Programme overview

The Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems Centre for Doctoral Training (AAPS) is a 4-year transdisciplinary research programme, that integrates a bespoke one-year MRes training programme 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.

During the first year you will learn as a cohort about the technology and business aspects of automotive propulsion as well as research and critical thinking techniques. You will then apply these in group and individual projects. 

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 either case, you will be expected to complete the same activities around problem formulation, team-working, communication and innovation.

In the PhD phase you will undertake an original piece of research in a specific discipline related to Automotive Propulsion Systems. During this time, you will continue to engage with AAPS through mentoring of future cohorts and participation in the centre activities. There will also be opportunities to undertake industrial placements and academic secondments.

MRes Year

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 AAPS, with some units running throughout the semester and others being concentrated into shorter periods.

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 developments

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.

MRes unit breakdown

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. with your work.

This is a year long unit. 

Student-led symposium. 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. 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. 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.

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.

During years two – four, you will have research, and the preparation of a thesis, as your main focus. In PhD work, you will create new knowledge in your specific research topic within the broader field of AAPS. 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 student throughout your PhD, even if based in a different department across campus.  For the duration of your PhD, you will be expected to continue to engage with AAPS and act as our ambassadors, both internally and externally. You will continue to engage with AAPS through mentoring of future cohorts and participation in the centre activities such as

  • Involvement in student-led symposia
  • Participation in at least 1 Integrative Think Tank a year
  • Attendance at the Guest Lectures and Master Classes programme
  • Networking activities
  • Annual Conferences

There will also be opportunities to undertake industrial placements and academic secondments.

Core Training

One of the core aims of AAPS is to train a new breed of T-shaped people with a combined depth and breadth of knowledge and skills.

Your training will help prepare you to work with the future engineers, scientists, policy makers and thought leaders in propulsion systems. You will 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. 


During our four year training programme you will develop core personal and professional skills in Responsible Research Methods, Innovation, Team working and Leadership and Business Practice. 

To develop these skills we run regular training sessions on a variety of topics, these sessions vary between being facilitated by external companies, our industrial partners, the academic management team and the academic theme leads. By being a student at the University of Bath you will also get to take advantage of the DoctoralSkills programme on offer. 

Guest lectures

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. Guest lectures are something that you should attend throughout the whole 4 years of the programme. Read about previous Guest Lectures.

Integrative Think Tanks

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, 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 some ITT problems will eventually become PhD thesis topics and result in collaborative projects with the external industrial and academic partners associated with AAPS. ITTS also generate ideas that can be jointly pursued between academics and industrial partners, and lead to direct impact in terms of applications and research. Read more about Integrative Think Tanks.


Through the summer period each year, you will also have the opportunity to attend masterclasses from experts in a particular subject area. These masterclasses are deep dives into a particular subject or technical area that give you the opportunity to be explore research and challenges related to mobility. Read about previous Summer Masterclasses.


Meet the supervisors

Our CDT draws on a pool of potential PhD supervisors with a range of research expertise across the University. Our academic staff teach, research and supervise PhDs in specialisms across the University's departments.

Find out more about the staff who could be available to supervise your PhD project.

© Copyright 2021 AAPS CDT, Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems at the University of Bath