NERC invests £100 million in environmental science doctoral training

4 November 2013

The Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, today announced £100 million of new NERC investment in fifteen Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs), which specialise in training environmental science PhD students.

This investment reflects NERC's renewed commitment to postgraduate training, as set out in the new NERC strategy, also published today.

The DTPs will support 1200 PhD students across the fifteen partnerships. This means at least 240 new students will begin training every year for five years, with the opportunity for partners to co-fund, boosting the number of studentships available.

The fifteen partnerships include collaborations between 38 UK higher education institutions and 280 partner organisations, including businesses, policymakers, and public and third sector organisations, such as Unilever, Scottish Water, and The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

The strong focus on collaboration within and between the DTPs allows partners to pool their experience to create rich training environments for students and encourage knowledge-sharing and interconnectivity, which benefits environmental science researchers.

The DTPs will offer postgraduate studentships and training across the full range of NERC's disciplines, and in multidisciplinary environments, helping to enrich the student experience. Each DTP will create a strong and active community of students that are able - and encouraged - to integrate, work, and learn together. These students will receive in-depth, advanced research training, as well as training in the professional and transferable skills essential in today's economy.

An integral element of the NERC DTP programme is that a minimum of 30% (or 360) of the students will work with and undertake research projects that are directly relevant to non-academic partners. This will help keep the UK at the forefront of research training, and provide students with the training experience they need to enter a wide range of careers.

Science and Universities minister David Willetts said, "This significant investment highlights the Government's commitment to supporting postgraduate training and research in the environmental sciences. We're dedicated to providing the next generation of environmental researchers with the necessary skills and training to succeed in academia and industry.

"The strong support for this programme from a number of international partners such as BP, Microsoft and Arup is enormously encouraging. Not only will this initiative benefit students, UK research organisations, business, industry and the economy, it will keep us at the forefront of the global science race."

Professor Duncan Wingham, chief executive of NERC, said, "If UK environmental sciences are going to continue to prosper, we need to make sure we get the best from our students. These DTPs position us to compete in an increasingly competitive global environment by training students in the best possible way to use environmental sciences to help meet the challenges and opportunities facing us today.

"We want to provide these students with the skill sets and experiences to equip them to become future scientific leaders, and sustain the flow of top talent and skilled people for UK research, business and government. Encouraging collaboration between academic institutions and partners across the environmental sciences sector when delivering training for every student will help achieve this.

"NERC DTPs will further scientific progress and support UK economic growth, job creation and prosperity."

Kirsty Grainger, NERC's head of skills and careers, said, "We are thrilled to have received such strong support for the NERC DTPs from all parts of the community and this support is evident in the truly world-leading partners present across the DTPs. We are looking forward to working closely with the DTPs to support and develop the next generation of environmental science researchers.

"We would like to extend our thanks to the Training Advisory Group and assessment panel members who dedicated a large portion of their time to guiding, developing and maturing this process. NERC would also like to thank all those involved in submitting such excellent applications. We have had to make some difficult decisions during this process but we hope that the benefits of these DTPs are felt by the UK for years to come."


Further information

NERC media office
01793 411561
07917 557215

Tamera Jones
Science news manager
01793 411561
07917 557215

Kirsty Grainger
Head of skills & careers
01793 442540


1. The names of the NERC Doctoral Training Partners and a range of the partners involved can be found in the document below.

List of DTPs (PDF, 92KB)

2. About DTPs:
The decision to change from allocating studentships using the NERC studentship algorithm to a more competitive process was made following discussion by NERC Council, during the Training Allocation and Delivery Mechanisms Review and with the NERC Training Advisory Group (TAG). It was agreed that shifting to a more open training competition would be the best way for NERC to meet our training success criteria. A competition would offer a real opportunity for innovation and should aim to establish community-led clusters of excellence, working in partnership with NERC, and with a strong steer towards partnerships between research organisations so that training best meets the success criteria. It would result in a smaller number of larger, longer-term grants competitively awarded; doctoral training partnerships (DTPs).

Further information concerning the Training Review, the NERC Success Criteria can be found below:

Summary NERC Training Allocation and Delivery Mechanisms Review and Recommendations (PDF, 238KB)

3. NERC is the largest funder of environmental science in the UK. We invest £330 million in cutting-edge research, training and knowledge transfer in the environmental sciences. Our scientists study and monitor the whole planet, from pole to pole, and from the deep Earth and oceans to the edge of space. We address and respond to critical issues such as environmental hazards, resource security and environmental change. Through collaboration with other science disciplines, with UK business and with policymakers, we make sure our knowledge and skills support sustainable economic growth and public wellbeing - reducing risks to health, infrastructure, supply chains and our changing environment.

Press release: 83/13