The use of composites offers many benefits to the functionality of both materials and structures, making them integral to many engineering design considerations, including cost, sustainability, fuel efficiency, emissions reduction, and improved operational performance. As such, composites are replacing traditional materials for lightweight structures at an unprecedented rate due to global demand (for example in the aircraft, wind turbine, construction and automotive industries). The sector growth is expected to be rapid, in the region of 5-10% each year. 

The composites sector is contributing significantly to industry developments. Advanced composites are technology-enabling and critical to the production of lighter, smarter wing structures; or more efficient wind turbines that yield cheaper, more abundant energy. With the already encroaching effects of climate change, composite materials and structures have an important role to play in contributing to reductions in CO2 emissions and the growing need for a more sustainable future. 

The UK has invested heavily in the science, engineering, and technology of composite materials, including the establishing of the National Composites Centre at the University of Bristol. A highly skilled workforce and technical leadership are required to support the industry; this leadership requires a radical and innovative mindset that encompasses engineering knowledge as well as the physical sciences. 

The development of future composites and their applications will require doctoral students with a knowledge of advanced materials science, engineering, and sustainability, together with practical experience of the resulting composites and structures. These highly-skilled engineers not only need to understand technical subjects but should also be able to apply their acquired knowledge within the context of the modern world. 

Our Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) produces highly-skilled, collaborative leaders. Taught modules will lay the foundation and stretch your understanding of materials, engineering, manufacturing and computational analysis, including experimental and theoretical elements of composites engineering and science. An integrated transferable skills training programme is also included, covering communication, career development, innovation, management, and translational research skills. Collaborating with industrial partners, such as Rolls-Royce and Vestas, combined with world-leading expertise, including University of Limerick, we have produced an exciting integrated programme enabling you to become a leader in this field. 

Programme structure

Throughout the degree you will have access to world-leading experts and industrial engagement, providing you with the opportunity to learn about real-world challenges and how they are tackled by industry.

Year one – taught/research component

Years two to four – research component

  • PhD research project – we offer a wide choice of cutting-edge PhD projects, practically spanning bench to component; from nanomaterials to wind turbine blade design.
  • International placement opportunities with over 12 leading universities.
  • Transferable skills training and public engagement activities.

Please also view the CDT website for more information.

Entry requirements

An upper second-class degree in a relevant subject (or equivalent qualification).

See international equivalent qualifications on the International Office website.

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

Go to admissions statement

If English is not your first language, you will need to reach the requirements outlined in our profile level E.

Further information about English language requirements and profile levels.

Fees and funding

UK: full-time
£4,665 per year
UK: part-time
£2,332 per year
Overseas: full-time
£25,300 per year

Fees are subject to an annual review. For programmes that last longer than one year, please budget for up to an 8% increase in fees each year.

More about tuition fees, living costs and financial support.

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 2023/24

Enhanced EPSRC studentships covering fees and living costs are available to UK and international students. 

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

Career prospects

Recent graduates from the programme have gone on to careers within aerospace, automotive, civil engineering, engineering consultancy, and wind energy sectors. Some have also taken up academic and research positions in UK and international universities, such as MIT. 

Meet our supervisors

The following list shows potential supervisors for this programme. Visit their profiles for details of their research and expertise.


Research groups

All CDT students are based in the Bristol Composites Institute, which is within the Faculty of Engineering, and has links to the Faculties of Science and Health Sciences. Its vision is to be a world-leading institute for composites research, combining cutting-edge fundamental science with strong industrial links for exploitation and technology transfer. It is a focus for collaboration—internally, nationally and internationally—and led to the establishment of the UK's National Composites Centre, which is now a recognised focus of national capability in composites.