Staff Guidance

IAPETUS2 Studentship Competition 2021


IAPETUS2 NERC Doctoral Training Partnership has been awarded 16 notional studentships per annum as part of the DTP2 award ( We are seeking collaborative PhD project proposals for the 2021 round, of which 25% or more should be CASE awards.

Within the Partnership’s bid for funding and accreditation from NERC it was committed that an annual open competition would be held to award studentships across the Partnership’s 9 Host Organizations (HOs). This document outlines how IAPETUS2’s annual studentship competition will operate in the 2020/21 academic year to recruit its 2021 intake.

Available Funding & Support

IAPETUS2 has at least 16 fully-funded postgraduate studentships available for students commencing their postgraduate research studies in the 2021/22 academic year.

HOs may commit to topping-up and adding to the number of IAPETUS2 studentships available with own institutional funding, following the UKRI’s 50% studentship funding rule. These additional awards are formally classified as IAPETUS2 studentships and are selected via this competition, with the highest-ranked student from the funding HO selected outside of the first 16 award-holders selected for funding.

Each IAPETUS2 studentship is for 3.5 years in duration, commencing from the start of the 2021/22 academic year, and provides the following financial support:

  1. A full tuition fee waiver at the UKRI Home/EU rate;
  2. A tax-free maintenance grant set at the UKRI national rate (which in 2020/21 is £15,285 and guaranteed by UKRI to increase in line with the GDP deflator);
  3. Considerable project-specific Research Training Support funding (£6,000 to £10,000);
  4. Provision of IAPETUS2 training events, travel + subsistence; and
  5. Support for one or two external placements of up to six months in total duration.

Funding is available for both full- and part-time students. Part-time awards are for up to 7 years in duration and funded at 50% of the full-time rate.

Eligibility & Requirements

All postgraduate research projects approved by IAPETUS2 must:

  1. Be within the NERC disciplinary remit.
  2. Be hosted within one of IAPETUS2’s HOs and within one of the HO’s academic units that was part of IAPETUS2’s original bid to NERC for DTP funding.
  3. Involve a joint supervisory team consisting of supervisors from two or more of IAPETUS2’s HOs, with the supervisor from another HO being classified as the student’s second supervisor, and additional supervisors from the first HO named subsequently. Please consider whether the size of the supervisory team is appropriate for a PhD studentship.  It may be more appropriate to include some colleagues in an advisory role rather than as a supervisor.

For a student to be eligible to be considered and receive an IAPETUS2 studentship they must meet NERC’s student-eligibility criteria (see These criteria require all students to be Home or EU domiciled, and only allows for EU students to receive a full maintenance grant if they have been resident in the UK for the last 3 years prior to the commencement of their studentship.

All HOs must be aware fully of the rules and regulations governing IAPETUS2’s studentships and ensure necessary checks are undertaken. IAPETUS2 will also check that projects and nominations comply with NERC and IAPETUS2 guidelines.


Stage 1 Project Development & Approval

Eligible academic staff from across IAPETUS2’s HOs are invited to submit proposed projects that are accredited by IAPETUS2 and available to prospective students to be undertaken whilst receiving an IAPETUS2 studentship.

To manage demand for studentships, lead supervisors in successful projects for the 2020 round of IAPETUS2 studentships will NOT be eligible to be a lead supervisor in the 2021 round.

Project proposals must be submitted on to the IAPETUS2 Online Project form between the 1st September and the 30th October (web link to be circulated in the summer of 2020). The form asks for the supervisory team to detail various aspects of the project, such as its methodology and timeline.   The IAPETUS2 project-code number will be added once the completed form is approved.  When completing the timeline, please ensure that it is clear that funding ceases at the end of 3.5 years.

Once completed forms are submitted, the person who completed the form will receive an email confirming the form has been submitted successfully. The IAPETUS2 Director of the lead supervisor’s HO, will approve (or otherwise) the proposal and then submit it to the IAPETUS2 Administrator to approve and publish on to the website.

