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Computing Research Degrees - PhD

The School welcomes enquiries relating to hardware of telecommunications, computer networks, games technology, electronic engineering and software engineering. Areas of research in which staff are currently active include gaming, e-business, home automation, learning technologies, intelligent systems, security and forensics, robotics and cloud computing....

  • Level Postgraduate Research
  • Study mode Full Time/Part Time/Distance Learning
  • Location City Centre
  • Award PhD
  • Start date September 2022, February 2023, May 2023
  • Fees View course fees
  • School School of Computing and Digital Technology
  • Faculty Faculty of Computing, Engineering and The Built Environment

Overview

The School welcomes enquiries relating to hardware of telecommunications, computer networks, games technology, electronic engineering and software engineering. Areas of research in which staff are currently active include gaming, e-business, home automation, learning technologies, intelligent systems, security and forensics, robotics and cloud computing.

Contact the School for more information, or call us on +44 (0)121 331 6400.

Introducing STEAMhouse

STEAMhouse is a centre for technology, innovation, creative thinking

Our brand new £70 million pound building, STEAMhouse, will become the new home for the School of Computing and Digital Technology from the start of the 2022 academic year.

Find out more

This course is open to International students.

What's covered in this course?

A PhD, “Doctor of Philosophy”, is the highest-level qualification, based on individual and detailed research, resulting in a thesis of about 80,000 words.

The School offers specialist supervision if you wish to pursue research programmes for the award of PhD. You may undertake your research either full-time or part-time. If you are accepted for PhD research you will be assigned to a Director of Studies (your main supervisor) and at least one second supervisor. There will be a programme of training workshops and seminars to support you.

As a research student you will exposed to a versatile range of academics. You will be encouraged to take part in various activities, seminars, to publish in collaboration with your supervisors and to take part in research conferences nationally and (where possible) internationally. The Faculty as a whole also has a growing population of research students who organise social and academic events.

Why Choose Us?

  • Expert staff supervisors, keen to help their students succeed
  • Encouragement and support for you to publish your work
  • Opportunities to support and teach other students, including bringing your new research into their education

Studying with us during the Covid-19 pandemic

The University has put in place measures in response to Covid-19 to allow us to safely deliver our courses. Should the impact of the pandemic continue in future years, any additional or alternative arrangements put in place by the University will be in accordance with the latest government public health advice, health and safety legislation, and the terms and conditions of the student contract.

Open Days

Join us for an on-campus Open Day where you'll be able to explore our campus and facilities in person. You'll be able to hear more about your chosen subject area from our academics.

Register your interest

Research Interests

Current interests

The School welcomes enquiries relating to hardware of telecommunications, computer networks, games technology, electronic engineering and software engineering. Areas of research in which staff are currently active include gaming, e-business, home automation, learning technologies, intelligent systems, security and forensics, robotics and cloud computing.

Other interests include:

  • Machine Learning
  • Evolutionary Computation
  • Multi-Agent Systems
  • Knowledge Engineering

We find it most effective to work with inquirers to focus their research ideas before a formal application is made.  You can contact either individual staff or the School's Director of Research Degrees, Dr Chris Creed.

Fees & How to Apply

Please select your student status to view fees and apply
  • UK Student
  • International Student

UK students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation based on the Retail Prices Index and the additional costs we incur each year to deliver our courses, maintain and develop our infrastructure and provide a range of support services, or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,596 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,298 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £2,875 in 2022/23

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,596 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,298 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £2,875 in 2022/23

Award: PhD

Starting: May 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £4,596 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £2,298 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £2,875 in 2022/23

International students

Annual and modular tuition fees shown are applicable to the first year of study. The University reserves the right to increase fees for subsequent years of study in line with increases in inflation based on the Retail Prices Index and the additional costs we incur each year to deliver our courses, maintain and develop our infrastructure and provide a range of support services, or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament. View fees for continuing students.

Award: PhD

Starting: Sep 2022

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees

Award: PhD

Starting: Feb 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £13,500 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,750 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £8,500 in 2022/23

Award: PhD

Starting: May 2023

  • Mode
  • Duration
  • Fees
  • Full Time
  • 3-4 years
  • £13,500 in 2022/23
  • Part Time
  • 4-7 years
  • £6,750 in 2022/23
  • Distance Learning
  • 4 years
  • £8,500 in 2022/23

If you’re unable to use our online application form for any reason, please email Research.Admissions@bcu.ac.uk.The University reserves the right to increase fees in line with inflation based on the Retail Prices Index or to reflect changes in Government funding policies or changes agreed by Parliament up to a maximum of five per cent.

