Frequently Asked Questions

Application Process & Projects

Do I need to have a clear project idea before I apply?

You do not need to write a project proposal in your application. We will provide offer holders with selections of projects that have been developed for the CDT in collaboration with other colleagues and external partners. You will be able to rank the projects in the research themes that you have expressed an interest in during the application and interview process. All students will be aligned with a project prior to commencing the programme in September 2024.

Do I need to contact any supervisor before I apply?

You do not need to contact a supervisor before you apply, but you are free to do so if you would like to. You can access an interim list of potential supervisors here, but this will shortly be replaced by an updated list on this website. There will be opportunities for offer holders to hold discussions with project supervisors from our approved project lists for each research theme over the summer before offer holders are asked to rank their project choices.

Can current masters degree students that graduate in October apply for September 2024 Entry?

This will depend on your specific case. Ordinarily the University does not allow students to be simultaneously registered on more than one University degree programme (whether at Edinburgh or elsewhere), but there are cases when timings are slightly mis-aligned where this can be accomodated. Please check with the admin team if this situation applies to you.

Are we allowed to propose our own projects?

As our projects are driven by real-world use cases with external partners students cannot ordinarily propose their own projects. In principle if a student engaged with a potential supervisor early enough with a project idea it could be possible to co-develop a project involving an external partner and have the supervisor submit it to the programme project call. As the recruitment period for the first cohort is so short due to the timing of funding announcements and the time required to set the programme up it is unlikely that this will be possible for September 2024 entry.

Will admission to the program be held on a project basis?

In subsequent application rounds we will be recruiting on a project basis. Due to the short time frame of the first cohort recruitment round (see answer above) we have to operate a modified approach this year. We will first recruit students to the programme and then align them with approved projects over the summer in time for them to commence their studies in September 2024. All PhD projects evolve over time so there will inevitably be considerable scope to adapt projects as they progress as well as opportunities to undertake placement project research and internships.

Training Programme

Is there the option to do one year MSc by research Biomedical Artificial Intelligence or do you commit to PhD straight away?

No, this is a 4 year PhD with integrated training so you are applying directly to the PhD programme. Although it is not the aim, it is possible for students to exit the programme early if that is in their best interests. If they have accrued enough credit to satisfy the degree requirements they could exit with an MSc. degree. We have designed our degree programme to allow for maximum flexibility in terms of “exit awards” though we expect most if not all students will exit with a PhD.

How similar is this CDT to the previous Biomedical AI CDT in terms of programme structure?

You can now view our programme structure on our Training page. The page lists the compulsory and elective courses you can take and how they are organised by year. You can take elective courses throughout the first three years, you progress your PhD research in parallel and then dedicate the final year to your research and writing up your thesis.

What training or taught courses can one expect in the first year to kickstart their journey with the CDT?

You can see an at a glance overview of our training programme and compulsory and elective course choices on our Training page.

What extracurriculars could we do as students at the CDT and what kind of opportunities could we have?

You will have seminars, workshops, hackathons, training in RRI/ethics, entrepreneurship/innovation, transferable skills, public engagement. There will be opportunities to undertake internships and there is a compulsory 3-month placement research project. As part of your studentship you will also have a personal budget of £9000 for travel/conferences and research support.

Are there training sessions specifically focused on biomedical topics?

Yes we will be running masterclasses in various biomedical topics, you also have the option to take elective courses for credit (or just to audit) in these areas as well.

Given the rapid advancement of AI in healthcare, are there any courses or discussions on the ethical implications of AI in biomedical applications?

Yes the CDT training will include a compulsory credit bearing course in AI Ethics in year 2 as well as a longitudinal RRI and Ethics programme that will run for your entire time in the programme. We have a dedicated RRI/Ethics training lead for the CDT.

Are there any facilities regarding entrepreneurship training?

Yes we are working with the Innovation Team at the Bayes Centre, Edinburgh Innovations, the Edinburgh Futures Institute to deliver training in entrepreneurship. You will also have the opportunity to join programmes such as “PhD Max” and the “Venture Builder Incubator” run by the Bayes and Data Driven Innovation teams. The University also runs a wide range of other activities outside the CDT to promote innovation.

Is there support for research internships? When do students typically undertake such internships?

Our students will have the opportunity to undertake internships which we can assist in arranging through our dedicated Business Development Executive, they will also undertake a 3-month placement research project during their PhD. International students studying on a visa have some restrictions on how they can undertake internships, but we have a lot of experience of working with these regulations as part of our existing UKRI CDT in Biomedical AI. Typically internships are taken in years 2 or 3. The maximum total allowable time to spend on internships during your studies is 12 months. This is a condition of your studentship that is stipulated by our funder, UKRI.

Can I teach at the university as a part of this CDT?

Absolutely. There are many opportunities for students to undertake paid tutoring, marking, and demonstrating roles in courses both within the School of Informatics and beyond. Post-graduate research students play an important role in our teaching and it is an excellent development activity and good for your CV too. There is specific training and support in place from the School of Informatics Teaching Support team to prepare you for these roles if you would like to undertake them.

What are you looking for in an Applicant?