Within the Online Form, the supervisory team are also asked to detail:

  1. The Principal IAPETUS2 Research Theme the project falls under (if any).
  2. Which members of the supervisory team are Early Career Researchers (using the NERC definition of PhD + 8 years). Please list the ECR as the first supervisor on the form if this is indeed their role in the project, rather than listing a more senior colleague where the ECR is precluded from formally being first supervisor according to institutional regulations.
  3. The level of RTSG required to support the project. IAPETUS2 provides a minimum of £6,000 of RTSG to each project and amounts greater than this need to be listed and justified.  A maximum RTSG of £10,000 will be available to a single project.  In accordance with IAPETUS2’S RTSG policy, the final level of RTSG provided for each project will only be confirmed by IAPETUS2 at the end of the competition once the students making up the new cohort are confirmed.  Remember to include details of all costs of specialist training that will not be covered by the core IAPETUS2 training programme.
  4. Whether the project will involve one or more CASE partners and what their contribution will involve. NERC requires all DTPs to make 25% or more awards to CASE studentships. Where possible, letters of support from CASE partners should be provided at this stage; however, they can be shared with IAPETUS2 at any point through the process. Please remember a CASE partner can be added to a project/studentship at any point during the process until the Studentship panel meets in February 2021.
  5. Whether any external (end-user) collaborative partners are involved in the project.
  6. How the project maps on to NERC’s research areas in percentage units, identifying the primary classification from all the areas selected.

The IAPETUS2 Administrator will check that proposed projects meet IAPETUS2’s core requirements, and will then log and publish on IAPETUS2’s website. Each project will be allocated an IAPETUS2 project-reference number, which is used to identify projects through the process and beyond. This number will be added to the project’s web profile and shared with the principal supervisor.

Project proposals can be developed and processed at any point up to Friday 30th October 2020; however, all HOs are strongly advised to submit new projects into the competition as soon as possible, as this will enhance their visibility through advertising on the site.

IAPETUS2 projects that were approved and advertised during the last studentship competition (2020) but not recruited to can be resubmitted into the 2021 competition. If you would like a submitted project rolling over, please inform the IAPETUS2 Administrator.

Stage 2 Applications from Prospective Students

Prospective students must apply to the HO hosting the project(s) of their choice via the postgraduate student applications system of the partner organization. All applications must be made by Friday 8th January 2021 at 5 pm (GMT), which is the public deadline for applications that will apply across all of the Partnership.

Within a prospective student’s application they need to specify clearly that they wish to be considered for an IAPETUS2 studentship and state the research project (s) that they wish to be considered for, quoting the relevant IAPETUS2 project references where possible. Although prospective students are encouraged to explore opportunities across the partnership, they may only finally be considered for an IAPETUS2 studentship for one project. After 8th January 2021, any prospective student who has made an application for more than one IAPETUS2 project will be contacted by email and asked to confirm which one of the projects they wish to be considered for. This does not prevent a prospective student also applying for a NERC-funded studentship outside of IAPETUS2.

Prospective students must provide/attach the following documentation/information to their application:

  • Current CV.
  • Two (or more) references, avoiding any references from any members of the supervisory team that are part of the research project that they wish to conduct.
  • Full transcripts of previous qualifications obtained to date.

Prospective students applying to a BAS, BGS or CEH project, must apply to the university awarding the postgraduate degree, then send their supporting documents to the primary supervisor.

All HOs need to ensure that the correct application documents are provided by prospective students and that they are subject to the HO standard fee status assessment process.

All students who wish to be eligible for an IAPETUS2 studentship must also complete the IAPETUS2 Application Form found on the IAPETUS website by Friday 8th January 2021 at 5pm. Prospective Students who have not submitted both a Postgraduate student application to the HO hosting/awarding the project(s) and an IAPETUS application form on the IAPETUS website by the deadline will not be considered in the Studentship Competition.

All applicants who are successful in obtaining  an IAPETUS studentship must apply to Durham for the Postgraduate Certificate in Environmental Methods.  Further details of the application process will be circulated to those who are successfully offered an IAPETUS2 studentship in late spring 2021.

Stage 3 Assessing & Nominating Candidates to IAPETUS2

Each HO is responsible for considering all applications that it has received from prospective students and deciding which to nominate to IAPETUS2 for consideration for a studentship.  HOs should put in place transparent and robust procedures for identifying and ranking prospective students, which focus on the quality of the applications and their fit to the available projects. As part of this process HOs are strongly advised:

To utilize IAPETUS2’s studentship assessment criteria, which the Partnership uses to grade prospective students;

Interview prospective students, where possible, which could involve the applicant visiting the Department/School or completing it virtually, via Skype etc.

