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Postgraduate Study - PhD and Research Degrees

ESRC South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP)

Applications for September 2024 entry are now CLOSED. 

Details below provide guidance on the studentships for 2024 entry.  Please visit the website in the autumn for details on the studentship application process for September 2025 entry. 


Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), South West Doctoral Training - Applications for October 2024 are now open.

The Universities of Bristol, Exeter, Bath, Bath Spa, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Plymouth Marjon and West England form 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

The Economic and Social Research Council has granted doctoral training partnership status to the collaboration. The South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) has been accredited to offer a hub of world-class social sciences research. As one of only 15 Partnerships in the UK, the SWDTP is part of a national network which will train a new generation of social scientists. The SWDTP has been allocated 34 studentships per annum.

The SWDTP offers funding for PhD studentships that are typically 3 years and 3 months plus 3 months ‘Research in Practice’. It also funds a Masters + PhD for applicants without a prior Masters or equivalent professional experience. For applicants with a previous Masters or equivalent professional experience where this does not fully meet the ESRC’s training requirements set out (here), then the student is required to undertake ‘top up’ training during their PhD, which may extend the length of the funding.

Part-time studentships will be offered pro rata to their full-time equivalents.

SWDTP Pathways at Exeter

Fully-funded ESRC studentships are offered at Exeter through eleven disciplinary pathways that span the social sciences and four innovative interdisciplinary pathways, to offer students the broadest possible approach to their studies with us. 

Applicants should read Exeter’s Eligibility Information below and then apply directly to the relevant pathway through the ESRC SWDTP Pathway PhD Studentships Available tab below. Exeter applicants to the SWDTP are not required to submit a second application for a place at the University prior to applying for a SWDTP studentship.


There are two ESRC strategic steers that are allocated a quota of the funding:

  1. Data Skills: Any proposal using large and complex qualitative and/or quantitative social science datasets within any pathway (bar AQM) can request to be considered for this steer.
  2. Advanced Quantitative Methods: Any proposal using and developing advanced quantitative social science data can apply to the AQM pathway to be considered for this steer.

SWDTP Training at Exeter

Each SWDTP pathway at Exeter University has an identified Masters programme that provides methods training in line with the ESRC’s training requirements. This will typically comprise: i) An introduction to research methods in social science; ii) advanced training in either quantitative or qualitative social science methods; iii) specialist training in digital methods and data skills; iv) a research dissertation or equivalent, and v) modules in the pathway subject area.

SWDTP PhD students are also encouraged to undertake ‘Research in Practice’. This aims to support skills and professional development as a researcher with transferable skills that will support a career outside of the university sector, as well as within it. A key component of it is a placement, internship or equivalent, of three-months total length (but not necessarily taken in one three-month period).

Further application information and documentation can be found on the SWDTP website.

SWDTP Q&A at Exeter

If you would like further information there will be two Q&A sessions held on Zoom at Exeter to answer any further questions you may have:

  • Monday 11th December 2023 - 10.00-11.00*
  • Tuesday 9th January 2024 - 10.00 - 11.00*

The Q&A session will give you an opportunity to: 

  • Find out more about the SWDTP and PhD study at the University of Exeter
  • Get advice on how to write a strong application for funding
  • Learn more about the application process for studentships
  • Ask any questions you have about SWDTP Studentships and studying at Exeter

*Please contact to confirm your attendance for the virtual information session, indicating the date of the session you would like to attend.

Please also include a few details about the subject area you are interested in and any supervisor that you have been in contact with or are planning to get in contact with.

Closing date

The closing date for applications is 12 noon GMT, Friday 12th January 2024.

Find out more about the SWDTP.

Collaboration, Impact and Placements.

Applicants for a PhD award should have: 

  • completed, or be due to complete, an ESRC-accredited or an equivalent research Masters* with a significant element of research training. Applicants may be asked for further information to determine the relevance of the content covered.

 *An equivalent research Masters is defined as including significant social sciences research design and quantitative and qualitative research methods elements. The transcript will need to show that a minimum of a third of the taught stage of the programme entailed research methods elements – which should normally be roughly divided equally between social sciences research design, quantitative and qualitative research methods elements – and that there is also a Dissertation. For students who have undertaken a Masters outside the UK we will look for appropriate equivalencies. All awards are subject to ratification by the “Awards and Ratification Committee”, who shall have the authority to reconsider the equivalence of any Masters awards. 

