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 need to take a number of courses during your first year. Your day will comprise lectures each morning with laboratory sessions each afternoon. You will undertake two eight- to ten-week mini-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 two to four 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.

Supervision

For this course, 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.

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.

Changes to this course and your supervision

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. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.

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, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Other courses you may wish to consider

If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.

Courses suggested by the department

Engineering Science DPhil
Computer Science DPhil

Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:

  • a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours.

The qualification above should be achieved in one of the following subject areas or disciplines:

  • computer science
  • engineering
  • physics
  • mathematics
  • statistics; or
  • other related disciplines.

A previous master's qualification is not required.

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

If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.

GRE General Test scores

No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are sought. 

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience 

Candidates will need to demonstrate a broad interest in some or all of the four AIMS themes:

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

Publications may be an advantage when applying.

English language requirement

This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.

Detailed requirements - higher level

The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:

IELTS Academic7.5Minimum 7.0 per component
TOEFL iBT110

Minimum component scores:

  • Listening: 22
  • Reading: 24
  • Speaking: 25
  • Writing: 24
Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced191Minimum 185 per component
Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency191Minimum 185 per component

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide

Supporting documents 

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

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

Supervision

Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Admissions panels and assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).

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

After an offer is made

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements: 

Financial Declaration

If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.

Disclosure of criminal convictions

In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

Some postgraduate research students in science, engineering and technology subjects will need an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate prior to applying for a Tier 4 visa. Further information can be found on our Tier 4 (General) Student visa page. For some courses, the requirement to apply for an ATAS certificate may depend on your research area.

Resources

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 70 members of academic staff and over 140 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 with over 100 academic staff, who 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 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2020-21

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU (including Islands)£7,970
Overseas£26,405

Course 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 course fees). 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.

Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.

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 course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees (or, after fee liability ends, continuation charges) 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 course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.

How to apply

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. 

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

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose/personal statement:
1,000 to 1,500 words

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.

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.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two must be academic

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.

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.

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

Start or continue an application

Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.

Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.

Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.

Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.

Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).

Application GuideApply

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