University of Nottingham Ningbo China
Graduate School
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Artificial Intelligence PhD Excellence Scholarship with Microsoft Research Asia Internship (2019 Entry)




Length of Scholarship: 

up to 36 months, subject to satisfactory progression





Closing Date:

Open till filled


Scholarship Background

School of Computer Science, UNNC shall collaborate with top scientists from Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) to jointly recruit and train PhD students on the topics of artificial intelligence, optimisation and their applications in transportation and logistics.

The available PhD scholarships cover:

  • Tuition fee
  • Monthly stipend (RMB2,250)
  • Medical insurance with designate providers
  • All above items are covered for up to 36 months based on satisfactory progression
  • All regulations set out in the UNNC PGR Scholarship Policy
  • In addition, an internship opportunity at Microsoft Research Asia (MSRA) will be available in Year 2 should the student’s academic performance in Year 1 meet the requirement of MSRA. During the Internship period, MSRA will provide additional allowance and accommodation.

In addition to the above scholarship, successful candidates also have the opportunity to carry out paid teaching or research assistant duties at UNNC.

Available research areas:

The research shall focus on forefront technologies in artificial intelligence, optimisation, data analytics, machine learning and their applications in solving difficult transportation and logistics problems, including

  • Reinforcement learning
  • Evolutionary Computation/Metaheuristics/Hyper-heuristics
  • Modelling and Simulation
  • Operations Research
  • Real-life transportation/logistics optimisation

Supervisory Team:

The supervision team of each student includes two top academics from the School of Computer Science (UNNC/UNUK), and NUBS China, and one MSRA full-time researcher. Students shall have excellent opportunities to work in MSRA as student interns. At present, the supervisors from MSRA are:

Dr Tie-Yan Liu
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Tie-Yan Liu is an assistant managing director of Microsoft Research Asia, leading the machine learning research area. Tie-Yan Liu is a fellow of the IEEE, and a distinguished member of the ACM. His Google Scholar h-index is 48. He is very well known for his pioneer work on learning to rank and computational advertising, and his recent research interests include deep learning, reinforcement learning, and distributed machine learning. Many of his technologies have been transferred to Microsoft’s products and online services (such as Bing, Microsoft Advertising, Windows, Xbox, and Azure), and open-sourced through Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK), Microsoft Distributed Machine Learning Toolkit (DMTK), and Microsoft Graph Engine. He has also been actively contributing to academic communities. He is an adjunct/honorary professor at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), University of Nottingham, and several other universities in China. He has published 200+papers in refereed conferences and journals, with over 17000 citations. He has won quite a few awards, including the best student paper award at SIGIR (2008), the most cited paper award at Journal of Visual Communications and Image Representation (2004-2006), the research break-through award (2012) and research-team-of-the-year award (2017) at Microsoft Research, and Top-10 Springer Computer Science books by Chinese authors (2015), and the most cited Chinese researcher by Elsevier (2017). He has been invited to serve as general chair, program committee chair, local chair, or area chair for a dozen of top conferences including SIGIR, WWW, KDD, ICML, NIPS, IJCAI, AAAI, ACL, ICTIR, as well as associate editor of ACM Transactions on Information Systems, ACM Transactions on the Web, and Neurocomputing.

More details please visit his profile:


Dr. Weidong Ma
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Weidong Ma is an Associate Researcher in Machine Learning Group, Microsoft Research Asia. His research interests include machine learning, AI for logistics, reinforcement learning, computational advertising, mechanism design, and combinatorial optimization. He received his B.S. from Shandong University (2008) and Ph.D. from Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences (2013), both in Operations Research. He authored tens of academic research papers receiving hundreds of citations, and serves as a reviewer for a few international conferences and journals.

More details please visit his profile:

Professor Ruibin Bai
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More details please visit his profile:

Professor Alain Chong
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Professor Graham Kendall
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Dr. Rong Qu
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More details please visit his profile:

Dr. Jiawei Li
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Dr. Zhen Tan
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PhD programme structure

PhD programmes at the UNNC are composed of 3 years research and submission is expected within 4 years for full-time students. PhD supervision is undertaken jointly by academics from the University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) and the University of Nottingham UK (UNUK).  On successful completion, students will be awarded the University of Nottingham PhD degree, and no reference will be made on the degree certificate as to where the degree has been completed. The University of Nottingham PhD degree will be accredited by the Chinese Ministry of Education.


  • Applicants must have a first class honours undergraduate degree or 65% and above for a Masters’ degree from a British university, or the equivalent from other institutions
  • Applicants must meet the required English language proficiency for the relevant subject area
  • More details can be found on the ‘ entry requirements’ page of the website 

How to apply

Interested candidates should contact Prof. Ruibin Bai ( for informal inquires. Full applications must contain the following documents and should be sent to All documents must be in English. If original documents are not in English, a translated English version is required in addition to the original one. An application missing any of the following document (except for English language score) is incomplete and will not be considered. The application shall be open until all scholarships are filled.

 Click for document list

  • A completed application form (all fields filled)
  • Copies of degree certificates for undergraduate and postgraduate studies with English translation (Xueli certificates are required too for applicants from Chinese universities). Applicants who obtained degrees from a Chinese university can provide the “online Verification Report of Higher Education Qualification Certificate” in English obtained from China Higher Education Student Information (CHSI中国高等教育学生信息网) as an alternative of the English translation. 
  • Official transcripts with marks for all individual modules/courses from undergraduate and postgraduate studies (with official university stamp)
  • Two references must be emailed to directly by the referees and it’s the applicant’s responsibility to notify referees in advance. 
  • English Language test score report (IELTS/PTE academic etc.) if applicable (not required for native English speakers).
  • A research proposal (For Ed.D applicants, one academic writing is required instead of research proposal).
  • A copy of passport (international applicants) or ID card (Chinese nationals, both sides of Chinese ID cards required).
  • An electronic copy of passport-sized photo taken within three months of this application.
  • A brief CV (required for Ed.D applicants only).
  • A Personal Statement (required for Faculty of Business applicants only)
  • A copy of your Masters’ dissertation, or a published paper or conference paper, or a sample of your writing work (required for International Studies applicants only).
  • Any supporting documents to demonstrate the research potential, if applicable, e.g. published papers, conference papers, patents, etc.
Please quote the scholarship reference number in your application form if you are applying for this scholarship.