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Frequently asked questions for applicants

Application Specific Questions

If you are currently filling in an application these should be helpful

What is the start date? (Required by the application)

The start date is 1st October 2023 however there may be some flexibility in this. The first block of SENSE training (in Edinburgh) starts on 23rd October 2023 the student would have to be in place by then.

I am in my final year/completing a masters and I don’t yet have a transcript. Can I still apply?

Yes – this is not problem however you should include details of the subjects (including any elective subjects) you are taking on your CV. Also if you have details of your research project please include this.

Do my references have to be submitted at the same time as my application?

Please try to submit your references with your application however we are aware that as there is a really quick turnaround for the deadline and it may take slightly longer during the winter vacation. We will consider applications that do not have references submitted by the application deadline. If you have issues with your references, please contact for advice.

Can you give me some help with my CV?

This link may be helpful Academic CVs for PhD Applications | Remember to include an anonymised CV. A copy of your CV in which you have deleted or redacted your name, gender, ethnicity, date of birth and nationality.

Will the interviews be face to face or online?

Interviews for the current studentships will take place in early July 2023 and will take place online.

I would like some help with my application

Please contact the centre managers on who will be able to give support with this.

I have been unable to contact my proposed supervisor can I still apply?

Please be aware that many staff members have heavy teaching and research commitments and may not have time to reply to all emails. Please do not repeatedly email them about this. All applications will be considered whether you have been able to contact the supervisor or not.

If I am invited for an interview how much notice will I get and what will happen?

We intend that interviews take place in the first week of July. We will endeavour to provide applicants of two week notice that they have been invited to an interview.

The interview lasts approximatively 20/25 minutes. It will take the form of an informal discussion between the applicants and the interview panel made up of representatives from the base institutions and partners of the centre. More details about the interviews will be given nearer the time. All applicants are asked the same questions.

If an applicant feels they will require additional support with their interview they should indicate that when accepting an interview invitation.

General questions about the studentships

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 which we discuss with the successful candidate.

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 £17,668 in Session 2022/23). 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 to 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 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. The recommended limit for part time work is no more than six hours per week.

Can I apply for more than one SENSE 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 interests most closely align, and to speak to 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 discussion with the supervisors.

It is common and recommended that applicants also apply to projects outside of SENSE such as at other Centres for Doctoral Training (CDT) or doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and independently funded positions. 

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 (BAS) in Cambridge or at one of the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) sites in either Southampton or Liverpool.

Students who are based at BAS and NOC will be registered at either the University of Leeds or Edinburgh dependant on their supervisory teams. This ‘base’ university will award their degree and be responsible for overseeing academic progress.

All SENSE students have cross institute supervisory teams with supervisors at two or more of the lead SENSE institutions.

At your base institution 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.

Where will the mandatory 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 provided by 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, external 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.

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.

If a student is unable to travel to undertake a CASE partnership for instance due to caring responsibilities the centre and partner will aim to offer an alternative for example the opportunity to complete the placement remotely.

Can I complete my PhD remotely from another country?

No – due to to financial and visa restrictions this is not possible.

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 degrees 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 give you training on this!