Clearing 2021
Doctoral Training Partnerships

SeNSS: South East Network for Social Sciences

South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS) is an ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships, which promotes inventive and inclusive social science research training and collaboration, and awards funded SeNSS Studentships. Essex is one of the 10 world-leading institutions that comprise the membership of the SeNSS DTP:
  • University of Essex (as coordinating institution)
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Kent
  • University of Reading
  • University of Surrey
  • University of Sussex
  • Roehampton University
  • City University
  • Goldsmiths (University of London)
  • Royal Holloway (University of London)

Essex is involved in seven pathways of study:

  • Economics
  • Politics and International Studies
  • Business and Management
  • Linguistics
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Socio-Legal Studies

2021 studentships 

Workshop for applicants

We hosted an online workshop and Q&A session for all potential applicants and supervisors on Thursday 5 November 2020. The slides from this session are available on request. Please contact the Graduate Administrator in the department to which you are applying, or email the PGRE Team.

What does the studentship provide?

You will receive subject-specific and advanced training, whilst undertaking your research in an innovative, ground-breaking and empowering research environment, amongst our thriving postgraduate community. You'll also be provided with opportunities for overseas visits and fieldwork, attending and presenting at conferences and events, academic publishing and work placement opportunities.

SeNSS Studentship Funding supports both full- and part-time study, and covers:

  • Fully-funded studentships: a tax-free maintenance stipend to cover your living costs: this is set at £15,285 per year.
  • Fees: home students will not have to pay university tuition fees. It is not yet clear whether international students will have to contribute to their tuition fees, that is, whether the difference between the ESRC contribution to fees (£4,425) and the international fee rate (£15,000) will need to be met either by the student or their home university.
  • Access to Research Training Support Grant funds.
  • Access to other funds to be used for overseas fieldwork, overseas institutional visits, difficult language training, placements etc.

Are you eligible?

Residential criteria

UKRI has recently announced that it is changing its residential eligibility rules. Now, regardless of whether you are a "home" applicant or an "international" applicant, you can apply for a studentship. However, UKRI has not yet confirmed who it views as being "home" or "international". In addition, they are applying a cap on numbers, as only up to 30% of studentship awards can be made to international applicants.

To be classed as a home student, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or 
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter

If you do not meet the criteria above, you are classed as an international student. Please note that, due to the cap, SeNSS is limited by the ESRC to awarding approximately 10-12 studentships to international applicants each year, and there may be fees implications for these applicants (further information about this will be provided as soon as it becomes available).

Further guidance on residential eligibility is provided in Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Guidance (.pdf).

SeNSS has produced an informative FAQs document and online application guidance (.pdf).

Academic eligibility

For Masters and PhD funding (1+3, or +4 award structures): qualifications or experience equal to a first (1) or upper second (2.1) class honours degree, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required.

For PhD (+3) funding: qualifications or experience equal to a Masters degree with distinction or merit, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required. Your Masters degree must be in a relevant discipline, and include significant research methods training.

How to apply

The SeNSS 2020-21 studentship competition has now closed and awards have been made. Further information on the 2021-22 studentship competition will be available here from October 2021.

SeNSS collaborative studentship competition

What is a SeNSS collaborative studentship?

You will join an expert team of leading Social Scientists and an external partner (from industry, government, or an NGO, in the UK or abroad) who have already developed and defined a research project.

You will play a leading role in the project as the doctoral researcher on the team.

We have two SeNSS Collaborative Studentships, supervised at Essex for 2020; one in the Business and Management paths and one in the Sociology pathway:

Government financial resilience in the post-COVID-19 era: exploring the antecedents, consequences and dynamics of anticipatory and coping capacities in UK Councils

Primary supervisor: Prof Ileana Steccolini

Collaborative partner: CIPFA: The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accounting

