Large grant associated studentships

Large grants from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) support innovative, large-scale and complex research tackling big science questions, and have the potential to produce world-leading research.

Associated studentships based at UK organisations can be funded through NERC large grants. These studentships provide individuals with specialist and generalist skills that are valuable both to our community and the UK economy more generally. However, the grant is not based on the delivery of particular specialist skills (such as to meet a specific skills gap or need).

Find out more about NERC large grants you can apply for.

Applying for a large grant associated studentship

The research undertaken through a project studentship should be closely associated with and add value to the work carried out in the main research grant, but should still constitute a distinct project.

The main research grant should still be viable without the studentship, and should have distinct objectives that are not reliant on the studentship.

The student is expected to be able to develop new research ideas while benefiting from working in a unique training environment affording opportunities such as:

  • being embedded within a managed programme
  • exposure to wider research group interaction, for example at science meetings
  • transferable professional, technical, and personal development training

As part of the main application for the NERC large grants funding opportunity, you can request an associated studentship for your proposal.

NERC will not accept proposals where a student is the only dedicated researcher or staff member on a grant, including individual component grants of joint proposals.

Large grant associated studentships must receive the same level of provision of training and supervision that would be expected for any other NERC research student.

See terms and conditions for training funding for information on studentship training expectations.

Assessment process for large grant associated studentships

The panel for the relevant funding opportunity will assess the appropriateness of the proposed studentship project. If the large grant application is recommended for funding, you will then be required to submit further information to ensure that the provision of training, supervision and delivery will be equivalent to that expected for other NERC studentships.

To ensure that associated studentships meet NERC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) training expectations, all associated studentship applications will then be assessed under the following NERC success criteria:

  • training excellence
  • multidisciplinary training environment
  • recruiting and nurturing talent

These criteria will be assessed by members of the NERC talent and skills team.

See more information on the assessment criteria:

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)

We must ensure that we support the most talented students whatever their background and regardless of where and when they undertook their first degree.

To ensure this happens, NERC requires that DEI principles are embedded at all levels and in all aspects of studentship research and training practice. You should refer to NERC’s best practice principles in recruitment and training at doctoral level. If your associated studentship application is successful, you will be expected to implement these best practice principles.

NERC expects you to think imaginatively and demonstrate your strategy for DEI. This will enable wide participation and promote postgraduate research to a diverse base of talented graduate students if your proposal is recommended for funding by the panel.

Consideration should be given to flexibility and ability to address individual student needs within the studentships.

Available funding

Funding for large grant associated studentships is included in a large grant application. If successful, stipend and fees costs will be funded at 100% and other costs provided at 80% full economic cost.

You may hold a project studentship as a CASE award.


The eligibility criteria for research organisations intending to apply for a large grant and requesting an associated studentship are included in the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

Last updated: 11 September 2023

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