The ESRC’s requirements for postgraduate training and development can be viewed at 

  •  achieved a current average grade of their Masters (at the point of application) normally of at least Merit (60%) grade. Successful applicants must ultimately achieve BOTH an overall average of at least 60% across the taught units/modules AND at least 60% for the dissertation component as a condition of their funding.

Holders of Masters degrees that are not considered equivalent (as above), must apply for the Masters + PhD award. 

However, where only a small component of the required, prior training is missing, the Awards and Ratification Committee / SWDTP Director may exercise discretion and offer a PhD award conditional on the award recipient taking top-up training in one or more research modules and passing their assessment at a grade of 60% or above. 

In the case of a Masters + PhD application, continuation of funding from the Masters stage to the PhD stage of the programme will be subject to achieving 60% across the taught units / modules AND 60% for the dissertation component.  Students who fail to achieve these conditions may have their funding terminated and may be required to refund any money paid to them during the PhD portion of the programme. 

In order to receive ESRC studentship funding you must have qualifications/experience equal to the standard of a good honours degree at first or upper second class level from a UK academic research organisation. 

Degree qualifications gained from outside the UK, or a combination of qualifications and/or experience that is equivalent to a relevant UK degree may be accepted. 

ESRC SWDTP studentships are open to UK and Irish nationals who, if successful in their applications, will receive a full studentship including payment of university tuition fees at the home fees rate. 

A limited number of full studentships are also available to international students which are defined as EU (excluding Irish nationals), EEA, Swiss and all other non-UK nationals.  

Those not meeting the nationality and residency requirements to be treated as a ‘home’ student may apply for a limited number of full studentships for international students.  Although international students are usually charged a higher tuition fee rate than ‘home’ students, at Exeter those international students offered an ESRC SWDTP full studentship starting in 2024 will have their full tuition fees covered for the duration of their programme (the ‘home’ tuition fee rate covered by the studentship and an additional University of Exeter fee waiver).  

International applicants need to be aware that you will have to cover the cost of your student visa, healthcare surcharge and other costs of moving to the UK to do a PhD. 

Please see the Key Facts in our International Student Support pages for further information 

The conditions for eligibility of home fees status are complex and you will need to seek advice if you have moved to or from the UK (or Republic of Ireland) within the past 3 years or have applied for settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme. 

The full ESRC guidelines are available in the Postgraduate Funding Guide. 

For more information on SWDTP entry and collaboration requirements, please read the Admission Statement & FAQs 2024 Entry. 

To apply for SWDTP funding, you must choose the relevant pathway listed in the 'ESRC SWDTP Pathway PhD Studentships Available' section and choosing the ‘apply now’ button. Only applications submitted via this SWDTP pathway link will be considered for funding.  Please do not apply directly to the University PhD programmes of study at this stage. If successful, your application for funding will become your University Programme application so you will not need to apply again. 

You will need to upload the following documents to the studentship application form. Please note our preferred format is PDF, each file named with your surname and the name of the document, eg “Smith – Transcript”, “Smith – Annex A”, “Smith – Collaboration Support”: 

  • A completed SWDTP Studentship Application Form 2024 Entry (Annex A) This will include your research proposal of 1,300 words including the name(s) of the potential supervisors. For 1+3.5 students it is recognised that this will be an outline proposal to be further developed during the first year of the studentship.  Please upload your SWDTP Studentship Application form via the 'ESRC SWDTP Studentship Appliction Form' section of the online application system.

  • 2 references:

         If your referees prefer, they can email the reference direct to

  • Verified transcript of your highest qualification to date or an interim transcript if you are still studying

  • Letter(s) of support (ESRC collaboration):  If your project requires external letters of support from prospective collaborators please upload the documents to the "Letter(s) of support (ESRC collaboration)" section in the application form.  If your project does not require an external collaboration letter of support please upload a blank document in the format identified above with the title "Collaborative Support N/A"

  • If you are not a national of a majority English-speaking country you will need to submit evidence of your proficiency in English (for further details, please see the University’s English language requirements)

If you encounter a technical issue when uploading your supporting documents to the portal where you may not see options to upload all the requested documents, or the upload pages may be titled something different. Please continue to apply for the programme through the portal and upload your supporting documents where you are able.  A full list of the required supporting documents can be found on the ‘How To Apply’ tab on the webpage

If you are unable to upload any of the required documents to the portal, please continue to submit your application by the deadline. Once you have submitted the application you will receive a 9 digit reference number. Please email any additional supporting documents that you were not able to upload, to Please title the email “ESRC Studentship Application-[Your Name*]–[9 digit application number*]”.  *Edit with correct information.

