Update on NERC future doctoral provision

The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is rebalancing its doctoral provision from 2024.

This will enable NERC to respond flexibly to research challenges while maintaining investment in training.

It also supports the transition to collective talent funding across UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) with the aim of improving the flow of talent across disciplines and sectors in research and innovation.

Rebalancing doctoral provision

From 2024 NERC is adjusting the balance of its training portfolio investment, directing more studentships into NERC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs).

CDTs support the development of researchers that are able to deliver solutions to societal challenges.

This will enable NERC to adapt and respond more flexibly to specific challenges across its own portfolio while also considering collective opportunities across UKRI in the future.

Investment in CDTs will continue to be complemented by investment in Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) but the balance between the two is changing.

DTPs support the development of researchers who are vital to maintaining blue skies research, pure science and academic freedom of thought.

Together, CDTs and DTPs form the pipeline of researchers so critical to supporting the general health of the environmental sciences research base.

Future opportunities: DTP3

The next phase of DTPs will launch in January 2024.

Applications will be open until May 2024 with outcomes announced in October 2024.

The first cohort will start in October 2025.

These DTPs will support and train the next generation of environmental science researchers who are equipped with technical, professional and career development skills applicable to a diverse range of careers.

Future opportunities: CDTs

In 2023 NERC launched two funding opportunities for CDTs, the first focused on mineral resources for the energy transition and a second open funding opportunity.

In total, four new CDTs will be funded, with the first cohorts starting in October 2024.
In line with our plans to increase investment in CDTs and following a strong response to our open funding opportunity in 2023, funding will be available to support four new CDTs per year.

The next funding opportunity will be an open round, where applicants will be asked to identify the challenge of focus for the CDT and justify the specific need for doctoral training in this area.

This funding opportunity is expected to launch in February 2024.

UKRI collective talent

As part of UKRI’s collective talent funding a new doctoral investment framework will be launched from January 2024.

This will frame our doctoral funding around the two types of award that we make, harmonising and simplifying UKRI’s doctoral offer across the councils:

  • doctoral focal awards will include funding for specific, tightly focused themes or challenges, CDTs will sit under this scheme
  • doctoral landscape awards will include broader or more flexible funding, DTPs will set under this scheme

The DTP3 and CDT funding opportunities opening in 2024 will see some changes reflected in the questions and language found in the application process as we harmonise and simplify our offering across UKRI.

Further information

The rebalancing of the training portfolio will raise student numbers overall by increasing CDT studentships from 24 per year to 96 per year by 2026 and 2027 and decreasing DTP studentships from around 235 per year to 185 from DTP3.

Further details on the funding opportunities for DTP3 and CDTs will follow in early 2024.

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