NERC - CENTA Studentships

The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences (GEES) and the School of Biosciences are partners in the Central England NERC Training Alliance (CENTA). We currently have a number of potentially CENTA-funded projects open for competitive application.

Funded by The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), CENTA-funded PhD projects will offer a comprehensive training programme to develop researchers and help to prepare you for post-PhD life in industry, academia, and other sectors. 

CENTA encompasses research activities within three broad themes:

  • Climate and Environmental Sustainability
  • Organisms and Ecosystems
  • Dynamic Earth

These themes cut across about 20 academic departments, within the 6 universities, as well as the four NERC research organisations involved. This reflects both the multidisciplinary nature and excellence of our research and the high numbers of researchers in central England who span the breadth of the NERC remit. 

Applications for entry in autumn 2023 are now closed.

Studentships and eligibility

Applications for entry in autumn 2023 are now closed.

CENTA offers studentships through two main pathways.

Project-based studentships: Please search through the list of projects available at Birmingham, and note the information in ‘how to apply’ below.

CENTA Science Opportunity Scholarships (CSOS): In order to address a historical imbalance, it is our ambition to offer up to 3 fully-funded scholarships to Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) Home-award-eligible applicants who meet the academic requirements. Please see the link for how to apply for this scholarship opportunity, noting the application is to CENTA directly and not to the University.

You can apply via one or both of these pathways


Our project-based studentships are open to all applicants who meet the academic requirements (at least a 2:1 at UK BSc level or at least a pass at UK MSc level or equivalent). International candidates can apply, however please note the number of international fee-waiver opportunities is extremely limited. Please consider this constraint when submitting your application, and ask if you have any questions.

To be eligible for a full (Home) award a student must have no restrictions on how long they can stay in the UK and have been ordinarily resident in the UK for at least 3 years prior to the start of the studentship.

(For further information please see Annex B in the following document:

CENTA also particularly welcomes applications for PhD studentships from under-represented groups.

CENTA recognises that a diversity of pathways through education exist and that there may be challenges to studying for a PhD alongside other personal commitments.  Our assessment of applicant’s eligibility and experience involves appraisal of track records.  If disclosed, the supervisors, host institution recruitment teams and the CENTA board will take into consideration circumstances that may have taken time away from study and thus limited the candidate’s opportunity to demonstrate their full educational potential, for example through parental leave, other caring responsibilities, ill-health, disabilities or the need to engage in paid work.  Each application will be considered individually.

CENTA studentships are for 3.5 years and are funded by NERC. Successful home-fees-eligible candidates will receive:

  • An annual stipend, set at £17,688 for 2022/22, paid directly to the student in monthly increments
  • Full university fees paid directly to the university
  • A research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000, held at their host institution
  • CASE studentships attract an additional £3500 contribution to the RTSG, held at their host institution

Successful international candidates will receive:

  • An annual stipend, set at £17,688 for 2022/23, paid directly to the student in monthly increments
  • A contribution to the university fees at the level of support for Home-fee-eligible students.  Please note that there will likely be a shortfall in fees that will need to be covered from another source. Some universities may waive these fees; please contact the supervision team associated with your project to ask for further information.
  • A research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000, held at their host institution
  • CASE studentships attract an additional £3500 contribution to the RTSG, held at their host institution

Additional support available to students

There are a wide range of support options available to you as a postgraduate student at CENTA. Some specific support available, depending on circumstances, is provided below. This information is mostly a summary from the terms and conditions specified by UKRI.

Part time study

Both full and part time study options are available to all students. If studying part time then a minimum of 50% of the full time equivalent is required.

Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental Leave

A range of support options for students having children during their PhD is available, a summary from the UKRI guidelines is below:

  • 52 weeks maternity leave – first 26 weeks at full stipend rate (pro-rated for part time). The following 13 weeks paid according to statutory maternity pay, and the final 13 weeks are unpaid
  • Partners – 10 days full pay leave and a further entitlement to an exended period of unpaid parental leave, up to a maximum of 50 weeks. 
  • Adoption leave is on the same basis as maternity leave.

Sick leave

Support is available when students are sick during their studies, and students can apply for leave to be taken.

Disabled students allowance

If you have a disability you may be entitled to a Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) on top of your studentship. The UKRI have further information on the DSA and a link to their framework document on their Find Studentships and Doctoral Training webpage.

In addition, the University of Birmingham has a range of support services available to assist students during their PhD.

Key dates

 Applications for entry in autumn 2023 are now closed.

  • Projects live - 19th October 2022
  • Application deadline - 23:59 on 11th January 2023
  • Expected interview weeks - 6th-17th February 2023 
  • Universal acceptance date for offers - 12 noon GMT 15th March 2023


Projects align with one of the following CENTA themes:

  1. Climate and Environmental Sustainability 
  2. Organisms and Ecosystems 
  3. Dynamic Earth 

How to apply

Applications for entry in autumn 2023 are now closed.

Applicants must apply online through the University of Birmingham Postgraduate application system. Please thoroughly read the guidance on how to apply on CENTA's website.  Each Birmingham project listed on the CENTA website contains a link to the application portal and instructions on whether to select PhD Bioscience (CENTA) or PhD Geography and Environmental Science (CENTA).

You must complete the CENTA application form, found on the How to Apply section of the CENTA website, and attach it to your University of Birmingham application when prompted to upload any supporting documents.

Within the application, please detail the supervisor and project title you are interested in under the Research Information section of the application form.

Search our projects and apply