SeNSS Pathway: Business and Management

Project background

The University of Essex, in partnership with CIPFA, are offering an ESRC SeNSS PhD scholarship on Governmental financial resilience in UK Councils in the post-pandemic. The PhD scholarship will allow a fully funded PhD student to undertake ground-breaking research on governmental financial resilience, exploring how Local Governments build on their capacities to face financial shocks and difficulties caused by the pandemic, ensuring the maintenance and transformation of local public services in the long-run. This will provide the student with an important opportunity to grow competences and skills in both quantitative and qualitative methods, applying them in the area of public sector accounting and management. The student will be empowered in his/her path to become an independent researcher by a supportive and experienced supervisory team, being immersed in a thriving and internationally recognised Accounting Group, as well as having access to an international community of scholars working in the area of public management, financial management and accounting. The scholarship will also provide the student with an important opportunity to develop his/her research working closely with CIPFA experts, with the potential of having access to relevant data and senior profiles operating in the UK public sector, as well as influencing local government policies and practices.


Applicants: essential and/or desirable attributes/skills


A background in management, accounting, finance, public administration or related disciplines and a willingness to engage with practice and policy are required for this type of project.

Full details are available here.

Reducing domestic abuse harms: a multi-agency approach to working with perpetrators

Primary supervisor: Dr Katerina Hadjimatheou

Collaborative partner: Islington Violence Against Women and Girls

SeNSS Pathway: Sociology

Project background

Domestic abuse causes serious harm to individuals and families and remains a persistent challenge for public services. In the UK, 6.5 million adults are estimated to have directly experienced domestic abuse (8.4% of women and 4.2% of men in 2018-19). Most services still place the onus on victims and families, to try to keep themselves safe, often by taking measures with a high personal cost, such as leaving their home. Few engage with perpetrators to stop the abuse in the first place. A failure to deal effectively with perpetrators leaves violent and abusive behaviours and attitudes unchallenged. And it risks displacing rather than reducing domestic abuse. Islington Council Violence against Women and Girls Service has recently received £2million to transform its domestic abuse provision. Developing new and innovative measures to engage and deal with perpetrators is a key priority.

Project aims and objectives

This 3-year fully funded studentship will give a PhD researcher the opportunity to work with Islington and a team of expert academics at the University of Essex’s centre for criminology, to produce new findings and recommendations on how to reduce the harm caused by perpetrators.

In 2020 Essex’s Centre for Criminology was ranked 6th in the UK (Guardian University League Tables). Project supervisors have strong relationships government and with key domestic abuse organisations. The successful candidate will be supported to become an important independent scholar in the field and develop a strong academic career.

Applicants: essential and/or desirable attributes/skills

It would be advantageous for the candidate to have experience of both training and experience in using quantitative and/or qualitative research methods. However, these need not be gained in a university setting. Experience of relevant research methods in a job setting would also be suitable.

Full details are available here.

What's the selection process for studentship competitions?

After the submission deadline, applications pass through an internal University selection process, before a decision is made whether to nominate particular applications to SeNSS, for consideration at the relevant SeNSS Pathway Panel. Applications put forward to these panels are considered alongside applications from other SeNSS partner institutions.

The final selection phase, conducted by the SeNSS Management Board, will be held during, and you will be notified by mid-April whether you have been awarded a SeNSS student-led studentship.

The selection criteria used to assess applications across all pathways, degree types and at all levels of the selection process is:

Evidence of the quality and feasibility of the proposal (40%) 

This will be based on your outline of your proposed research project, your reasons for pursuing it, and its wider significance. It will also be based on the information supplied by your proposed primary supervisor. SeNSS assessors will be looking for evidence of your ability to design and conduct a strong research project, a coherent and well thought-out research plan, a strong awareness of the place of your research within the current field, and potential impact. Reference will be made to your personal statement, as contained in your application, as well as your supervisor’s supporting statement. 

Evidence that you are well-prepared for your proposed research and future career (40%) 

This will be based on your description of how your previous experience (academic and/or professional) has prepared you for postgraduate study and research, your referees’ evaluation of your suitability for such research based on

  • a) your performance at undergraduate and postgraduate level (if relevant);
  • b) your relevant professional experience (if relevant); and
  • c) your description of how the programme will contribute to your long-term career aims.

Reference will be made to the degree transcripts and module marks you have provided. Reference will also be made to both your supervisor’s and referees’ supporting statements.

