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. Applications from any area of medical, biological or veterinary research are within remit; those that integrate a range of disciplines or include an industrial partner are particularly encouraged. This competition is run annually with up to twelve awards available, with a value of £30k (non-FEC) per annum for three years. The budget for the 2020 call is £1.08 million.

Interested in learning more about the scheme and how to apply? Watch the video of our webinar recorded on 24 April 2020. 

Following the success of last year’s competition, this year we will be co-funding up to two more joint awards with Unilever for projects within non-animal safety assessment. Awards are for £30k (non-FEC) per annum for three years.

Applications for these joint awards should focus on the following areas:

  • Clearance mechanisms – renal, liver metabolism

  • Local exposure – microbiome, skin, lung

  • Non-animal models with human focus

  • Repeat dosing

These awards are subject to joint NC3Rs-Unilever terms and conditions.

Further information on areas of interest to Unilever can be found here.

As part of our continued collaboration, up to three additional joint awards are available with the British Heart Foundation (BHF), with a value of £30k (non-FEC) per annum for three years. Applications for the NC3Rs-BHF awards should seek to achieve 3Rs impact in the field of cardiovascular research. These awards are subject to joint NC3Rs-BHF terms and conditions.


Please note - joint NC3Rs-BHF awards will not be available as part of the 2020 funding competition.

Panel meeting outcome reports and award rates for previous calls can be found here. Applicants should read the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook which contains more detailed information on the application process.

Key dates | Who can apply | How to apply | Assessment procedure | Related documents

Prospective PhD students

We do not fund students directly. Studentship vacancies arising from our 2019 awards are advertised by the relevant research institutions and on our website

Key dates

4 May 2020, 4pm Deadline for outline submission to NC3Rs Office
27 May 2020 Application form available on Je-S
15 July 2020, 4pm Full application deadline on Je-S
September 2020* Triage*
Start of October 2020* Inform applicants of outcome following Triage*
October 2020 Studentship Assessment Panel meeting
End of October 2020 Applicants informed of outcome
Any time after issue of Award letter Expected Studentship start date
TBC September 2021 Grant holder introductory meeting
1 October 2021 Latest date for commencing Studentships

*Occurrence of this stage is determined by the volume of applications received each year.

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

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Who can apply?

Establishment eligibility

Supervisors from any UK research establishment 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 Strategic Awards – 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.


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 Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook.

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. 

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How to apply

Applicants are advised to read and refer to the NC3Rs Applicant and Grant Holder Handbook, particularly Section 4.4 Studentship Scheme – Application Guidance, which contains more detailed information on submitting both an outline and full application. Applicants should also take note of the 'Considerations at informal outline stage' and 'Studentship panel scoring criteria' when compiling an application.

Please ensure that the correct forms are used at both outline and full application stage.

Outlines and full applications received after 4pm on the deadline date will not be considered, without exception.


We hosted a webinar to provide applicants with further information and guidance on the scheme and application process. Prospective applicants are welcome to view the webinar, recorded on 24 April 2020, and contact the office for further information.

Outline stage

Before submitting a full application applicants are required to complete an outline of the research proposal (see Related Documents below). A letter of support from the Head of Department and the main Supervisor's CV (to include supervisory experience and not to exceed three sides of A4) are also required.

Please email the below to before 4pm, 4 May 2020:

  1. Completed outline form
  2. Head of Department letter of support
  3. Main supervisor's CV

Submitting a full application

We use the Research Councils' joint electronic submission system (Je-S) and applications are processed by the RCUK Shared Business Services.

Important points to note - additional documents to upload as part of the Je-S application:

Invited, full proposals must be submitted via Je-SApplicants submitting under the highlight notice, should note this within their outline form and, if invited, the ‘Objectives’ and the ‘Case for Support’ sections of their full applications.

If you experience difficulties using Je-S or have questions regarding its use, contact the Je-S helpdesk.

Email:  Phone: +44 (0) 1793 44 4164    

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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)

In recent years, due to a high volume of applications received, a triage process has taken place prior to the Panel meeting. Applications are reviewed by the Panel to eliminate those which are not competitive. Only short-listed applications are then considered at the Panel meeting.

Please note the Studentship Panel Scoring Criteria and Guidance below.

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Related documents

Application Process


Assessment Criteria

Terms and Conditions

NC3Rs blogs:

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