Doctoral Training Partnerships

SeNSS: South East Network for Social Sciences

South East Network for Social Sciences (SeNSS) is an ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships, which promotes inventive and inclusive social science research training and collaboration, and awards funded SeNSS Studentships. Essex is one of the 10 world-leading institutions that comprise the membership of the SeNSS DTP:
  • University of Essex (as coordinating institution)
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of Kent
  • University of Reading
  • University of Surrey
  • University of Sussex
  • Roehampton University
  • City University
  • Goldsmiths (University of London)
  • Royal Holloway (University of London)

Essex is involved in seven pathways of study:

  • Economics
  • Politics and International Studies
  • Business and Management
  • Linguistics
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Socio-Legal Studies

2023 studentships 

We will be hosting an online workshop and Q&A session for all potential applicants and supervisors on Wednesday 19 October 2022 between 11am-12pm. You can join the online workshop via Zoom.  The workshop will be delivered by Professor Andrew Canessa (Faculty Dean (Postgraduate) for Social Sciences) and Laura Ruddick (Senior Postgraduate Research Education Manager).  It will be an opportunity for you to hear about the SeNSS studentship application, recruitment and selection process, and to get advice on writing your studentship application.  

The workshop will be recorded and will be available on request.  

Please contact the Graduate Administrator in the department to which you are applying, or email the PGRE Team for further information.

What does the studentship provide?

You will receive subject-specific and advanced training, whilst undertaking your research in an innovative, ground-breaking and empowering research environment, amongst our thriving postgraduate community. You'll also be provided with opportunities for overseas visits and fieldwork, attending and presenting at conferences and events, academic publishing and work placement opportunities. 

 SeNSS Studentship Funding supports both full- and part-time study, and covers:

  • Fully-funded studentships: a tax-free maintenance stipend to cover your living costs: this is set at £18,022 (full time equivalent) for 2023-24.
  • Fees: whether you have home or international fee status, no SeNSS-funded student will have to pay any university tuition fees for the duration of their funding award
  • Access to Research Training Support Grant funds.
  • Access to other funds to be used for overseas fieldwork, overseas institutional visits, difficult language training, placements etc.

Are you eligible?

Residential criteria

Regardless of whether you are a "home" applicant or an "international" applicant, you can apply for a studentship. However, there is a cap on numbers, as only up to 30% of studentship awards can be made to international applicants. 

To be classed as a home student, you must meet the following criteria: 

  • be a UK national (meeting residency requirements), or 
  • have settled status, or
  • have pre-settled status (meeting residency requirements), or
  • have indefinite leave to remain or enter

If you do not meet the criteria above, you are classed as an international student. Please note that, due to the cap, SeNSS is limited by the ESRC to awarding approximately 10-12 studentships to international applicants each year.

Further guidance on residential eligibility is provided in Annex B of the UKRI guidance.

SeNSS has produced an informative FAQs document.

Academic eligibility

For Masters and PhD funding (1+3, or +4 award structures): qualifications or experience equal to a first (1) or upper second (2.1) class honours degree, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required.

For PhD (+3) funding: qualifications or experience equal to a Masters degree with distinction or merit, or an equivalent combination of qualifications and/or experience are required. Your Masters degree must be in a relevant discipline, and include significant research methods training.

How to apply

 The SeNSS 2023 studentship competition will be opening very soon so please continue to check these pages for updates, as well as the SeNSS DTP Funding Opportunities webpage.

 The deadline for you to have applied for a place on your course at Essex in order to be considered for a SeNSS application is 12pm (GMT) (midday) onMonday 9 January 2023.

In addition to your SeNSS Studentship application, you must also apply for your place on the relevant course at Essex, using the online application form.The deadline for you to have applied for a place on your course at Essex in order to be considered for a SeNSS application is 12pm (GMT) on Monday 9 January 2023

You can apply for a studentship in one of the following Pathways:

Studentships are available as +3 (PhD) or 4- year (Masters and PhD) awards, and on a full-time or part-time basis. Choose which course you want to study, and apply for a place on that course by 12pm (GMT) (midday) onMonday 9 January 2023. 

We strongly encourage you to contact the School or Department you wish to apply to at the earliest opportunity in order to discuss your research proposal and potential supervision arrangements. This is particularly important in order to give supervisors enough time to assist in the development of your application to ensure the best chance of success. 

