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University partnership secures £18.5 million in funding to support PhD candidates

A partnership between University of Gloucestershire and seven Welsh universities has been awarded £18.5 million in funding by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to support postgraduate social science research and training.

The Welsh Graduate School for the Social Sciences (WGSSS) is one of 15 new doctoral training partnerships announced by the ESRC – a part of UK Research and Innovation – ­following a successful bid for funding.

The doctoral training partnerships will provide a breadth of professional development training opportunities for PhD candidates to help further develop a world-class, highly skilled workforce for the UK.

The WGSSS comprises University of Gloucestershire, Cardiff University, Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, the University of South Wales, and the University of Wales, Trinity St David.

The partners will deliver 360 studentships across five annual cohorts from 2024, to provide support for social science students and supervisors on career development, wellbeing and inclusion.

Dan Keech, Postgraduate Research Lead for the University’s Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for the communities we work with. Our speciality is creating joint studentships where our doctoral candidates work with an organisation to answer a research question. This means the research work is directly relevant to a real-world problem. 

“We have a vibrant and thriving community of doctoral students, and the WGSS is a way of being part of a broader community in Wales, so we have access to more colleagues and even more partners who can support students. 

“These are a new format of PhD, tailored to the individual, so students will study for about four-and-a-half years with a placement and individualised training support, which is designed to open these opportunities to a broader range of people. We will be advertising opportunities as they arise in 2024.”

Dr Matt Reed (pictured), Director of the CCRI said: “We have had a strong record of achievements with our partners in Wales, giving us a chance to recruit excellent candidates who have gone on to do very well, securing jobs in academia, winning awards and publishing their research. 

“Their success and that of the supervisory teams who have supported them and the partners who have provided funding and access is an essential part of the success of this bid to win a new DTP.   

“The CCRI is a regular collaborator with the Welsh Government and other partners in Wales, so I’m very proud that we are playing a role in this exciting institution.”

WGSSS is supported by an £18.5 million award from ESRC, which is matched by contributions from partner universities and by £1.5 million-plus investment from strategic partners including the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales.