Robotics and Autonomous Systems - FARSCOPE (EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training)

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Run by Faculty of Engineering
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available No, full-time only
Start date September 2018

Programme overview

FARSCOPE aims to train the next generation of innovators in the growing field of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), identified as one of the UK’s 'eight great technologies' for future growth. Our four-year programme leads to the award of a joint PhD degree from both the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England. A PhD is a uniquely challenging and rewarding endeavour, especially in a cutting-edge field like RAS.

We have enhanced the standard individual PhD in various ways to give you the best possible start on your RAS research and innovation career:

  • Specialist taught modules in a wide variety of RAS technologies to equip you for research;
  • Exposure to a diverse range of industry and academic RAS topics to give you a broad view of the potential and context of RAS;
  • Cohort-based skills training including enterprise, public engagement, communication and research methods;
  • Group projects and industry study workshops to foster creativity, practical skills and integration.

You'll have your choice of specialist topics from more than 50 academic supervisors. The centre is based at the Bristol Robotics Lab, the largest specialist robotics laboratory in the UK, plus you'll have access to all the combined facilities of both partner universities.

When applying for this programme, please select Robotics and Autonomous Systems on the online application form.

Fees for 2018/19

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

UK/EU: full-time
Overseas: full-time
Channel Islands/Isle of Man: full-time

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to a five per cent increase in fees each year. Find out more about tuition fees.

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 2018/19

The FARSCOPE CDT programme has funds to support up to ten UK/EU students per year including fees, stipend (at standard RCUK rates), research and travel expenses. The programme has no internal funding for non-EU students, but any applications received from self-funded international students will be considered.

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

Programme structure

Year 1

  • Research methods training
  • Seminars in modern robotics methods
  • Robotics, mechanics and programming
  • Robotics context and applications (industry delivered)
  • Robot intelligence and systems
  • Specialist robotics topics (chosen from list of options)
  • Group robot project (eg IMAV contest, robot soccer or Mars rover field test)
  • Initial research project
  • Communications training and research presentation

Year 2

  • PhD research
  • Industry study workshop
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Complementary skills training

Year 3

  • PhD research
  • Industry study workshop
  • Partner placement (optional: opportunities at partner universities in Europe, Asia, North America or partner companies in the UK and Japan)
  • Public engagement training and group activity

Year 4

  • PhD research
  • Complementary skills training (including thesis preparation)
  • FARSCOPE conference presentation


You will start working on your initial research project in your second semester, leading to a dissertation completed at the end of your first year. You then progress to your major PhD research project, for which you may choose to continue your initial project or to pursue a new topic.

Visit our programme catalogue for full details of the structure and unit content for the first year of the EPSRC Robotics and Autonomous Systems CDT programme.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class honours degree in an engineering, physics, mathematics or related subject. Other disciplines will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Students who have completed our MSc in Robotics may be considered, on a case-by-case basis, for direct entry into the second year of the FARSCOPE programme. This will be subject to interview, including a qualifying presentation on research.

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you need to meet this profile level:
Profile E
Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Admissions statement

Read the programme admissions statement for important information on entry requirements, the application process and supporting documents required.

Admissions statement

Research groups

The Bristol Robotics Laboratory is involved in a wide range of robotics research projects both nationally and internationally. Our research portfolio spans a number of different themes:

