Research course

PhD Natural Language Processing

Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence

Entry requirements

Completed Degree

Bachelor’s degree in a S.T.E.M field such as Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mathematics, Physics and other relevant Science and Engineering majors, from a university accredited or recognized by the UAE Ministry of Education (MoE) which demonstrates academic distinction in a discipline appropriate for the doctoral degree. Students should have a minimum CGPA of 3.5 (on a 4.0 scale) or equivalent.


Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in S.T.E.M fields such as Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mathematics, Physics and other relevant Science and Engineering majors, from a university accredited or recognized by the UAE Ministry of Education (MoE). Students should have a minimum CGPA of 3.2 (on a 4.0 scale) or equivalent.

Applicants must provide their completed degree certificates and transcripts (in English) when submitting their application. Senior-level students can apply initially with a copy of their transcript and expected graduation letter and upon admission must submit official completed degree certificate and transcript. A degree attestation (for degrees from the UAE) or an equivalency certificate (for degrees acquired outside the UAE) should also be furnished within their first semester at the university

English Language Proficiency

Each applicant has to show proof of English language ability by providing valid certificate copies of either of the following:

    • TOEFL iBT with a minimum overall score of 90
    • IELTS Academic with a minimum overall score of 6.5
    • EmSAT English with a minimum score of 1550

TOEFL iBT and IELTS Academic certificates are valid for two (2) years from the date of the exam while EmSAT results are valid for eighteen (18) months. Only standard versions (i.e, conducted at physical test centers) of the accepted English language proficiency exams will be considered.

Waiver requests from eligible applicants who are citizens (by passport or nationality) of UK, USA, Australia, and New Zealand who completed their studies from K-12 until Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree (if applicable) from those same countries will be processed. They need to submit notarized copies of their documents during the application stage and attested documents upon admission. Waiver decisions will be given within seven days after receiving all requirements.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)Optional for MSc graduates

A valid and standard (i.e., exam was conducted at a physical test center) Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test certificate with the following minimum scores is mandatory for applicants applying with only a Bachelor’s degree:

  • 150 in Verbal Reasoning
  • 150 in Quantitative Reasoning
  • 3.0 in Analytical Writing

It is optional for applicants with both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and submitting one will be considered a plus during the evaluation.

Statement of Purpose

In an 800-word essay, please explain why you would like to pursue a graduate degree at MBZUAI and include the following information:

    • Motivation for applying to the university
    • Personal and academic background and how it makes you suitable for the program you are applying for
    • Stand-out achievements, e.g., awards, distinction, etc.
    • Goals as a prospective student
    • Preferred career path and plans after graduation
    • Any other details that will support the application

Research Statement

The Research Statement should summarize the potential research project an applicant is interested in working on and clearly justify the research gap which the applicant would like to fill in over the course of his/her study. It must be presented in the context of currently existing literature and provide an overview of how the applicant aims to investigate the underlying research project as well as predict the expected outcomes. It should mention the relevance and suitability of the applicant’s background and experience to the project and highlight the project’s scientific and commercial significance. The research statement should include the following details:

    • Title
    • Problem definition
    • Literature review
    • Proposed research/methods/solution (optional)
    • Study timeline (a table, figure or a small paragraph presenting your plans for the 4 years in the PhD program)
    • List of references

Applicants are expected to write the research statement independently. MBZUAI faculty will NOT help write it for the purpose of the application. The MBZUAI selection team will review the submitted document and use it as one of the measures to gauge and assess applicants’ skills.

Referee Recommendation

Applicants will be required to nominate referees who can recommend their application. PhD applicants should have a minimum of three (3) referees wherein two were previous course instructors or faculty/research advisors and the other a previous work supervisor.

To avoid issues and delays in the provision of the recommendation, applicants have to inform their referees of their nomination beforehand and provide the latter's accurate information in the online application portal. Automated notifications will be sent out to the referees upon application submission.

Entry Exam

Selected applicants will be invited to participate in an entry exam that will include questions related to the following topics:

    • Math: basic Math questions related to calculus, probability theory, linear algebra and optimisation

You are recommended to read about these topics especially on how they are related to Machine Learning. You can find tons of materials online. For instance, you can search “linear algebra for machine learning” on YouTube and get to see many video lectures. In addition, you can find courses on sites like Coursera, Udemy, and many others.

    • Machine Learning

PhD applicants: Basic understanding of different machine learning algorithms and concepts such as linear regression, decision trees, loss functions, support vector machines, classification, regression, clustering, convolutional neural networks, etc is important. You don’t have to master these concepts but you need to have basic knowledge especially PhD applicants. They are a lot of online courses and tutorial to get you prepared. You will find video lectures on YouTube, Coursera, Udemy, and many others.

    • Programming

PhD applicants: Strong programming background is important. You will be asked programming questions. Most questions are in Python but the specific language is not a problem since the questions are algorithmic rather than language-specific. Therefore, it is important to read about different data structures such as Arrays, Stacks, Queues, etc. It is also important to read about different programming algorithms such as sorting and searching algorithms, and complexity. You will be asked questions which require finding the output of a piece of code, finding the problem/error in a short code, and finding the code which performs a specific task.

Admission Interview

Months of entry


Course content

NLP focuses on system development that allows computers to communicate with people using everyday language. Natural language generation systems convert information from the computer database into readable or audible human language and vice versa. Such systems also enable sophisticated tasks such as inter-language translation, semantic understanding, text summarization and holding a dialog. The key applications of NLP algorithms include interactive voice response applications, automated translators, digital personal assistants (e.g., Siri, Cortana, Alexa), chatbots, and smart word processors.

For full details see programme URL.

Research Excellence Framework (REF) score


Fees and funding

UK students
International students

All admitted students on full-time basis are granted upon acceptance the privilege to complete their study with a full scholarship including 100% tuition fees, accommodation , health insurance and other benefits.

A monthly allowance will be provided to all admitted students during their study period at MBZUAI. However, and in order to maintain their scholarships, stipends and other benefits, students are expected to maintain high academic standing, comply with the University code of conduct and fulfill certain requirements during their study tenure.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • PhD
    full time
    48 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

James Brown