Please note that you will need to discuss your application with the department to which you are applying for a place of study. 

You can already start thinking about and drafting the key aspects of your application; you can outline your research proposal, plans and timeline for completion. Your supervisor will be able to offer you advice about how best to do this. 

You can also start on your personal statement, which should address the following key questions; why are you applying for this studentship; why are you the best person for this research project; how are you and your proposed supervisors the best fit; why SeNSS and how will the SeNSS studentship enable you to achieve what you are proposing? 

SeNSS also encourages applications that are AQM-based (which use advanced quantitative methods, and/or large datasets, and/or big data methods and associated innovative analytical methods -more than one may apply). If your application is AQM-based, please ensure you highlight this in your application. For further information on what constitutes an AQM-based application, please click here.

Applying online  

The deadline for submission of your online applications for a SeNSS Studentship is 12pm (GMT) (midday) on Friday 20 January 2023.

The deadline for you to have applied for a place on your course at Essex in order to be considered for a SeNSS application is 12pm (GMT) (midday) onMonday 9 January 2023.  

If you are applying for a 1+3 (Masters and PhD) studentship, you will need to make an application for the PhD programme and add a note that you are applying for a SeNSS 1+3 studentship and are seeking admission to the Masters and PhD. In the text field in which you are asked to provide your ‘proposed research topic of area of research’, we advised you to put the following statement; ‘I am applying for a linked admission for a Masters plus PhD, as I am applying for a 1+3 SeNSS studentship.  Please consider my application as a 1+3 applicant.

To further support applications for SeNSS studentships, we are offering the opportunity for Essex applicants to submit a draft application for “first-look-feedback”. The draft application will need to be submitted to Laura Ruddick (Senior Postgraduate Education Manager) by midday on Friday 10 December.  Feedback will be provided within 10 days of the deadline. 

Indicative timeline: 


  • Make contact with your potential supervisor(s) and commence your SeNSS application on HEIApply, discussing the application form with your supervisor; 

  • Attend the SeNSS applicant workshop on Wednesday 19 October 2022 between 11am-12pm. 


  • Working with your identified supervisor, finalise your research proposal and complete the SeNSS application form and apply for your PhD place at Essex. 

  • If possible, attend the SeNSS studentship drop-in (an opportunity for students and/or supervisors to ask questions about their studentship proposals etc.) on Tuesday 22 November at 11am -12pm (room TBC). 


  • Submit your draft/work-in-progress SeNSS application for “first-look-feedback” to Laura Ruddick (Senior Postgraduate Education Manager) by midday on Friday 10 December.   

  • Continue to work with your supervisor on your SeNSS application, following feedback, and ensure you have nominated your referees on SMApply. 

  • If you haven’t already, ensure you have applied for your PhD place at Essex. 


  • Submit your SeNSS application by the deadline of 12pm (GMT) (midday) on Friday 20 January 2023 

What's the selection process for studentship competitions?

After the SeNSS studentship submission deadline (12pm (GMT) (midday) on Friday 20 January 2023) applications pass through an internal University selection process, before a decision is made whether to nominate particular applications to SeNSS, for consideration at the relevant SeNSS Pathway Panel. We are able to nominate 3 high-quality applications per pathway (at least one of which must be 1+3/+4)Applications put forward to these panels are considered alongside applications from other SeNSS partner institutions. 

The final selection phase, conducted by the SeNSS Management Board, will be held in late March, and you will be notified by mid-April whether you have been awarded a SeNSS student-led studentship.

The selection criteria used to assess applications across all pathways, degree types and at all levels of the selection process is:

Evidence of the quality and feasibility of the proposal (40%) 

This will be based on your outline of your proposed research project, your reasons for pursuing it, and its wider significance. It will also be based on the information supplied by your proposed primary supervisor. SeNSS assessors will be looking for evidence of your ability to design and conduct a strong research project, a coherent and well thought-out research plan, a strong awareness of the place of your research within the current field, and potential impact. Reference will be made to your personal statement, as contained in your application, as well as your supervisor’s supporting statement.  

Evidence that you are well-prepared for your proposed research and future career (40%) 

This will be based on your description of how your previous experience (academic and/or professional) has prepared you for postgraduate study and research, your referees’ evaluation of your suitability for such research based on 

  • a) your performance at undergraduate and postgraduate level (if relevant);
  • b) your relevant professional experience (if relevant); and
  • c) your description of how the programme will contribute to your long-term career aims.

