School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics

MPhil/PhD Cyber Security

Cyber security is a fundamental requirement for all users of technology – helping to protect organisations and people from a significant, wide variety and constantly evolving threat. This ever-changing threat landscape requires constant innovation in the technologies that provide protection.

The MPhil/PhD Cyber Security programme is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a progamme of study that will lead you to making a significant novel contribution to knowledge. Supported by the Centre for Cyber Security, Communications and Network Research (CSCAN) and our internationally recognised academics, candidates will undertake a body of research focused upon a targeted area of cyber security, publish papers and contribute to the wider community and body of knowledge.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • This full time or part time doctoral programme is suitable for people who have a particular research question or topic in mind, and wish to explore this through independent study in order to produce an original contribution to the subject. If you aspire to a research career this is the most appropriate research degree to undertake.

    You will be guided by a small supervisory team of academic experts under the direction of a Director of Studies. Even if you already have a masters degree, you will normally be registered as a ‘MPhil/PhD’ candidate and may apply to transfer to ‘PhD’ status around 12–21 months after registration, based on your progress to date.

    You will be expected to fully engage with skills development and training and to present your research in a range of scholarly contexts.

    Your PhD will be assessed via submission of either a written thesis (up to 80,000 words), or one that combines critical writing with artistic, creative and/or professional practice, and a viva voce (an oral examination).

    For full details of what doing a PhD entails at the University of Plymouth, please visit our postgraduate research degrees pages.

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

Applicants are expected to have completed a masters level qualification to a high standard (e.g. at 'merit' or 'distinction' level) as well as either a good 2:1 or first class honours undergraduate degree in an area of study appropriate to your project proposal. We are happy to consider equivalent qualifications (for instance, you may have studied different subjects at undergraduate and masters level but have worked in and/or developed an interest in your sector since then).

You will also need to provide evidence that you are ready to pursue the project you propose in your application. This will take the form of a research proposal.

If English is not your first language, you must have proficiency in written and spoken English (normally a minimum test score of 6.5 for IELTS, or equivalent). Given the nature of the programme, you’ll be expected to read and engage with complex theoretical texts and debates for which fluency in English is essential.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

Fees, costs and funding

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Please visit tuition fees for postgraduate research for information about fees.

If you are a full time student, you will pay full time fees for three years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional one year writing up period.

If you are a part time student, you will pay part time fees for four years. If you have not submitted your thesis by the end of this period, then you may pay for an optional 'writing up' period of up to two years.

You are responsible for meeting all of the costs related to your own research project, beyond the resources available in the department.

Please visit our postgraduate research money matters page to find out more about issues related to fees, funding, loans and paying for your programme of study.

How to apply

In addition to completing the online application form (which includes space for a personal statement), you must also upload a research project proposal. Your research proposal should outline your research topic, your key aims and the research question/problem you are addressing, a brief literature review, your proposed methodology, and an explanation of why this topic is significant or important.

Your personal statement should briefly explain why you have chosen to apply to our programme and what you feel you can offer our research community.

For more general guidelines and application requirements, please visit the research degrees applicants page.

The Doctoral College is able to answer any questions you may have about applying for or undertaking a postgraduate research degree at the University of Plymouth: doctoralcollege@plymouth.ac.uk or +44 1752 587640.

For initial enquires or questions, please contact Professor Nathan Clarke who will liaise with you and the appropriate member of academic staff to discuss your background and work towards producing the prima facia case.

Dr Abdulrahman Alruban

Assistant Professor at Majmaah University, Saudi Arabia
Artificial intelligence consultant at MMG labs, Spain (part-time)


My PhD research was about developing a pioneering algorithm able to link individuals with digital objects that they interact with (eg images/documents) leveraging biometric features. The project resulted in five scientific publications and granted a patent to protect the novelty of the developed system. 
My experience at the University of Plymouth is unforgettable, as having an excellent supervision team led by Professor Nathan Clarke has dramatically developed my knowledge and research skills in the domain of cybersecurity and biometrics. The University gave me the opportunity not only success in my research but also participating in teaching, training activities. Resulted in getting a teaching certificate and become a module leader. Not only I who loved living in Plymouth city but my family also loved it! From nice public schools to sports centres, national reserves with beautiful rivers made my family loved it.

Dr Shahlaa Mashhadani 

PhD: Image Analysis in Digital Forensics 

Shahlaa Mashhadani graduated with a PhD in Cyber Security and is now working for Baghdad University as an academic lecturer in a computer science department in Iraq. 

“My project automated the identification and extraction evidence from multimedia content to reduce the time and investigator’s cognitive load to solve a crime. Studying PhD in the University of Plymouth has helped me improve my academic skills and knowledge in my field. Without this experience, I would have not been at this stage right now. Moving to Plymouth has really improved my English language and I got to see a whole different life. The people over there were very welcoming, kind and supportive”.

Dr Neamah Al-Naffakh

PhD: Activity-Based User Authentication Using Smartwatches

"I was working as a Lecturer at School of Computing and Mathematics at University of Kufa (Iraq). I moved to Plymouth to study a PhD that concentrated on securing smartphones by using the rich sensing capabilities of the wearable devices. There is a potential invention to use these devices for designing a novel health care model that provides comprehensive and continuous medical care to patients with a goal to obtain maximal health outcome using the patient’s biometric information (eg skin temperature, heartrate, and acceleration).

The starting of my academic was very difficult and I decided to suspend my study and back home. Then everything was fine as my supervision team were very patient, kindness, supportive and have a great impact on my career. I had the opportunity to improve my skills (English, academic writing, presentation skills). Plymouth is a nice place to live and being able to network with others."

The Centre for Cyber Security, Communication and Network Research (CSCAN)

Improving emergency service incident responses. Sharing space-data. Fighting cybercrime. The Centre for Cyber Security, Communication and Network Research (CSCAN) is driving technological advances that are changing our world for the better.

Find out more about CSCAN

Dedicated laboratory facilities

As well as accessing our standard computing laboratories, you’ll be able to make extensive use of a 42-seat dedicated security and digital forensics laboratory, purpose-built to represent a range of network topologies and monitoring conditions.

Practical activities and tools used include: Webgoat, secure coding, analysis of honeynet challenges, scapy, nmap, metasploit, Snort, and FTK.

People