Complexity Sciences

Find a programme
Awards available PhD
Programme length Three years full-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available No, full-time only
Open to international students Yes
Start date Not fixed

Programme overview

Have you ever wondered how animals move collectively in flocks, swarms and shoals? Or how the brain learns and remembers information? Or how different plants, species or even transport systems evolve and adapt according to their environments?

These are just a few examples of the numerous strands of research undertaken at the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences (BCCS).

The BCCS cultivates interdisciplinary research across a range of modern engineering, social, life and molecular science subjects. Combining new and traditional methods from a variety of disciplines, our complexity sciences research focuses on the development of innovative mathematical methodology, tools and concepts that can be applied and tested on important real-world problems.

Fees for 2017/18

Full-time fees


Fees quoted are provisional, per annum and subject to annual increase.

Alumni scholarship

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a ten per cent reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni scholarship.

Funding for 2017/18

Home/EU offer-holders may be able to apply for limited funding and should contact the Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences for more information.

Further information on funding for prospective UK, EU and international postgraduate students.

Programme structure

The BCCS is highly interdisciplinary with links to departments in all faculties within the University. Each PhD project is supervised by at least two members of staff, to provide both a theoretical and applied perspective to the research. There are also many links with potential supervisors at other institutions or in industry.

While working on the PhD you will be supervised within an academic department, which usually corresponds to the main supervisor of your research project. You will retain close ties with the BCCS community through regular seminars and events during the academic year.

Throughout the PhD programme you are actively encouraged to participate in a personal development programme of activities, including transferable skills workshops, public engagement, producing the BCCS newsletter, attending the complexity sciences seminar series and other social events. 

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree (or international equivalent) in mathematics, physics, computer science or similar. Other degrees are considered but evidence of a strong mathematical background is essential.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

Application method Online application form
English language requirements Profile E
Further information about English language requirements
Admissions statement Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Research groups

The BCCS brings together expertise from across the university, with highly esteemed potential supervisors in a wide variety of areas such as:

  • biological sciences
  • synthetic biology
  • social medicine
  • transportation
  • civil engineering
  • computer science
  • engineering mathematics
  • chemistry
  • mathematics
  • neuroscience
  • social sciences
  • physics

Please visit our website for more information about our current and completed research projects and a list of affiliated academic staff.


Students starting a postgraduate programme at the BCCS are exposed to a wide range of problems across some of the most compelling application areas, coupled with exposure to the underlying complexity theory and methodology. Many find themselves drawn to areas of research or industry that they may not have considered before.

Find out more about our graduate destinations via our careers and alumni website.

Staff profiles

Further details of the current research and supervision interests of individual members of staff are available on the BCCS website.

How to apply
Application deadline:

We welcome applications at any time of year but please note that actual start dates may be subject to host faculty procedures.

International students

Find out more about becoming a student at Bristol, and the support we offer to international students.

I chose Bristol because of its outstanding academic reputation. It's reassuring to be taught by people who truly love their subject - their passion becomes contagious.


REF 2014 results

Please see full REF 2014 results for the University of Bristol.

Results are from the most recent UK-wide assessment of research quality, conducted by HEFCE. More about REF 2014 results.

Bristol Doctoral College

The Bristol Doctoral College facilitates and supports doctoral training and researcher development across the University.

Get in touch

Mr Matthew Guppy BCCS Manager Phone: +44 (0) 1179 33 18232 Email:

Bristol Centre for Complexity Sciences
Graduate School of Engineering
Queens Building
University Walk
Bristol BS8 1TR


Important disclaimer information about our programmes.

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