The nomination of prospective students to the IAPETUS2 Studentships Panel should be led and coordinated by the partner organization’s DTP Director, who will be the principal point of liaison. Each HO’s DTP Director is required to submit to the IAPETUS2 Administrator a listing of nominated candidates to be considered by the IAPETUS2 Studentships Panel together with associated documentation for each nomination. Nominations must be ranked in order of quality by each HO.

Only one nominee can be put forward for each project. The IAPETUS2 Studentship Committee may demand-manage the number of nominations each HO can make in order to make the interview process practicable.

For each nomination an IAPETUS2 Studentship Nomination Form needs to be completed and submitted, with the documentation listed above.

All completed and approved nominations must be sent electronically to by Friday 5th February 2021 (12 noon GMT).

Stage 4 Selecting Nominations for Funding

All nominations submitted to IAPETUS2 will go on to be considered by the IAPETUS2 Studentships Panel, which will meet on Wednesday 17th February 2021.

The IAPETUS2 Studentships Panel members will review and grade nominations prior to the Panel meeting using IAPETUS2’s assessment criteria and referencing the rankings and other contextual information that each HO has provided. The results of each member’s scoring will be collated to generate a combined ranking of all of the candidates, which will then be critically considered by the Panel.

The Studentships Panel strongly encourages all HOs to provide contextual information on candidates in the studentship nomination form, such as observations drawn from interviews and other forms of assessment, to complement the nominee’s personal and academic details.

Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in Durham (or by Skype if travel is not feasible) on Tuesday 16th February 2021.

The Panel will use the collated scores from the nominations evaluation and from the interview process (weighted 60:40) to produce a ranked list and thereby confirm which candidates have been successful and also IAPETUS2’s reserve list of candidates, which will be called upon should selected candidates subsequently decline the offer of a studentship.  There is provision to ensure that each HO receives at least a minimum number of studentships, and to ensure that ECRs have access to studentships.

NERC requires IAPETUS2 to ensure that, over the lifetime of the DTP, 25% of the total notional studentships awarded to the DTP are CASE. The Studentship Panel will therefore make its final decisions on the award of studentships in such a manner as to ensure that a minimum of 30% of the studentships it awards will be CASE studentships.  Please note that unlike in previous rounds, NERC Research Institutes and certain Independent Research Organizations are NOT eligible CASE partners.

Stage 5 Offering Studentships to Selected Candidates

Following the meeting of the Studentships Panel, IAPETUS2 will process and issue award notifications directly to selected candidates, whilst also informing all other nominees of the status of their application, which includes candidates placed on IAPETUS2’s reserve list and those that have not been successful at this juncture. It is the responsibility of HOs to communicate with candidates that they have not chosen to nominate to the IAPETUS2 Studentships Panel about the status of their application.

Prior to the issuing of award notifications to successful candidates, a memorandum will be circulated to all HOs confirming the candidates that have been successful and those that are on the reserve list. If there are any specific issues and/or questions affecting candidates following the deliberations of the Studentships Panel, these will be followed up in the run-up to the issuing of this memorandum and any further contact with candidates.

In cases where a successful candidate decides not to accept the offer of an IAPETUS2 studentship, the next highest-ranked candidate on IAPETUS2’s reserve list will be contacted and made an offer. This process will be conducted in such a manner as to ensure that a minimum of 30% of the studentships awarded are CASE studentships. Where the HO is aware that a selected candidate has decided to withdraw from the competition they should report this to IAPETUS2 immediately to ensure such decisions are communicated and appropriate action taken.

Decisions regarding awards and the issuing of award notifications will take place by 19th February 2021, with selected candidates having until 17th March 2021 at 12 pm (GMT) to decide whether to accept or decline their offer, a date which has been agreed for candidate decisions across the national NERC DTP2 network.

Further Information

Professor John Wainwright // Lead DTP Director
Tel: 0191 33 43499

Jen Gadouleau // DTP administrator
Tel: 0191 33 41023