Postgraduate Research/Doctorate PhD/MPhil

Robotics and Systems Engineering

School of Computing, Science and Engineering


Blended Delivery




One year

Two year

Three year

Five year

Next enrolment

September 2019

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In a nutshell

Automation for the Food Industry Research

The food industry is very labour intensive and as a result is under threat from low wage economies. To allow companies to remain competitive they need to embrace automation. Led by Dr Steve Davis you will learn how many of the challenges found in the food industry cannot be addressed by conventional automation and how advanced systems and grippers are required.      

Cognition Robotics and Autonomous Systems

We use the term "cognitive robotics" to refer to robots with higher level cognitive functions that involve knowledge representation and reasoning.

You will work on robots with cognitive capabilities, which are key elements to autonomous systems, such as perception processing, attention allocation, anticipation, planning, reasoning about other agents, and perhaps reasoning about their own mental states. Several projects are currently undertaken in this area in collaboration with psychologists and neuroscientist from European institutions. This course is led by Prof. S. Nefti-Meziani and Dr T. Theodoridis.  

Biologically Inspired Robotics Research

Dr Steve Davis leads this research which covers all areas of biologically inspired robotics. Future robots will move away from operating solely in factories and will interact more closely with humans. This will require a more natural/biological-like human-machine interaction. You will work with new design approaches and learn how they will shape future robotic systems. You will learn how traditional actuators have many shortcomings and how compliance can greatly improve the safety of human robot interaction, and also how these technologies have application in healthcare and rehabilitation applications.  

End-effectors and robot hands

Also led by Dr Steve Davis, this research area is concerned with the development of advanced end effectors. You will learn how innovative approaches can be used to grasp difficult to handle products. This course will also teach you how multi-fingered dexterous end-effectors, similar to the human hand, can handle a broad range of products, and how these technologies can be used in tele-presence tasks.  

Swarm Intelligence and Multi-Agent Systems

This research theme, as led by Prof. S. Nefti Meziani and Dr T. Theodoridis, concerns the development of an Intelligent Collaborative Behaviour using Multi-Agent Systems/robots using novel swarm intelligent techniques. We have introduced the irrationality theory applied in path planning, obstacle avoidance and emergent behaviours, using the Khepera robots (K-Team) and the Webots simulator.  

You will study and implement intelligent algorithms, which can be used for simulating viscoelastic behaviours for particle systems. Other relevant areas you can be involved in are crowd behaviour modelling, space and security robotics, and swarm and cognitive agents.  

Uninhabited Autonomous Systems/Air Vehicles (UAS/UAV)

Prof. S. Nefti Meziani, Dr A. Jones, and Dr E. Chadwick lead the research into how uninhabited autonomous systems (UAS) cope with unscripted procedures when conducting a mission where commands are issued at high levels of abstraction. It is designed around human-centric needs with the ability to perform tasks in accordance with instructions which lack adequate 'terms of reference'. You will work in autonomous systems that involve humans-in-the-loop.

You will:
  • Research the fields of robotics, mechatronics, automation and control, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, and machine learning
  • Undertake research around an area from your own profession and develop solutions that can be implemented in the workplace
  • Earn a doctorate-level degree to take you further in your current career or provide a gateway into a research career

students accepted

This is for you if...


You enjoy research and want to study for a doctorate-level award


You see the value of bridging the gap between industry and academia


You are a critical thinker, keen to push the boundaries of current thinking and practice

Course details

All about the course

Robotics and systems engineering postgraduate research is available in a range of pathways:

Master by Research (MSc)
One year full-time
Two years part-time

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
One year full-time
Two years part-time

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Three years full-time
Five years part-time

Please note that it may not be possible to deliver the full list of options every year as this will depend on factors such as how many students choose a particular option. Exact modules may also vary in order to keep content current. When accepting your offer of a place to study on this programme, you should be aware that not all optional modules will be running each year. Your tutor will be able to advise you as to the available options on or before the start of the programme. Whilst the University tries to ensure that you are able to undertake your preferred options, it cannot guarantee this.