Evidence of the suitability of the proposed supervision and training (20%)

This will be based on your proposed supervisors’ research areas, knowledge and expertise in relation to your proposed project, the individual roles of the proposed supervisory team, your identified training needs and suggested ways of meeting those training needs. Reference will primarily be made to the information provided by your proposed primary supervisor which should, in turn, reflect on the expertise brought to your project by your second supervisor. 

Please note that all 4-year award applications (1+3, 2+2 and +4) will be assessed in a way that recognises that applicants are likely to have had less training and fewer opportunities to develop a detailed proposed research project than an applicant for a +3 studentship. 


Post-Doctoral Fellowships

SeNSS 2020/21 ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship competition now open

SeNSS offers six ESRC-funded Post-Doctoral Fellowships (PDFs) each year, which provide an opportunity for Post-Doctoral researcher to consolidate their PhD research through developing publications, their networks, and their research and professional skills.

What's on offer?

The PDF grants provide funding for up to one year full-time, or up to two years part-time. In exceptional cases, applicants can apply for a fellowship for up to 18 months; however, this must be fully justified by the programme of activities being proposed.

Fellowships cover:

  • the Fellow's salary costs;
  • indirect costs;
  • estate costs; and,
  • up to £10,000 of other costs.

One of these Fellowships is ring-fenced for an applicant whose proposal is aligned with UKRI/ESRC industrial strategy. For this competition, the ESRC defines alignment as either addressing specific skills gaps (AQM or data skills/science) or as entailing collaboration with a private sector partner, or co-designed research activity. 

Are you eligible?

This call is open to those who have:

  1. Completed their PhD at a research organisation that is part of a current ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) or Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT). A list of these DTPs and CDTs is available at the bottom of the ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowships web page; AND,
  2. by the application deadline (23 March 2020), either been awarded a PhD or submitted their thesis and passed their viva voce (or passed with minor corrections), with the expectation that their PhD will be awarded by the Fellowship start date (1 October 2020); AND,
  3. no more than 12 months of active post-doctoral experience. This 12 month period is calculated from the viva being passed to the closing date of the competition, 23 March 2020. 

How to apply?

  • Please read the ESRC’s documents (see below) carefully, and ensure you are eligible for a PDF.
  • If you are eligible, start thinking about, and drafting your topic and programme of work and think about who would be best-suited to mentoring you during your PDF at Essex, and make contact with that senior academic.  The PGRE Team can assist you to identify a suitable mentor if you are unsure.
  • Once you have a draft of your topic and your proposed mentor has agreed to work with you, please contact and you will be provided with the link to FluidReview (SeNSS’s online application portal), and the access code you will need to create your application.
The deadline for submitting your application is 4pm on 23 March 2020.
SeNSS has an example of an excellent application, on their Post-Doctoral Fellowship FAQs.

ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship application documents

The ESRC issued the following documents for PDFs starting in October 2019. (Please note that, if the ESRC issues updated documents for the next competition, these will be made available here):

ESRC Call Specification - sets out what is included in a PDF awards, the eligibility criteria, what is required in the application etc. 

  • Mentors: the ESRC requires fellows to have a mentor based at the research organisation where the fellowship is held, and states that “a secondary mentor is permitted”. Please note that SeNSS requires its fellows to have two mentors during their fellowship: one based at the fellow’s home institution, and one at another SeNSS institution. SeNSS has taken this position, which is endorsed by the ESRC, because we believe that having a second mentor from a different SeNSS university will strengthen the fellow’s research, expose the fellow to different institutional practices and increase the fellow’s access to professional academic and non-academic networks. 
  • While it is ideal for applicants to name two mentors in their applications, it is not essential in order to be considered for a fellowship. However, fellows are expected to have confirmed their second mentor by the time they take up their awards.

ESRC PDF FAQs - provides answers to questions about PDF awards

ESRC PDF application form (docx) - please note that SeNSS will only accept online applications, via its FluidReview portal. The SeNSS application differs slightly from the ESRC template form in that it asks for some additional information. The ESRC template is only included here to give you an idea of what is required of you should you decided to submit a full application via FluidReview.

Support for applications at Essex is available from colleagues in the Research and Enterprise Office. The key contacts are Gary Williams and Richard Gunn

Get in touch
Postgraduate Research Education Team