EPSRC PhD Funding - A Guide for 2020 | FindAPhD.com
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EPSRC PhD Funding

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the main source of UK Government funding for PhD students in subjects such as Engineering, Physics and related subjects. A full EPSRC studentship will cover your PhD tuition fees along with your living costs and provide a grant to cover the cost of lab equipment.

In this guide, we’ve detailed how EPSRC funding works for PhD students, who is eligible and how to apply.

Or, if you think you already know what you need to, you can start searching for EPSRC PhD studentships.

On this page

What is the EPSRC?

The EPSRC is one of seven Research Councils within UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Each council manages a budget, provided by the UK Government, for research – a portion of which goes to training PhD students.

The EPSRC supports a large range of research fields from healthcare technologies to advanced materials. It does this by working with universities, businesses, charities and the government in order to create a unique environment for innovation and high-quality research.

Which PhD subjects does the EPSRC fund?

The EPSRC fund PhDs in Engineering and Physics subjects, such as:

The EPSRC also has partnerships with other UKRI members, such as the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to provide interdisciplinary funding opportunities.

What PhD funding does the EPSRC provide?

An EPSRC studentship provides the national minimum stipend set by UKRI:

  • Tuition Fee of £4,407 per year
  • Stipend of £15,285 per year (with additional funds for students based in London)
  • Research Training Support Grant (RTSG) of £5,000 to cover cost of lab equipment and consumables.

EPSRC PhD funding may also provide a travel and conference allowance of £300 for you to attend and present at conferences, as well as Disabled Student’s Allowance (DSA).

The EPSRC also has the flexibility to increase the payment above the minimum for projects in national priority subject areas.

How is EPSRC funding allocated?

The EPSRC provides funding for several thousand PhD studentships each year. These resources are allocated to universities, who advertise projects for students to apply to (you do not apply directly to the EPSRC for PhD funding).

Most EPSRC funding is delivered within specially established Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) which are set up to target priority research areas. Some studentships are also allocated to more general Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) or provided as industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (iCASE) studentships.

UKRI funding for other subjects

The funding opportunities described on this page are for Engineering and Physical Sciences PhDs. Other members of Research and Innovation allocate their own Research Council studentships for different PhD subjects.

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training

EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training are set up by networks of universities to target specific priority research areas.

Their aim is to connect distinct fields of expertise in order to train researchers with skills, knowledge and confidence to combat unique issues.

CDT usually exist within a university, or in close partnership with one (or more). Students normally receive 4 years of funding and are trained in transferrable as well as technical skills.

EPSRC CDTs for 2020

There are numerous EPSRC CDT funded centres. Each covering a unique research remit set by the EPSRC. Here are a few examples:

You can view a wider range of EPSRC CDTs on our site and look at their current projects and listings.

Studying at an EPSRC CDT

You will study as part of a cohort of other PhD students, offering a community for support and discussion throughout your PhD. Most CDT studentships use a 1+3 system where you will spend your first year undertaking an MRes to provide a strong skill foundation for the next 3 years working towards your PhD.

Students studying for a PhD at an EPSRC CDT will receive same funding as an iCASE or DTP studentship. However, the CDT studentship also includes a budget for project-specific travel costs, such as for a secondment with an industrial partner.

EPSRC iCASE studentships

It is possible for some EPSRC PhD projects to be advertised as industrial Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering (iCASE) studentships. This is where a business partners up with an academic institute to offer students access to further training and facilities.

Studying an iCASE PhD

Typically, businesses take the lead in arranging projects with existing EPSRC academic partners to provide PhD students with a more industrially focussed research training experience. Such projects tend to be more concerned with potential commercial outcomes.

You will receive the same EPSRC funding for your PhD, but your industrial collaborator may cover additional costs for your research / equipment. You will also need to spend a minimum of 3 months working within the facilities of the collaborator.

Unlike for CDTs, iCASE studentships are not managed in cohorts. However, you will still have institutional training and, in some cases, be involved in company cohort activities.

EPSRC iCASE opportunities for 2020

iCASE studentships are usually awarded by universities with existing EPSRC funding. You apply for an iCASE project through individual universities.

You can use FindAPhD to search for current EPSRC iCASE opportunities.

Eligibility

For the majority of EPSRC PhD funding, eligibility requirements follow the guidelines set out by UKRI.

