The ESRC provides funding to their network of DTPs and CDTs but not directly to students. This means that all applications must be made directly to a university, or to the DTP or CDT it is part of.
Self-proposed projects vs advertised projects
Most ESRC DTP studentships ask potential student to propose their own research topics and submit a research proposal for it. These projects are guided by an expert supervisory team and may involve working with external partners that allow you access to data, equipment or participants for your project.
Other projects are designed by universities and advertised in advance, with pre-defined questions, aims and objectives. These research areas have been developed by the academic supervisors that you will work with during your PhD.
Along with your research proposal, you will usually need to also include a personal statement (detailing your academic background and research interests), CV and covering letter (stating your suitability and interest in the project).
If your application is successful, you will then be invited for a PhD interview, where you will be able to discuss the PhD project application further.
Individual DTPs and CDTs set their own closing dates for applications, and as such, prospective students should contact the programme you wish to apply to directly. For the majority of the time, they open for applications September / October for projects starting in the following October. However, some DTPs offer studentships throughout the year, each with its own closing date.
Here are the deadlines for the current DTPs starting in October 2023:
- Cambridge Social Science – tbc
- Grand Union – 11 / 13 January 2023, depending on institution
- London Interdisciplinary Social Science – 27 January 2023
- LSE – 16 December 2022
- Midlands Graduate School – 24 January 2023
- Northern Ireland and North East (NINE) – 20 January 2023
- North West Social Sciences – 1 February 2023
- Scottish Graduate School of Social Sciences – 8 December 2022
- The South Coast – tbc
- South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS) – 20 January 2023
- South West – tbc
- UBEL – 31 January 2023
- Wales – February 2023 (exact date tbc)
- White Rose Social Sciences – 25 January 2023
These dates are for projects starting in 2023 only. The exact dates will probably change for 2024, but you can use these to get a general idea for future deadlines.
ESRC funding application tips
ESRC studentships are very competitive. Here are some tips to help you with your application:
- Think about what makes your project worth funding – The majority of ESRC studentships are proposed by students, this makes it all the more important for your proposal to have an impact. Explain why your project is important and what makes your research worthwhile.
- Give yourself time to prepare – Proposals take time to write. On top of that, you also have to prepare your cover letter and update your CV. Start early so you don’t miss the application deadline.
- Think about the studentship you want – The ESRC offers different lengths of studentships so it’s good to know which one you need to apply to first. Whether that be a 1+3 or +3 or maybe the +4. If you already have a Masters degree, or your Masters isn’t relevant, it’s probably best to go for the 1+3. However, if your Masters degree is relevant and provided training for most of the ‘core training requirements’ then apply for the +3.
- Contact potential supervisors – Not only will this show your interest in the project, it will also mean supervisors will recognise your name when your application is put in. Plus, they may also help you with your research proposal. Just make sure you contact supervisors that have research interests close to your proposed project, that way they are more likely to take an interest in your ideas and move forward with them.