For someone coming from a biological sciences background, does the program include training and developing skills and knowledge in coding and programming?

Absolutely. The first year Course “Foundations in Biomedical AI Research” includes a course “Programming in Biomedical Informatics” and masterclasses in various aspects of computation including use of cloud compute, GitHub, Software Engineering and coding in Python and R. Students can also use elective course choices to gain knowledge in computer science, machine learning, statistics and many other topics. Please refer to our Training page for more information. We also have resources to provide tutoring support to students and will run group projects, challenges, and hackathons where students can share their experience of programming and coding.

Do you need a background in Biology or Medical sciences to be considered ?

No. We are recruiting students from diverse disciplinary backgrounds please see our main Application page for details.

How do I improve my application?

We cover elements of this in our application and guidance pages. We’re are looking for applicants from diverse backgrounds who are excited to realise the potential for machine learning and artificial intelligence approaches to tackle challenges in biomedical, clinical, and public health domains.

You will have academic strength in at least one related discipline and will be keen to develop your skills and knowledge to close any gaps in others to successfully undertake cutting edge research during your PhD. In your application we want your enthusiasm to come across and a very strong sense of why you want to study in this area.

Evidence of a commitment to our application domains is important as is evidence of wider reading and additional training that you may have undertaken whether formal or informal. It would be good to see you highlight specific examples of challenges/opportunities that have caught your attention and that you are interested in pursuing. In your application you are asked to indicate which of our research themes you are interested in so aligning your examples with the ones you select would be sensible.

Applicants that are purely interested in methodological development in AI/ML but who do not evidence commitment to biomedical topics will not be well suited to the programme.


Am I required to be in UK all the times, or can I travel from time to time?
  • UKRI training grant conditions state that: “Both home and International students must be resident in the UK for the majority of their studies and any time spent overseas should be for the purposes of fieldwork/long-term attachment.”
  • Students are entitled to annual leave, sick leave, and parental leave. We encourage students to take full advantage of their annual leave.
  • Students studying on a student visa must adhere to the conditions of their visa. The University has a student immigration service which has a comprehensive website, you can also contact them for advice.
How many studentship positions will be available?

We aim to recruit 10-12 PhD students in each cohort for 5 years (2024 – 2028). Due to the mix of funding sources used to support studentships in the programme and limitations imposed by UKRI on the proportion of international students allowed to be supported directly by UKRI funds we anticipate up to 50% of our studentships are available for international students.

Is there flexibility in terms of the clinical focus of the CDT?

The CDT research programme is not limited to clinical projects. Our projects will cover a wide range of real-world challenges in biomedical, clinical, and health topics. This means that some projects will be in areas such as drug discovery, genomics, or public health. All projects will need to address applied problems that relate to some phase of the research trajectory between foundational biomedical science (e.g. target, biomarker, disease mechanism etc..) all the way to deployment of AI tools in clinical or public health settings. In short the topics are limited by outcomes intended to translate the potential of AI methods for societal benefit in clinical, biomedical, or public health settings.

Is there support for International Students?

Yes, we have fully funded positions available for international students, no additional programme fees payments are needed. We anticipate recruiting on average 6 international students per cohort, though it may vary in any given year based on the quality of applications.

Applicants should note that we are not permitted to cover student visa and immigration health surcharge costs as part of the studentship.

External Partners

Who are the partners and are industrial placements included/supported as part of this CDT?

Our founding partners are GSK, Roche, AstraZeneca, UCB Celltech, CanonMedical, Fujifilm Diosynth, NEC Labs, Optus, Optima Partners, SICSA, NHS, and NHS-Scotland. We also have a broader grouping of public and private sector partners that have been part of the existing UKTI CDT in Biomedical AI. The number of external partners will grow throughout the course of the CDT.

The training programme includes a compulsory course “Placement Research Project” which is a 3-month project with an external partner. Students will also be able to take internships during their studies; for students on Student Visas there are some restrictions on how these can be taken, but we are experienced dealing with the regulations and will endeavour to give as equal an opportunity to benefit from internships as possible.

Are there any projects which are highly collaborative with industry partners?

Some of our projects are directly proposed by external partners and will involve extensive joint working including periods studying at their research sites. These projects will continue to emerge during our project call process each year. Due to the short recruitment period for the first cohort of students arrangements with external partners will likely be incorporated during the course of the first year of studies.

Resources & Data

Does the CDT program provide students with access to sufficient data or sources for conducting their research?

Supervisory teams have to ensure that routes to securing the necessary resources are in place in their project proposal application. The CDT management and Research Theme Leads need to be convinced that appropriate plans are in place for the project to be accepted into the programme. We cannot stipulate that data is already in place as the processes for obtaining access to such data (for example UK Biobank) are project based requiring specific application documentation and often training that will involve the PhD student. Groups that, for example, already hold approved projects with such data providers that would cover the proposed PhD project would be in a much better place to secure early access for the student. It is consideration like this that we take into account when approving projects.

The CDT has core budget to support data access costs as well as access to high performance computational resources including CPU, GPU, and high-memory nodes. We have access to the Edinburgh International Data Facility, Edinburgh Parallel Computing Centre, and School of Informatics research compute.