School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering

Research Degrees

Female student working with computers

A creative powerhouse

Our School has a large and thriving graduate research community. We provide an active and stimulating environment in our research groups to carry out your doctoral research under the supervision of one of our experienced academic staff.

Along with academics who are experts in their field of research, we have an extensive range of specialist labs and facilities for use by our researchers. We offer full-time and part-time routes to a research degree, so you can fit your research around other commitments in your life.

Our degrees are about more than research. You will gain experience in project management and communication, as well as support to develop your numerical and data analysis skills. All of this will help you in your future career, whether you're looking to join academia or intend to move into the private sector.

During your time with us you will have opportunities to present your research to your peers, both inside and outside our School, and deliver papers at international conferences. The University operates a unique professional development scheme, Proficio, which includes funding for conference fees and expenses.

Governments, technology companies and the Third Sector are increasingly looking for candidates with advanced specialist skills in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and privacy, and communications technology. Undertaking a research degree with us helps you develop those skills, setting you up for a rewarding career whatever path you choose.

Explore our postgraduate research degrees
Why choose our School?
  • Ranked 27th in the UK for Computer Science and Information Systems in the QS World University Rankings by Subject (2021)
  • As a research student you'll have access to our excellent on-campus facilities, including our recently refurbished brain-computer interfaces and neural engineering laboratory.
  • Opportunities to enhance other skills through Proficio funding for professional development, or paid roles as Graduate Laboratory Assistants.

Research degrees

At Essex we offer several research degree types, from a one year Master of Science by Dissertation (MSD) through to a full PhD.

Whatever path you choose you will finish your degree by writing a thesis on your chosen research area. You will then discuss your work and conclusions at a viva, an oral exam involving three academics (including an external academic from another university, with expertise in your field).

Master of Science by Dissertation (MSD)

A Master of Science by Dissertation (also known as an MSc by Dissertation or MSD) is a one year postgraduate research degree. It is an ideal option for anyone who wants to improve their research skills but may not want to commit to the three years of a PhD.

If your MSD is progressing well then you can potentially "upgrade" it to a PhD, in agreement with your supervisor and the department.

View our MSD courses.


An MPhil is a two year research degree, in which you will carry out research in a particular topic, write up your results, and present them in an oral exam known as a "viva".

If your MPhil is progressing well then you may be able to carry on your research for a PhD, in agreement with your supervisor and the department.

Explore our MPhil courses


A PhD can take between three and six years to complete, depending if you are carrying out your research on a full time or part time basis. PhD students are enrolled on an MPhil pathway, progressing to a PhD in their second year. If you find that a PhD is unsuitable then you can continue your research but finish in your second year, leaving with an MPhil qualification.

Explore our PhD courses.

Part-time options

In our School we know that a full time research degree may not be for everyone. Family and caring responsibilities, or a need to maintain some hours at your current job, mean that taking on a full-time degree is almost impossible for some people.

As a result we offer many of our research degrees as part-time options. While this means you will take longer to complete your research, it can also give you more flexibility to fit it in around other commitments in your life.

You can view our part-time MSDs or part-time PhDs, or email our office ( if you have any queries.

What's next?

Part of the process for a research degree includes deciding on a topic to research (which will influence your thesis title), and finding an academic to supervise you.

Research topic

We offer postgraduate research courses spanning computer science, computational finance, and engineering disciplines.

Within these disciplines we have specialities within broad areas such as artificial intelligence, network systems and security, data science and analytics, robotics and mechatronic systems, and machine learning.

If you have an idea of an area of computer science or engineering that you would like to carry out research in, then you can find out more about individual research interests and specialisms in our School  by viewing our research groups, or by browsing our academic profiles.

Finding a supervisor

If you're not sure who to ask to supervise you then you can view our academic profiles to find out more about our specialist areas of research. Contact details for academics are listed on their profiles so you can make an informal enquiry by email.

However, you do not have to choose a supervisor before you apply. If you indicate your research topic or area of interest on your application form then we can match you with a suitable project supervisor. You can also contact our office ( and our Graduate Administrator can put you in touch with potential supervisors as well as help with your application, visa and general enquiries.

Making your application

Applications for research degrees are made through our online portal.

You will need some supporting information and documents as part of the application process. If you have all this information lined up and ready to go then it s should only take around 20 minutes for you to complete your application.

Research groups

Research in our department is centred around our research groups. As one of our postgraduate research students you will be a member of one of these groups, giving you the benefit of combined expertise from a collection of academics working in your specialist field of interest.

What can we offer you?

Undertaking a research degree is an investment in your future. To help with this the School and University have several avenues of support for our postgraduate research students.


Students in our School receive funding from a range of sources and bodies around the world. This includes competitive scholarships from EPSRC; University postgraduate scholarships and Faculty of Science interdisciplinary studentships; research grants; or overseas national level government scholarships.


All Essex research students qualify for our professional development fund Proficio. Through this scheme our postgraduate research students have access to between £1000 (MSD) and £2500 (PhD) of funding for professional development and conference attendance.

Professional development

Professional development funding means that you can develop new skills or enhance ones you've gained from your previous university experience. Many of these courses are offered by the university and cover important areas such as public engagement, impact, and specialist IT tools and software.

Additionally you may apply to use some of your funding towards an external course, where the university does not offer an equivalent option.

Conference attendance

Conferences are an important part of your postgraduate research experience. Through them you can present your research (by presenting your papers or through poster sessions), meet experts in your field from around the world, and start to develop a network of contacts in your specialist research area.

At Essex we know that conferences can be expensive, making them difficult for some students to attend. As a result, a portion of your Proficio funding is ring-fenced for conference attendance costs, and a small amount of the money for professional services training can also be used for conferences if needed.

Get in touch
CSEE office