You don't apply directly to the BBSRC for PhD funding. Instead studentships are allocated to DTPs and CTPs who advertise them on their own websites, on university websites and here on FindAPhD.
Most BBSRC projects have pre-defined aims and objectives. There will be scope to adopt different methodologies and respond to new directions that emerge from your research, but the research question you will be exploring will already be set out for you.
Some DTP projects may be a little more flexible, inviting students to propose their own approaches and objectives within the broad limits of universities' resources and facilities. CTP projects will usually be much more defined as their outcomes will line up with the interests and objectives of industrial partners.
It is very rare for students to receive BBSRC funding for a project they have designed and proposed entirely independently.
The first step in applying for BBSRC PhD funding is to find an advertised project to apply to. Once you have done that you should read the description carefully and prepare the necessary application materials.
These will probably include a personal statement (detailing your academic background, research interests and objectives) a covering letter (explaining your interest in the project and your suitability for it) and details of appropriate referees.
If you are shortlisted, you will usually be invited to a PhD interview and given the opportunity to discuss your application in more detail.
DTPs will generally advertise BBSRC studentships to commence in the autumn semester (September / October) and set the same deadline for them.
Here are the application deadlines for PhD studentships at BBSRC DTPs for projects beginning in the 2023-24 academic year:
- EASTBIO – 5 December 2022
- LIDo – 10 January 2023
- Manchester – 9 December 2022
- MIBTP – tbc
- NLD – tbc
- Norwich Research Park – 21 November 2022
- Nottingham – tbc
- Oxford – 6 January 2023
- SWBio – 5 December 2022
- White Rose – tbc
- Foodbio - tbc
- SoCoBio - tbc
These dates are for PhDs starting in Autumn 2023. You can use them to get an indicative idea of deadlines for projects in 2024, but the exact details may change. One way to stay up to date with new project advertisements is to sign up to our PhD newsletter: we'll email you each week with new projects that have become available in your subject area/s.
CTPs will usually set specific deadlines for each project they advertise.
BBSRC funding application tips
Applications for BBSRC funding are competitive, but there are a few things you can do to make sure you have the best chance of success:
- Read carefully and respond specifically – Applications for advertised PhD projects are a bit like applications for jobs (they even come with a 'salary'). You need to show that you fit the job description and the best way to do that is to read it, carefully, and respond to it, specifically.
- Read around the project description too – Really good applicants will demonstrate a sense of how an advertised project fits into the current scientific landscape. You don't have to be an expert yet (you're applying for the PhD, not sitting the viva voce exam) but it won't hurt to look at some recent journal articles on related topics.
- Don't just copy and paste – There's nothing wrong with applying to more than one PhD project, but avoid the temptation to re-use lots of material. If you keep it generic, it won't be very good (see above); if you only edit specific details you risk accidentally addressing the wrong university (it happens); and if you edit the whole thing thoroughly you may as well just write a new one.
- Remember there's (hopefully) an interview – Having an interview as part of your PhD selection process can help your application: it lets you include concise details in the knowledge that you can expand on them later, if need be. But it can also catch you out if you include inaccurate details and can't expand on them later.
- Give yourself enough time – Don't rush your application or start it at the last minute. Even if you can think you can get a personal statement and covering letter written up, you almost certainly won't have time to really engage with the project description or give enough notice for references.
Most DTPs and CTPs will provide application timetables saying when you should hear back, when interviews may take place and when successful candidates will be notified.