Research Centre Overview

Selected as the Advanced Robotics Research Centre in 1987, the University of Salford is one of the leading centres for the advancement of robotics. The Autonomous Systems and Advanced Robotics (ASAR) Centre has a long history of providing training and now hosts the largest international industrial sponsored postgraduate programme in Robotics and Automation in the UK (approx.100 students). The Centre also provides degree apprenticeship training for Siemens.

Our Facilities

Industrial Robotics Laboratory

The industrial robotics laboratory contains many of the automation technologies found within industry including sensors, actuators and control systems. The laboratory also contains numerous industrial robots including the ABB Flexpicker, 6 and 7 DOF articulated arms, a human scale CRS robot and a SCARA. The laboratory also houses a number of conveyor systems. This facility is used primarily for testing of industrial relevant projects.  

Advanced Robotics and Embedded Systems Laboratory

This laboratory includes facilities for embedded systems development as well as a number of mobile robots. These platforms include wheeled and legged locomotion and aerial vehicles. There are also a number of miniature humanoid robots in the laboratory which are used to develop algorithms and experiment with cognition. It is also the main area used for development in actuators, sensors, robot manipulators and end effectors.  

Staff Profiles

Professor Samia Nefti-Meziani

Samia Nefti-Meziani has extensive leadership experience as Head of the Autonomous Systems & Advanced Robotics research centre and as former Director of the doctoral school of the 6* IRIS Research Institute (2005-08). Responsible for 130 doctoral students and all postgraduate research provision across different departments, she nurtured a strong research culture and environment, which received the highest award for research environment (4*) in the 2008 (RAE). She has successfully supervised and graduated more than 20 PhD students and has extensive experience running very successful industrial sponsored robotics PG programmes at national and international level. Her research interests concern the development of cognitive models for robotics/agents. She has published and edited extensively in the above areas which appeared in leading academic journals and books. She has attracted more than £4M funding in the last three years. She is the Vice Chairman of IEEE Robotics and Automation UK & RI, and is an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Fuzzy Systems, as well as a chartered Member of BCS, and Member of the advisory board of the National EPSRC centre in Innovative Manufacturing for Intelligent Automation.  

Dr Steve Davis

Dr Steve Davis graduated from the University of Salford with a degree in Robotic and Electronic Engineering in 1998, and an MSc in Advanced Robotics in 2000. He worked as a Research Fellow in the Centre for Robotics and Automation at Salford for eight years during which time he gained his PhD. In 2008 he moved to become a team leader in the Advanced Robotics dept. at the Italian Institute of Technology. Steve returned to Salford in 2012 as a Lecturer in Manufacturing, Automation and Robotics.

Steve has authored over 30 academic papers as well as a book chapter. He also has one patent based on his research work. In 2004 Steve secured £96,000 of funding to explore a new form of actuator and with Prof. Nefti-Meziani has recently been awarded £3.5m from the EU FP7 Marie Curie Initial Training Network Fund. He has undertaken both academic and commercial research and his research interests include actuators, biomimetic systems, humanoid robots, end effectors and grippers, robot hands and automation for the food industry. Steve has been on the program committee of a number of international conferences and is guest editor for the journal Actuators.  

Dr Theo Theodoridis 

Theo Theodoridis received the B.E. degree in automation engineering from the Technological Educational Institute of Piraeus, Greece, the M.Sc. degree in embedded systems and robotics, and the Ph.D. degree in intelligent crime-recognition robots from the University of Essex, U.K. He worked as a full time postdoctoral senior research officer (EPSRC grant), at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), focusing on multimodal human-robot interfaces and visual guidance, as well as pattern recognition control methods. Currently he is working as a lecturer in robotics and embedded systems in the School of Computing Science and Engineering at the University of Salford. He is a reviewer and author of several leading learning journals in the field. His research interests include AI robotics related to evolutionary algorithms, quantum computation, computer vision, fuzzy and probabilistic reasoning, behaviour-based and intelligent control, and AI gaming.  

