Doctoral Training Partnerships

SENSS: South East Network for Social Sciences

South and East Network for Social Sciences (SENSS) is an ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) promoting inventive and inclusive social science research training and collaboration.

Essex is one of the 8 world-leading institutions that comprise the membership of the SENSS DTP:

  • City, University of London
  • Cranfield University
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Essex (the co-ordinating institution)
  • Goldsmiths, University of London
  • University of Lincoln
  • Middlesex University
  • University of Roehampton

The studentship competition for October 2024 entry has now closed

The information on this webpage relates to the 2024 competition and remains for information only. This webpage will be updated in September 2024 with information about the launch of the studentship competitions for October 2025 entry.

As an ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP), SENSS provides:

  • Fully-funded doctoral studentships
  • Supervision from internationally leading experts in their field
  • Research methods training tailored to individuals' needs
  • A range of placements in which researchers can bring their social scientific skills and findings beyond academia

SENSS has three defining strands:

1. A proven record in equality, diversity and inclusion along with a commitment -- backed up with a detailed action plan -- to achieve more.

2. A strong civic character: SENSS partners are deeply embedded and highly active in their local communities as well as nationally and internationally, meaning that researchers contribute to solutions to the toughest social and policy problems.

3. A commitment to interdisciplinary research which is built into our very structure: SENSS is organised not by academic subjects but by thematic priorities, so every funded researcher works in an area of national and international importance.

SENSS studentships support interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research and training across six themes:

  • Digital social sciences
  • Resolving uncertainty & addressing crises
  • Sustainability and climate emergency
  • Health, wellbeing & social care
  • Justice, institutions & social change
  • Advanced methods for social & economic research

Essex is involved in all six SENSS Themes through the following academic departments:

What does the studentship provide?

A tax-free maintenance stipend of £18,622 per year (UKRI stipend rates as appropriate each year) to undertake your postgraduate studies, and your tuition fees (whether home or international fee status your SENSS studentship covers your tuition fees for the duration of the funding award).

The structure of the studentship offered will depend on your personal training needs. However, the minimum duration of a SENSS-funded studentship will be 3.5 years (this includes a mandatory placement of approximately 3 months). The maximum duration of a studentship will be 4.5 years and this will be available to students with extensive training requirements, such as those undertaking a masters course ahead of the PhD or an Integrated PhD course. These studentships are applicable to both full-time and part-time study.

In addition to the stipend and fees, the studentship also offers access to research training support funds, and other funds to support overseas fieldwork, overseas institutional visits, and difficult language training.

SENSS DTP will be holding webinars to support applicants and supervisors (please use the links below to register for one of the webinars)

Are you eligible?

Residential criteria

Regardless of whether you are a "home" applicant or an "international" applicant, you can apply for a studentship. However, there is a cap on international student 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

Academic eligibility

To apply for a Masters plus PhD you will need qualifications or professional experience equivalent to a Bachelor’s degree (Honours). To apply for a PhD only you will need qualifications or professional experience equivalent to a Masters degree and which includes the required research methods training.

If you have already started your PhD, you are eligible to apply for SENSS funding, but only if you will not have already completed 50% or more of your studies when the funding commences in October 2024.

How to apply

The SENSS studentship competition is now open for application for an October 2024 start. Full details can be found on the SENSS DTP Funding Opportunities webpage.

SENSS has produced detailed guidance for applicants, which contains all of the important information you will need to support you with your SENSS studentship application.

There is also the student-led competition policy, which provides information about how the competition will be run, and how applications will be reviewed and awards made.

SENSS also provides guidance notes for supervisors who are supporting a SENSS studentship applicant. 

Applications for SENSS Studentships must be submitted using the SENSS Studentship application form on HEI Apply. The deadline is 12pm (GMT) (midday) on Friday 9 February 2024.

In addition to your SENSS Studentship application, you must also apply for your place on the relevant course at Essex, using the online application form. The deadline for you to have applied for a place on your course at Essex in order to be considered for a SENSS application is 12pm (GMT) on Monday 22 January 2024.

We strongly encourage you to contact the School or Department to which you wish to apply at the earliest opportunity, in order to discuss your course application, as well as your research proposal and potential supervision arrangements. This is particularly important for signposting your course application and for identifying a supervisor. You must also give your supervisor sufficient time to assist in the development of your studentship application to ensure your best chance of success.

You can already start thinking about and drafting key aspects of your application: you can outline your research proposal, plans and timeline for completion. Your supervisor will be able to offer you advice about how best to do this.

You can also start drafting your personal statement, which should address the following key questions: why are you applying for this studentship; why are you the best person for this research project; how are you and your proposed supervisors the best fit; how does your research fit with the interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary thematic group to which you are applying; why SENSS and how will the SENSS studentship enable you to achieve what you are proposing?

SENSS also encourages applications that are advanced quantitative methods (AQM) and big data-based (I.e., which use AQM, and/or large datasets, and/or big data methods and associated innovative analytical methods -more than one may apply), so you should refer to this in your application if applicable.

Applying online for your place at Essex

Although the SENSS studentship application is not yet open, you can commence your application for your place at Essex using the course admission online application form.

If you are applying for a Masters and PhD studentship, you will need to make an application for the Masters programme and add a note to your course application that you are applying for a SENSS 1+3.5 studentship and are seeking admission to both the Masters and PhD.

The deadline for you to have applied for a place on your course at Essex in order to be considered for a SENSS application is 12pm (GMT) (midday) on Monday 22 January 2024.

Indicative timeline for applicants:


  • Make contact with your potential supervisor(s) and discuss your research proposal and studentship application.
  • Attend the SENSS applicant workshop (date and time TBC)
  • Working with your identified supervisor, draft your research proposal and commence the SENSS application form and apply for your PhD place at Essex.


  • Continue to work with your supervisor on your SENSS application and ensure you have nominated your referees on SMApply.


  • If you haven’t already, ensure you have applied for your PhD place (or Masters and PhD/Integrated PhD place) at Essex by the deadline of 12pm (GMT) (midday) on Monday 22 January 2024.
  • Finalise your SENSS applications form with your supervisor and check your referees have provided their references.


  • Submit your SENSS application by the deadline of 12pm (GMT) (midday) on Friday 8 February 2024

The Studentship Selection Process

All studentship applications submitted on HEIApply by the deadline are reviewed by the relevant departments and then assessed and scores against the SENSS assessment criteria by an institutional thematic panel, based on the 6 thematic groups.   Each Thematic Panel can nominate up to two applications per unit of assessment within each Theme. Two additional applications per UoA within each Theme can be nominated where the applicants are eligible under the SENSS widening participation criteria.  The institutional Thematic Panels meet in the last week of February.  All applicants will be informed of the outcome of this selection panel and those being nominated to the next stage will be contacted with feedback for improvement ahead of nomination to the next stage of assessment.

All institutional nominations are considered by the SENSS DTP Thematic Groups, which assess the nominated applications from all 8 member-institutions and nominate the best applicants to the SENSS Management Board for consideration.

The SENSS Management Board makes the final award decisions, and applicants will be told the outcome of their applications in mid-April.

Get in touch
Postgraduate Research Education Team