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Availability of studentships

Studentships will be advertised from October (for studentships starting in October 2021).


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

  • The maintenance grant is paid at the standard  UKRI rate (currently £15,285 in Session 2020/21, and will likely increase in 2021/22 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 be a UK citizen, or have permanent settled status in the UK (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain’). We hope to be able to offer a small number of studentships to EU-citizens. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer studentships to non-EU international candidates.

Candidates who already hold a PhD are unlikely to be considered.

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, and all the best candidates will be interviewed.

This year it is our ambition to guarantee interviews for appointable BAME of disabled applicants who meet the minimum requirements, up to the number of half last year’s interviewees.

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).

The selection process

Your application will be reviewed by the supervisors of the project that you apply to, and SENSE’s recruitment committee. We encourage you to get in touch with the supervisor of the project you are applying to, to discuss the project. Applicants will be invited for interview based on the following criteria:

  • Score for Bachelor’s degree
  • Score for master’s grade, or relevant industry experience
  • References
  • Any scientific outputs (not expected or essential, but let us know if you have any)
  • Research skills / experience
  • Technical experience
  • Earth Observation experience

Please note that it is not necessary for a candidate to be proficient in all these areas: SENSE provides extensive training in Earth Observation, advanced data techniques and programming. We recruit candidates from a broad range of backgrounds and we consider each application individually.

Candidates who are invited for interview will then be offered studentships based on both their performance at interview and their application.

Application Support

Are you the first in your family to do a PhD? Are you from an under-represented group or do you have a disability? Do you need information about PhDs in general? Do you just need someone to ask some questions to? If you need help with the application process, please get in touch and we can provide support, either Ruth Amey (Leeds Centre Manager, or Eleanor Graham (Edinburgh Centre Manager, Neither Ruth or Eleanor are on the recruitment panels, so any questions can be asked in confidence that it will have no effect on your application.

How to apply (special extra studentship opportunity for October 2020 start – deadline 15 May)

Step 1 

Look at the available projects, and select the project you are most interested in. You can only apply for one projects. We strongly encourage you to get in touch with the supervisor of the project you’re interested in.

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 ‘NERC SENSE CDTit is important that you select that programme of study.  In the ‘Research Area/Title’ section the OLA you should simply input the full title of the project that you wish to be considered for and the supervisors’ names. 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 secondary 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. Ideally this would not exceed a single page of A4, but we would accept up to 2 pages. Please put your name only at the top of this personal statement.
  • 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. 
  • Academic References. Before we can give full consideration to your application, we will need a minimum of two strong academic references. These can be submitted with your application if they are signed, or alternatively, they can be emailed directly by the referee to (with in cc)  using the using the Referee’s Report form available to download herePlease note that it is your responsibility to request these references and ensure they that are sent to us.

We are committed to removing any potential bias in our application process. In this light:

  • Please do not include a photo in your CV
  • Please only put your name at top of your CV (this will be redacted prior to being read)
  • Please only put your name at top of your personal statement (this will be redacted prior to being read)
  • Your referees have been asked to write a gender-neutral reference, without your name

Step 3 

Interview.  We will call the strongest applicants for interview. The interview panel will be Earth Observation academics from the University of Edinburgh, University of Leeds and industry, with a range of specialities, and will not include the project supervisor. Interviews will be held in Leeds in late February 2021. 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 make a formal offer to the successful candidate shortly after interviews. 

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


The application deadline is Sun 10th January 2021.


If you require any further information please contact Ruth Amey (Leeds Centre Manager, or  Eleanor Graham (Edinburgh Centre Manager,