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. 

Studentships and eligibility

CENTA Flagship Project Information

CENTA-Flagship projects have been selected because the project meets specific characteristics such as NERC CASE support, collaboration with our CENTA high-level end-users, diversity of the supervisory team, career development of the supervisory team, collaboration with one of our Research Centre Partners (BGS, CEH, NCEO, NCAS), or a potential applicant co-development of the project. The CENTA-Flagship projects will be governed in the same was at all the CENTA projects and will have the same support. Students who win a studentship for a CENTA-Flagship project will join the CENTA cohort and participate the same training program.


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).  Please note that unless you are eligible for a Home award, you will need to consider how you will be able to meet any shortfall in funding for tuition fees.  Different institutions will have different requirements for this, please contact the supervisors listed on the project for more information.

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. In addition to the full payment of their tuition fees, successful candidates will receive the following financial support:

  • Annual stipend, set at £15,285 for 2020/21
  • Research training support grant (RTSG) of £8,000

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.

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 or shared parental 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 may be entitled to up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave including a mix of paid and unpaid leave depending on individual circumstances
  • 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

An allowance, based on a needs assessment, is available for all UKRI students with a disability to help cover the cost of any additional support needed.  Find out more about DSA in their framework document (PDF, 219kb).

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

Key dates

  • Projects live - 9th November 2021

  • Application deadline - 23:59 on 11 January 2021 

  • Interview week - 15-19 February 2021 

  • Universal acceptance date for offers - 17th March 2021


Projects align with one of the following CENTA themes:

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

How to apply

Apply online through the University of Birmingham Postgraduate application system. Please thoroughly read the guidance on how to apply on CENTA's website.

Please first check whether the primary supervisor is in Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, or in Biosciences, and click on the corresponding program on the application page. You can check this by searching for the lead supervisor on our website and checking their Department or by contacting the supervisor directly.

You must complete the CENTA application form 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