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NC3Rs | 20 Years: Pioneering Better Science

PhD Studentships

What is a Studentship?

PhD Studentship awards embed the 3Rs in the training of graduate scientists from a broad range of scientific backgrounds. As part of our commitment to support a scientific workforce with expertise and skills in non-animal technologies, applications centred on the development and application of full replacement approaches only, are within remit for the NC3Rs PhD Studentship scheme.

Full replacement refers to methods that avoid the use of animals for research and testing purposes. Often referred to collectively as non-animal technologies or NATs, non-animal technologies for bioscience research encompasses the use of complex 3D tissue models, organ-on-chips/ microphysiological systems, stem cell platforms, established cell lines, and in silico/ computational tools. Applications that integrate a range of disciplines or include an industrial partner are particularly encouraged.

This competition is run annually and awards of either three or four years duration, with values of £100k (non-FEC) and £135k (non-FEC) respectively.

Please note: Proposals focused on partial replacement, reduction or refinement approaches are not currently eligible for the NC3Rs PhD Studentship scheme.

Proposals centred on full and/or partial replacement, reduction, and/or refinement approaches which seek to achieve 3Rs impact in the field of cardiovascular research are eligible for the BHF-NC3Rs Joint Studentship awards.

BHF-NC3Rs Joint PhD Studentship awards

BHF logo

As part of our continued collaboration, up to two additional three-year joint awards with values of £100k (non-FEC), are available with the British Heart Foundation (BHF). Applications centred on reduction, replacement and/or refinement are within remit for the NC3Rs-BHF awards and should seek to achieve 3Rs impact in the field of cardiovascular research.

These awards are subject to joint NC3Rs-BHF terms and conditions. Additional information on BHF’s Intellectual Property and Commercial Exploitation terms can be found in section 5 of the BHF Standard Conditions of Grant

Prospective PhD students

Please note we do not fund students directly. Awards are advertised by the relevant research institutions.

Key dates

Key dates Details
6 June 2024, 4pm Deadline for outline submission to NC3Rs Office
12 June 2024 Application form available online
19 June 2024, 2pm Applicant workshop - Preparing a Studentship application and using the new Funding Service
31 July 2024, 4pm Full application deadline online
September 2024 Shortlisting stage*
October 2024 Studentship Assessment Panel meeting
End of October 2024 Applicants informed of outcome
Any time after issue of Award letter Expected Studentship start date
TBC September 2025 Grant holder introductory meeting
1 October 2025 Latest date for commencing Studentships

*A shortlisting stage may be held, depending upon the volume of applications received.

Please sign up to the NC3Rs newsletter for updates on funding schemes.

Who can apply?

Establishment eligibility

Supervisors from any UK research establishment can apply, including:

  • Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).
  • Independent Research Organisations (IROs).
  • Research Council (RC) Institutes.

The research organisation is responsible for finding students and the administration of each Studentship during the award.

Individual eligibility

  • Applicants should be UK-based researchers with a minimum of five years' postdoctoral experience.
  • A minimum of two Supervisors should be included on an application.
  • Applicants with limited supervisory experience are encouraged to name a more experienced colleague as a co-supervisor.
  • The lead applicant must have a contract of employment with the RO that will outlast the duration of the proposed application.
  • If an NC3Rs grant holder has more than 12 months remaining on their NC3Rs grant, at the time of application, they are not permitted to apply as a Primary Investigator for further NC3Rs funding (excluding CRACK IT and Skills and Knowledge Transfer grants – please contact the Office to discuss).
  • A proposal may integrate two disciplines or departments; however, applicants must ensure that the training content remains coherent and focused on delivering a specific set of research skills.

Industrial and overseas researchers

Industrial and overseas researchers cannot be Primary Investigators but can be included as collaborators or project partners.

Resubmissions

The NC3Rs does not allow resubmission of previously unsuccessful proposals, unless explicitly invited by the Panel. 

Proposals previously declined by the NC3Rs will not be considered by a Research Council or funder within 12 months (from the date of first submission to a Research Council) unless substantially revised. More information can be found in the NC3Rs PhD Studentship scheme Applicant guidance.

Please note: The same or similar application cannot be considered by any other Research Council, the Health Departments or any other research funder at the same time. 

How to apply

Outline stage

Before submitting a full application applicants are required to complete an outline of the research proposal (see sidebar). A letter of support from the Head of Department and the CVs of the proposed supervisory team (to include supervisory experience and not to exceed two sides of A4) are also required. Applicants should also take note of the 'Considerations at informal outline stage'.

Please email the below to studentships@nc3rs.org.uk before 4pm, 6 June 2024:

  1. Completed outline form
  2. Head of Department letter of support
  3. CVs of the proposed supervisory team

Submitting a full application

For the 2024 call, full applications to the NC3Rs PhD Studentship Scheme will be made via the new Funding Service. This is part of the UKRI Simpler and Better Funding (SBF) programme’s work to develop a single, consistent user-centred funding service. Invited applicants will be sent a link to begin their application through the Funding Service.

Applicants are advised to read and refer to the NC3Rs PhD Studentship Scheme Applicant guidance, which contains more detailed information on submitting both an outline and full application.

The following supporting documents are required for a full application:

  1. Data Management Plan
  2. Resources

Assessment procedure

Applications are assessed by the Studentship Assessment Panel. The following criteria are taken into consideration when making funding decisions:

  • Potential impact on the 3Rs
  • Quality of the proposed project
  • Expertise and track record of the Supervisor
  • The training / research environment
  • Strategic relevance to the highlight notice (where appropriate)

Further information on assessment criteria can be found here: NC3Rs Studentship Assessment Criteria

A shortlisting stage will take place prior to the Panel meeting. Applications will be reviewed by the Panel to identify those which are not competitive.

In order to maintain the transparency and integrity of the peer review process we have adopted the UKRI principles of peer review.

Studentship Assessment Panel

Funding Panel members are appointed in a personal capacity for three years, with the possibility of a further one or two years extension. We receive proposals from a wide range of disciplines. Additional members may be co-opted to each Panel, for one year, if additional expertise is required. A full list of current members and when their term ends is given below.

All Funding Panel members are required to declare any private, professional or commercial interests that give rise to, or could give rise to, a conflict of interest as detailed in the UKRI conflicts of interest policy.

Studentship Assessment Panel members

Member name Institution Term ends
Dr Sally Robinson (Chair) CRUK, Manchester Institute 2024
Dr William Brackenbury University of York 2024
Dr Paola Campagnolo University of Surrey 2025
Dr Yvonne Dombrowski Queen's University Belfast 2024
Professor Claire Gibson University of Nottingham 2024
Dr Michelle Lawson University of Sheffield 2024
Dr Andrew Leach  University of Manchester 2026
Professor Melanie Madhani University of Birmingham 2024
Dr Kendle Maslowski Beatson Institute for Cancer Research 2025
Dr Richard Mort Lancaster University 2024
Dr Laura Randle University of Liverpool 2026
Mr Jim Saul Labcorp 2025
Dr Julia Schueler Charles River 2025
Dr Mona Shehata AstraZeneca 2025
Professor Neil Vargesson University of Aberdeen 2024
Professor Hasan Yesilkaya University of Leicester 2025
PhD Studentships are open for outline submissions. Deadline: 6 June, 4pm.