Foundational Artificial Intelligence MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

The UCL Centre for Artificial Intelligence is host to the UKRI funded Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Foundational Artificial Intelligence (AI). The CDT provides training and is supported by a large body of industry partners to help the UCL team create an exciting platform to launch student careers as scientists or AI entrepreneurs.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2023/24)
Overseas tuition fees (2023/24)
4 calendar years
Programme starts
Research degrees may start at any time of the year, but typically start in September.
Applications accepted
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second class UK Bachelor's degree, in a relevant discipline, or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard, with a strong quantitative component evidenced by good performance (higher than 60%) in relevant mathematics, statistics or computation options.

The English language level for this programme is: Level 1

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level. International Preparation Courses

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

If you are intending to apply for a time-limited visa to complete your UCL studies (e.g., Student visa, Skilled worker visa, PBS dependant visa etc.) you may be required to obtain ATAS clearance. This will be confirmed to you if you obtain an offer of a place.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Our Foundational AI CDT addresses the need for AI workers by training researchers capable of advancing core AI algorithms. Our graduates will help shape the social, scientific and economic landscape through scientific breakthroughs and the creation of companies on the basis of novel AI technology.

Current AI machines are largely "dumb"; they don't understand their physical environment, nor have enough understanding of human culture to communicate in natural ways. Our vision is that AI is in its infancy and that AI breakthroughs are key to controlling and shaping the future technological landscape. However, creating effective AI is challenging given our limited understanding of how intelligence works.

A key research objective of CDT students is to make new algorithms for next-generation AI technologies by incorporating more knowledge about the real-world and human culture into the AI agents themselves.

Who this course is for

Postgraduate students with a keen interest in machine learning with a strong background in mathematics. This course is for those who wish to be next generation AI creators and developers. Our students work on AI algorithms that are the core engine of AI. We encourage applicants with a keen interest in entrepreneurship and provide a platform for deep tech startups keen to build on the UK AI economy.

What this course will give you

A PhD in foundational artificial intelligence will mark you out as being a leading expert in a growing field of commerce and research. The UK government has invested millions of pounds into the AI economy to help make the UK a leading provider of AI technology and research. Our graduates will lead the field in this area of expertise and be the next generation of AI creators.

The foundation of your career


Our graduates lead the field in foundational artificial intelligence, creating the core engine of tomorrow's AI world. Our links to industry and soft skills training within the cohort provide you with the best networking opportunities for professional development, entrepreneurial skills to create start ups and internship opportunities to broaden your scope of research and understanding.


We provide a number of networking opportunities throughout the academic year. We hold regular seminars with invited speakers, poster sessions, inter-CDT conferences and a CDT showcase event at Cumberland Lodge where our industry partners and invited guests attend to meet our students and discuss their work and possible collaborations.

Teaching and learning

Supervision within this programme is available in an extensive range of research areas, including, but not limited to:

Natural Language Processing

Deep Learning

Reinforcement Learning

Machine Learning

3D Vision


Image analysis

Medical data analysis

Probabilistic modelling and reasoning

Approximate inference

Generative models

Statistical learning theory

Bio-inspired computation

Affective computing

Bayesian machine learning

Kernel Methods


You are expected to provide an end of year report for each year of study. This report is a highlight of your work undertaken in the previous 12 months, literature review, research development and future endeavours. These reports are filed with your studentships and are part of our funding agreement with the UKRI.

Between 12-18 months of study, you will sit a transfer viva to upgrade your degree course from an MPhil to a PhD.

At the end of your studies, you will sit a viva to achieve your PhD.

This is a full time course and you are expected to commit 100% of your working week to your research studies. This would be approximately 40 hours per week but no more than 48 hours per week.

Research areas and structure

Machine learning, neural networks, natural language processing, computer vision, computational statistics, probablistic modelling

Research environment

The Centre for Doctoral Training in Foundational AI is based within the UCL Centre for Artificial Intelligence at 90 High Holborn. The centre is a dedicated space for machine learning and AI development and you will have access to some of the top minds in these fields as well as the opportunity to mix with other cohorts and share ideas.

  • UCL is one of the top 10 universities in the world, with a commitment to making advances in equity and inclusivity. Read our EDI information
  • Our new, award-winning Student Centre sets the highest standards in quality of learning spaces.
  • The department was ranked first in England and second in the UK for research power in Computer Science and Informatics in the UK's most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2021).

Year 1: You will receive basic disciplinary and interdisciplinary research training. Our PhD students audit up to five taught modules drawn from existing master's programmes in Computer Science.

You will also complete a research project written up as a scientific article, presented orally, and translated into a document suitable for public consumption. This research will form part of your PhD, the remainder of which will be completed in years 2-4.

Year 2: Training focuses on the consolidation of disciplinary knowledge research and transferable skills. You will take short courses and training in responsible research and innovation and have the option to take courses in technical argument and communication, technical writing, teamwork, scientific and technical project management.

Year 3: You will have the option of completing additional elective modules. Students will have the option to take training in entrepreneurship, scientific peer review intellectual property, open access publication, licenses and policies, open data and open source.

Year 4: You will be expected to mostly focus on the completion of your thesis and producing peer-reviewed papers, but you will also receive extended training in preparation for a research career or as an entrepreneur.

In addition to the above, over the duration of the programme, all students will be expected to complete CALT training for teaching assistants, attend seminar series and participate in a CDT annual event.


We have a number of industry partners with whom we can place our students on internships. We also encourage you to create your own opportunities with internships, and we provide a generous travel and expenses budget to support secondment placements. These include 3 month stays with another AI lab, both in the UK and abroad, as well as internships across a variety of companies from start ups to the big deep tech companies.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support & Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time
Tuition fees (2023/24) £5,860
Tuition fees (2023/24) £29,000

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

There are no additional costs for home students although all international applicants will have to cover the costs of their flights to the UK, their visa and NHS insurance for moving to the UK. 

Our CDT offers a generous finance package to support our students with industry placements, secondment opportunities, conference travel and subsidence as well as computational equipment.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

If you have been ordinarily resident in the UK for three years, and have no restrictions on how long you may remain you will normally be entitled to apply for a full studentship. This will cover tuition fees and provide a maintenance stipend. If you do not meet this criteria, we do also have a limited number of scholarships available for exceptional candidates.

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

CSC-UCL Joint Research Scholarship

Value: Fees, maintenance and travel (Duration of programme)
Criteria Based on academic merit
Eligibility: EU, Overseas

Next steps

Deadlines for our programme will depend on the scholarships you wish to be considered for, with deadlines in January and June each year. All students for this programme start in September.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2023-2024

Got questions? Get in touch

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