How to Apply

Applications are closed for 2024 Entry.

The programme of study
Students participating in the UKRI AI Centre for Doctoral Training in AI for Sustainability – or SustAI for short – undertake a four-year (FT) integrated PhD at the University of Southampton in one of five themes:

  • AI for Sustainable Operations and Circular Economy
  • AI for Transportation and Logistics
  • AI for Sustainable Energy and Buildings
  • AI for Biodiversity
  • Sutainable AI

Funded students will receive an enhanced stipend which is tax free, plus UK tuition fees for four years (conditions apply). Part-time study is also possible. EU students and those from Horizon associated countries are now also eligible for UK fees for this PhD programme.

Research proposal

We are looking for students who are enthusiastic about AI and environmental sustainability. As a part of your application, we would like to you write a 1,200-1,500 word research outline telling us:

  • Your area of interest, your knowledge of the field and possible topic within that area;
  • Your understanding of at least some of the existing literature, methodological approaches,
    theory and/ or current debates relevant to your topic;
  • Your understanding of possible research approaches to the problem/ issue you want to study

Your research idea should focus on the application of artificial intelligence (AI) for engineering a more environmentally sustainable future. Your chosen topic should be within the scope of one or more of our five research themes mentioned above. We encourage you to review the University’s guidelines for preparing a research proposal.

In addition, please prepare a personal statement in which you explain what excites you about your chosen area and why you have chosen to apply for the SustAI CDT.

How to Apply

The link to the application form is below. The application will take about 30 minutes to complete. Make sure you have all the necessary documentation ready. You will need:

  • Your personal details
  • Your project title
  • 2 academic references from your most recent place of study (either the references themesleves or names+contact of your referees)
  • Academic transcript of your undergraduate degree showing modules and marks achieved
  • Academic transcript from your Master’s degree showing modules and marks achieved (if applicable, and if you have graduated)
  • Undergraduate degree certificate and Master’s degree certificate (if applicable)
  • English language qualification (if required)
  • CV (also referred to as a resume)
  • Personal statement
  • Your research proposal (see above)

See also the University’s How to apply for a research degree guidance.

Student Support

Appropriate adjustments will be made to ensure that students with additional needs can access and benefit from the range of learning and teaching offered throughout the programme. Student needs will be assessed by the University’s Enabling Services team, and the CDT Management team will ensure that these needs are met. The University and CDT will ensure that additional needs are appropriately funded, including UKRI Disabled Students’ Allowances scheme funding.


The studentship will cover UK course fees and an enhanced tax-free stipend of approx. £21,500 per year for 4 years along with a substantial budget for research, travel, and centre activities. We are pleased to announce that students from EU countries and other Horizon associated countries are now also eligible for a full studentship (covering tuition fees and living expenses stipend). For any questions regarding the funding eligibility, please get in touch with We are also happy to accept applications onto the programme from those who have a funded scholarship from another source or are able to self-fund (proof of funds will be required). 

Entry Requirements

The AI for Sustainability CDT is multidisciplinary, and we welcome applicants from diverse disciplines, including but not limited to: engineering, social science, economics, business, computer science, mathematics, electronics and physical science. Students should have an interest in multidisciplinary research, and an aptitude for data analytics as well as other skills relevant to one or more of the core themes within the CDT. Applicants must already have, or expect to shortly graduate with, a very good undergraduate degree or Master’s degree (at least a UK 2:1 honours degree) – or an equivalent international qualification from a high ranking university – in a relevant subject. Academic attainment is only one of our criteria for selection; we equally value the ability to work in teams, excitement for research, enthusiasm for the research focus of the CDT and the ability to communicate ideas. EU and Overseas applicants should achieve an IELTS score of 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each competency.

Further help

If you’d like to ask any questions before applying, please email get in touch with the SustAI team via

We can also arrange for a phone/zoom call from a current PhD student who can tell you more about doing a PhD at the University of Southampton.