Reference will be made to the degree transcripts and module marks you have provided. Reference will also be made to both your supervisor’s and referees’ supporting statements.

Evidence of the suitability of the proposed supervision and training (20%)

This will be based on your proposed supervisors’ research areas, knowledge and expertise in relation to your proposed project, the individual roles of the proposed supervisory team, your identified training needs and suggested ways of meeting those training needs. Reference will primarily be made to the information provided by your proposed primary supervisor which should, in turn, reflect on the expertise brought to your project by your second supervisor.  

Please note that all 4-year award applications (1+3, 2+2 and +4) will be assessed in a way that recognises that applicants are likely to have had less training and fewer opportunities to develop a detailed proposed research project than an applicant for a +3 studentship.  


Collaborative Studentships

Computational modelling of team foraging to understand human behaviour and cognition

This studentship will investigate spatial exploration and how it is affected by social context. Using a foraging paradigm in a virtual environment, where human participants need to gather targets as quickly as possible, the project will investigate, characterise, and model how people explore complex environments, both on their own and also when they work as part of a team.

This studentship provides an exciting opportunity to make key theoretical contributions to our understanding of the cognitive processes underlying exploration behaviour, and to see applications of their research via the collaborative partner, the US DEVCOM Army Research Laboratory. The project will give the student a wealth of research experience both in an academic and an industry setting, and will be particularly suited to students who wish to develop their career working within or in collaboration with applied research settings.

Project aims and objectives

The key aims of the studentship are to:  

  • Assess how exploration behaviour changes in collaborative vs. competitive situations;
  • How it is affected by an out-group “threat”; and,
  • How it is affected by navigational aids.

The core objective is therefore to build knowledge of human behaviour during spatial exploration, and particularly how it is affected by common real-world factors. Dr Clarke and Dr Hughes have developed the foraging models that will form the basis of the computational work carried out in the project, whilst Dr Touryan and Dr Cohen Hoffing will provide support with running the experiments in ARL’s naturalistic virtual environment.

Training opportunities

A comprehensive package of training will be agreed in consultation with the supervisors. Amongst other things, the successful candidate will:

  • Receive all the training they require for carrying out the experiments and modelling from visiting ARL, working with the supervisory team, and attending courses;
  • Be able to attend the University of Essex IADS Summer School;
  • Attend the PS947 (Advanced Statistics for Psychology Research) module - this will be part of the Masters degree that a 1+3 student would take, but a student taking a +3 PhD will be able to audit this module;
  • Be able to attend Proficio Courses on R, Bayesian Modelling, etc; and,
  • Join one or more of the online reading/study groups that we recommend.

Essential and/or desirable attributes/skills 

The successful candidate will have a good degree in either:

  • Psychology, cognitive science, or a closely related discipline, with an interest in computational modelling; or,
  • Computer sciences, mathematics, or a closely related discipline, with an interest in psychology.

Ideally, they will also have some background in statistical programming (e.g. R), and a willingness to learn advanced statistics and modelling skills. Finally, they will have good interpersonal skills and will be excited to work as part of a multidisciplinary team. It would be desirable for candidates to be in a position to obtain a visa to visit the US.

Studentship details

This studentship may be taken as either a 1+3 year award (a one-year Masters followed by a three-year PhD) or a +3 award (a three-year PhD), which may be taken full-time or part-time. If you are applying for the 1+3, you will take the MSc Research Methods in Psychology (code m0121), and will need to note this on your SeNSS HEIapply application.

If you are applying for a 1+3 (Masters and PhD) studentship, you will need to make an application for the Masters programme and add a note that you are applying for a SeNSS 1+3 studentship and are seeking admission to the Masters and PhD.

The studentship award covers university fees, and provides the student with a stipend of £17,668 per year. They will also be able to apply for additional funding for training via the SeNSS Research Training Support Grant.

Residential eligibility 

Whether the applicant is a home or international student, they are eligible for a fully-funded award (tuition fees will be paid, and the student will receive a stipend/salary).

How to apply for this studentship 

You will need to make an application to SeNSS for this collaborative studentship. Please read the collaborative studentship application guidance notes before completing our online application form via the HEIapply platform. The deadline for submitting an application on HEIapply is 12.00pm GMT on Monday 27 February 2023. No extensions to this deadline will be permitted.

