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We offer fully funded 3 year 9 month studentships (maintenance grant + fees + research costs).  

  • The maintenance grant is paid at the standard  UKRI rate (currently £15,009 in Session 2019/20, and will likely increase in 2020/21 and each year of your study approximately in line with inflation). Maintenance grants are not subject to UK income tax or national insurance. 
  • All your fees to the University will be paid. 
  • Your extensive SENSE training programme and travel/accommodation costs will be covered, in addition to any research cost (e.g. fieldwork or purchasing satellite data). Beyond this, you will receive a Research Training and Support Grant (RTSG) of £1050/year to cover conference attendance, any additional research visits to other institutions, and other miscellaneous costs. SENSE students are further eligible to apply for extra travel funding from the centre which will be assessed on a case by case basis. 


To be eligible for our studentships you must: 

  1. be a UK or EU citizen, or a non-EU citizen with permanent settled status in the UK (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’), AND 
  2. have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship (this applies to all citizen categories). 

We are unable to offer studentships to non-EU international candidates. 

Entry Requirements 

We expect  most  applicants to have a  degree equivalent to a UK first class honours, or a high upper second class, in an environmental science, maths, physics, computer science, or engineering discipline. However, we will consider applications from a wide range of backgrounds, including those with non-traditional  qualifications or from industry – please feel free to contact us to have a chat about your suitability for the programme.  

 We welcome applications from all suitably qualified candidates. Our graduates will come from a diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities, and experience no prejudice at admissions or during their studies related to their sexuality, disability or any other protected characteristic. All host partners are committed to advancing gender equality, as demonstrated through signing the Athena SWAN Charter, a commitment to the advancement and promotion of the careers of women. All scholarships will be awarded on the basis of merit. 

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence that you meet minimum English language requirements, evidenced through an English Language test (IELTS/TOEFL).

How to apply

Step 1 

Look at the available projects, and select the project you are most interested in (you can only apply for one project).  

Note that our students will be registered for a PhD at either the University of Edinburgh or the University of Leeds, but will be based in one of four institutions (the University of Leeds, the University of Edinburgh, the National Oceanography Centre (Southampton or Liverpool campuses), and the British Antarctic Survey (Cambridge). All students will receive the same novel and comprehensive residential training programme.  

Regardless of which institution you apply to be based at, you will apply through a single online application hosted by the University of Leeds (see Step 2 below).   

Step 2 

An  On-Line Study Application (OLA) should be submitted to Leeds via  University Application for Research Degree Study.  In the ‘Planned Course of Study’ section, the programme code that should be selected is  ‘PhD NERC SENSE Earth Observation CDT Full-time’ or ‘PhD NERC SENSE Earth Observation CDT Part-time’;  it is important that you select that programme of study. Note that applications will be considered identically whether the full time or part time option is selected; all topics are suitable for part time study, and we will fully support such students with adapted programmes for training as appropriate. 

Please fill in all sections of the form, with the following guidance:   

In the ‘Research Area/Title’ section:

  • Say ‘no’ to the section ‘Please indicate if you intend to submit a separate research proposal’, and list the institution and title of the project you’d like to be considered for, in order, e.g.  
    ‘University of Edinburgh: ‘Project Title’
  • Name the first supervisor in the ‘Supervisor’ box. 
  • Indicate in the penultimate section whether you are able to attend interviews at the University of Leeds in person in late February. Note that whichever institution your PhD will be based at, your interview will be in Leeds. 
  • Leave the rest of the boxes in this section blank. 

In the Residency and Funding section, click ‘No’ to ‘Are you paying your own academic fees’ and ‘Are you paying your own living costs?’. Note only students that have a residency status of ‘GB Home Rated Student’ can be considered for this funding (see Eligibility above): if you do not select this option we cannot take your application further.  

In the Planned Course of Study section, select ‘PhD Earth Observation SENSE CDT’, either FT or PT depending on whether you wish to study with us Full Time or Part Time. Proposed start date should be 1 October 2020.  

Your application cannot receive consideration until you provide all supporting documents, as follows: 

  • Curriculum vitae (CV)/resumé  which shows a high level of academic achievement and appropriate non-academic experience. Please include high school results. 
  • Transcripts and certificates of ALL degrees to date.  If you have not yet completed your current degree, you will need to send an official transcript of your results so far. 
  • Personal Statement.  Please provide a personal statement outlining (i) explain why you are interested in your chosen project, (ii) what motivates you to pursue PhD study, (iii) what is your research experience and how does you skill set matches the requirements for your choice of project, and (iv) what is the wider importance of this research project. 
  • English Language.  Generally, if you are from an EU country other than the UK, you may need to meet the English language requirements evidence through an English language test (e.g., IELTS/TOEFL). The test certificate is not required when applying but will be required when registering if you are successful. 
  • References.  Before we can give full consideration to your application, we will need a minimum of two strong references, from an academic institution (e.g. your tutor or project supervisor), or your most recent boss or equivalent if you come from an industry or other background. These can be submitted with your application if they are signed, or alternatively, they can be emailed directly by the referee to  using the  Referee’s Report form available to download here.  Please note that it is your responsibility to request these references and ensure they that are sent to us. 

Step 3 

Interview.  We will call the strongest applicants for interview. Interviews for all projects, whether hosted by the University of Leeds, University of Edinburgh, NOC or BAS, will be held in Leeds University at the end of February. We seek to make offers to students who have the best aptitude for the projects and who perform best at interview. 

Step 4 

Offer.  We will first make informal offers shortly after interview. Once you accept our offer, we will then make a recommendation for your acceptance for PhD study to the host university. That is the university where you will become a registered PhD student (either the University of Leeds, or the University of Edinburgh), and it will send you a formal offer of a study place. The letter will instruct you how to accept the place. 

Once you accept the offer of the study place, you will be sent a formal funding letter. 

Next Deadline

The application deadline for entry in October 2020 is 19th January 2020.


If you require any further information please contact the Graduate School Office. email:, telephone: +44(0)113 343 5326