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Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS) PhD PhD

Most students complete this programme in 4 years full-time

Our CDT goes beyond the traditional engineering disciplines to bring together students from backgrounds in sciences, mathematics and social sciences.

Doctoral training is central to our vision, driving innovation and addressing skills gaps in the Automotive Industry.

Our ambition is to develop students from a range of disciplines and backgrounds who want to research and pursue a leading industrial, research, business or political career within the Automotive sector. Each year we will enrol at least 10 new students into our four-year Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS) training programme, thanks to generous funding from EPSRC and the University of Bath.

By joining us on the AAPS CDT programme you will undertake a transdisciplinary training programme where you’ll be at the centre of generating new and holistic ideas in automotive propulsion. You'll develop detailed knowledge in your chosen subject area alongside colleagues working across a broad spectrum of challenges facing the Industry.

Your research journey in this unique environment will give you the depth and breadth of knowledge needed to collaborate with professionals across disciplines as you progress your career. You'll train in the skills needed to take the automotive sector in a new direction. Your training will help prepare you to work with the future engineers, scientists, policy makers and thought leaders in propulsion systems. AAPS promotes the intellectual independence, flexibility, and ownership of knowledge that is essential for international research competitiveness.

AAPS CDT Research Themes

  • Low Carbon Fuels
  • Gas Purification
  • Propulsion Electrification
  • Application of Mathematics
  • Computer Science
    • Human Computer Interaction
    • Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning
    • Visual Computing
    • Cybersecurity
  • Digital Systems, Optimisation and Integration
  • Chemical Energy Converters
  • Sustainability and Low Carbon Transition
    • Environmental systems analysis
    • Environmental strategy and management for sustainability
    • Social impact and behaviour change
  • Driver and User Behaviour
  • Transportation and Society
    • Transport mode choice
    • Social, cultural and policy aspects of transport.
  • Transport Policy and Economics

Benefit from our expertise

You'll learn from academics with a wide range of expertise in the disciplines needed to pioneer and shift the transition to clean, sustainable and affordable mobility. Our academics have come together from across the University to develop our Research Themes.


Running alongside our Taught Programme, you will also benefit from our guest lecture series. This series brings together specialists from both the University and our Industry partners to give you the broad view that will allow you to challenge and change the current thinking around personal mobility.

Our CDT is also linked to the new Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion (IAAPS). This specialist hub supports collaborative research with the automotive industry to develop future generations of ultra-low emissions vehicles.

Programme structure

Most students complete this programme in 4 years. You cannot take less than 3 years to finish your research and the maximum time you are allowed is normally 5 years.

You will start this programme in September.

Our programme integrates a one-year MRes with a three to four-year PhD to give you comprehensive training and detailed knowledge in your chosen specific subject area alongside colleagues working across a broad spectrum of challenges facing the Industry.

The MRes year is a 12-month taught programme which is split over the two teaching semesters and the summer period. You will take 60 credits of taught courses as well as undertake a 30 credit MRes Thesis Formulation Report.

All units are compulsory and bespoke to the CDT, with some units running throughout the semester and others being concentrated into shorter periods. An average of at least 60% across the first two semesters is required in order to progress to the MRes. thesis formulation report.

After successful completion of the MRes stage, you will proceed to the three to four-year PhD research phase. You can take the PhD phase part time with the whole programme lasting a total of seven years.

Occasionally we make changes to our programmes in response to, for example, feedback from students, developments in research and the field of studies, and the requirements of accrediting bodies. You will be advised of any significant changes to the advertised programme, in accordance with our Terms and Conditions.

Your academic progress and general welfare will be monitored by your supervisor.