Timeline for recruitment and selection 

Following the application closing date on 12pm (midday) GMT on 27 February 2023, shortlisting will take place and shortlisted candidates will be invited to interview with at least one week’s notice. Interviews are likely to take place during w/c 13th March, 2023.

For further enquiries

For academic enquiries related to the studentship project applicants should email Dr Alasdair Clarke

For enquiries related to your eligibility for this studentship, and the application process, please email: Laura Ruddick

Post-doctoral fellowships

SeNSS 2022/23 ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellowship competition is now open.

SeNSS offers six ESRC-funded Post-Doctoral Fellowships (PDFs) each year, which provide an opportunity for Post-Doctoral researcher to consolidate their PhD research through developing publications, their networks, and their research and professional skills.

What's on offer?

The PDF grants provide funding for up to one year full-time, or up to two years part-time. In exceptional cases, applicants can apply for a fellowship for up to 18 months; however, this must be fully justified by the programme of activities being proposed.

Fellowships cover:

  • the Fellow's salary costs;
  • indirect costs;
  • estate costs; and,
  • up to £10,000 of other costs.

Are you eligible? 

This call is open to those who have: 

1) completed their PhD at a research organisation that is part of a current ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP). View a list of DTPs here; AND,

2) been awarded their PhD or have passed their viva voce (or passed with minor corrections) by the application deadline of 4.00pm GMT on 23 March 2023 AND and have been awarded their PhD by the Fellowship start date of 1 October 2023); AND,

3) no more than 12 months of active post-doctoral experience since passing their viva (allowing for career breaks) by 23 March 2023.

Please note that who have passed their viva voce, but with major corrections, will be able to apply to the following year’s call when their PhD has been awarded. This is to ensure that all Fellows are able to commence their work by the annual start date of 1 October.

How to apply? 

  • Please read the ESRC’s documents (see below) carefully, and ensure you are eligible for a PDF.
  • If you are eligible, start thinking about, and drafting, your topic and programme of work.
  • At the same time, think about who would be best-suited to you during your PDF, and make contact with that senior academic, who will be your primary mentor. The ESRC requires fellows to have a mentor based at the research organisation where the fellowship is held, and states that “a secondary mentor is permitted”. Please note that SeNSS requires its Fellows to have two mentors during their fellowship: one based at the Fellow’s home institution, and one at another SeNSS institution. SeNSS has taken this position, which is endorsed by the ESRC, because we believe that having a second mentor from a different SeNSS university strengthens the Fellow’s research, exposes the Fellow to different institutional practices, and increases the Fellow’s access to professional academic and non-academic networks. Our current and former Fellows’ experience has borne this out. Therefore, applicants must name two mentors in their applications.
  • Support for applications at Essex is available from colleagues in the Research and Enterprise Office. The key contacts are Gary Williams and Richard Gunn
  • Submit your expression of interest (EoI) by 4.00pm GMT on Monday 16 January 2023 to Gary Williams and Richard Gunn SeNSS requires you to submit an EoI by the deadline so that we can gauge demand and, most importantly, support you in your application, including working with you on your costings. You can obtain the expression of interest form here.
  • SeNSS only accepts applications submitted via SeNSS’ online application portal, HEIapply. You can get further information and support for your application on the SeNSS PDF competition webpage

The deadline for submitting your application is 4.00pm on 23 March 2023.

ESRC Post-doctoral Fellowship application documents: 

  • ESRC Call Specification - sets out what is included in a PDF awards, the eligibility criteria, what is required in the application etc.
  • ESRC PDF FAQs - provides answers to questions about PDF awards
  • ESRC PDF application form (docx) -please note that SeNSS will only accept online applications, via its online portal. The SeNSS application differs slightly from the ESRC template form in that it asks for some additional information. The ESRC template is only included here to give you an idea of what is required of you should you decided to submit a full application

Further guidance for applicants, Mentors and Referees can be found on the SeNSS PDF competition webpage.

SeNSS has an example of an excellent application, on their Post-Doctoral Fellowship FAQs.

Support for applications at Essex is available from colleagues in the Research and Enterprise Office. The key contacts are Gary Williams and Richard Gunn

Get in touch
Postgraduate Research Education Team