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INSPIRE Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs)

PhD (ISCED 2011 level 8)


Entry level Master
Cost UK/EU students - £ 4407

Welcome to INSPIRE – the Interdisciplinary Southampton Partnership for Investigators Researching the Environment.

On 10th Oct 2018 NERC announced INSPIRE as one of the successful bids for the next round of its Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs). INSPIRE will receive funds for 16 studentships per year over each of the next five years, an increase from the 15 per year awarded to SPITFIRE (its predecessor).

INSPIRE will equip environmental scientists to excel in their chosen field, to thrive in interdisciplinary research teams, to apply cutting edge technology to environmental research, and to act as ambassadors of global environmental issues to industry and society. We will train students in research, professional and transferable skills within world-leading research teams to enable them to develop as future leaders. The main scientific themes of INSPIRE are:

  1. Oceans and climate
  2. The dynamic Earth
  3. Interaction of organisms with the global environment.
The Challenge

A knowledge-based economy can only maintain its position in a global society if it is at the forefront of scientific and technical expertise. Making informed responses and finding solutions to challenges as varied as climate change, natural hazards, biodiversity loss, energy generation and the search for strategic mineral resources relies on developing a supply of highly-qualified and well-educated young scientists and technologists. Simultaneously, new technologies and techniques are driving rapid expansions in environmental data generation. Effective management, processing and synthesis of this information will be both a major challenge and opportunity for 21st century environmental science.

Equipping the next generation of scientific leaders with the skills they will need to tackle these challenges is arguably the most important function of an environmental research organisation.

The INSPIRE Doctoral Training Partnership

To meet these challenges, the University of Southampton and hosting partners submitted a joint bid to NERC to create an innovative multi-disciplinary DTP: the Interdisciplinary Southampton Partnership for Investigators Researching the Environment ‘INSPIRE’.

As announced in October 2018, the INSPIRE DTP will receive £7M funding from NERC and, together with supporting co-funding across the University and hosting partners, aims to support a cohort of up to 30 students a year over each of the next five years. INSPIRE will equip the next generation of environmental science leaders with the skills and knowledge they will need to exploit and develop diverse new technologies (e.g., autonomous platforms, novel sensors, next-generation sequencing) and techniques (e.g., high-level numeracy, Big-Data handling, numerical modelling, crowd sourcing, bioinformatics, machine learning) and effectively apply these tools in tackling the key environmental science challenges of the future.

Training philosophy

Future scientists face key challenges due to rapid changes in science-enabling new technologies and greater societal expectations of their role. Vast amounts of real time observations threaten to overwhelm scientists of the natural environment unless they are prepared with fit-for-purpose data management and analysis tools. There is also a societal imperative for scientists to be more fleet-of-foot and better able to engage with, and be more adept at, interacting with business, employers, policy makers, and the tax-paying public. Our strategic ambition is to develop and nurture the careers of our PhD students to meet these challenges.


INSPIRE represents a bespoke student development programme that is informed by the Vitae Researcher Development Statement (RDS) and addresses NERC’s “Most Wanted Skills”. Delivery mechanisms are built using experience of running a large diverse graduate school (GSNOCS). Throughout the programme emphasis is placed on employability and developing career and leadership skills

Training excellence within the DTP is built on:

  • the scientific excellence and expertise of our supervisors drawn from across the University of Southampton and hosting partners,
  • provision of a comprehensive development programme and structure, with innovative content,
  • opportunities for gaining wide ranging experience, including sea-going and field based research and international, industrial, commercial and policy placements within the extensive partnership
  • robust mechanisms of supervision, monitoring and progression developed through ensuring active researcher and student involvement in the programme development, management and operation.

In addition to developing their own research project addressing a key current environmental problem, INSPIRE students benefit from a range of development opportunities throughout the programme, commencing with the induction programme which will be undertaken by the whole cohort at the National Oceanography Centre campus in Southampton.

Structural components
Research Project

Application procedure

All PhD applications to INSPIRE should be made here.

Potential PhD students are requested to apply using the University of Southampton postgraduate application form, appending the following:

  • curriculum vitae giving details of your academic record and stating your research interests,
  • name two current academic referees together with an institutional email addresses in the Reference section of the application form. On submission of your online application your referees will be automatically emailed requesting they send a reference to us directly by email,
  • your academic transcript and IELTS/TOEFL certificate, if applicable.

As far as possible please upload all documents in pdf format.

Please remember to include a short statement of your research interests and rationale for your choice of project(s) in the Personal Statement section of the application form.

You are encouraged to contact potential supervisors by email to discuss project-specific aspects of the proposed research at an early stage. General enquiries should be directed to the GSNOCS Team by email at:

Grant opportunities

INSPIRE studentships are funded by the Natural and Environmental Research Council (NERC). All of our studentships are fully funded for 3.5 years (for UK and EU students who meet the eligibility criteria below). Please ensure that you meet these criteria before you make an application. The stipend is in line with RCUK stipend levels.

To be eligible for a full award (stipend and fees), a student must satisfy all of these conditions:

  • Settled status in the UK, meaning they have no restrictions on how long they can stay.
  • Been ‘ordinarily resident’ in the UK for three years prior to the start of the grant. This means they must have been normally residing in the UK (apart from temporary or occasional absences).
  • Not been residing in the UK wholly or mainly for the purpose of full-time education. (This does not apply to UK or EU nationals.)

INSPIRE have a very small number of studentships to offer to those who are not eligible for a full studentship award i.e. EU students not meeting the above criteria. However, please note that the studentship will only cover the UKRI rate of stipend and fees.

Some projects are open to strong applicants who do not meet the above eligibility and/or are using alternative funding mechanisms. Applications to these should be made via the GSNOCS PhD programme or other hosts.


BSc/MSci 2:1

and/or Masters (MSc or MRes) at Merit/Distinction level (>60%).

and/or evidence of significant relevant professional experience equivalent to Masters level.

ISCED Categories

Project management
Marine Geology
Physical and chemical oceanography
Scientific modelling