Eligibility & Entry Requirements FAQ

Q. What are your entry requirements?  
A. A good undergraduate or Master’s degree (at least a UK  2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent) in an area relevant to your research topic. If in doubt, please contact us. 

Q. I don’t have a background in computer science/engineering/AI. Can I still apply? 
A. The PhD programme is multi-disciplinary and we welcome applicants with different backgrounds and degrees. It is important that your research project is aligned with the overall CDT topic of AI for Sustainability and at least one of the themes, and that your background is relevant to the chosen topic.  

Q. Do you have any English language requirements?  
A. Yes for EU and Overseas applicants, unless they have been studying in the UK for a few years (to check whether you qualify for an exemption contact us). The requirement is an IELTS score of 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each competency.

Q. Are there any English test exemptions?
A. If you are from outside the UK, or your first language is not English, and your country does not appear on the UK Government websiste for exempt countries then you will be required to achieve a satisfactory score in a UKVI approved English Language test that meets the programme entry requirment. The list of our approved English Language tests can be found at If however, you have graduated from a UK university or from a University in an exempt country within 2 years of commencement of your studies you will not be required to take an English Language qulaification.

Q. Do you accept international applicants? 
 A. Yes, we do.

Q. For International Students interested in the programme, do they have to be based in the UK or applications outside the UK are also welcomed?
A: Applications from abroad are also welcome.

Q: What are the specific criteria for selecting candidates?
The main criteria include the quality of your BSc and/or MSc degree qualification, the relevance of your research proposal to the CDT themes, to what extent your academic background matches your ability to do the PhD in your chosen research area, and any additional relevant research experience such as publications. In addition, we will consider your enthusiasm for the CDT and research, and your ability to work in teams and communicate technical ideas to non-experts.

Q: I have multiple degrees, one with a first class and one with a 2:1. Am I still eligible for funding?
Yes eligibility for UK funding is possible with a 2:1 degree or equivalent international degree, regardless of whether it is a BSc or MSc. However, we note that especially international scholarships are highly competitive and we will prioritise candidates with a first-class degree from a highly ranked UK or international university.

Funding & Fees FAQ

Q: Is the funding  available for international applicants?  
A. Most of the scholarships are only available for UK, EU and Horizon associated countries. However, we have up to 2 scholarships per year for other international students. These are highly competitive and will only be awarded to students with excellent qualifications, i.e., minimum first-class or equivalent degree from a world-leading university (typically ranked in top 100 world-wide and/or highly ranked within the country). 

Q: I am not a UK national, but I have indefinite leave to remain. Will I qualify as a UK resident?
A: Please see the UKRI website for what qualifies as a UK resident:

Q: I would like to self fund. How much are the international fees?
A: Self funding is possible. Information about the fees can be found here (e.g. search for computer science):

Training Programme & Support FAQ

Q. What is the structure of this PhD?  
A. The PhD structure is based on Southampton’s integrated PhD framework which provides flexibility and can accommodate students with different needs and backgrounds. The first year will consist mainly of taught modules followed by a mini project. Training will continue in subsequent years through general Southampton-offered short training as well as dedicated enhanced training. Students can also audit additional modules across the university. In addition, all students will be required to participate in annual cohort building activities throughout their training. 

Q. What is the structure of the first year of this iPhD?
A. In the first 2 semesters you take modules, 5 of which are core modules, designed and delivered by SustAI. You will choose 3 other modules from a variety of optional modules available. You will have to choose your project and supervisory team by April and will start the feasibility study with your supervisors over the summer.   

Q. Is it possible to enrol as a part-time PhD student?
A: Yes, part-time enrolment is possible. A part-time programme will take between 5 years, and maximum 8 years (typically less than twice the duration of full-time study).