Academic milestones

  1. Registration
  2. Induction
  3. Taught phase
  4. Candidature
  5. Confirmation
  6. Research
  7. Writing up
  8. Give notice of intention to submit a thesis / portfolio
  9. Submission for examination
  10. Examination (Viva Voce)
  11. Examiners report
  12. Final submission of thesis / portfolio
  13. Graduation

Programme content


  • Design projects
  • Doctoral skills online
  • Doctoral skills workshop
  • Field course
  • Fieldwork
  • Interaction and networking
  • Laboratory sessions
  • Lectures
  • Online resources
  • Practical sessions
  • Real-life case studies
  • Research project
  • Seminars
  • Supervisory team
  • Tutorials
  • Video materials
  • Workshops

Taught content

Year 1: MRes Year

During the MRes year you will develop your foundation knowledge of the challenges facing the automotive sector as well as developing commercial and management skills together as a cohort, inherently learning how to work as part of, as well as leading, a team. This includes:

  • Propulsion technologies and their roadmaps for development over the next 40 years
  • Business practices and the stakeholders, structure and challenges within the industry
  • Systems thinking and insights framework to practice innovation and how to work in trans-disciplinary teams.
  • Guest lectures from industry and governmental organisations to ensure that you are immersed in current thinking and development.

You will learn the context, challenges and opportunities and how to apply your skills and knowledge to multiple scenarios. You will study the applications of various subjects through case studies and experience first-hand working in trans-disciplinary teams to perform complex problem formulation, innovation through insight frameworks and planning a research project to tackle this problem.

Our cohort-based approach is a crucial element of the programme. To meet the challenges that the future brings, the automotive industry needs individuals who are experts in their own discipline but parallel to that, can understand and can interact with a broad range of other disciplines. During your first year you will be co-located in a purpose-built environment designed to foster collaboration. By working alongside colleagues who have expertise in engineering systems, biological, chemical, mathematical, computer, psychological and social sciences, you will acquire specialist research expertise, complemented by a strong understanding of wider multidisciplinary and business considerations.

You'll also begin planning your thesis and finding academic and industrial partners to support your research.

Group projects

A key part of your MRes study involves a nine-month group project on the innovation process. You'll gain hands-on experience of user research, insights framework, developing prototypes and business cases. This teamwork with fellow students in our CDT will help you grow your skills in transdisciplinary collaboration.


Taught units in your first year include:

  • automotive propulsion system technology
  • strategic and innovative thinking
  • automotive propulsion systems evaluation
  • automotive business processes
  • automotive propulsion systems innovation
  • student-led symposia and integrative think tanks
  • thesis formulation project

Automotive Propulsion Technology

This unit is designed to introduce you to the current and future technology make up of Automotive Propulsion Systems. It will allow you to understand the importance and opportunities of your own specialist disciplines within Automotive Propulsion Systems.

You will receive guest lectures and discussion sessions with experts and practitioners, tutorial sessions to develop ideas for coursework and presentation and practical session discovering propulsion hardware.

Strategic and Innovative Thinking

The aim of this unit is to provide you with strategic and innovative thinking methods to challenge the status quo of conventional systems thinking, and to provide a framework for managing the rapidly changing technological world. This course will explore strategic thinking processes, road-mapping techniques, contextualization of technology drivers and alternative thinking approaches for systems design and analysis.

On successful completion of this unit, you will be able to summarise systems thinking in an automotive propulsion context, apply strategic thinking, apply effective critical thinking techniques and conduct road-mapping exercises over short, medium- and long-term horizons.

Automotive Propulsion System Evaluation

This unit is designed to introduce you to a real automotive propulsion system through practical, data driven analysis of its performance and context.

As part of a multi-disciplinary group, you will analyse the performance of a current automotive propulsion system. You will take part in practical laboratory sessions collecting data on the performance of an advanced automotive propulsion system in our world class experimental facilities, complemented by quantitative and qualitative research into propulsion system performance in the market.

In the classroom, there will be a course on statistical techniques for assessing data integrity, analysing data and significance testing and a practical course in creativity frameworks, supported by further sessions on team working, descriptive feedback and self-reflection. This unit will help you put your trans-disciplinary learning into practice, conducting open-minded analysis without scientific or personal prejudice and leveraging the capability of others in an inclusive, collaborative team environment.

Automotive Business Processes

The aim of this unit is to give you an overview of the business processes and context of the current automotive industry and how these are implemented in practice. You will gain a deep understanding of the commercial landscape and trends of the automotive industry as well as the regulatory framework that governs the industry. You will learn about key business processes from specialist practitioners, with sessions including the V-process of systems engineering, 6-Sigma, just-in-time, DFMEA, project management and sustainability.

