Dual-award between The University of Manchester and The University of Melbourne

The University of Manchester has existing, highly productive links with The University of Melbourne and is extending this relationship to our Global Doctoral Research Network (GOLDEN) by establishing another cohort of collaborative postgraduate research projects.

Applications for the fifth cohort of collaborative postgraduate research projects are now open. 

About Dr Isabel Clifton Cookson

A pioneering Australian palaeobotanist, Dr Isabel Clifton Cookson (1893-1973) received her first-class honours in biology and zoology from the University of Melbourne. After graduating she received a government research scholarship to study flora in the Northern Territory, and then travelled to England to work alongside Professor Lang, a specialist in fossil plants at The University of Manchester.

During her 58-year career, Dr Cookson authored and co-authored 93 scientific publications. Her papers on fossil plants are said to have helped to shape theories of early plant evolution.

What is a dual-award programme?

This dual-award programme offers candidates the opportunity to apply for a project with a strong supervisory team both in Manchester and Melbourne. A dual-award is a PhD programme that leads to awards from two partner institutions, which recognise the contribution of the collaborating institution. PhD candidates will be registered at both Manchester and Melbourne and must complete all of the requirements of the PhD programme in both the home and partner university.

PhD candidates will begin their PhD in Manchester and will then spend at least 12 months in Melbourne. The amount of time spent at Manchester and Melbourne will be dependent upon the project and candidates will work with their supervisory team in the first year to set out the structure of the project.

PhD candidates on a dual-award programme can experience research at two quality institutions and applying for a dual-award programme will support you to develop a global perspective and will open the door to new job opportunities. Boost your intercultural skills and experience the opportunities studying in Melbourne and Manchester provide by applying to one of our available projects in the scheme

You can read about the existing projects on Melbourne’s website.


You will spend at least 12 months at each institution and will receive a dual PhD at the end of the three and a half year programme. 

Funding for the programme will include tuition fees, an annual stipend at the minimum Research Councils UK rate (TBC for 2023/24), a research training grant and student travel to Melbourne. 

How to apply

Available projects will be listed below. The expected start date for candidates in Manchester-based projects is September 2024. 

Candidates will need to meet the minimum entry requirements of both Universities to be accepted and will be registered at both institutions for the duration of the programme. The entry criteria for the University of Melbourne can be found on their ‘How to Apply’ webpage.

Candidates looking to apply for a Manchester-based project are encouraged to contact the named Manchester supervisor for an initial discussion before submitting an official application form. 

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is fundamental to the success of the University of Manchester and is at the heart of all of our activities. We know that diversity strengthens our research community leading to enhanced research creativity, productivity and quality and increases our societal and economic impact.

We actively encourage applicants from diverse career paths and backgrounds and from all sections of the community regardless of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation and transgender status. All appointments are made on merit.

The University of Manchester and our external partners are fully committed to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion



Available projects

You can browse our available projects below.

Multi-criteria Automatic Algorithm Configuration under Streaming Problem Instances

This project will be based at The University of Manchester, with a 12 months spent at the University of Melbourne.

Project description:

Many critical problems in logistics, manufacturing, healthcare, and other fields are solved by optimisation and machine learning algorithms. Due to advances in automatic configuration tools, we’re now able to automatically tune the parameters of these algorithms for new problems with minimal human effort. Unfortunately, these tools are designed to tune algorithms according to a single criterion and assume that the characteristics of a problem don’t change over time. In the real-world, however, users of these algorithms often face conflicting criteria, such as the time required to solve the problem versus the expected quality of the solution returned by the algorithm. Moreover, it’s often the case that similar problems must be solved regularly (ie daily), for example in a parcel delivery service, a manufacturing plant processing orders in daily batches or the daily planning of operating theatres in hospitals. In those cases, the characteristics of the daily instances of the problem may evolve over time due to economical, societal and technological changes.

This project aims to extend the capabilities of automatic configuration tools to handle multiple conflicting criteria and adapt to changes in the problem characteristics. For this purpose, the teams at Manchester and Melbourne will join their expertise in automatic configuration of algorithms and instance space analysis.

This project will result in more powerful tools for tuning and deploying the critical algorithms that our modern world relies on, so that they can better adapt to changes in the problems being solved and let users decide the most appropriate trade-off among conflicting criteria.

Supervisory Team:


Fur and Feathers: colour, structure and flow control

This project will be based at The University of Manchester, with 12 months spent at the University of Melbourne.

Project description:

The objective of this exciting cross-disciplinary project is to investigate the potential of a bio-inspired coating of flexible devices to passively modify energetic modes of an unsteady crossflow, and to assess, for the first time, the role of colour in determining mechanical properties.

We seek an exceptional candidate with a strong first degree in Physics, Maths, Engineering or Bioengineering. The candidate should be keen to travel, spending at least 12 months in Melbourne. They must have some prior programming experience and should be able to evidence their ability to work across disciplines.

This project will build on recent interest in the bioengineering field focused on understanding the underlying potential of bio-inspired surfaces for future engineering applications. The role of filamentous structures such as feathers or fur is of particular interest since they exist as both branched and unbranched forms, they are actively controlled by muscles, and their effects on flow are complex and under-studied. Colour is known to have a direct impact on the mechanical properties of hairs and feathers, due to the structural role of melanin in the keratin strands that form them. In this way, colour is thought to directly affect structural endurance of the material, via UV resistance, but it has not been proven. Furthermore, ‘structural colour’ results from microscopic features that interfere with visible light, enabling them to reflect a far greater, sometimes iridescent, range of colours than would be possible from pigmentation alone. From a biological perspective this is interesting – which came first and why?

The coordinated response of arrays of fur/feathers to a flow instability is little understood, generally restricted either to the most simplified of scenarios or bulk analysis of more complex cases. The premise of this work is that a large group of flexible fibres can be configured as a filter, with pre-determinable bulk properties. The hypothesis is that the passive response of an array of fur/feathers can be made to either dampen or amplify energy at selected frequencies. Furthermore, a smart inhomogeneous arrangement of such structures may be able to redistribute energy across multiple frequencies. The resulting surface would have important consequences for engineering applications, where drag and noise reduction is paramount, or for energy harvesting devices designed to extract ambient energy. The parameter space of such a system is vast, and we navigate these dimensions by considering cases arising in nature, where conditions are clearly defined for given species. We will make use of existing data to categorise the structure of a range of filamentous structures for bird and mammal skin that are candidates for flow modification (such as penguin/cormorant feathers; seal/beaver fur). We link engineering fluid dynamics with world-leading natural science research at both institutions, to explore animal locomotion and the link between the colour, form and structure of natural coatings, to find out whether there is a link between performance and colour.

Supervisory Team: