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Frequently asked questions for applicants

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If you are thinking of applying, please watch our two webinars:

If you are thinking of applying, please watch our two webinars and read the follow-up material:

  1. How can a PhD help me with my career? – webinar and follow-up material
  2. Support for applying for a PhD – webinar

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Can I study part time?

Yes – although this is only an option for home (UK based) students. We welcome applications from those who wish to study part time and combine their PhD with a job, caring or other responsibilities or want to complete their research over a longer period. This would be at the discretion of the supervisory term and there are a few restrictions

  • Your studies would have to be for 50% of your time (and you would receive 50% of your stipend for seven years and six months)
  • Registration for your PhD would be twice as long (so approx. eight years)
  • Some elements of the programme such as training and field trips may have to be completed on a full time basis. This is something we would discuss with the successful candidate.
  • It is also possible to have a flexible pattern where you complete part of your PhD part time and part of it full time but this would need to be in agreement with your supervisors.

If you would like to be considered for part time study please indicate this on your application.

What is a stipend and can I have a part time job?

PhD students are paid a stipend which is a tax free amount paid monthly like a salary (currently £15,285 in Session 2020/21). You do not pay national insurance either and if you have a student loan you do not have to start paying it back during your PhD. While completing a full time PhD you are not required tp pay council tax (unless you live with non students) and can claim student discounts on travel and leisure. PhD students are usually given the opportunity to do some tutoring and demonstrating by their base universities which can provide an additional source of income however this will be subject to tax.

Completing a PhD is a challenging full time role and we would not expect PhD students to commit to part time work outside of their studies unless it was only a small amount of hours per week.

Can I apply for more than one project?

No – you should pick the SENSE project that most appeals and matches with your skills and apply for that. If you can’t make up your mind we encourage you to get in touch with the supervisors to discuss the projects and see where your interestes most closely align, and to meet people from their research groups. This being said, if you are successful at interviews and your first choice project is already taken, we will discuss with you if there is another projects you might consider taking instead, in disucssion with the supervisors.

Where will I be based while doing my PhD?

Where you are based will depend on where your main supervisor is located. You will either be at the University of Leeds, University of Edinburgh or at our partner institutions. British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge or at one of the National Oceanography sites in either Southampton or Liverpool.

At you base you will be given access to a desk within an office with other PhD students*. All SENSE students are provided with a high powered laptop with a screen and docking station.

* access to buildings at institutions are currently limited subject to Covid restrictions but we would hope by October 2021 full access to buildings will be possible.

Where will training be located and will I need to find accommodation?

SENSE training will be in various locations however our main training blocks in the first year will take place at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Leeds*. Where students have to travel away from their base location to attend training we will arrange accommodation and pay for travel – this is true for all training included from SENSE. You will also receive a generous research support grant, which you can use to aid your research and will likely spend on attending conferences, training and workshops. You can use this to cover all costs, so activities you do to aid your research do not cost you personally.

If a student is unable to travel to attend training for instance due to caring responsibilities it will be possible for them to attend the training online.

*please note that due to covid restrictions training in 2020 has taken place online

What is a CASE partnership?

CASE (Collaborative Awards in Science and Engineering) partners are non academic external bodies who will partner with a particular project. In general someone from the CASE partner will be involved with the project supervisory team. The student completing that project will take three months out of their PhD usually in their second or third year and spend it working for the CASE partner and will continue to receive their stipend. During the CASE placement the student will not be working on their project but on something that the partner is working on and building up skills and contacts within industry.

Can I complete my PhD remotely from another country?

No – due to to financial and visa restrictions this would not be allowed. Given the current COVID restrictions on travel we can appreciate that some applicants may be unable to travel immediately to start their PhD however the expectation would be that as soon as travel was allowed they would relocate to the UK to begin their studies.

Do I need a masters or a publication in order to be considered?

No this is not necessary. Our students come from different backgrounds, and whilst some have done masters many come from undergraduate degrees or from industry. So this is in no way compulsory. And we don’t expect you to have a publication in order to apply – you’ll learn how to write and publish as part of your PhD and we’d give you training in this!

If you have a particular question that has not been covered please contact the SENSE Recruitment team on