  • Aerial Robots
    Research into intelligent aircraft, including autonomous micro air vehicles, specialising in their guidance and control.
  • Assisted Living
    Research into interactive assistive robots and smart sensor systems to realise person-focused innovative assistive care solutions for supporting independent living.
  • Biomimetic and Neuro-robotics
    Developing robots that can operate in challenging environments, beyond the limitations of conventional sensory devices.
  • Medical Robotics
    Robotic technology is able to provide precise and accurate sensing and movement capabilities, improving patient and surgeon experience.
  • Non-linear Robotics
    Research towards bringing future generations of humans and humanoid robots together, which requires safe interaction of humans with robots.
  • Robot Vision
    Developing robots that are able to view, analyse what they see and make decisions in response to instructions by humans.
  • Safe Human-Robot Interaction
    Investigating the aspect of physical and behavioural safety to enable safe human-robot interaction, to ensure that a robot is capable of performing cooperative tasks with humans.
  • Self-Repairing Robotic Systems
    Self-healing cellular architectures for biologically-inspired highly reliable electronic systems. Drawing inspiration from nature in how it deals with complex versus unreliable issues.
  • Smart Automation
    Research into the next generation of advanced robotics engineering systems. Robots that can make human-like decisions while carrying out manufacturing process.
  • Soft Robotics
    Soft robotics seeks to make robots that are soft, flexible and compliant, just like biological organisms.
  • Swarm Robotics
    A combination of environmental, social and internal cues could result at the group level in components believed to be important in the emergence of self-organised behaviour.
  • Unconventional Computation in Robots
    Drawing inspiration from nature to address the issues of distributed manipulation in the micro-scale.
  • Verification and Validation for Safety in Robots
    Investigating all aspects of safety for verification and validation purposes and to enable safe human-robot interaction in cooperative tasks.


Students graduating from this programme will be suited to careers in industry, as ambassadors for robotics across many different sectors, or starting their own enterprises.

Staff profiles

Yuying Xia, (Senior Lecturer, Aerospace, UWE)

Ben Winstone, (Research Associate)

Mark Henson, (Research Fellow, Engineering Design and Mathematics, UWE)

Colin Greatwood, (Senior Research Associate, Aerospace, UoB)

Abdul Farooq, (Senior Lecturer, Engineering Design and Mathematics, UWE)

Giulio Dagnino, (Research Fellow, Faculty of Environment and Technology, UWE)

David Barton, (Lecturer, Engineering Maths, UoB)

Jonathan Winfield, (Research Fellow)

Antonia Tzemanaki, (Researcher, Bristol Robotics Lab)

Tom Kent, (Research Associate, Aerospace, UoB)

Ben Hicks, (Professor, Engineering Systems and Design, UoB)

Professor Andrew Adamatzky, (Professor in Unconventional Computing, University of the West of England, Bristol, UWE), Chemical robotics; living controller for robots; unconventional computing.

Dr Kazem Alemzadeh, (Senior Lecturer), Mechatronics and robotics.

Dr Tareq Assaf, (Research Fellow, Environment and Technology, UWE), Soft Robotics.

Dr Gary Atkinson, (Senior Lecturer Engineering, Design and Mathematics, UWE), Machine vision.

Dr Lucy Berthoud, (Senior Teaching Fellow), Spacecraft systems engineering.

Mr Paul Bremner, (Research Fellow)

Professor David Bull, (Professor), Vision.

Professor Stuart Burgess, (Professor), Bio-inspired design and robotics.

Dr Tilo Burghardt, (Lecturer), Applied computer vision; visual animal biometrics.

Dr Jeremy Burn, (Reader), Biomechanics and locomotion.

Dr Steve Burrow , (Reader), Energy harvesting.

Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly, (Senior Lecturer), User experience design.

Dr Andrew Calway, (Reader), Energy harvesting.

Mr Andrew Charlesworth, (Reader), Law and IT.

Dr Andrew Conn, (Lecturer), Flapping wing vehicles; soft robotics.

Professor Ian Craddock, (Professor), Communications.

Mr Farid Dailami, (Senior Lecturer in Engineering Design & Mathematics, UWE), Mechatronics.

Dr Dima Damen, (Lecturer), Activity analysis; mobile vision.

Professor Mario Di Bernardo, (Professor), Nonlinear systems and control.

Dr Sanja Dogramadzi, (Reader), Medical robotics.

Dr David Drury, (Senior Lecturer), Electronics and control.

Dr Kerstin Eder, (Reader), Design automation and verification.

Dr Khemraj Emrith, (Reseach Associate, Engineering, Design and Mathematics, UWE), Machine vision.

Dr Appolinaire Etoundi, (Senior Lecturer), Artificial Lower Limb; Bio-inspired Robotics; Mechatronics

Professor Charl Faul, (Professor), Materials Chemistry.

Dr Luca Giuggioli, (Senior Lecturer), Dynamics of multiagent behaviour.

