UCL Graduate degrees


Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit MPhil/PhD

Students at the Gatsby Unit study toward a PhD in Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience and Machine Learning. You will network extensively with the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre and other UCL experimental groups. Gatsby is part of the Centre for Computational Statistics and Machine Learning, together with UCL Computer Science and Statistical Science. 90% of alumni have secured academic or industry positions.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2021

Modes and duration

Full time: 4 years

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 1 October 2020
Close: 15 November 2020

Tuition fees (2021/22)

£5,525 (FT)
£26,940 (FT)

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

Applicants must have a strong analytical background, a keen interest in neuroscience or machine learning and a relevant first degree at a minimum of upper second-class UK Bachelor's level or an overseas equivalent, for example in Computer Science, Engineering, Mathematics, Neuroscience, Physics, Psychology or Statistics. Students seeking to combine work in neuroscience and machine learning are particularly encouraged to apply.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Good

Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English

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.

International students

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.

Select your country:


The Gatsby Unit is a world-class centre for Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience and Machine Learning. Our research seeks to understand the principles of learning, perception and action in brains and machines by developing mathematical algorithms. We provide a unique opportunity for a critical mass of theoreticians to interact closely and network extensively with each other and with other research groups across UCL, in particular the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre and CSML. First year teaching is supplemented with weekly research talks, journal clubs and reading groups, external seminar programmes and participation in international conferences. As a student you will be supported by all members of academic staff, not just your immediate supervisors.

Research areas

  • Analysis of neural data
  • Neural dynamics
  • Neural plasticity
  • Perceptual processing of auditory and visual input
  • Neural population coding
  • Kernel methods
  • Bayesian statistics
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Statistical machine learning
  • Unsupervised learning
  • Network and relational data
More information can be found on the department website: Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit MPhil/PhD

About this degree

Approximate Inference and Learning in Probabilistic Models (COMP0085)

Probabilistic and Unsupervised Learning (COMP0086)

Advanced topics in Machine Learning (COMP0083)

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change.

During the first 6 months of the programme, approximately 30% will be spent in lectures, 10% in tutorials, 20% in Unit activities, 5% in journal clubs, and the remainder on independent study. 

Additional costs

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


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


A number of competitive fully-funded studentships are available each year. These cover payment of full fees, provide a generous living stipend and covers travel and acommodation for conference attendance. Studentships are available to students of any nationality.

Scholarships relevant to this department are displayed below.

UCL Research Opportunity Scholarship

UK rate fees, a maintenance stipend, conference costs and professional development package (3 years)
Based on both academic merit and financial need

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


Most of our graduates have continued within the Computational Neuroscience and Machine Learning fields. 63% of PhD alumni have secured academic positions in top Institutions such as University of Cambridge, University of Oxford, Edinburgh University, MPI for Intelligent Systems, Columbia, Princeton, Caltech, École Normale Supérieure Paris and HHMI Janelia Research Campus. 25% of PhD alumni have gone on to work in organisations including Google DeepMind, Amazon, Facebook, Samsung, Babylon Health, and others. 


Our students receive exceptional world-class training through our intense, rigorous and diverse research programme. As a result, the majority are highly employable. Students will develop interdisciplinarity, and will be expected to collaborate widely through team work. You will develop your communication skills by giving regular internal talks and presentations. Critical thinking is encouraged through weekly journal clubs and lab meetings. You will be expected to teach during the second year of the programme and act as a mentor to junior PhDs. Participation in outreach and engagement is also encouraged. 


There are significant networking opportunities both within and external to the Gatsby Unit. Within the Unit there are daily teas where members take turns to present a 15-minute talk on an interesting and relevant topic to other members of the unit. Our weekly external seminar provides an opportunity to meet eminent speakers and external attendees. 

Based in the same building as the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, you will network extensively with experimentalists, attend their seminars and weekly joint social events. Through CSML you will network with peers in Computer Science and Statistics. All students are encourged to attend relevant conferences.

Why study this degree at UCL?

The Gatsby PhD programme was the first ever to combine theoretical neuroscience and machine learning within the same space. Our mathematical approach for developing novel algorithms and tools to understand learning, perception and action in brain and machines is unique. The most successful leaders in the fields of Computational Neuroscience and Machine Learning have studied or worked in the Unit, and the Unit has a reputation for offering world-class training. 

Our degree offers unique first year teaching in Systems and Theoretical Neuroscience (joint with SWC), Unsupervised Learning, Kernels, Theoretical Neuroscience and Advanced Methods in Machine Learning, as well as optional Deep Learning courses. In your second year you will have the opportunity to do a 2-month rotation in a lab of your choice, either at UCL or external. This rotation should be on a research area not related to your PhD topic. Our course also offers a variety of career development training. 

Since 2016, we are based in a new, state-of-the-art research facility in the heart of London and UCL. The building also houses the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits, and we interact closely with them. Our building offers two large seminar rooms used for teaching and other events, common areas for social interaction or quiet study, state-of-the-art IT facilities, kitchen facilities, and a large on-site brasserie offering breakfast, lunch, coffee and snacks. There are also two large outdoor areas and an on-site bicycle rack. 

The surrounding area is vibrant and offers a variety of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, and museums. 

Department: Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

This programme requires two references. Further information regarding references can be found in our How to apply section.

Application deadlines

All applicants
15 November 2020

This PhD programme lasts for four years, including a first year of intensive instruction in techniques and research in theoretical neuroscience and machine learning. We only admit new students starting in September. Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements so check with the department or academic unit (contact listed below) to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation. All applications for this programme must be made directly to the Gatsby Unit. Please refer to all information on the Gatsby Unit website for how to apply. The deadline listed on the Gatsby website is the correct deadline. Late applications will only be considered after all those received by the closing date. 

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

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Page last modified on 28 August 2021