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Join our thriving multidisciplinary community and deliver projects focused on the safety of AI.

  Length Start dates (semester dates)

4 years full-time
8 years part-time


Join our thriving multidisciplinary community and deliver projects focused on the safety of AI. Funded by UKRI, the SAINTS CDT brings together people from diverse disciplines such as computer science, philosophy, law, sociology and economics to create the next generation of safe AI experts and a lasting community that will pioneer new evidence-based policy and practices for safe AI.

Doctoral training and support

A multidisciplinary approach

Our CDT in Safe AI takes a unique and purposeful approach. Postgraduate researchers with different backgrounds and experiences will train together, focusing on ‘grand challenges’ around one of SAINTS' core research themes:

  • Life-long safety of AI: Safety-driven design and training for evolving contexts; testing for open and uncertain operating environments; safe retraining and continual learning; proactive monitoring procedures and dynamic safety cases; ongoing assurance of societal and ethical acceptability.
  • Safety of increasingly autonomous AI: Understanding human-AI interaction to design safe joint cognitive systems; the assurance of safe transition between human and AI control; achieving effective human oversight and AI explainability; preserving human autonomy and responsibility.

By undertaking relevant and societally important research, you will become part of a world-class community of professionals who will pioneer a new generation of evidence-based methodologies and practices for safe AI-enabled autonomous systems.

You will also participate in a series of taught courses covering the technical, legal, ethical and societal underpinnings and implications of your research. These courses will give you the strong foundation you need for both your research and the next step in your career.

Contact us

SAINTS Administration Team
SAINTS Centre for Doctoral Training

Under the guidance of your supervisor, you'll work towards a final thesis of 80,000 words for the PhD. A typical semester will involve a great deal of independent research, with guidance from your supervisor who will be able to suggest direction and address concerns. You'll work independently in a research environment that thrives on creativity and scholarship.


Successful applicants will be among the first scholars in the world to take the next step into an AI-powered future, and to shape and contribute to the innovation of AI and autonomous systems.

Professor Ibrahim Habli, Director of SAINTS CDT

Work directly with industry

The SAINTS CDT has an extensive network of over thirty partners, including major international companies, government organisations, regulators and charities. Our industry partners will be closely involved in the research that you'll undertake throughout your PhD. They are also committed to providing other forms of support, from real-world data and case studies to guest lectures and access to facilities.

Our partners will provide you with 'research exchange' opportunities where, as part of your PhD, you will work in industry to gain valuable experience that will support your research development. Some of our partners also expect to offer employment opportunities to SAINTS researchers when they graduate.

UK Top 20

for Computer Science and Information Systems in the QS World University Rankings by Subject, 2023.

Financial benefits

As a postgraduate researcher with SAINTS CDT, you'll receive the following financial benefits:

  • A tax-free stipend of £18,622 per year for your living costs (pro rata for part-time postgraduate researchers), which is paid to you in regular instalments. The amount of the stipend usually increases each year in line with inflation
  • Your annual tuition fees will also be paid and there will be funding available for you to attend relevant events and conferences

Your career

Your PhD in Safe AI will train you to work at the cutting edge of AI development and safety assurance. You'll gain the ability to engage deeply with emerging regulatory, ethical and policy-making aspects of AI governance.

Throughout your degree, your supervisor will monitor your progress, and will help you to hone the focus of your research.

Having worked extensively with our partners, you'll be able to demonstrate the ability to translate your research and align it with industrial, regulatory and societal needs. You'll have the skills to move from doctoral research to AI-AS safety roles in industry, regulation and the public sector, as well as to postdoctoral fellowships.

Careers and skills

SAINTS has appointed a member of the academic team as Careers Lead, and they will support you as you create a professional development plan to progress your chosen career path. To assist you further, you'll also have input from your supervisors and mentors from partner organisations wherever possible.

Our multidisciplinary approach to doctoral research means that you will be well-placed to lead the growth of responsibly developed and trustworthy AI-enabled autonomous systems in the future.

Our dedicated careers team offer specific support, including a programme of professional researcher development and careers workshops and 1:1 career support sessions. They will help you with your employability portfolio, and to engage in activities that will build up your skills and experience within and outside of your research work.

Course location

You'll be based at the world's first Institute for Safe Autonomy at the University of York.

It's an exciting and welcoming hub for innovation and collaboration with a modern and inclusive working environment. You'll benefit from world-class laboratories, collaboration spaces and expert colleagues working at the leading edge of their fields.

Most of your training and supervision meetings will take place on campus at the University of York, though your research may take you further afield.

Entry requirements

Typically, you should have, or expect to obtain, one of the following combinations of academic qualification:

  • A first-class honours degree (or equivalent), OR
  • 2:1 in an honours degree and a Master’s degree (or equivalent)

We recognise that applicants may not have followed a traditional career path, and therefore relevant work experience or equivalent qualifications can be taken into account. 

Your knowledge and experience should enable you to undertake doctoral research in your chosen area within the SAINTS CDT (eg computer science, engineering, mathematics, economics, health sciences, law, philosophy, sociology).

While you may not have a degree in computer science, we expect that you will have basic programming skills. For successful applicants that do not have these skills at the required level, we will hold a programming 'bootcamp' before the start of the academic year.

Prior practical experience in creating AI-enabled systems is desirable, but is not essential.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must provide evidence of your ability.

Check your English language requirements


Stage one

At the start of your applicant journey, you’ll complete an application form detailing your academic qualifications and any relevant work experience you may hold. You’ll also be asked to provide information about your key skills that are relevant to AI and team working. You don’t need to identify a potential supervisor or submit a research proposal at this stage, and it is not necessary to submit your certificates or transcripts.

All stage one applications received will be anonymised and carefully assessed by our academic team, making sure that all applicants are treated equitably. Successful applicants will be invited to join stage two of the recruitment process.

Stage two

If you successfully go through to stage two, you will be invited to submit a formal Expression of Interest to demonstrate how your research interests align with one of the research themes within the CDT. Our academic team will assess your expression of interest and will look for evidence of your potential to undertake research in your chosen area.

Applicants successfully completing this stage will be invited to the third and final stage of the recruitment process.

Stage three

Applicants reaching stage three will be invited to a full-day group selection event at the University of York. During round-table discussions, you’ll be assessed on your approach to collaboration. You’ll also attend an interview with a panel consisting of members of the academic team.

If you are unable to attend the selection event in York, you will be invited to a group selection event held online.

Applications will open for 2025 entry in Autumn 2024.

If you have any further questions, we'd recommend visiting our FAQ page. Alternatively, contact us.

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SAINTS Administration Team
SAINTS Centre for Doctoral Training