Entry Requirements

PhD applicants will normally be expected to hold a Master's degree in a relevant area.

You will need to complete the research degree application form and provide a statement of your initial research ideas (we advise between 1,000 and 2,000 words, with full referencing to relevant literature).

As each PhD is an individual research project, it is impossible to specify precisely what additional costs (fieldwork, travel etc) may be incurred. Any potential costs should be identified in your application.

Although the School and Faculty has some limited financial support towards the direct costs of research (e.g. attendance at conferences and workshops, etc.) this is allocated on a competitive basis and you may need to supplement this. 

Course in Depth

A day in the life of a PhD student

If you're considering doing a PhD there's probably a lot of questions going through your mind: how am I going to pay for it? Should I quit my job? Will I cope with the workload? But most importantly, what is it really like? Karen Patel, a full time PhD student, shares her experiences of juggling life, a part time job and her studies. Read more in Karen's blog.

The PhD Journey

Full-time students are expected to complete within 3-4 years, whilst part-time students may take 4-7 years. In your first year (two years for PT students) you will spend time reviewing the field, refining your research proposal and projected plan, and developing key topic-specific research skills. You will be supported in this through attendance at the Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice, which runs for the first semester of your studies.

Your progress is reviewed every 6 months, with alternating ‘light-touch’ written reviews with your supervisors and annual reviews involving a written paper, presentation and interview with an independent panel of experienced supervisors.

Your second year (years 3 and 4 for PT students) is likely to be spent undertaking in-depth research (data collection and analysis) in your chosen area, with the third year (years 5-6 for PT students) involving writing up your results and presenting them in a suitable format (usually a written thesis of some 80,000 words).

Once you have submitted your thesis the examiners usually need 6-8 weeks to read it before the viva (oral) examination, after which there is likely to be a period for corrections / rewriting before successful completion and award of your PhD.

Throughout your studies we aim to develop your research skills, and support you in presenting your work through publication and conferences. We expect your participation in the range of research-related activities within the Faculty, contributing to building our research community. You many get opportunities to teach and support other students. We also encourage you to think of your career path and development in the longer term, as well as the first post-PhD job.

How the PhD is assessed

Your progress is reviewed every 6 months, with alternating ‘light-touch’ written reviews with your supervisors and annual reviews involving a written paper, presentation and interview with an independent panel of experienced supervisors.  The annual reviews will assess whether you continue with your PhD studies, or whether lack of progress means that you should transfer to an MPhil, or withdraw from your study.

Once you have submitted your thesis the examiners usually need 6-8 weeks to read it before the viva (oral) examination. The viva commonly lasts between 1 and 3 hours and questions can be wide-ranging about your research, how it fits into your discipline, and its contribution to knowledge and impact.  The examiners’ recommendation is based on a combination of the thesis and viva performance.

Following the viva there is likely to be a period for corrections / rewriting before successful completion and award of your PhD.

Employability

The value of a PhD

The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is recognised worldwide and is often an essential requirement for those wishing to follow an academic or research career in industry or commerce. 

For some jobs a PhD is virtually a necessity – in the academic world. In many professional roles it is an indicator of personal commitment, critical and creative thinking, personal management and ability to work with and even manage others, and is a step to promotion and higher-level, often managerial, roles.

After the PhD

From the very start of your PhD journey we encourage you to think about what happens after you graduate: how the PhD will contribute to your career plan from identifying and getting your first job to beyond.  We use the VITAE research career development framework to help you plan for your future.

Placements

Some PhD topics may allow you the opportunity to work with other institutions and companies as part of your research.  This could be as a placement, but this is rare for our PhDs – agreements to work with a company to collect data are much more common. 

Occasionally, external funding or contacts have provided placement opportunities not directly related to the PhD research: while these contribute to your knowledge, skills and CV, they do interrupt your studies.

You can discuss your options with your potential supervisors, if you feel a placement would benefit your research. 

