Since the inception of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the 1950s, a central vision of the field has been of machines that can understand spoken and written human language.
This capability would enable natural interaction between people and computers, translation between all human languages, and tools to analyse and answer questions about vast archives of text and speech.
Speech and Language Technologies (SLTs) are a range of approaches which allow computer programs or electronic devices to analyse, produce, modify or respond to human texts and speech.
SLTs are underpinned by a number of fundamental research fields including natural language processing (NLP / NLProc), computational linguistics, mathematics, machine learning, physics, psychology, computer science, acoustics, and speech processing.
In the last two decades the societal shift to digital media, coupled with spectacular advances in computer storage, processing power and software capabilities, especially in machine learning and SLTs, has meant this vision is no longer science fiction but is turning into reality.
SLTs are now established as core scientific/engineering disciplines within AI and have grown into a world-wide multi-billion dollar industry, with massive application potential.
What is our CDT?
Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) bring together diverse areas of expertise to train engineers and scientists with the skills, knowledge and confidence to tackle today’s evolving issues, and future challenges. They also provide a supportive and exciting environment for students, create new working cultures, build relationships between teams in universities and forge lasting links with industry.
Students are funded for four years and doctoral programmes include technical and transferrable skills training, as well as a research element. We are funded by UKRI, the University of Sheffield as well as industry.
The UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Speech and Language Technologies (SLT) opened in 2019 and will host 60 students over a period of 8 years.
The CDT is hosted within the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield which is itself a world-leading institution in the field of speech and NLP. The department has an international reputation for the quality of its research as confirmed by its performance in the most recent Research Excellence Framework audit (REF – the UK Government’s national assessment of university research) in which 92% of our research work was rated world leading (4*) or internationally excellent (3*) in terms of its originality, significance and rigour. The Department ranks 5th out of 89 computer science departments in the UK.
The Department has arguably the largest mass of Speech and Language Technologies researchers in a single department in the UK and has an outstanding track record in research grant awards, impact and award of PhDs; in addition, they have an extensive set of international industrial collaborators, across many sectors and ranging from SMEs to global players.
The CDT goes far beyond standard research training. Students undertake a unique Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) with Integrated Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in SLT Leadership programme.
Students and industry work with a team of over 20 internationally leading SLT researchers, covering all core areas of modern SLT research within the context of a PhD project. These projects are underpinned by a real-world application defined by our industry partners.