2020 applicants
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 will be hosting an online workshop and Q&A session for all potential applicants and supervisors, to support you with your SeNSS studentship application. The workshop will be on Thursday 5 November 2020, from 10am-12pm (GMT).  Please check back here for further details on how to join us.

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-time and part-time study, and covers:

  • Fully-funded studentships (tax-free living costs at approximately £15k per year and tuition fees of £4k+ per year) for UK and eligible EU students, and international Economics students


  • Fees-only studentships (tuition fees of £4k+ per year) for EU students who have lived in the UK for less than three years
  • Research training support grants
  • The studentship also provides access to additional funding to support your research, UK or overseas fieldwork, international study visits, and language training.

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. As soon as UKRI releases its full residential eligibility guidance, we will make this information available here.

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


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

Applications for SeNSS Studentships are open now. The deadline is 12pm (GMT) on Monday 18 January 2021.

You can apply for a studentship in one of the following Pathways:

Studentships are available as +3 (PhD) or 4- year (Masters and PhD) awards, and on a full-time or part-time basis. Choose which course you want to study, and apply for a place on that course by 12pm (GMT) on Monday 18 January 2021.

We strongly encourage you to contact the School or Department you wish to apply to at the earliest opportunity in order to discuss your research proposal and potential supervision arrangements. This is particularly important in order to give supervisors enough time to assist in the development of your application to ensure the best chance of success.

Please note that you will need to discuss your application with the department to which you are applying for a place of study.

Applying online

The deadline for you to have applied for a place on your course at Essex is 12pm (GMT) on Monday 18 January 2021 and the deadline for submission of your online applications for a SeNSS Studentship is also 12pm (GMT) on Monday 18 January 2021.

What's the selection process?

After the submission deadline, applications pass through an internal University selection process, before a decision is made whether to nominate particular applications to the SeNSS pathway (disciplinary) selection panels. 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 at the beginning of April each year, and you will be notified by mid-April whether you have been awarded a SeNSS student-led studentship.


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.

The 2021 SeNSS collaborative studentship competition will be advertised here from Monday 2 November 2020.

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 pgresearch@essex.ac.uk 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 gcwill@esex.ac.uk and Richard Gunn richard.gunn@essex.ac.uk

Get in touch
Postgraduate Research Education Team