Selection Process

Find out about the E4 selection process, its recruitment timing and past applications numbers.

The E4 Selection Process

The E4 selection process comprises different stages which are illustrated in the following flowchart and described in details below.

E4 DTP Selection Process Flowchart

1. Application Stage

All applications are submitted via the online application portal and screened by the E4 admissions team to check eligibility criteria and completeness.

2. Supervisor Selection

Supervisors review all applications and select up to 2 candidates (or 3 if a project applied for is CASE-funded) from their pool of applicants (both Home and International). The Widening Participation panel may propose that a supervisor can put forward a 3rd or 4th candidate for consideration where relevant.

3. Shortlisting Panels

After the supervisors have nominated their preferred candidates, the shortlisting panels review and score all the nominated applications against the following criteria: academic ability, scientific skills, wider skills activities, scientific statement and references. The Widening Participation panel has overview of this process and can make additional recommendations.

4. Interviews

The top 60-70 applicants* are then invited for an interview which focusses on past research, future research and a wider discussion of science, its purpose and how best to do it. The interview is scored completely separately from the written application. Any first supervisor can only have a maximum of two candidates interviewed.

5. Studentships Offers

The top ~25 applicants* are offered a place based on their combined score (written application and interview) and some other considerations (CASE projects, Widening Participation, gender balance). Any first supervisor can only have one student appointed.

*Proportionally to the NERC cap for international students 

We value applications from students from a wide range of background and aim to give equality of opportunity to all our applicants by supporting applicants who declare that they are part of one of our under-represented groups (see our Widening Participation form as part of our application process). We also value professional experience and do not set a Master’s degree as a condition to apply (although we will take all degrees into consideration).

Indicative Recruitment timeline

Student-led Projects Submission Deadline


Application Deadline

Early January

Outcome sent via email by



Late February

First Offers sent by

Early March

Universal NERC DTP acceptance of offers date (before which candidates are not obliged to accept any NERC-funded PhD offer)

3rd Wed of March

Applications numbers in previous years

Recruitment stages All Applicants Nominated by supervisors Interviewed Appointed
Recruitment year Home Applicants International Applicants Home Applicants International Applicants Home Applicants International Applicants Home Applicants International Applicants
2022/23 144 155 80 95 45 26 23 9
2021/22 182 104* 100 74 50 23 16 7
2020/21 284 413 116 134 57 23 18 7
2019/20 263 141 74 25
2018/19 202 106 68 24
2017/18 256 104 52 25

* introduction of the pre-nomination stage by lead supervisors, for international students before they can put in a formal application. The pre-nomination stage for international applicants is no longer required in the 2023/24 recruitment round.


Application Process

Applicants Support

Entry and Eligibility Criteria

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion