PhD Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find some frequently asked questions and answers that prospective students may have about the CDT in Digital Civics. If you have specific questions please contact openlab-admin@newcastle.ac.uk.

What funding will I receive?

We have 11 studentships (for UK and EU domiciled students) for students commencing in September 2017 that will cover the costs of a tax-free stipend of £14,296 each year plus fees for four years. In addition there is significant funding for research costs and local, national and international travel (conferences and exchanges).

Can I join the EPSRC CDT in Digital Civics if I am not awarded a studentship?

Yes. We have 11 studentships for UK and EU domiciled applicants, but we have capacity to train up to 20 doctoral students each year. Applicants that are unsuccessful (or not eligible) in their application for one of our studentships, but that are still accepted for the Digital Civics programme, will need to demonstrate that they can meet the cost of the fees (currently £4,540 per annum for UK and EU domiciled students; £16,585 per annum for international students) and can support themselves financially for the full four years of the programme.

I’m interested in digital civics but I don’t have a technical background?

We recognise that only students with a background in computer science are likely to undertake more technical PhD research projects, that is, ones that involve innovating with respect to the underlying technologies. Students with non-technical backgrounds (e.g. health sciences, planning, social science, education, politics) will still need to have a demonstrable interest in, and be prepared to develop a basic understanding of, digital technologies. To that end we will be providing intensive pre-sessional training on the foundations of digital technologies, as well as continued support throughout the doctoral programme.

I am a computer scientist but I don’t really know much about education, public health, social care or local democracy?

That is not uncommon, as it is intrinsic to how undergraduate degrees are designed (in the UK at least). Just as students with non-technical backgrounds will need to learn the basics of digital technologies, computer scientists will need to learn more about the application domains and the theory and methods employed by specialists in these fields. What we are looking from in applicants with backgrounds in computer science is an interest in what digital civics is trying to achieve, and a genuine desire to work across traditional disciplinary boundaries.

When can I apply?

You can informally contact us at any time to discuss undertaking a Digital Civics doctoral studentship. The deadline for applications to start in September 2017 was 28 February 2017.

How is the doctoral training structured?

Students spend their first year studying for the MRes in Digital Civics, before progressing on to the PhD in Digital Civics in years two to four.

What does the MRes in Digital Civics involve?

The MRes component of the program involves 70 credits of core modules that are taken by all first year Digital Civics doctoral students:

  • Introduction to Digital Civics (10 credits)
  • Research Methods for Digital Civics (20 credits)
  • Technologies for Digital Civics (20 credits)
  • Human-Computer Interaction for Digital Civics (10 credits)
  • Interaction Design Methods for Digital Civics (10 credits)

Students select a further 30 credits of optional modules depending on their specific interests; these are selected from one of four strands (Technical, Local Democracy, Public Health & Social Care, Education).

  • Technical:
    • Information Security & Trust (10 credits)
    • System Security (10 Credits)
    • Big Data Analytics (10 credits)
    • Machine Learning (10 credits)
  • Local Democracy:
    • Planning, power and people (10 credits)
    • Planning Frameworks (10 credits)
    • Social Divisions & Inequality (10 credits)
  • Public Health & Social Care:
    • Health & Society (10 credits)
    • Health & Health Care Policy (10 credits)
    • Public Health Intervention (10 credits)
  • Education:
    • Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment as Foundations of Teaching and Learning (20 credits)
    • Social Divisions & Inequality (10 credits)

The MRes in Digital Civics concludes with the Dissertation in Digital Civics (60 credits) module in which you will work with supervisors and partners on a small-scale research project, and the Research Proposal in Digital Civics (20 credits) module in which you will develop a proposal for your 3-year PhD research project.

(Note that as is common with UK universities, 1 credit equals 0.5 ECTS credits across the European Union)

Do I need a PhD project proposal?

No, you will develop your PhD proposal in the course of the MRes in Digital Civics. This will give you time to get to know the research interests of the different supervisors within the CDT and our partner organisations. In April of the MRes all students, supervisors and representatives from the partner organisations attend an annual retreat during which this process of developing topics for PhD projects start. Following this you will develop a full proposal as part of the Research Proposal in Digital Civics module, which will be assessed by the CDT Co-Directors and supervisors. However, we do expect you to have a sense of which areas of Digital Civics (computer science, design, public health, social care, education, local democracy) are your primary areas of interest when you apply, although we recognise that this may change during your MRes year.

Who will supervise my PhD?

Your supervision team will be determined by the end of your MRes year as a result of discussions between yourself, the CDT co-directors, academics within the CDT and external partners as your PhD topic evolves. During your MRes year you’ll get a chance to meet potential supervisors who will all be making presentations about their own research interests. All students will have at least two academic supervisors from different research areas to ensure that the necessary support is available for the class of cross-disciplinary research that we are envisaging. You will also have at least one external supervisor from a partner organisation.

Which research groups are involved in the CDT?

The bulk of the potential supervisors come one of five Newcastle University research centres: Human-Computer Interaction and Ubiquitous Computing (at Open Lab); the Centre for Cybercrime and Computer Security; the Centre for Learning and Teaching; the Global Urban Research Unit; and the Institute for Health and Society. These are supplemented by additional supervisors in areas such as politics, sociology, journalism, engineering and rural studies.

Where will I be based?

All CDT students will be based in Open Lab at Newcastle University. Depending on your background and research interests you will also be a member of one of the five constituent research centres of the CDT. For your MRes year you will have a dedicated desk in one of Open Lab’s research spaces in which all the core teaching will take place. For the three years of your PhD you will be based amongst other PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and academics within Open Lab.

What hours will I work?

The CDT is a full-time course, with standard hours of 9-5 Monday to Friday, with all students based mostly in Open Lab during these times. This includes supervision time and, during your MRes year, several hours of teaching each week. We are not able to offer the course on a part-time basis.

What is an internship?

During years two, three and four of your studentship you will undertake at least one internship with one of the CDT’s regional, national or global partners. These internships can last from one to three months, and are intended to help you hone your collaborative skills and the real-world applicability of your research, as well as develop your network of government, commercial and third sector contacts. You will continue to receive your stipend during this time (plus extra financial support if necessary), unless otherwise funded by the organisation you are interned with.

What is an international academic exchange/placement?

All students will be funded to undertake a one- to three-month placement with one of our international academic partners that include some of the world’s leading research universities in Europe, Asia, Australia and the USA. These are most likely to take place in years three or four of your studies and are intended to provide students with an international perspective on academic research environments and practices.