Professor John Greenman, (Professor), Microbial fuel cells.

Dr Thilo Gross, (Reader), Networks and multi-agent systems.

Dr Ian Hales, (Research Associate), Machine Vision.

Dr Sabine Hauert, (Lecturer, Engineering Maths), Swarming nanobots for biomedical applications.

Dr Helmut Hauser, (Lecturer)

Dr Guido Herrmann, (Reader), Nonlinear control.

Dr Marc Holderied, (Senior Lecturer, Biological Sciences), Ecology and behaviour of bats.

Dr Martin Homer, (Senior Lecturer), Applied nonlinear mathematics.

Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos, (Senior Research Fellow in Engineering Design & Mathematics, UWE), Energy autonomy; microbial fuel cells.

Dr Chris Kent, (Lecturer), Perceptual cognition.

Dr Tim Kovacs, (Senior Lecturer), Complex adaptive systems.

Ben De Lacy Costello, (Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Research in Analytical, Material and Sensor Sciences, UWE)

Professor Jonathan Lawry, (Professor), Uncertainty and risk.

Dr Ute Leonards, (Reader), Human-robot interaction; visual perception.

Dr Nathan Lepora, (Lecturer), Biomimetics and perception; computational neuroscience.

Dr David Leslie, (Senior Lecturer in Mathematics), Distributed agents.

Dr Mark Lowenburg, (Reader), Control (aerospace systems).

Dr Andres Marcos, (Senior Lecturer), Robust control techniques.

Professor Trevor Martin, (Professor), Artificial intelligence and intelligent systems.

Professor David May, (Professor), Embedded computation.

Dr Walterio Mayol-Cuevas, (Reader), Vision.

Professor Chris Melhuish, (Professor), Autonomous robotics.

Professor Majid Mirmehdi, (Professor), Vision.

Dr Thomas Mitchell, (Senior Lecturer), Music and human machine interaction.

Dr Pritesh Narayan, (Lecturer), Aero/control.

Professor Ivana Partridge, (Professor), Composites processing.

Dr Martin Pearson, (Research Fellow in Engineering Design and Mathematics, UWE), Biometric robots.

Professor Anthony Pipe, (Professor), Safe HRI and machine learning.

Professor Kevin Potter, (Professor), Composites and automated manufacture.

Dr Arthur Richards, (Reader), Autonomous flight.

Dr Thomas Richardson, (Senior Lecturer), Flight dynamics.

Professor Daniel Robert, (Reader), Biomimetics.

Dr Jonathan Rossiter, (Reader), Soft robotics and tactile interaction.

Dr Tom Scott, (Reader), Geochemistry and metallurgy of uranium.

Professor Melvyn Smith, (Professor), Machine vision.

Dr Matthew Studley, (Senior Lecturer), Machine learning: bio-inspired robotics.

Dr Charlie Sullivan, (Senior Lecturer), Finite element analysis & biochemical engineering.

Professor Ruud ter Meulen, (Professor), Ethics.

Dr Chris Toomer, (Principle Lecturer), Aerodynamics; Computational fluid dynamics.

Dr Peter Walters, (Research Fellow), 3D printing; fabrication.

Dr Carwyn Ward, (Lecturer), Composites design, processing and manufacture.

Dr James Whiting, (Research Fellow), Slime mould computing.

Professor Eddie Wilson, (Professor), Intelligent transport systems.

Dr Shane Windsor, (Lecturer), Bio-inspired flight.

Professor Alan Winfield, (Professor), Public engagement; swarm robotics.

Professor Yufeng Yao, (Professor), Modelling and stimulation.

Dr Vadim Zverovich, (Senior Lecturer), Operational research.

How to apply
Application deadline:

Applications are welcome throughout the year. All applications received will be assessed by the FARSCOPE CDT management team between January and March. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to attend an interview between February and April. Offers will be made between March and April.

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; in particular, the scores for subject areas 11 and 15.

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.

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FARSCOPE Centre for Doctoral Training
Bristol Robotics Laboratory
University of the West of England
T Block, Frenchay Campus
Coldharbour Lane
Bristol, BS16 1QY


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