NERC Doctoral Training

Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP)

PhD research with BGS — ‘a doctorate with a difference’

All of our PhDs are in collaboration with a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP).

The NERC DTP approach allows partners to pool their experience to create rich training environments for students and encourage knowledge-sharing and interconnectivity, which benefits environmental science researchers. They will offer postgraduate studentships and training across the full range of NERC's disciplines, and in multidisciplinary environments, helping to enrich the student experience.

Each DTP will create a strong and active community of students that are able — and encouraged — to integrate, work, and learn together. These students will receive in-depth, advanced research training, as well as training in the professional and transferable skills essential in today's economy.

An integral element of the NERC DTP programme is that a minimum of 30 per cent (or 360) of the students each year will work with and undertake research projects that are directly relevant to non-academic partners. This will help keep the UK at the forefront of research training, and provide students with the training experience they need to enter a wide range of careers.

Each DTP that BGS is involved with has its own flavour and research expertise. However, they all have an additional research training element over and above the research project in common.

This generally comprises activities undertaken by the whole cohort of doctoral researchers and this includes induction events and summer schools plus a range of researcher-specific training activities such as attending taught Master’s classes. The latter are usually available to all researchers across the DTP. For details about individual DTPs visit the relevant website

Eligibility: NERC studentships are bound by the Research Councils UK Grant Terms and Conditions including residency and minimum qualifications. Doctoral Training in Environmental Research in the UK provides a useful summary of these.

BGS-sponsored PhD students

The BGS is a key non-academic partner in seven of the 15 funded DTPs. In these DTPs we expect BGS-sponsored PhD students to have significant interaction with the survey during their research.

A BGS member of staff will be part of your supervision team and you will be expected to spend some of your research training at the BGS. The amount of time depends on the type of project.

The BGS has three categories of PhDs:

  • Hosted
  • CASE
  • Jointly supervised

Hosted PhD

Hosted PhD researchers will be primarily based at the BGS and will be undertaking research that is key to our strategy. At least 50% of your PhD will be spent at either our Keyworth or Edinburgh offices and you will have access to and training on a range of our world class research facilities and data.

A BGS member of staff will be your lead supervisor and be responsible for your research training. You will become a member of one of the science teams that underpin our main research themes and have access to a broad range of applied geosciences expertise.

In addition to technical training (see the BGS GeoSchool for examples of this), you will have access to BGS personal development training programme — e.g. project management, technical writing and the BGS mentoring scheme.

As the BGS does not award degrees you will be registered for your degree at one of the universities in the partnership, and in collaboration with your university, and the BGS supervisors will develop an appropriate portfolio of research training.

  • CENTA: Birmingham, Leicester, Loughborough, Open, Warwick, CEH
  • E3: Edinburgh, CEH, Forest Research, MetOffice, NCAS, National Museums Scotland, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, SAMS, Scotland’s Rural Heritage, SUERC
  • ENVISION Lancaster, Bangor, Nottingham, Rothamsted, CEH
  • IAPETUS Durham, Glasgow, St Andrews, Sterling, CEH
  • GW4Plus Bristol, Bath, Cardiff, Exeter, BAS, CEH, NHM, MetOffice
  • SCCP: Imperial, CEH, Kew, MetOffice, NHM, ZSL
  • SCENARIO Reading, Surrey, CEH


If the BGS is a CASE partner on your PhD project you will be primarily based at a partner university. However, you will spend between 3 and 12 months at the BGS during the 3–4 years of your research training.

A BGS member of staff will be a key part of your supervisory team and, in consultation with your lead-university supervisor, develop an appropriate training programme that can include classroom-based technical training (see the BGS GeoSchool for examples of this) and hands-on training in using the analytical equipment and data required for your project.

  • EnvEast: East Anglia, Essex, Kent
  • ESS: Cambridge
  • Oxford: Oxford
  • SPITFIRE: Southampton, BAS, Cefas, CEH, Marine Biological Association, NHM, PML, SAHFOS
  • SPHERES: Leeds, York
  • TNGES: Manchester, Liverpool, NOC
  • ACCE: Sheffield, Liverpool, York
  • London: UCL, Birkbeck, Brunel, King's, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway

Jointly supervised PhD

Within our seven key DTPs, some PhD projects will only require specific short-term access, typically 1–2 months in 1–2 week periods, to equipment and data and BGS. There won’t be the expectation of a long-term placement.

However, there is nothing to prevent longer term placements if it is thought to be necessary for your research training. To ensure appropriate access to equipment and data, a member BGS staff will be on your supervisory team and you will be jointly supervised by your host university and BGS.

If you are in a core DTP there will be opportunities to receive BGS technical training.


Oil and Gas: Heriot Watt

  • Core partners: Imperial College, Aberdeen, Durham, Manchester, Oxford, BGS
  • Several co-funded PhD studentships available each year
  • Associate partners: Birmingham, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter (Camborne), Glasgow, Keele, Newcastle, Nottingham, Royal Holloway, Southampton, Strathclyde, & NOC

Further information: Bob Gatliff

Application procedure

BGS-hosted PhDs

Candidates wishing to apply for a BGS-hosted studentship must complete the postgraduate application form of the university where they will be registered by the deadlines indicated plus send.

  • current CV
  • names and addresses of two referees
  • personal statement written by the candidate;
    no longer than 1 page of A4, containing project title and detailing their reasons for applying to study a PhD and why they have selected their chosen doctoral research project
  • By e-mail to

PhDs where BGS is a CASE partner

Application is usually via the host university.

Please check the relevant DTP website.

Further information

For enquiries about individual projects please e-mail the BGS or university supervisor.

For general enquiries about doctoral training at BGS e-mail