Robotics and Autonomous Systems

Find a programme
Run by Faculty of Engineering
Awards available PhD
Programme length Four years full-time;
Eight years part-time
Location of programme Clifton campus
Part-time study available Yes
Part-time study is available on a minimum 50% basis per year.
Start date September 2022

Programme overview

FARSCOPE aims to train the next generation of innovators in the growing field of robotics and autonomous systems (RAS). The vision of the programme is ubiquity - or robots everywhere - enabling students to think beyond a robot's technology and about its environment. 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 such as 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. This programme includes:

  • 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 will 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.

The FARSCOPE CDT programme has funding for a small number of international students each year. Applications from self-funded international students will also be considered. 

Fees for 2022/23

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2022/23 are as follows:

UK: full-time
Overseas: full-time

Following the recent changes to fee assessment regulation, Channel Islands and Isle of Man students will no longer be charged a separate tuition fee. From the 2021/22 academic year they will be charged the same fees as Home students.

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 discount

University of Bristol students and graduates can benefit from a 25% reduction in tuition fees for postgraduate study. Check your eligibility for an alumni discount.

Funding for 2022/23

The FARSCOPE CDT programme has funds to support up to ten students per year including fees, stipend (at standard RCUK rates), research and travel expenses. Funding is also available for a small number of international candidates each year. 

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

Programme structure

Year one

  • 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 two

  • PhD research
  • Industry study workshop
  • Innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Complementary skills training
  • FARSCOPE-TU conference presentation.

Year three

  • 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
  • FARSCOPE-TU conference presentation.

Year four

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


You will start working on your initial research project in your second term, leading to dissemination of your research 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 this 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 this PhD programme. This will be subject to interview, which will include 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 create person-focused innovative assistive care solutions that support independent living.

Bioenergy and Self Sustainable Systems
Research into overcoming the energy barrier to deploying autonomous robots in remote areas by utilising microbial fuel cells.

Biomimetic and Neuro-robotics
Developing robots that can operate in challenging environments, beyond the limitations of conventional sensory devices.

Connected Autonomous Vehicles
Research and development into all aspects of connected autonomous vehicles.

Robots for Hazardous Environments
Research and development in all aspects of robotics for hazardous environments and autonomous system support.

Medical Robotics
Robotic technology is able to provide precise and accurate sensing and movement capabilities, thus 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 analyse what they see and make decisions in response to instructions by humans.

Robotic Ethics
Researching robotic ethics and ethical robots. The former is concerned with ethical use of autonomous systems, while the latter is concerned with how autonomous systems can themselves be ethical.

Safe Human-Robot Interaction
Investigating physical and behavioural safety for human-robot interactions, ensuring that a robot is capable of performing cooperative tasks with humans.

Smart Automation
Research into the next generation of advanced robotics engineering systems: robots that can make human-like decisions while carrying out manufacturing processes.

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.

Tactile Robotics
Robots with human-like tactile dexterity would transform our economy and society. But how do you give robots a sense of touch?

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

David Barton, (Lecturer, Engineering Maths, UoB)

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

Lili Tao, (Senior Lecturer in Machine Vision, BRL), Human motion

Chris Alford, (Associate Professor in Applied Psychology, UWE), Applied Psychology

Richard Cheston, (Professor of Mental Health Research (dementia), UWE), Mental health and dementia

Allie Turton, (Senior Lecturer, UWE), Occupational Therapy

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

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

Dr Steve Battle, (Senior Lecturer in Information Science, UWE), Cognitive robotics

Dr Paul Bremner, (Research Fellow, UWE)

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.

Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly, (Professor), User experience design.

Dr Andrew Calway, (Reader), Energy harvesting.

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

Mr Farid Dailami, (Associate Professor), Mechatronics.

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

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 Manuel Giuliani, (Professor in Embedded Cognitive AI for Robotics, BRL), Human-robot interaction

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

Dr Helmut Hauser, (Lecturer)

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.

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.

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

Professor Weiru Liu, (Professor of Artificial Intelligence, UoB), artificial intelligence

Dr Paul Marshall, (Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, UoB), Human-robot interaction

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

Professor Chris Melhuish, (Professor), Autonomous robotics.

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

Professor Richard Owen, (Professor in Innovation Management, UoB), Responsible innovation

Professor John Parkin, (Professor of Transport Engineering, UWE), transport engineering

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

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

Professor Arthur Richards, (Professor), Autonomous flight.

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

Professor Daniel Robert, (Reader), Biomimetics.

Professor Jonathan Rossiter, (Professor), 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.

Dr Antonia Tzemanaki, (Lecturer in Robotics, UoB, Bristol Robotics Lab), medical robotics and wearables

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

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

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

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

Professor Chenguang Yang, (Professor)

Dr Wenhao Zhang, (Senior Lecturer in Machine Vision, UWE/BRL), Human recognition & interaction

Apply now

Find out how to apply

Application deadline

Two application rounds are held per year, with deadlines typically around January and March. All applications received will be assessed by the CDT management team, with  shortlisted applicants invited to attend an interview.


Open days and visits

Watch on-demand recordings from November's virtual open week.

Get in touch


FARSCOPE-TU Centre for Doctoral Training
Bristol Robotics Laboratory
University of the West of England
T Block, Frenchay Campus
Coldharbour Lane
Bristol, BS16 1QY
School website: Bristol Robotics Laboratory
Department website: Department of Aerospace Engineering

International students

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

Bristol Doctoral College

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

REF 2021 results

The University of Bristol is ranked fifth for research in the UK (Times Higher Education), with 94% of our research assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Full REF 2021 results for the University of Bristol.


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