OpportUNIty

OpportUNIty Student Ambassador

OpportUNIty: Student Jobs on Campus ensures that our students are given a first opportunity to fill many part-time temporary positions within the University. This allows you to work while you study with us, fitting the job around your course commitments. By taking part in the scheme, you will gain valuable experiences and employability skills, enhancing your prospects in the job market.

It will also allow you to become more involved in University life by delivering, leading and supporting many aspects of the learning experience, from administration to research and mentoring roles.

International

Birmingham City University is a vibrant and multicultural university in the heart of a modern and diverse city. We welcome many international students every year – there are currently students from more than 80 countries among our student community.

The University is conveniently placed, with Birmingham International Airport nearby and first-rate transport connections to London and the rest of the UK.

Our international pages contain a wealth of information for international students who are considering applying to study here, including:

Facilities & Staff

Our Facilities

As a student in the School of Computing and Digital Technology, you will have access to our labs, software, professional sound studios, computer games labs and industry-standard facilities to develop your practical skills in audio, video and multimedia application development, content creation and more.

We are currently undertaking a £340 million investment programme in our facilities, including a major expansion of our City Centre Campus. This includes our brand new £70 million development, STEAMhouse, which will be the new home to Computing and Digital Technology students. This state-of-the-art centre will give you access to outstanding facilities and equipment, as well as opportunities to collaborate with businesses across multiple sectors and work on real industry-based projects.

Our facilities in Millennium Point have undergone a £6.5million investment with a new maker area, engineering labs/equipment and IT equipment.

Thanks to our partnerships with Cisco, Microsoft, Oracle, Juniper, SAS and LPI you will have access to the latest technology and facilities that reflect advanced professional practice. Our students also have access to software such as the Adobe Suite including Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.

Computer Labs

System Labs

Our embedded systems laboratories are used to develop real-time systems, such as specialist hardware training and development resources, and industrial-standard software development and simulation tools. These include:

  • Schematic capture and printed circuit board (PCB) design software – ORCAD
  • Analogue and digital circuit design and simulation software – PSpice
  • Graphical microcontroller software – Matrix Multimedia Flowcode
  • Microcontroller development board – PIC Microchip
  • E-block microcontroller training kit
  • FPGA & CPLD development board
  • Robotics design and development
Software Development and Computer Programming

There are a number of open access, software development and computer programming laboratories that can be used to develop systems and programmes, including:

  • Software development environments for modern programming languages - Visual Studio
  • Computing programming languages – Python, C#, ASP.NET, PHP, Unity
  • Operating systems – Linux, Windows and macOS
  • Database management systems – MySQL
  • Neural network simulators
  • Computer architecture simulators – RISC
  • Application development software – iPhone, Android Studio
  • Integrated development environments – Netbeans / FPGA /CPLD
  • JAVA programming – BlueJ.
Network Labs

Our industry standard kit can be accessed by students who are at home or anywhere on the globe – remote access – 24/7 (NETACAD)

The laboratories are well-equipped for all our computer networking courses, as well as specialist areas for practical work such as: Voice-over internet protocol (VoIP), Security technologies, Forensic and ethical hacking technologies, wireless and mobile technologies, Internet of Things (IoT), Cybersecurity and software Defined Networking including NFV.

Forensics Room 

Our successful development of forensic computing has led to a specialist forensics laboratory that is fully equipped with essential hardware and software for this sensitive area of study.

Industry standard forensic hardware and software is available for analysis of PC’s and mobile phones.

Some of the features of the lab includes: fingerprint readers and recognition software development kits, facial recognition cameras and software development kits and more.

Games Lab

Our state-of-the-art computer games lab is home to a PS4 Development Kit and has Xbox One Console Development ability. We have a Nintendo Switch Development Kit in procurement and HTC Vive, Oculus CV1 and VR development facility.

The Games Lab is a key feature during our Games Jam and society events. All students can join our computer games societies and use our facilities if interested in gaming.

Digital Technology Facilities

We operate well-resourced high-spec computer labs which are fully equipped with up-to-date, industry standard software for the design and development of advanced multimedia applications.

