Financial Computing and Data Science

Part-time PhDs

An increasing number of financial services industry professionals wish to undertake a PhD part-time. UCL welcomes this approach as it allows high-calibre candidates with a wealth of industry experience to participate in the programme.

UCL’s computer science department has considerable experience in managing part-time PhDs.

Professional (industry-based) PhDs

in Computing, Statistics or Mathematics at UCL


The UCL Centre for Financial Computing is keen to encourage Professional PhDs, targeting highly qualified professionals working in the financial services industry in London. Professional PhDs work well when there is close alignment between the Applicants job function and the PhD topic. In fact, if there isn’t close alignment and employer support we recommend waiting.

The Financial Computing Centre has two types of PhD student:

  • Industry funded PhDs – a fully funded 3-year PhD where each student spends 4-4½ days per week with their industry employer or company partner and ½ day at UCL.
  • UCL funded PhDs – a fully funded 3-year PhD where each student will spend 4 days per week in the department and 1 day with their industry partner.

The UCL PhD fees for 2019 are:


Stipend pa

Fees pa



3-year Total

PhD Home






PhD Overseas






Company employees pay only the fees

The following information is intended as a guide for Applicants, Supervisors and Employers to assess whether the Applicant has a suitable basis for pursuing a part-time PhD.


There is a growing interest in the financial services industry, business sectors and amongst their technical staff in what we refer to as Professional PhDs, where the applicant is funded by their company. In many ways financial and other services companies and their professional staff are good candidates: a) the technical staff have excellent academic qualifications supplemented by practical experience; b) many financial services companies conduct state-of-the-art research in software and analytics to remain competitive; c) many senior employees already have PhDs and a few are even ex-academics; d) the companies have massive computational and ‘big data’ facilities, making them excellent ‘experimental environments’; and e) due to the competitive nature of the industry technical staff are continually seeking to enhance their knowledge in areas such as machine learning, model building and HPC.

UCL Computer Science, Statistics and related departments have had notable success with Professional PhDs and the candidates have been instrumental in building strong links between UCL and their institutions. Although we have had failures, we have acquired a lot of experience and we are becoming more skilled in selecting and supervising appropriate candidates, and providing them with training in machine learning.

The information below is intended for help potential Applicants to assess whether the applicant’s job function is a suitable basis for a PhD.

PhD Candidate Attributes

Experience with Professional PhD students has helped us identify attributes, some obvious some more subtle, that a prospective applicant should possess if they are to successfully complete a part-time PhD: 

  • Applicants must have excellent academic qualifications, ideally a 1st class bachelors’ degree and a Masters degree with distinction both from Premier (e.g. Russell Group) universities.
  • Applicants’ topic of the PhD and their job function should have a high degree of alignment. Applicants’ job function should be technical, and have a major element of ‘research’, rather than being managerial or support.
  • Applicants must be based in London in an established company position.
  • Applicants should be able to attend UCL on a regular basis to meet their Supervisor and where appropriate attend Masters-level modules. Typically this will be 2-4 hours per week.
  • Applicants should have the full support and encouragement of their Director/Manager and the company. The company, as a demonstration of commitment, should pay the fees.
  • Applicants should show ‘academic interest’ in the discipline, such as reading scientific papers in their spare time or publishing in technical/scientific journals and conferences.

The next sections present a check list for Applicants (and Supervisors) to help assess suitability.

Professional PhD Check List

The following is a list of questions to explore whether the Applicant is appropriate for a part-time PhD.







Education and Experience

Academic Qualifications

1st class bachelors’ degree plus Masters degree with distinction


Educated in Premier (e.g. Russell Group) universities


Significant industry experience


Research topic

Research topic appropriate for a PhD


Additional Comments


Job Function

Research focus

High degree of alignment between PhD topic and job function


Technical/Analytical job function, with major element of ‘research’, rather than managerial or support


Job function involves reading scientific papers on regular basis


Additional Comments




Applicant based in London


Established company position


Minimal disruption to PhD from foreign travel


Additional Comments


Availability and Commitment


Able to attend UCL on a regular basis (e.g. 2-4 hours per week)


Can use Skype to interact with Supervisor on informal basis


Wishes to attend Masters-level modules at UCL


Additional Comments


Support of Company


Support of superiors



Support of company (e.g. Human Resources dept.)



Able to provide a formal letter of support



Company will pay PhD fees



Company wishes to collaborate with UCL (e.g. additional benefit)


Additional Comments


Academic Interests

Academic interests

Applicant shows ‘academic interest’ in the discipline


Academic career

Interest in a future industry/academic career or academic career



Applicant demonstrated ‘persistence’ in progressing their application


Additional Comments


Additional questions

Partner (if appropriate)

Partner/spouse supports applicant’s wish to pursue a PhD


Probationary period agreement


Draft Thesis agreement


Additional Comments


Probabtionary Period

It is important that the PhD Applicant and their company appreciates the commitment required to successfully pursue and complete a PhD and the need to dovetail with their professional life (i.e. job function) with their PhD. This involves regular meetings with their Supervisor, doing the necessary research and progressing the write-up of their Thesis.

Professional PhD candidates typically drop out: a) due to pressure of work that forces them to miss meetings with their Supervisor, b) the amount of research work in their job function is eroded due to work pressures, c) their job, function or location changes, such as taking on more managerial tasks, and d) family pressures.

To allow the PhD Applicant to appreciate the commitment we recommend before applying formally:

  1. PowerPoint - outlining the Research Motivation, Objectives and 3-4 Experiments that will form the basis of the PhD (we will provide examples).
  2. Thesis preparation – the PhD Applicant (being more experienced than a full-time student) is asked to prepare the Front-page, Abstract and Contents List of their PhD Thesis (again we will provide examples). Starting to write your PhD is proving an excellent test of whether a PhD is right for you.

Thesis Structure

A typical Thesis structure comprises:

Title page


Contents List

  1. Introduction
  2. Background & Literature Survey
  3. Data Set (if unique)
  4. Experiment 1
  5. Experiemnt 2
  6. Experiment 3
  7. Assessment
  8. Conclusions & Future Work



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