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Doctoral training partnerships in South West England and Wales receive funding boost

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) has announced funding for 15 doctoral training partnerships (DTPs) spanning 89 institutions over the next five years. 

The South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) is one of the successful DTPs to receive funding, allowing them to continue to provide support and funding to the next generation of talented social scientists. This GW4 DTE is led by the University of Bristol and includes fellow GW4 institutions Bath and Exeter as well as Plymouth and UWE. For 2024 the SWDTP is expanding to 8 institutions in total, with Bath Spa University, Bournemouth University and University of St Mark and St John (Plymouth Marjon) also joining the partnership.  

The Partnership offers 18 specialist research training pathways in the social sciences, including 13 in established ESRC disciplines and another five in innovative interdisciplinary areas, two of which are in strategic areas to help fill a national skills deficit – Advanced Quantitative Methods, and Digital and Data Skills. Studentships fund social science researchers through their PhD research, including funding placements, fieldwork and overseas institutional visits. Students also have a broad range of collaborative opportunities with external organisations, including the National Trust which is now a strategic partner of the GW4 Alliance.  

Professor Richard Harris, SWDTP Director said: “Working as Director of the SWDTP is a great privilege to support the flourishing and creativity of the amazing range of research that takes place under the auspices of the social sciences. Our shared vision is to grow the SWDTP as a leading and inclusive centre of excellence and regional partnership across South-West England, nationally recognised for the quality of our support for research, training, professional development, and for being active in response to the changing needs and wellbeing of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers. The expansion of our Partnership is central to meeting these goals and we are delighted to have this vote of confidence in us from the ESRC as we look towards a vibrant future." 

GW4 institutions host over 40 externally funded Doctoral Training Centres and Partnerships, including 14 active Doctoral Training Programmes (DTPs) led by and involving at least one other GW4 institution. These programmes are highly collaborative, involving a range of academic and non-academic partners, such as national research organisations, industry, business, government and third sector partners. 

The Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership, led by Cardiff University and involving six other universities, also received funding from ESRC. 

GW4 Alliance Director, Dr Joanna Jenkinson MBE, said: “Our region is a global leader in research and innovation, with GW4 institutions offering cutting-edge research and training opportunities for postgraduate researchers to become the social scientists of the future. We are delighted that UKRI and ESRC have chosen to invest in these doctoral training partnerships, which will allow postgraduate trainees from a range of backgrounds to develop the skills needed to innovate and excel in a thriving research landscape.”  

Following ESRC’s response to the review of PhD in the social sciences in 2021, a revised vision for postgraduate training is now being implemented. This includes adopting a more bespoke student-centered approach to the content and delivery of training and increasing the PhD duration from three to 3.5 years to incorporate a three-month placement and additional training.  

Stian Westlake, ESRC Executive Chair, said: “Our vision for postgraduate training is that it will develop globally competitive social science researchers who can operate in interdisciplinary, collaborative and challenge-led environments across a range of sectors and who have a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. This redesigned and expanded doctoral training opportunity will enhance the experience for PhD students and boost the UK’s capability.”  

Applications for South West Doctoral Training Partnership 2024 entry will open shortly. Visit the SWDTP website for more information. 

University of Bath
University of Bristol
Cardiff University
University of Exeter