Our facilities include: Sophisticated graphics software packages for image manipulation and editing; these provide a full range of drawing, editing and image composition tools. Web animation and Rich Internet Application development tools. 3D software for Rendering, Modelling, Games and Animation, and design and graphics software including Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

An Apple Mac sound lab, electronics and fully equipped multimedia labs are all part of the technology and multimedia experience on offer.

Sound Studios in Millennium Point

The Orchard

The Orchard is a 40-seat mac lab designed to support teaching of audio and mac-specific software. The lab features a recording booth as well as high quality audio monitors and video projector.

Sound Studios

Our studio facilities feature mixing consoles by manufacturers such as SSL and Audix, monitoring by PMC and Genelec, and a host of software and outboard hardware effects commonly found in high-end commercial recording studios. As well as acoustically designed spaces to record and mix, we have a dedicated mastering suite featuring the acclaimed PMC IB1S monitors.

In the live rooms you will find a useful range of stock instruments including drums and cymbals, guitars, basses, a tuned piano and a range of instrument amplifiers.

Mix Rooms

Our mix rooms are smaller rooms, useful for one or two students to work on projects that do not require the space afforded by our larger studio facilities. These include a Foley studio for recording of footsteps and other sound effects that are added to media. We also have a room where live desks can be set up, allowing students to explore workflows outside of a gig setup.

Microphones

We pride ourselves on an extensive microphone collection that any commercial studio would be proud of. From the classic Neumann U87, Royer 121 or Coles 4038 to staples like the AKG C414 or C451, you will find a very usable range of sounds to explore.

Live Sound Equipment

Students have access to an extensive set of live sound equipment with mixing consoles by Midas, Digidesign and Yamaha and a range of PA systems including a D&B Audiotechnik line array. Backed up with an excellent set of microphones chosen for their success in the live environment, and other production equipment such as lighting, the gear is used in a variety of destinations around the university or offsite at gigs and festivals.

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s £57 million teaching and performance facility is the first of its kind in the digital age and is the perfect fusion of traditional and contemporary.

Featuring 9,000 sq m of purpose designed teaching, rehearsal and state of the art performance space, it offers unrivalled opportunities for our students. The audio and video digital infrastructure is designed to enhance and support live performance and to allow students to experiment with new technologies.

Read more about the Conservatoire of the Future

Curzon Street Studios

Curzon Street Studios has a number of world-class TV studios suitable for shooting commercials, films and video productions, both big and small.

Studio B boasts the largest fixed green screen in the UK, with a three wall infinity cove. The studio has been used for filming TV commercials, TV promos, music videos, web presentations and the live-streaming of online entertainment shows. Studio B offers pre-rigged lighting for green screen as well as access to the lighting rig with a hoist controller at ground floor level.

Black cyclorama and matting are also available to create a black studio. The green studio also houses our MILO motion control rig which is the most used motion control rig in the world, the Milo’s versatility, portability and high accuracy makes it the ideal choice for live action shooting and table top work.

Curzon Street Studios boasts six digital radio studios. All studios have been acoustically designed to provide ideal recording environments for both live and pre-recorded audio production and are fully soundproofed.

Our post production system has been designed to enable content to be produced, managed and distributed digitally. We offer a custom built central technical area that allows seamless interaction between all our studios and edit suites.

Learn more about what Curzon Street Studios has to offer

Makers Space

The Level 4 Makers Space is a bright communal space in Millennium Point in which students find support in building their electronic projects (i.e. Raspberry Pi or Arduino boards based).

The Makers Space is equipped with a laser cutter, 3D printers, and a variety of electronic components like motion, proximity, humidity sensors, and many more.

This space is widely used by students, including first year students who use the space to help build their gadget ready to be presented at Innovation Fest. Experienced technicians are on hand to provide support. The support extends to all other levels including Final Year, Ph.D., and KTP projects.

Student have access to high spec laptops with the latest media software for all their module needs, making the level 4 Makers Space the ideal area for the development of their project. Computer enthusiasts will enjoy our mini collection of vintage Apple computers.


Computing and Digital Technology facilities

Our staff

Dr Chris Creed

Associate Professor in Human-Computer Interaction

Dr Creed specialises in the area of Human-Computer Interaction and has extensive experience in leading collaborative technical projects exploring the use of innovative technologies. His core research interest is around the design and development of assistive technology for disabled people across a range of impairments. He also leads the HCI...

More about Chris