E4 DTP Projects

We have 90+ supervisor-led projects advertised each year and also offer a student-led project route.

Please note that you can only apply to one project overall, so either a supervisor-led or a student-led project. Only one application per candidate will be accepted.

Supervisor-led Projects

They are PhD projects designed by DTP supervisors who are looking for PhD students. Most of the time, the project they propose will fit their research interests and might be integrated to a pre-existent research project and/or to a specific research group. Supervisors submit their project to the E4 panel in October, who review and approve each project individually to ensure they are of suitable standards, are feasible in 3.5 years (which is the minimum standard length E4 studentships are funded) and fit NERC remit.

Supervisor-led projects are advertised each year during the application period, from the beginning of November up to the application deadline, beginning of January. You can view all the project proposals which are open to an E4 application on our supervisor-led projects database (the projects are only visible during the application period). We usually have about 90+ projects on offer covering a wide range of research topics across all our partner schools so make sure you use various key words in the search box at the top of the database in order to see all the projects which might be relevant to you.

E4 DTP Supervisor-led projects

Contacting the lead supervisor

Once you identify a project of interest, we recommend that you take the time to read the proposal in detail (particularly the Requirements section) and note down all the questions you might have before emailing the main supervisor (the first supervisor listed on the proposal is the lead supervisor and you will find their email on the project description) to introduce yourself. When contacting them, explain why you are interested in the project and why you think you could be an excellent candidate and don't forget to attach a CV to your message. There are further tips on how to approach a prospective supervisor in our Applicants Support FAQs section.

Supervisors will also be happy to hear about your own ideas and how you might want to shape the advertised research project a bit differently to suit your own skills and interests (if you wish to do so) so feel free to discuss this with them from the outset.

All applicants should contact the main supervisor well ahead of the application deadline to discuss their suitability as a candidate before deciding on which project they should choose and before starting working on their application.

Student-led Projects 

On the basis of your previous research or specific profile, you may have ideas or strengths that are better suited to projects different from the supervisor-led projects which are advertised. It is possible to come up with your own research project and to look for a supervisor who will accept to supervise you (and support your application throughout the recruitment process). If you are not sure who to contact, you can start your search by browsing the list of academic staff in the relevant school. For example, here is the list of teaching and research staff in the School of GeoSciences. Below are some further tips and resources for finding a supervisor in GeoSciences and writing a research proposal (it is a good idea to have a research proposal ready before contacting a potential supervisor).

Finding a supervisor | The University of Edinburgh

Writing a research proposal | The University of Edinburgh

Student-led project submission

All student-led projects need to be reviewed and are subject to approval by the E4 DTP projects reviewing panel. The lead supervisor is responsible for submitting the project, following the E4 DTP usual process, by the deadline for submitting student-led projects (generally 15 December). Student-led projects, once approved, are NOT advertised, to prevent other candidates to apply for them and to comply with Intellectual Property policies.

The student goes through the same selection procedure as any other applicants applying for advertised projects and applies by the same deadline (beginning of January). There is no benefit or advantage to candidates applying through the student-led projects route. 

Details of the student-led project submission process are in the below document.


E4 DTP CASE projects

Some E4 DTP projects include a CASE partner and are therefore called "CASE projects". A CASE partner is a non-academic organisation within the public, private or third sector which have agreed to support the studentship by:

  • bringing expert advice and supervision throughout the PhD;
  • providing a first-rate, challenging research training experience, within the context of a mutually beneficial research collaboration;
  • contributing to the project budget (by supplementing the Additional Research Costs);
  • offering a placement at their premises to the student of between 3 and 18 months over the whole PhD.

Studying on a CASE project provides an amazing opportunity to see how research can be applied to real-world problems, get a direct experience of the non-academic world along PhD studies and develop connections and network out with academia. They can give access to a wider range of post-PhD employment opportunities.

CASE projects are labelled "Case award" on the list of supervisor-led projects and include a paragraph on CASE studentship at the bottom of the proposal.

Student-led projects can also be CASEd if a suitable partner is identified when the project is submitted, please contact us if this is of interest.

You can read more about some CASE studentships experience through our alumni profiles: 

Vanessa Burton | The University of Edinburgh

Ashley Smith | The University of Edinburgh

Geoff Wells | The University of Edinburgh

Hannah Rogers | The University of Edinburgh

Konstantinos Georgoulas | The University of Edinburgh

Alex Priestley | The University of Edinburgh


NERC CASE Studentships

E4 DTP Partners

Application Process

Selection Process

NERC Remit Programmes and Priorities