Dr Thurai Rahulan

Thurai Rahulan graduated with First Class Honours in Mechanical Engineering Science in 1979 and obtained his PhD in Active Vibration Control in 1984 from the University of Salford. His first job involved the implementation of new technologies on various aircraft on projects funded by the British Ministry of Defence which in turn led to a few years working in industry on intelligent road vehicle suspension systems at Jaguar Cars Limited in Coventry. He returned to The University of Salford in 1990 and is currently a Senior Lecturer in aeroelasticity, flight dynamics and aircraft design. Dr Rahulan has published and refereed many scientific papers and has delivered a number of lectures organised by learned societies for the benefit of the public. As well as his role at the University Dr Rahulan is serving a second term on the Council of the Royal Aeronautical Society and a third term as the Chairman of the Association of Aerospace Universities. This is in addition to liaising with industry and the media on aerospace matters.

Employment and stats

What about after uni?


Graduates can expect to find employment in a range of industries. Robotics and Embedded Systems are continuously developing fields that present many career opportunities in areas such as embedded systems design, robotic design, control systems design and integration, engineering management and research.

Students graduating with a postgraduate research degree are well-placed to lead and manage research and development activities in a number of areas. Globally, a postgraduate research qualification is usually a prerequisite for an academic career and several of our alumni are now senior academics.

Further study

Many of our research students advance to further study in closely linked areas in our Control and Intelligent Systems Research Centre and the Robotics and Autonomous Systems Research Centre.  Previous students have taken their research expertise and knowledge into academic positions. We encourage the maintenance of links between graduating research students and their host research group and supervisor. 

Career Links

The University of Salford grew out of late 19th century institutes that provided a talented, technically proficient and professional workforce to support the UK’s rapidly growing industries. Although industry practice have changed, the need for focused education remains as relevant in the 21st century. Today, Salford hosts Industry Collaboration Zones to capture, share and expand existing best practice. Industry Collaboration unites colleagues, students, industry and communities through shared knowledge, learning and innovation. By pioneering exceptional industry partnerships, we lead the way in real-world experiences, preparing students – at all levels - for life.

The robotics and systems engineering research groups hold strong links with a wide-range of industry partners and collaborators. These include large multinationals such as Airbus, BAE, Festo and ABB, through to small SMEs working in related fields. The group also has links with public sector organisations, including the NHS, fire and police service. The close connections help our students to solve real-world problems, with the potential to lead research from the laboratory into everyday industrial practice. 


What you need to know


A minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a numerate subject such as Engineering, Science, Mathematics or Computer Science. You should be able to demonstrate the use of structured programming language such as C.

International students will require IELTS 6.0 (with no element below 5.5) or equivalent English Language Qualification.


You should have a first degree that provides a foundation in the areas of computer science or engineering. Candidates with a Bachelors and a Masters degree in one of the following areas will be preferred: robotics, mechatronics, automation and control, embedded systems, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Experience of experimental research involving statistical analyses of experimental results on the basis of measuring system performance is preferable but is not essential.  

You will be assigned a supervisory team to help guide and mentor you throughout your postgraduate research and studies. However, you are ultimately expected to take responsibility for managing your learning and will be expected to initiate discussions, ask for the help that you need, and be proactive in your approach to study.  

All students must attend an interview.


International Students are required by the Home Office and/or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to apply for an Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) Certificate before they begin studying their course. You might need to obtain an ATAS Certificate before you come to the UK in order for you to comply with Home Office regulations. Please refer to your offer conditions.

You can find out if your programme requires an ATAS by checking the FCO website at with your JACS code which will be on your offer letter should you choose to make an application. If you cannot find it please contact International Conversion team at If you have any queries relating directly to ATAS please contact the ATAS team on

You can apply for your ATAS Certificate via this link:

What qualifications do I need?

Entry requirements

A minimum of a 2:1 Honours degree or equivalent in a numerate subject such as Engineering, Science, Mathematics or Computer Science. You should be able to demonstrate the use of structured programming language such as C.

How much?

As a postgraduate research student, you will need to pay annual tuition fees. These vary according to the programme you are studying. Both we and other organisations offer a range of scholarships and discounts to postgraduate research students.

Fees and Funding


Additional costs

You should also consider further costs which may include books, stationery, printing, binding and general subsistence on residential travel and accommodation visits.

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Enrolment dates

September 2019

January 2020

May 2020

September 2020