PhD opportunities available in collaboration with North East businesses

Are you interested in a funded PhD to start 1st October, working on exciting research in collaboration with regional businesses?

Check out the range of Intensive Industrial Innovation Projects funded by the European Regional Development Fund. Topics range from exploring the implications of smart devices on ageing at home to investigating the use of building information modelling to supplement planning processes.

Apply by midnight 16th July 2018. Full details here:

Northumbria University is seeking applications for PhD studentships, to work closely with business in the region, as part of the £3.9m Intensive Industrial Innovation Programme (IIIP) funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The IIIP Programme aims to encourage a culture of innovation that benefits business, leading to greater export opportunities and increased graduate employment, particularly in science and engineering. The IIIP Programme is a collaboration between Northumbria, Durham, Newcastle and Teesside Universities.

During each PhD project, the research student will work closely with the collaborating business, using innovative research to support the development of new products and services. Students will spend up to 49% of their time working with the business and at least 51% of their time at Northumbria University.

The PhD projects will start on 1st October 2018, for three years. The eligibility criteria for PhD candidates:

  • The IIIP PhD funding is available to Home and EU students.
  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. 2.1 (or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities; or a Masters, or APEL evidence of suitable practitioner achievement)
  • Applicants cannot apply for this funding if currently engaged in Doctoral study at Northumbria University or elsewhere


Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 Fellowships in Science and Engineering

Thomas Edison at Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield by The Henry Ford CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Thomas Edison at Menlo Park Laboratory in Greenfield by The Henry Ford CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 has a range of science and engineering fellowship and studentship opportunities currently available, including Research Fellowships, Industrial Fellowships, Industrial Design Studentships and (from June 2015) Built Environment Fellowships:

I’m hosting a short briefing and Q&A session for staff interested in these schemes next Tuesday 2nd December from 10-11am in Great Hall, Sutherland Building. Dr Martin Birkett, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical and Construction Engineering and previously holder of an Industrial Fellowship, will be talking about his experiences both in applying successfully for this award and undertaking the fellowship.

As some of these opportunities are relevant to recent graduates, you may wish to encourage suitable candidates to attend.

If you would like to attend, please email Kerri Jude ( by Monday 1st December at 12pm, so that we can arrange catering.


Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 – Fellowships announced

Fellowship Advertisement 2013The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 (or @royalcom1851 as its known to its Twitter followers) has recently announced the latest round of its Fellowships funding schemes. Three types of fellowship are available with different deadlines:

Research Fellowships: “Intended to give early career scientists or engineers of exceptional promise an opportunity to conduct a research project of their own instigation.” These offer a flat rate stipend payable over three years for the successful applicants, plus £3,000/annum to cover research expenses and travel. Approximately 8 awards are made per year. Deadline: 20th February 2014.

Industrial Fellowships“Aim to encourage profitable innovation and creativity in British Industry by supporting research leading to a patented product or process in conjunction with a PhD/EngD. [These awards are] open to outstanding first degree graduates in engineering, science or medicine”. The awards pay university student fees, 50% of salary, £3,500 travel grant per annum and £10,000 grant to the university department paid on completion. 8 awards were made in last year’s competition. Deadline: 23rd January 2014.

Industrial Design Studentships“Aim to stimulate industrial design capability among the country’s most able science and engineering graduates”. The awards pay tuition fees, a stipend of £10,000, plus £850 for materials. As in the two Fellowships, around 8 awards are made per year. Deadline: 30th April 2014.

Anyone interested in applying should contact your Research Funding and Policy Manager in RBS in good time to get help and support with your application. Incidentally, in this year’s call the Royal Commission are accepting email submissions, rather than hard copy only, which should make things easier all round.


Northumbria-led consortium is AHRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Art and Design

AHRC CDT announcement feature imageA partnership led by Northumbria University and involving The University of Sunderland, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and the National Glass Centre, Sunderland, has been named as one of just seven Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) funded by the AHRC in a press release today.

The Northumbria-Sunderland Consortium will deliver world-class, innovative research training to PhD students in art and design over the next five years. The competition to win this award was intense and the quality of all applications was very high. The Northumbria-Sunderland bid was praised for its clear evidence of innovation and the way in which it builds on and enhances the existing relationship between the partners.

