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Facebook expands AI Ph.D. research program to University College London

The AI research program, which already boasts 30 students in France, will now offer opportunities at UCL.

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Facebook AI will be embarking on a four-year partnership with UCL.

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook is expanding its AI doctoral program to the UK as part of a four-year research partnership with University College London, the company announced Tuesday. Students of the program will spend time at both UCL and Facebook as they pursue projects that can contribute to the company's efforts to publish open-source research.

Facebook's efforts in the world of artificial intelligence can be seen across all of its products, from using machine learning to provide content in different languages, to tracking hand movements in Oculus VR, to helping remove hate speech and other harmful content. The company works in collaboration with the global academic community in order to ensure that its own research complements and is also accessible to other AI researchers through the open-sourcing of its work.

"Working so closely with academia has been a huge positive for us over the last decade, and it's something we're going to do much more of in the coming years," said Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, announcing the Ph.D. program expansion in a speech to the Oxford University Student Union.

The program will be run in part by Facebook AI Research, a division of the company that has an existing lab in London. The program has already onboarded four students, and three more will join in the autumn, with room for more students to join in each subsequent year of the partnership. There are already 30 doctoral students in FAIR's program in France, where Facebook also has a major AI hub.

Facebook already has strong links with UCL, which boasts the top-ranked computer science research department in the UK, according to the Research Excellence Framework. For each student who joins the program, Facebook will invest £170,000 at the university for the duration.

"Through the arrangements of this program, our PhD students have access to the people and resources from a world-leading academic institution in AI such as UCL and also from FAIR, a world-leading industrial research lab," said Pontus Stenetorp, who leads the Natural Language Processing group at UCL, in a statement. "This makes the program something very special indeed and should appeal to any student that seeks to kick-start a career in AI."