Automotive Propulsion Systems Innovation

This unit will provide you with an overview of the complete innovation insights framework and allow you to apply it to provide an innovative solution to improve the powertrain system assessed in the evaluation unit in Semester 1. As part of a small team you will develop innovative solutions, build prototypes and present your business case at the annual design exhibition in May.

In this unit you will bring together the skills you have developed in previous units in critical thinking, data and information analysis of complex systems, problem solving and data sourcing to work in a trans-disciplinary team to apply creativity frameworks, challenge current scientific understanding and adopt alternative insights from your analysis.

Student-Led Symposia (SLS) and Integrative Think Tanks (ITT)

Student-Led Symposia (SLS) With guidance from the AAPS management team and unit convenors, you and your cohort will decide on topics and reading group activities, as well as inviting speakers to give seminars or short courses from a self-managed budget. Topics will be steered to relate to upcoming ITTs and academic staff and industrial partners attending the ITTs will be invited to be involved in the symposia series immediately before where possible. A goal of these symposia is to foster research independence. Each semester, students will be expected to prepare and deliver a presentation.

Integrative Think Tanks (ITT) You'll take part in week-long workshops called Integrative Think Tanks at the end-of-each-semester. ITTs are significant events, focal points in the calendar of AAPS activity, and central to our goals.

ITTs are week-long facilitated workshops in which academic, industrial, and other external partners present problems requiring research solutions, with lectures on relevant background given by experts. You will work in groups with other participants in order to define routes to the solution of these problems (establishing a complete solution is not necessary), identifying the new research that will be necessary to make this possible. The aim is to develop skills in problem formulation and mapping directions for independent research. It is expected that ITT problems will be studied further in the summer Thesis Formulation Report and some will eventually become PhD thesis topics and result in collaborative projects with the external industrial and academic partners associated with AAPS. Your ITT participation is assessed by a presentation delivered during the week and a report written in the style of a grant proposal after the ITT.

Thesis Formulation Project

The three-month summer period will consist of a structured and carefully mentored process, in which you will undertake an individual preliminary research project. This is likely to be both in the field of your Ph.D. thesis and under the supervision of all or part of your PhD supervisory team. This project will allow you to explore motivation, published literature and a propose methodology in anticipation of the beginning of your PhD in year 2. Your preliminary findings will lead you into the preparation of a 25-35 page document, called the Thesis Formulation Report, outlining, in depth and breadth, motivation, objectives and methodology for the proposed Ph.D. problem(s) you will tackle in years 2-4.


Take advantage of our established links with a range of companies and organisations in academia and industry and go on placement.

We encourage all our students to take a placement during their PhD research phase. Placements in academia or industry are a great opportunity to gain experience of the workplace and develop valuable professional skills. They can help to build cross-disciplinary links and train you in other disciplines' research language. You'll continue with your research while you're on placement.

Research content

Years 2 - 4: PhD Phase

After successful completion of the MRes stage, you will proceed to the PhD research phase and follow a project formulated during the MRes. This PhD project may be formulated entirely during the MRes year or be prescribed at the point of application by a sponsoring industrial partner.

In the PhD phase you will have research, and the preparation of a thesis, as your main focus. In your PhD work, you will create an original piece of research, and new knowledge, in your specific research topic within the broader field of Automotive Propulsion Systems.

At the end of year two, you will submit a transfer report and be required to pass an oral examination in which you will be expected to set out the motivation and background to your proposed research, a credible methodology, any preliminary results and a detailed plan for your work over years three and four. A Ph.D. thesis should be submitted within four years of joining AAPS with regular progress reports submitted.

You remain an AAPS CDT student throughout your PhD and you will continue to engage with the CDT through mentoring of future cohorts and participation in the centre activities such as involvement in student-led symposia and integrative think tanks. There will also be opportunities to undertake industrial placements and academic secondments.

Find out who our potential supervisors are

Professional Development

Professional development is a crucial element of doctoral study, not only in supporting your research but also as part of your longer term career development. Our DoctoralSkills workshops and courses will help you build your skills and help you succeed in your doctorate.