Key Dates 

Deadline for applications: 12.00 (Noon) GMT Friday 12 January 2024 

Interviews for short listed applicants will take place w/c 26th February 2024 and will be held online. 

Reference information 

It is your responsibility to ensure that your supervisor and referee email their Supervisor Supporting Statement/references to, as we will not make requests for references directly; you must arrange for them to be submitted by midday Friday 12th January 2024.  Please note that applications with missing documentation will not progress to shortlisting. 

References should be submitted to us directly in the form of a letter. Referees must email their references to us from their institutional email accounts. We cannot accept references from personal/private email accounts, unless it is a scanned document on institutional headed paper and signed by the referee. 

All application documents must be submitted in English. Certified translated copies of academic qualifications must also be provided. 

Data Sharing 

During the application process, the University may need to make certain disclosures of your personal data to third parties to be able to administer your application, carry out interviews and select candidates.  These are not limited to, but may include disclosures to: 

  • The selection panel and/or management board or equivalent of the relevant programme, which is likely to include staff from one or more other HEIs;
  • Administrative staff at one or more other HEIs participating in the relevant programme. 

Such disclosures will always be kept to the minimum amount of personal data required for the specific purpose. Your sensitive personal data (relating to disability and race/ethnicity) will not be disclosed without your explicit consent. 

The South West Doctoral Training Partnership has created a number of new and innovative training pathways which aim to tackle current national and international research priorities.

The following research training pathways are available at the University of Exeter. All programmes are available at the Streatham Campus in Exeter unless otherwise stated.

The links below are for programme information only.  The application links associated with the below are for direct programme entry only are not linked to the ESRC SWDTP; therefore please do not submit an application for funding via the links below as your application will not be considered for the funding. 

Disciplinary pathways Programmes available
Area and Development Studies MRes Middle East Studies
Arab and Islamic Studies MPhil/PhDs:
MPhil/PhD Arab and Islamic Studies
MPhil/PhD Ethno-political Studies
MPhil/PhD Kurdish Studies
MPhil/PhD Middle East Politics
MPhil/PhD Palestine Studies
Economic and Social History

MPhil/PhD History (Streatham Campus, Exeter and Penryn Campus, Cornwall)

Economics  MSc Economics
MSc Behavioural Economics and Finance
MSc Financial Economics
Education  MSc Educational Research (St Luke's Campus, Exeter)
MPhil/PhD Education and Four Year PhD Education (St Luke's Campus, Exeter)
Human Geography

MRes Critical Human Geographies 
MPhil/PhD Human Geography (Streatham Campus, Exeter and Penryn Campus, Cornwall)

Management & Business Studies

MRes Management

Political Science & International Studies
MRes Politics
MPhil/PhD Politics and International Relations 
MPhil/PhD Politics and International Relations (Cornwall Campus)
MPhil/PhD European Politics
Psychology MSc Psychological Research Methods
MSc Social and Organisational Psychology
MPhil/PhD Psychology
Socio-legal Studies MRes Socio-Legal Research
MPhil/PhD Law
Sociology MRes Science and Technology Studies
MPhil/PhD Sociology
Social Anthropology
Interdisciplinary pathways Programmes available
Advanced Quantitative Methods MRes Advanced Quantitative Methods
MPhil/PhD Advanced Quantitative Methods
Climate Change, Sustainability and Society MRes Sustainable Futures (Penryn Campus, Cornwall)
MPhil/PhD Sustainable Futures
MPhil/PhD Sustainable Futures (Penryn Campus, Cornwall)
Global Challenges and Transformations: Geopolitics, inequalities and mobilities

MRes Global Political Economy
MPhil/PhD Global Political Economy

Health, Wellbeing and Society
MRes Health and Wellbeing (St Luke's Campus)
MPhil/PhD Health and Wellbeing (St Luke's Campus)
Sociotechnical Futures and Digital Methods MA Society and Culture: Science and Technology
MRes in Social Research Methods (pathway in Science and Technology)

Further information can be found on the South West Doctoral Training Partnership’s webpages.