Through this call the AHRC will fund two types of doctoral training consortia: Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs), which are large awards offering studentships across the range of AHRC’s remit; and CDTs, which are more focused consortia awards offering training, skills and capacity in priority disciplinary areas.

Over the next five years the AHRC will be providing the 11 funded DTPs and the 7 CDTs with £164m of funding which equates to 495 new full time studentships per year. This is a significant investment for AHRC, amounting to one third of its total current budget.

The Northumbria press office adds:

‘As a CDT, Northumbria and Sunderland will offer training, skills and capacity for art and design postgraduate research, building on existing partnerships with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Sunderland’s National Glass Centre. This award follows the consortium’s previous success in AHRC’s first round of Block Grant Partnership funding, which funded studentships between 2008 and 2013.

Supporting the core research work of both Northumbria and Sunderland Universities, the award will support a number of studentships and also provide placement opportunities and additional training in research skills. It will also create opportunities for joint supervision, student events and conferences and peer support networks.

Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University, said: “These studentships will create life-changing opportunities for some of the nation’s most talented prospective new researchers in the arts, reflecting the AHRC’s strategy for producing world-class postgraduates.

“The Council’s award is an indicator of Northumbria University’s growing research strengths in arts disciplines, building on our award-winning collaboration with BALTIC, and will significantly enhance our interaction with the creative economy.”’

In addition to the success achieved by the Northumbria-Sunderland Consortium, Northumbria University has also been named as a partner in another successful CDT on Heritage, led by Hull University.


No More Project Studentships from AHRC or ESRC

Money Money Money by Images of Money CC BY 2.0The AHRC and ESRC have recently announced a change in their policy on project/grant-linked studentships – these are funded PhD studentships which can be attached to standard responsive mode research grants. From 1st November 2013 applications to the standard grants schemes of either research council will no longer be able to include project studentships. Proposals submitted before that date will still be able to include project studentships.

This announcement brings both AHRC and ESRC into step with the other research councils, which have already ditched individual project studentships in favour of larger doctoral training centres and block grant allocations of studentships to HEIs. These large awards are usually centred around specific themes or areas of research strength, with a periodic competition to assign centre status/block grants. In addition to block grants/centre applications, several research councils (e.g. NERC) currently assign studentships to HEIs on the basis of the amount of research grant funding awarded per year.

This is arguably more of a significant shift in policy for AHRC than ESRC, since ESRC would only accept project studentship applications from organisations which had already been granted doctoral training centre status. AHRC project studentships, in contrast, are open to any applicant – regardless of whether they are based in an HEI with a block studentship grant – as long as they can make a strong case for the inclusion of a studentship on the project.

The only exception to this policy, from the AHRC’s perspective at least, is for bids submitted under the current ‘Connected Communities and Design’ highlight notice (which closes on 15 January 2014) or where the call specifically states that you may apply for capacity-building studentships alongside the grant. In these cases only you will still be able to apply for project studentships after the 1st November cut-off date.


Northumbria University Research Degree Studentships

phd notes by Wrote CC BY-NC 2.0As part of our continuing commitment to research and scholarship, Northumbria University is offering research degree studentships, available for uptake from September 2013. Applications are invited across the full range of disciplines offered by Northumbria University. Fully or partially funded studentships may include fees, an annual stipend, travel costs and consumables.

For further details of our research areas and how to apply, please see the links below. The deadline for applications in all areas is 26th April 2013:

Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences (including American Studies; Arts; Design; English & Creative Writing; History; Media and Social Sciences)

Faculty of Business and Law (including Entrepreneurship, innovation and SMEs; Risk, Ethics and Governance; Organisational and Individual Behaviour and Management; Law)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment (including Architecture & Built Environment; Computer Science & Digital Technologies; Geography; Mechanical & Construction Engineering; Mathematics & Information Sciences; Physics & Electrical Engineering)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (including Cellular & Molecular Sciences; Chemistry; Food & Nutrition; Forensic Science; Education and Life Long Learning; Healthcare; Psychology; Public Health and Wellbeing; Social Work and Communities; Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation)


Research Councils in 2013, Part 1: Harmonisation, Demand Management and Early Career Researchers

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. I’ll post the second part tomorrow.