Read more about professional development support


Assessment methods

  • Attendance
  • Blog
  • Business Report
  • Coursework
  • End point assessment
  • Essay
  • Other
  • Peer evaluation
  • Practical work
  • Presentations
  • Seminar
  • Team Working
  • Written examination

Assessment description

Key Stage Gates

  1. At the end of semester two (M10) an average of at least 60% across the first two semesters is required in order to progress to the MRes. thesis formulation project.

  2. At the end of the first year (M12), you will need to have achieved an average grade of 60% in the taught phase of the MRes to progress onto the PhD phase. This broken down as 60% in the taught stage and 60% in the Thesis Formulation project.

  3. At the beginning of year 2 (M13) you should complete a candidature form identifying thesis topic and supervisory team.

  4. At the end of year 2 you will need to submit a transfer report (M23) and successfully complete a transfer viva (M24).

  5. At the end of year 4 you will submit a thesis and successfully complete a final viva with an external examiner.

You will be awarded both your MRes and PhD upon successful completion of the 4-year course.

Entry requirements

Academic requirements

To apply for this programme, you should have a first class or strong second class bachelor’s honours degree or international equivalent.

English Language requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 overall with no less than 6.0 in all components
  • The Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic): 62 with no less than 59 in any element
  • TOEFL IBT: 90 overall with a minimum 21 in all 4 components

You will need to get your English language qualification within 24 months prior to starting your course.

If you need to improve your English language skills before starting your studies, you may be able to take a pre-sessional course to reach the required level.


Two strong references from appropriate referees.

One of these must be from an academic referee who has taught or supervised you in an academic setting. This should be your current or most recent place of study.

Fees and funding

Fees and funding information for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (AAPS) PhD PhD


Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on whether you are a Home or Overseas student.

Learn how we decide fee status

Tuition fees are liable to increase annually for all University of Bath students. If you aren't paying your fees in British pounds, you should also budget for possible fluctuations in your own currency.

Find out more about student fees

How to pay

Funding options

UK Students

We have at least 10 fully funded 4-year studentships available for all students accepted from the UK. Our integrated programme lasts four to five years (full time), starting September each year. You may also receive funding from one of our external partnership organisations.

Your studentship covers:

  • UK University fees
  • Payment of a tax-free maintenance stipend (£15,009 pa—2019/20 rate)
  • training support fund (£1000/year)
  • AAPS training activities
  • office space and computing facilities

You can apply for more funding to support your placement and any national and international academic exchanges once you have registered.

Finding funding for Doctoral Research

Payment options

You can pay your tuition fees by Direct Debit, debit card, credit card or bank transfer.

Application information

Applicant profile

If you are interested in applying for our CDT, you should submit an expression of interest by emailing our Student Experience and Programmes officer Jessica Ohren at .

Your expression of interest should include:

  • a 300-word personal statement on how your research interest and personal purpose aligns with the AAPS CDT vision, and why you want to be part of it.
  • which AAPS Research Theme(s) you feel your interests most fit into
  • the title of the project you're applying for (if applicable)
  • a two-page CV of your academic and work experience, including your nationality and country of residence for the past three years (not including full-time education)
  • a scan of your academic transcripts
  • where you heard about us

Selection process

There are two ways that you can join our AAPS CDT.

Join with a specific advertised project

You can apply for a specific project advertised by one of our CDT's supervisors. You'll still be part of the cohort and spend your first year studying the MRes and taking part in CDT training activities.

Find out more about the current projects available in the AAPS CDT.

Join through the open pool, without a pre-defined project

You can apply to join our CDT and spend your first year studying the MRes and taking part in CDT training activities as well as choosing your PhD topic, supervisory team and industrial partners to support your research. This is referred to as being part of the ‘common pool’. Once you have started you should express your preferences for PhD topics/areas early in the year to ensure interests are captured and used to work towards creating proceed-able projects.

If you join the CDT as part of ‘common pool’ then, as other projects become available throughout the MRes year they will be advertised to you before being advertised externally.

Our team will be in touch and if you are short-listed we will ask you to make a formal application through our Doctoral college. We will review formal applications and invite candidates to an interview. We will make a final decision after this interview.

Immigration requirements

International Students

Programme enquiries