Residency (and funding amounts)

  • Full studentshipsare available to UK, EU and non-EU students who have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least three years. These studentships include the fee payment, doctoral stipend and the Research Training Support Grant.
  • Partial studentshipsare available for EU nationals that reside in the EU, EEA or Switzerland. These studentships only cover the tuition fees and not the stipend.

EPSRC funding for international (non-EU) students

The EPSRC allows universities to offer up to 10% of new studentships with an ‘open eligibility’ . This is so that priority projects can attract the very best students, regardless of background. You can contact the host university to find out whether this flexibility is available for a project you are interested in applying to.

Academic requirements

EPSRC studentships are awarded on a competition basis, with the funding being allocated to the best applicants. Although there is no official minimum requirement, universities normally expect a first-class honours degree (or equivalent) or a 2.1 and a Masters in an associated subject.

When applying, make sure you pay close attention to the advertised criteria so that your application is tailored to the specific project.

Working during an EPSRC studentship

As with other UKRI funding, you cannot work full-time while receiving EPSRC funding. It is possible to work part-time, but it is advisable to get your supervisors’ advice on this as studying for a STEM PhD can involve a very demanding timetable.

Also, no matter your studentship type, you cannot receive a PhD loan at the same time as EPSRC funding (or any other UKRI funding).

Applications

Applications for EPSRC PhD funding are made to specific universities, or their CDTs and not to the EPSRC itself.

Advertised projects

The majority of EPSRC PhD funding is allocated to Centres for Doctoral Training who will advertise set numbers of studentship opportunities. Unlike other STEM funding offered by UKRI, EPSRC CDT studentships aren’t necessarily attached to pre-defined projects. The broad area for your research will be determined by the remit of the CDT, but you will identify your specific project during the programme.

Other EPSRC opportunities are more traditional: DTPs may invite students to propose projects within their broad remit; iCASE studentships will usually be advertised as very specific projects.

Application process

To apply for an EPSRC scholarship, you first need to find an advertised opportunity. Once you have found one you would like to apply for, you should read the description and prepare the necessary application materials.

Typically, in your application, you will include a personal statement (providing information on your experience and research interests), a covering letter (demonstrating your interest in the project) and a CV with appropriate referees.

If your application is successful, you will then be invited for a PhD interview which gives you the opportunity to show your willingness to undertake a PhD and discuss the project in more detail.

Application deadlines

Studentship opportunities are advertised at different times of the year depending on the CDT. Some start to advertise as early as October, whereas some don’t open until March for the following September.

Here are the application deadlines for the EPSRC CDTs listed above, for projects starting in the 2020-21 academic year:

  • LifETIME – 31 March
  • Compound Semiconductor Manufacturing – 27 March
  • WiRE – opening early 2020
  • SOFI2 – 21 February
  • MoSMed – opening early 2020
  • CoSEM – 1 May
  • iCAT – 12 January
  • Photonic Imaging, Sensing and Analysis – 28 February
  • Nuclear Energy Futures – 3 August

You can use these to get a good idea as to the anticipated deadlines for other CDTs, and for the CDT deadlines for 2021. Remember that you can use FindAPhD to browse current PhD studentships at EPSRC CDTs.

EPSRC funding application tips

EPSRC studentships are awarded on a competitive basis, so here are some tips to help with your application:

  1. Check the programme you are applying to – Each CDT carries out research to a specific remit set by the EPSRC, so it is a good idea to make sure that you are applying to a CDT you have an interest in.
  2. Contact supervisors before applying – It is always a good idea to contact potential supervisors to discuss the suitability of your research interests. For some studentships, supervisors may need to personally approve / decline your application and being in contact with them beforehand may help with this.
  3. Check application requirements – The application process for EPSRC PhD funding varies more than for other Research Councils. Some applications require a research proposal for your intended project, whereas others will only be assessing your general suitability for a research programme. There may also be policies on what references you can include in your application. The safest bet is always to double check the requirements for the specific studentship you are applying to.
  4. Check your qualifications – Studentships at different universities require different academic requirements – some may need a Masters regardless of your undergraduate degree grade. Others require you to have relevant experience (i.e. from a placement) in place of this.

Most listed studentships provide a detailed timeline indicating when you should expect to hear back about your application, and when the interviews are planned to take place.

Search for EPSRC PhD funding

You can check individual CDTs and DTP websites as well as the listed EPSRC-funded PhD opportunities here on FindAPhD.

Further information

Check the EPSRC and UKRI websites for additional funding details.

Last updated – 26/02/2020

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