UCL Interaction Centre MPhil/PhD

London, Bloomsbury

This is a cross-faculty programme in which students undertake postgraduate research under the supervision of academic staff who are leaders in their specialisation within human-computer interaction. Students often work collaboratively with researchers in other departments and organisations beyond UCL. Graduates pursue careers in leading universities and major technology industries worldwide.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2022/23)
£5,690
£2,845
Overseas tuition fees (2022/23)
£27,480
£13,750
Duration
3 academic years
5 academic 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

Normally a minimum of an upper second-class UK Bachelor’s degree or a taught Master’s degree, or the overseas equivalent, in a subject relevant to human-computer interaction. Such subjects include Psychology, Computer Science, Information Technology, Engineering Design, or other cognitive or applied sciences. Applicants with other qualifications and sufficient relevant experience and background knowledge may be considered.

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

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.

ATAS statement

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

UCL Interaction Centre (UCLIC) is a world-leading centre of excellence for interdisciplinary research on human-computer interaction, studying interactions between people and technology, and using this knowledge to inform design. UCL received the highest percentage (96%) for quality of research in Computer Science and Informatics in the UK's most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF2014). This is a cross-faculty programme in which students undertake postgraduate research under the supervision of academic staff who are leaders in their specialisation within human-computer interaction. We collaborate with technology users and manufacturers within industry and academia, including hospitals, computer manufacturers and other universities. Facilities include a usability laboratory with eye tracker, a reconfigurable space for larger equipment, and an interaction research laboratory to support research in physical computing and prototyping. Previous students have gone on to work in universities and companies in North America, Europe, Asia and New Zealand.

Who this course is for

What this course will give you

The cross-faculty nature of this programme enables students to pursue interdisciplinary projects and work with researchers from different fields across UCL and other organisations. We also have strong links with industry and students can undertake industry internships. Graduates often extend their careers beyond academia, pursuing careers in industry or the public sector, or combining roles as leading academics and consultants, and sometimes working in collaboration with the arts.

Students are strongly supported in developing a range of presenting and teaching skills, using creativity and innovation to present in new and interesting ways. They often act as co-supervisors on Masters projects on our MSc in Human-Computer Interaction, which helps them to develop supervisory and leadership skills. There are many training opportunities across UCL to practise such skills and give students confidence for their next steps.

The foundation of your career

The interdisciplinary nature of research in UCLIC means that our research graduates have a broad skill set combining various specialisms, such as psychology, design and/or computer science. They are adaptable and able to work across many fields with people from different professional backgrounds both in academia and industry. Consequently, they are creative, motivated individuals with a keen understanding of the needs of government and commercial organisations as well as having extensive academic knowledge and skills.

Employability

Recent graduates have either pursued academic careers as researchers and/or lecturers and some additionally work as usability consultants alongside their postdoctoral roles. Some have continued as postdoctoral researchers within the department or other departments in UCL, while others secured research internships abroad (eg, Microsoft Research in California), or other postdoctoral positions in Europe, North and South America, Asia and New Zealand. Some have alternatively continued their careers in industry as research scientists in leading technology companies, such as Google.

Networking

UCLIC are currently part of a Global Disability Innovation Hub, working with partners such as Leonard Cheshire Disability, the V&A and Sadler's Wells to design better user experiences for disabled people. We also have strong links with hospitals and manufacturers of medical devices, as well as other commercial and arts organisations. At present, we have a number of EC funded grants involving collaborations with Universities, companies and government organisations in Italy, France, Spain, Greece and Sweden. Some of our studentships have been co-funded by companies such as the BBC and Microsoft and many students often undertake industry based internships.

Teaching and learning

It is strongly recommended, but not obligatory that students take two taught modules in the first one - two years of registration. Typically these will be from a recommended list. In the first term, students would normally complete one of the Statistics course, Computer Programming or at least one module of an MSc programme if you have selected any and/or the Qualitative Methods courses in the second term.

