BBSRC South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio)

Programme overview

The South West Biosciences Doctoral Training Partnership (SWBio DTP) is led by the University of Bristol, together with the Universities of Bath, Cardiff and Exeter, alongside Rothamsted Research.  This partnership also includes the following collaborative partners; Marine Biological Association (MBA), Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), Swansea University, UCB Pharma, University of the West of England (UWE) and SETsquared Bristol. 

These institutions represent a distinctive group of bioscience research staff and students, with established international, national and regional networks, and widely recognised research excellence. As research leaders, we have a strong track record in advancing knowledge through high-quality research and teaching, in partnership with industry and the government.

The programme particularly aims to provide students with outstanding interdisciplinary research training within the following themes:

-       Advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery

-       Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

-       Bioscience for an integrated understanding of health

Importantly this research training is also underpinned by transformative technologies, allowing you to expand the boundaries of your research through innovative tools, technologies and approaches.

You will be recruited to a broad, interdisciplinary project, supported by a multidisciplinary supervisory team, with many cross-institutional PhD projects available that build on the expertise of each of our partners.  There are also opportunities to:

-       apply your research in an industrial setting through our projects with an industrial partner (DTP CASE

-       undertake research jointly with some of our core and collaborative partners (Standard DTP studentships
        with a collaborative partner).

Some projects will also offer working with other national/international researchers, as well as fieldwork opportunities. 

Programme structure

A structured approach to training will be adopted throughout a 4-year PhD model, to ensure you are well equipped as a bioscience researcher for leadership positions in academia, industry and beyond.

First year

In the first year, we provide a broad awareness of the fundamental research approaches in life sciences and how they could be applied to real-life situations through taught units and rotation projects. You will complete:

-       three co-localised taught units

Training you in skills to enable you to be at the forefront of cutting-edge bioscience research as well as equip you with many transferable skills, giving you the agility to navigate different career paths.  This includes training in Statistics, Bioinformatics, coding, experimental design, innovation and understanding the impact of your research.

-       two rotation projects

These rotation projects are in different disciplinary areas related to your field of research, and will allow refinement of your PhD project in line with your emerging research interests as the programme progresses

 You will need to successfully complete the first year to be able to progress into your second year of studies.  An MRes exit route is available at the end of year one should this be required.

Second to fourth years

The remaining three years will be more like a conventional PhD, with academic progression monitored by your registered university. You will be taking on full-time research and are likely to be based in the research group of your main supervisor.

You will also have the opportunity to attend a number of SWBio DTP cohort activities held across the partnership, such as annual student conferences, workshops, research theme activities and outreach events where you will get the chance to meet and interact with other students from the partnership, giving you access to a multidisciplinary and supportive student network.

Students must submit their thesis by the end of year four.

Professional Internships for Postgraduate Students (PIPS)

You will also take part in a three-month full-time placement (or part-time equivalent) outside of an academic research environment. Placements are intended to broaden the scope of your employability after your PhD. In particular, it will encourage you to use your doctoral training skills in a broader range of careers 

Examples of placements include working within policy, science communication, charities, industry and publishing.

PIPS is optional for CASE studentships as these projects will involve an industrial placement with the CASE partner for 3-18 months.

Funding for 2021/22

To be eligible for a fully-funded studentship, you must meet the below academic and residence criteria.

A fully-funded four year SWBio DTP studentship will cover:

  • a stipend* (at the standard UKRI rate; £15,285 per annum for 2020-2021)
  • research and training costs
  • tuition fees (at the standard UKRI rate)
  • additional funds to support fieldwork, conferences and a 3-month placement

* An enhanced stipend is available for students with a recognised veterinary degree qualification (£23,590 per annum for 2020-2021). There may also be enhanced stipends associated with projects that have a CASE partner (CASE projects are highlighted as *CASE in the project lists).

Academic criteria

Applicants for a studentship must have obtained, or be about to obtain, a First or Upper Second Class UK Honours degree, or the equivalent qualifications gained outside the UK, in an appropriate area of science or technology. Applicants with a Lower Second Class degree will be considered if they also have a Master’s degree or have significant relevant non-academic experience.

In addition, due to the strong mathematical component of the taught course in the first year and the quantitative emphasis in our projects, a minimum of a grade B in A-level Maths or an equivalent qualification or experience is required.

Equivalent Maths qualifications/experience

  • Physics A-level (grade B and above)
  • Undertaking units as part of your degree that have a significant mathematical component*

*Significant mathematical component examples include; maths, statistics, bioinformatics.

Applicants must ensure they highlight their Maths background within their application and to upload any supporting evidence.

Residence criteria

UKRI have recently updated their policy for funded studentships which starts from the 2021/2022 academic year.

IMPORTANT: Please read the UKRI Full Eligibility Criteria alongside the information provided below.

Home students

Fully-funded studentships are available for Home students.  To be classed as a Home student, candidates must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a UK National (meeting residency requirements), or
  • Have settled status, or
  • Have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirement) or,
  • Have indefinite leave to remain or enter

International students

If you do not meet the above criteria, you will be classed as an International student.

A limited number (up to 30%) of UKRI fully-funded studentships are available through the SWBio DTP, that applicants who would be classed as an International student are eligible for.  Please apply through our normal application route.


Entry requirements

Please further information please see the SWBio DTP academic and residency eligibility webpage. 

 Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Statement

We want to support diverse and inclusive work environments.  We therefore welcome applications from individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, age, gender, or disability status.  We welcome applications from individuals who have previously studied at any recognised Higher Education Institute and from a range of career paths (please refer to the SWBio DTP academic criteria for eligibility), including individuals who have previously trained in the sciences and are wanting to return to scientific research.

We particularly encourage applications from BAME* and mature (this is classed as 30+ years) individuals as these backgrounds are currently underrepresented within our student cohort. 

*Black, Asian and minority ethnic.

Projects and PhD studentships available