Polaris House, Swindon was the location of the latest joint ARMA (Association of Research Managers and Administrators) RCUK “Study Tour” which took place yesterday. We’ve been to these kinds of events before, but this was a little different. All previous Study Tours I’ve attended have been hosted by a single Research Council or funder, whereas this was a joint effort with representatives from all seven RCs, plus the “Shared Service Centre” – the back office for all RCs – and Je-S help desk. There was also a conscious attempt throughout most of the sessions to be more interactive, and the programme was pitched at “senior” research managers with a promise of greater discussion of policy and future strategic directions for RCs.

The key word was “harmonisation“: Peter Hollinswaite (Business Manager at MRC) set the tone by announcing that the RCs have now reached a more or less “stable state”, following a 2-3 year process during which they have moved to a single physical location and aligned pre- and post-award processes (all Councils now use Je-S, for example). However care was taken to distinguish harmonisation from ‘standardisation’. There was a recognition that different RCs serve different academic and user communities with distinct needs, so business models may differ – for example in the way they support postgraduate students, though even here there have been increasingly harmonised moves towards “block grant” models vs the old individual and project grant studentships across all the Councils.

The usual stats and numbers were rattled through first to give some context:

  • RCs processed 14,000 applications in 2012
  • There has been an increase in success rates from 18% to 26% across all schemes over the past 2 years
  • Demand has fallen 5% per annum over the past 2 years

Peter said that the next phase of cross-Council harmonisation would include: further simplification and rationalisation of funding schemes; a review of the process of peer review; scrutiny of terms and conditions and guidance to reduce confusion. As part of this process RCs will be carrying out surveys with various stakeholder groups, including research admin offices in universities.

The perennial topic of “Demand Management” was the focus of Gerald Owenson’s (BBSRC) discussion session. He outlined a number of measures, which he labelled ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’, introduced over the past few years which have led to the reduction in numbers of bids and consequent increase in success rates. Direct measures include:

  • Resubmissions are now generally not accepted by RCs unless invited (NERC is an exception – you can resubmit after 9 months)
  • Use of outline or preliminary stage applications has increased – the rationale is that outlines require less paperwork and so take less time for both applicant and RC to process. However, I’d argue that significant work goes on ‘behind the scenes’, particularly in terms of costing and partnership formation, which although not present in the submitted bid nevertheless take a significant amount of time
  • EPSRC has introduced individual researcher sanctions which limit repeatedly unsuccessful applicants to one bid per year. This has been controversial but has increased EPSRC success rates significantly, though other RCs have been reluctant to follow suit

Indirect demand management measures include:

  • Providing feedback to PI and Research Organisation (RO), including peer review and panel meeting comments. Peer review comments are not currently systematically returned to ROs, but Peter indicated this is set to change
  • Encouraging ROs to undertake internal assessment or peer review  of bids before submission, which most universities do to some extent
  • On this last point in particular, Gerald encouraged ROs to make use of their own internal staff resources, including the “insider knowledge” of people who are on RC peer review colleges and panels. I suggested to him later that it would be useful to offer opportunities for academics and research managers to sit in on RC panel meetings, in order to broaden experience. However he indicated this would be difficult due to limited space in the panel meeting rooms!

Kirsty Grainger and Avril Allman (both NERC) emphasised the importance of PhD studentships and Early Career Researchers to Research Council future plans. Of the annual UK output of 17400 PhDs, 5000 are RC-funded. For some Councils around 50% of funding is invested in PhDs. Increasingly measures to secure fitness for employment is seen as a key part of student training programmes. In addition all Councils now encourage interdisciplinary studentships, although there must be a lead Council. There was a suggestion that there may be specific joint-Council interdisciplinary calls for studentships in future.

Find out what the Research Councils and universities think about Je-S, as well as some insight on EPSRC and NERC priorities for 2013 in Part 2 tomorrow.