All students must complete a preliminary research plan at 3 months and a 1st year report and viva (20 min interview) at 9 months (10-12 mths if PT) with a thesis committee (TC). The latter is the first major examination and precedes the upgrade report and viva, which is the second major exam and normally happens between 9-18 months (15-30 mths for PT) in the 2nd year. Students must pass the upgrade viva in order to become registered for the PhD.

There are two further meetings with TC at 18 and 24 mths, at which students can provide a snapshot of their progress; they should then prepare a thesis plan for a final TC meeting at 30 months. Students then defend their thesis after submission in a final PhD viva exam.

All students also take part in the annual UCLIC PhD Showcase Day and Dilemma game in the 3rd term of each year. The showcase involves presenting work as a talk or poster to the rest of the dept and gaining feedback from research and academic staff. 

Students undertake 5 thesis committee meetings throughout the course of the PhD programme - the first two of these and the fifth meeting require the student to submit a written report. All meetings require students to prepare and deliver a brief (10-15 min) presentation on their progress at each stage. See more details in the Doctoral Training Programme section.

During the second year, students must prepare an extensive report of their progress to date for the upgrade viva - this must also include plans for the rest of the PhD and involves a presentation. This is followed by discussion and feedback, at which point it is decided if the work is sufficient for upgrade or if more work is needed. The final exam is the final PhD viva, which is usually held within 3 months of submitting the thesis and is a more thorough investigation of the entire thesis - it is at this exam that the decision is made to award the PhD, often subject to corrections or if the work is insufficient for a PhD. There may be major revisions required, or the student may fail or be recommended for the MPhil instead.

Students would normally have at least one or two hours of contact with their primary supervisor each week. Contact time with other supervisors is variable.

Research areas and structure

A number of themes link the research projects we work on in UCLIC and some projects occupy more than one theme. These themes employ both quantitative and qualitative methods and draw on the best scientific traditions in human sciences and computer science to improve human-computer interactions. Theoretical understanding from empirical studies is applied and tested through novel interactive systems that are designed to improve the user experience, e.g. reducing errors, improving effectiveness and creating a positive overall user experience.

Main research areas are:

  • Persuasive technologies: investigating how various data can be sensed, collected, analysed and displayed via persuasive technologies for behavioural change;
  • Designing future interfaces: designing and inventing novel physical interfaces, large scale installations and mobile technologies and exploring how people engage with these;
  • Interactions in the wild: using ethnographic studies and action research in the wild to develop novel technologies to augment people, places and settings, e.g. Internet of Things;
  • Affective computing: designing interactive technology that is more aware of people’s affective states, using that information to tailor the interaction process;
  • Health and wellbeing: reducing stress at work by reducing errors in work contexts (especially in healthcare); improving technology to support a positive work-life balance; technology to support more heathy living or those suffering chronic pain;
  • Collaboration and communication: exploring social computing and communication technologies in how people play and work together; crowd-sourcing projects;
  • Educational technologies: studying how learning can be enhanced through technology such as e-lectures; designing electronic toolkits to introduce children to coding;
  • Physical Computing: developing interactive systems that can sense and respond to the world around them;
  • AI and HCI: artificial intelligence and human-computer interaction;
  • Assistive and Enabling Technologies: technology to improve the functional capabilities of people with disabilities and to support them to live as independently as possible.
  • Multisensory Experiences: creating multisensory experiences that enrich and augment the way we interact with the worlds around us; stimulation design, perception, and experience of multisensory interfaces.
  • Metamaterials: engineering materials to shape sound; design, fabrication and evaluation of acoustic metamaterials.
  • Acoustic Levitation: creating Particle Based Displays (PBDs), which are a novel kind of mixed-reality technology and use ultrasound transducer arrays and quick scanning particles to create volumetric content that the users can physically sense; volumetric fully coloured displays, multi-point spatio-temporal tactile feedback, parametric audio.