Q: Are the taught modules assessed and if so, is the assessment exam based or coursework based?
A: Yes all modules in the first year of the programme are assessed and the taught component needs to be passed in order to proceed to the PhD component. The assessment for the core/compulsary modules is coursework based such as reports and presentations. For the remaining modules this depends on which ones are chosen. Some are exam-based, some coursework and some a combination of both.

Q: Is the assessment marked?
A: Assessments for the taught component are marked, and the pass mark is set at 50% in line with the integrated PhD programme.

Q. What happens if I fail the taught component?
A: You will be able to refer in up to 15 ECTS (2 regular modules or 1 double module) in the summer referral period. It is not possible to repeat the year.

Q. Can I take further modules after the first year?
A: After the first year, it is possible to audit further modules subject to permission from the module leader. Audited modules do not count towards any credit and for these modules you do not participate in any assessments.

Q. Will it be possible to exit with an MSc degree if I decide to exit the PhD early?
A: No it is not possible to exit with an MSc degree nor is it possible to transfer onto an MSc programme. The SustAI PhD follows the integrated PhD (iPhD) framework, which outlines the exit routes. See this link for details on the framework.

Q. What support structure is provided for SustAI students? 
A. At the start, each student is assigned a personal academic tutor, as well as a mentor from the current CDT students. The CDT manager and cohort lead are available to answer different queries related to CDT matters. There are monthly student meetings (involving all CDT students) and weekly, informal cohort Catch-ups.  You will also be assigned a student mentor, i.e. a more senior PhD student from a related programme.   

Q. What are the career prospective for SustAI PhDs?
 A. The prospective is wide open, from academia to industry and government. We work closely with industry and government organisations. Some of our students may be partially sponsored by non-academic organisations. This close relationship helps tremendously in finding diverse career opportunities.    

Projects & Supervisor Selection FAQ

Q. What are the available projects for the new students?  
A. Projects will be officially advertised to all new CDT students around November for those who started on the CDT.  

Q. Do I need to specify a supervisor when applying for the CDT, and if so do I need to contact a supervisor beforehand?
A. No there no need to specify or contact any supervisor. There are opportunities to be matched to a supervisory team in the first year of the integrated PhD programme (see also below). However, it may be valuable to contact academics to help you with your project proposals. These do not need to be your future supervisors, and can also be e.g. your current tutor or anyone else who is able to help.

Q. Am I committed to the project proposal I put in my application?  
A. No. We work with all our students to identify and choose the projects that suit them best. You are not committed to the project you identify in your application.

Q. Are SustAI students assigned a project and supervisory team at the start?  
A. No, unless you apply for a specific project. We understand that, for most applicants, it is not easy to know what project you are most interested in before you join the program and officially start your PhD. This is why we work with all our students to identify and choose the projects that suit them best. 

Q: Can I contact potential supervisors before I apply?
A: Yes feel free to reach out to potential supervisors and discuss your research proposal with them before applying. But this is not necessary.

Q: Is there a list of potential supervisors and projects?
A: This website will be populated with example projects and supervisors over time.

Q: How will I find potential supervisors, and are they limited to those in the computer science department?  
If accepted onto the pgoramme, you will have the first year to find academic supervisors and mentors who support you through your PhD journey, and they are not limited to the Computer Science department. There are over 100 supervisors from across all faculties of the university. 

Other FAQ

Q: Do I need to live in Southampton?
A: Living is Southampton is not required. However, you are required to participate in cohort building and networking activities and are expected to regularly interact with other SustAI CDT students.

Q: For part-time and self funded, is it necessary to relocate to the UK, or is study from abroad possible?
A: Currently the University does not offer the option of a distance learning PhD, but we’re looking into this option for future years. However, note that the first year (or up to 2 years if part-time) consists largely of taught modules, and these taught modules will have to be attended largely in person. So it would require staying in Southampton at least during term times in the first year.

Q: If the first round of application fails, can I revise the research proposal and join the second round?
Yes, it is possible to revise and resubmit for the second round of applications.

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