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EPSRC Doctoral Prize

The EPSRC Doctoral Prize helps universities retain and recruit the best PhD students receiving EPSRC support to increase the impact of their PhD, and to improve retention of the very best students in research careers.

Background

In 2009 EPSRC initiated a two-year pilot programme called PhD Plus which provided a new £10 million funding stream within Doctoral Training Grants (now referred to as Doctoral Training Partnerships) intended to help universities retain and recruit the best PhD students receiving EPSRC support to increase the impact of their PhD, and to improve retention of the very best students in research careers. A trial group of universities were asked to selectively target the most able students completing their PhD in 2009 and 2010 and to use the funding to develop them beyond the end of their PhD providing up to one year's additional support to help launch a successful career in research.

An interim evaluation of PhD Plus took place in November 2010 and the independent panel was impressed with what had been achieved in the pilot and stressed the importance of it in developing the careers of early stage researchers. The  evaluation report (PDF 867KB) is now available.

The prize

Following the evaluation of PhD Plus pilot, EPSRC has integrated this type of support into normal business and institutions may choose to use up to 10% of their 2011 DTP allocation (and subsequent allocations) to support PhD Plus - which we have renamed as EPSRC Doctoral Prize following advice from an independent evaluation panel. In addition we have extended the period of support offered from up 1 year to up to 2 years.

Any student who has recently received support for their PhD studies from EPSRC in the form of fees and/ or stipend is eligible for an EPSRC Doctoral Prize. They must however be timely and have submitted their thesis (and ideally completed their viva) before the EPSRC Doctoral Prize support begins - award holders may receive up to two year's additional support through this mechanism.

While selection of the awardees and the exact nature of the support provided is at the discretion of the institution to decide what is appropriate, the flexible support should target the top ~10-15% of EPSRC-funded students at a meaningful level and institutions should refer to best practice identified during the pilot phase for further guidance.

To assist monitoring and reporting requirements, individual award holders should be funded from one DTP only (although as one DTP comes to an end, there will be some flexibility for current support to be completed on an existing DTP). EPSRC Doctoral Prize awards funded through the 2011 DTP may start any time during this grant but must end by the 30th September 2015 and funding through this DTP cannot extend beyond this date. Please note that while we would encourage the leverage of funds to maximise Doctoral Prize support, this should not include other (non-DTP) EPSRC funds.

Details of individuals supported through the EPSRC Doctoral Prize will not be collected via Je-S - rather institutions will be responsible for maintaining off line records to provide to EPSRC upon request. Also details of the funding used for this purpose must be identified separately when the DTP Final Expenditure Statement (FES) is submitted to EPSRC.

Best Practice

The evaluation panel for PhD Plus (now renamed EPSRC Doctoral Prize) identified the following best practice based on the information provided and through discussions held with university representatives:

  • Universities should advertise the scheme externally and encourage applicants to move organisations and into new research areas etc (i.e. cutting the umbilical cord and move away from supervisor).
  • Induction, mentoring and career development planning are important elements of EPSRC Doctoral Prize support to be delivered by universities.
  • Award holders should have a mentor (removed from line management - and not their former supervisor).
  • A rigorous selection process is important and the panel recommended that applicants should be interviewed. It was also suggested that universities should provide support to individuals in preparation for PhD Plus application.
  • An expectation that the award holder will deliver outreach as part of their support.

Please note: EPSRC does not invite individual applications for EPSRC Doctoral Prizes, if you have questions about the EPSRC Doctoral Prize please contact universities directly. The awarding university is responsible for administering all aspects of the award including selection of a suitable candidate.

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