Research environment

PhD students are an integral part of our research team, each pursuing their individual research project within a vibrant, research-intensive environment. We have regular research seminars and working lunches, as well as impromptu social events. Students have access to facilities including an Interaction Research Lab with tools to facilitate building proto-type technologies, as well as two Usability labs with eye tracking equipment, motion capture equipment and biosensors. There is a range of technical assistance available when needed, as well as excellent library and computing facilities in and around UCL. Students are also strongly supported in developing a range of presenting and teaching skills and there are many opportunities across UCL to practice such skills, giving students confidence for their next steps.

As UCLIC is part of both the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences and the Computer Science Department, staff across these depts therefore have expertise on a wide range of topics, so students usually have little difficulty in finding someone who can give good advice. Furthermore, there are many networking opportunities with other depts in UCL and beyond, since UCLIC has links with the other Universities as well as partners in industry and the public sector, such as the BBC, Microsoft, various hospitals, as well as manufacturers of medical devices and other commercial organisations.

Full-time

The MPhil/PhD programme commences in late September/early October for most students, but students can start throughout the year.

UCL regulations require that initial registration as a research student is for an MPhil degree. If satisfactory progress is demonstrated a student's registration is 'upgraded' to PhD. As part of the programme, students take a range of optional courses designed to equip them for research. In particular, they take a selection of research methods courses appropriate for different backgrounds, designed to help them develop key research skills, such as the ability to evaluate critically the literature in an area or to perform advanced statistical analyses.

The full-time PhD typically lasts for 3 years, including the time registered as an MPhil student, and if the thesis is not submitted within this time then students may register as Completing Research Students (CRS) for 1 additional year. The Division is assessed on how many PhD students submit their thesis on time, so it is very important full-time students finish within 4 years.

A research student will have a thesis committee of three or more academics, who can provide advice and support throughout the course of the PhD programme. The thesis committee comprises the principal supervisor, who takes the lead in the supervisory team, a subsidiary supervisor who enhances the effective supervision of the students work by contributing a second opinion and who also acts as the Chair of the committee. The third committee member acts more in an examiner role. Students will have 5 thesis committee meetings throughout their programme - these will be at 3 months, 9 months, just after the upgrade at 18 months, at 24 months and 30 months. Other staff members, as part of a research group, may be closely involved with their work and students are encouraged to discuss their research widely with anyone having relevant experience.

The UCL Doctoral School also offers a range of skills development courses for graduate students and students have access to the UCL Arena programme for developing teaching skills Many full-time research students take some part in departmental teaching by giving tutorials and/or demonstrating in practical classes; payment is made for this work.

Part-time

The programme structure is largely the same as for full-time students, but part-time students are normally required to be registered for 5 years, with 2 additional years in CRS if needed. Part-time study arrangements are to be agreed with the supervisor.

Placement

Many of our students undertake ad hoc internships of up to three months with industry and research partners. Previous internships include Microsoft Research and the Alan Turing Institute.

Accessibility

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.


Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2022/23) £5,690 £2,845
Tuition fees (2022/23) £27,480 £13,750

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: ucl.ac.uk/students/fees.

Additional costs

There is limited support within the department available to cover any additional for self-funded students.

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

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

Next steps

Applicants should apply through Computer Science or Psychology. Deadlines and start dates are usually dictated by funding arrangements so check with the department or academic unit to see if you need to consider these in your application preparation. In most cases you should identify and contact potential supervisors before making your application. For more information see our How to apply page.

Applications for competitive funding awarded by UCL must arrive by 3 December at the latest in the year preceding the academic year you wish to start. If other sources of funding are being considered, it is still in your interest to apply by the 3 December deadline. Later applications can sometimes be considered. Applications should be made as soon as possible, and not later than 30 June for entry in September/October.

Scholarship applicants: 3 December 2021 if applying through the Division of Psychology & Language Sciences. Please check with cs.researchdegrees@ucl.ac.uk for their deadline if applying through Computer Science

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes in any application cycle.

UCL is regulated by the Office for Students.

This page was last updated 28 Sep 2021