will add these to your application after you submit.

If you are permitted to reuse other documents, like your transcript or written work, you must upload your own copies of these files to your application.

For further information on the readmission process and your eligibility to use this process, see our guidance for continuing Oxford graduates.