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NERC switches to doctoral training partnerships

The Natural Environment Research Council will reorganise its PhD funding into Doctoral Training Partnerships, it announced on 9 February.

Under the plans, funding will be allocated in a smaller number of larger, long-term grants through a competitive process. Partnerships between institutions are encouraged, and the council will also increase the length of funding to four years.

Currently, doctorate funding is awarded to institutions according to the amount of NERC research funding they receive.

The council will also split its PhDs into two types: “responsive training”, where the topic is chosen by candidates and their supervisor, and a smaller pot for “focused training”, where doctorates are directed by what NERC identifies as priority fields or skills.

The council will also introduce “success criteria” against which investments in PhD training will be judged.

Because of the scale of the changes, studentships for the next two years will continue as they are, says the council, with the first students under the new scheme starting in 2014.

NERC follows the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in switching to such a scheme.

The changes are the results of a review which found a need to place more emphasis on “ensuring that the quality of the training environment delivers NERC’s strategic needs,” says the council.

The council will announce the results of its first DTP awards in autumn 2013.