ESRC postgraduate strategy

Postgraduate training strategy 2017 to 2023

In November 2014 we launched our new postgraduate training strategy, which sets out how we will support postgraduate training over the period 2017 to 2023. This guided the commissioning of our new doctoral training partnerships (DTPs) and two centres for doctoral training (CDT).


The principal objective of our postgraduate training strategy is to deliver excellence in postgraduate training by building on the considerable strengths that exist across the social science community. We aim to support the development of highly capable and innovative researchers for a wide range of careers.

Key points

Direct the majority of investment to doctoral training partnerships (formerly doctoral training centres)

There is clear support for our current approach and evidence that the DTC network is successful in equipping cohorts of social science postgraduates with excellent research and other key skills. We want to build on this success and so the majority of our investment in postgraduate training will continue to be delivered through a network of doctoral training partnerships (DTPs). The name change is due to cross-research council harmonisation of terminology where centres that provide training for students across a broad range of subjects are now known as DTPs instead of DTCs.

Introduce up to five specialised centres for doctoral training (CDT) and enhance the capacity-building dimension of centres and large grants

Each CDT will support a minimum of 10 studentships.

We intend to reserve 10% of the training budget to provide flexibility over the six-year funding period. This will enable us to work collaboratively with other research councils and partners to be more responsive to new or emerging research issues or urgent skills gaps. We plan to introduce up to five CDTs and enhance the capacity building dimension of centres and large grants by increasing the number of studentships they can apply for.

CDTs are distinct from DTPs in that they will develop and deliver specialist training in focused thematic interdisciplinary research areas. CDTs will be developed with a non-academic partner or partners and we will expect at least 20% of the funding to come from an external partner or partners.

The CDTs will be brought on stream over six years, the first two being commissioned at the same time as the DTPs. Funding will be for three cohorts of students. As CDTs are focused investments we will expect the principal investigator to be a research leader in the area. Universities that submit multiple bids must describe how they will coordinate/support the centres should all bids be successful, including strategies for sharing best practice.

Make the DTP or CDT network more permeable

HEIs that are not part of the DTP Network will be able to apply to be a CDT and also to include studentships as part of their centre or large grant applications. We will incentivise collaborations which include what might be discipline-specific, local pockets of excellence in their applications, through the provision of additional studentships.

HEIs will only be allowed to be part of one DTP proposal. In addition they can apply for CDTs but can only be part of one CDT proposal per individual CDT funding opportunity.

Consolidate the DTP network

Studying as part of a cohort has been shown to be hugely beneficial to students in terms of the support they receive from one another and also the training opportunities available to them. We are therefore keen to increase the size of our cohorts and intend to consolidate the DTP network to approximately 15 centres. The final number will depend on the quality of the applications and the spending review. Both single institutions and consortia will be eligible to apply into the funding opportunity although all DTP applications will be required to be multidisciplinary. There will not be a limit on the number of institutions which can be involved in consortia.

Further information


Last updated: 12 September 2023

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