Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer

University celebrates funding 'clean sweep'

It was announced last week by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) that the University had been successful in securing two new Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) in water engineering and meta-materials.

This was hugely significant for Exeter because it means it now has a ‘clean sweep’ of DTPs from each of the major research councils - with just the Medical Research Council yet to go through this process. The research councils now aim to train PhD students through establishment of large doctoral training centres, which have variously been called CDTs, DTCs, or BGPs, but which will now harmonise across RCUK as Doctoral Training Partnerships. 

Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Knowledge Transfer said: “This is great news for the University. Not only does it mean that the next generation of researchers will be trained here in Devon and Cornwall, but it is also essential for our standing as a research university. Being successful in our bids for DTPs reinforces our reputation as a centre of research excellence and gives us an excellent platform for future funding.”

The DTPs are being set up by each of the research councils and are having the effect of concentrating public funding for doctoral training in a smaller number of high quality institutions.

In most cases the DTPs have been secured by working with a number of other universities; such as Bristol, Bath and Cardiff through the GW4 research partnership.

The details of the individual DTP’s are as follows:

  • Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). The South, West and Wales Consortium, in which the University of Exeter is joined with seven other universities – Aberystwyth, Bath, Bath Spa, Bristol, Cardiff, Reading and Southampton - was awarded £14.2 million over five years funding 200 PhD studentships.
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Councils (EPSRC). Two DTPs will be established at the University in water informatics and engineering, and meta-materials – artificial materials that have properties beyond those found in nature. The centres will establish a training environment with industrial involvement at their heart. Metamaterials is a solely Exeter initiative whereas water engineering is led by Exeter within the GW4.  It is significant that of the 72 newly funded EPSRC doctoral training centres, 12 are led by GW4 institutions.
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The GW4+ DTP is one of 15 Doctoral Training Partnerships to benefit from NERC’s £100 million investment in training environmental science PhD students. GW4+ comprises the Bristol, Exeter, Cardiff, and Bath, with over 30 partner institutions and companies including the British Antarctic Survey, the British Geological Survey, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, the Met Office, the Natural History Museum, BHP Billiton, the Food and Environment Research Agency, and Syngenta. The DTP was awarded 28 studentships per annum, the largest of any consortium, but will also be topped up by the GW4 universities to fund a total of 38 studentships per year.
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Comprising the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Exeter, and Rothamsted Research, this DTP aims to equip future generations of scientists with skills they need to tackle the many challenges facing society today that have potential solutions in biological science. The £4.2million funding is part of a £67 million of new investment in postgraduate training to deliver highly skilled scientists for the UK research base. A renewal of this DTP is currently being prepared and will also include Cardiff, our GW4 partner, who recently joined the DTP.
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath have formed one of the UK’s largest centres of postgraduate research training for social scientists in fields ranging from economics and human geography to quantitative methodology and psychology. Together, the three Universities educate over 5000 masters and 1600 doctoral students in the social sciences. The Centre draws on the established research excellence of the partners, including the expertise of more than 750 social science research staff. This represents one of the largest groupings of social scientists in the UK.

Prospective PhD students can find more information online about our DTPs and the PhD funding that is currently available. 

Congratulations to all of those academic and Professional Services staff involved in the successful bids and the operation of all of these DTPs, which are performing very well and providing excellent postgraduate supervision. This has been a fantastic effort to secure funding for postgraduate education in every area of our activity. It also demonstrates the growing importance of our GW4 partnership with Bath, Bristol and Cardiff and how we can secure future success by working together as leading research intensive universities.

The overall result is that Exeter has attracted approximately £40 million of funding for doctoral training which will provide finance for a share of 770 studentships.

Date: 28 November 2013

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